On show at the Air Force Association convention: Boeing's model of the Next Generation Bomber.
The NGB program got a strong boost here from USAF chief of staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. "It's very important. We face increasingly lethal and difficult threats, and it's a vital program. We're going to make a strong, fact-based argument for the NGB as we move into the spring and summer of 2009," Schwartz said, indicating that it will be a high priority as the USAF prepares for the next quadrennial defense review (QDR), due in early 2010.
Boeing's blended-wing-body design is "not a cartoon, it's representative of what we're doing," according to Boeing Advanced Systems president Darryl Davis.
The new design is very different from Northrop Grumman's studies, with a large diamond-shaped centerbody mated to long, slender wings. Davis dropped some hints, too, about Phantom Works research into laminar flow control. Some way of keeping the airflow over the upper surface smooth would make an enormous difference to the drag of the body, while the outer wings are slender enough to sustain laminar flow naturally, like a sailplane.
The head-on aspect is ominous, with a tiny windshield and slit-like inlets - but a close look shows enough depth for a large weapon bay. "You want to make the aircraft as efficient and small as you can," says Davis, with "extreme survivability".
Despite its radical looks, Davis says that the new bomber would not require new technology. The watchword, he says, is "integration, not invention."
Northrop Grumman, too, showed a model representing its bomber studies, albeit one seen before:
Noteworthy is the fact that the "cranked kite" shape yields a relatively long center-section, easing engine integration and making room for a large weapon bay.