Time Certain:

Technologies are mature enough to get an advanced bomber on the ramp by 2018 as the Air Force wants to do, Boeing Advanced Systems President George Muellner said yesterday. However, it better get cracking: To get an aircraft available by the deadline established by the Quadrennial Defense Review means flight test would have to start in 2011-13 at the very latest. That’s not very long for design, development, and fabrication, especially considering that most programs take 20 years to accomplish the same thing. However, Muellner points out that technology and manufacturing aren’t the driver of schedule; it’s funding by Congress where delays usually set in. The next bomber will have advanced stealth and wing-mounted antenna, but won’t make use of new variable cycle engines because it won’t be supersonic, Muellner said. Integrating the antenna would be the toughest technology nut to crack, especially if the aircraft would have to be shielded from electromagnetic pulse. If the bomber will perform the nuclear mission, EMP hardening is a must. (Read more on Boeing’s advanced systems efforts here.)