Tuesday, Northrop Grumman won the contract to develop the Air Force’s next strategic bomber. Specifics about the competing designs have remained a closely-guarded secret, and the exact capabilities of the new aircraft are likely to remain classified for some time. One fact that is already known about the new bomber, however, is that, like the B-52 and the B-2 before it, it will be designed to be “dual-use,” meaning that it will be able to carry either conventional or nuclear weapons as required. Dual-use is a critical — but controversial — capability.
The Air Force is also considering whether or not to pursue a new air-launched cruise missile (ALCM). The new ALCM – known in defense circles as the long-range standoff (LRSO) weapon – would possess advanced capabilities to increase the chances of success and against modern air defenses. Like the new bombers that may one day employ it, this missile is dual-use as well.