back to article Northrop offer supersonic robot stealth raygun cyber-bomber

American aerospace colossus Northrop Grumman has called for the US air force to purchase a hundred-strong fleet of enormous aerial stealth raiders, able to direct "netted wolfpacks" of flying kill-robots and packing "cyber warfare tools" capable of "attacking enemy information nodes". The proposed Next Generation Long Range …


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  1. Tim

    All that technology...

    ...surely it could be used more constructively!

  2. Pete Silver badge

    as an alternative

    couldn't they just start being nice to everyone else?

  3. Anonymous Coward


    These ads for Christmas toys get earlier and earlier every year !

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Flying Carrier

    So in short these generals are proposing a flying carrier?

    It might not have been mentioned in the article, but i expect they would

    be likely to protect this expensive asset with many fighters (UAV possibly??)

    Therefore you have a command and control craft with its own close in weapons systems, heavy weapons store and a task force of fighter/bomber craft to protect it and intercept anything bad.

    Just stick a shitload of jet engines on the Nimitz and well.... I didn't ask for my coat! Help! Kidnap!

  5. Simon Ball
    Thumb Down


    Oh boy. And I thought that the billion-dollar B2 was bad. Now they're proposing what sounds like a ten billion-dollar B3? At this rate, even the US won't be able to afford this stuff. It'll certainly be too expensive to risk losing.

    Personally, I can't help but think that a massive armada of cheap, averagely stealthy drones might be a better idea.

  6. Simon

    @Simon Ball

    That'll be a RAID then - Redundant Array of Independent Drones...

  7. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    How does buying more make something affordable?

    Cost = (Non recurring Engineering) + (Unit cost) x (Quantity)

    Price = Max( (Cost) x (1+(margin)), Min( (what you can afford), (what someone else charges)) )

    Increasing the quantity increases the cost and can increase the price. To reduce the cost, you have to sell bombers to your enemies so they share the NRE. Unfortunately that increases the price (Sales tax increases the amount you have to spend, and now you need to spend more on defence because your enemies have get some return on their investment).

  8. Anonymous Coward

    "Double Digit" defenses

    I didnt realise sticking two fingers up at the incoming ariel "assets" could be so effective. Strangely I've never noticed its effectiveness against the local plod or yobs. Does this mean they're better at penetrating (defenses) than the USAF?

  9. Scott Millar


    Is this the same raygun technology that wa used to take down the twin towers? Hmm, google laser 9/11.

    More than meets the eye.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The yanks have wanted stealth upgrades ever since they realised that certain UK radar kit could see their stealth toys perfectly well. They never did like that.

    As for the cost, did you say Northop reckon the gov needs to buy 100 of them? They are sounding like billions each.

  11. Beelzeebub

    Skynet is a step closer

    Don't worry about LHC, invest in very good sunglasses.

    Mine's the radioactive-proof one with the cans of Spam in the inside pockets.

  12. Richard Mason


    I think someone at Northrop has been reading too many Dale Brown books.

    Some of his books (the Dreamland series) include uber-stealth bombers (converted B52s) able to launch robot drones, use lasers to shoot down incoming missiles and link together electronically to share threat and target data.

  13. Paul Murphy
    Paris Hilton

    "the NGLRS should be affordable" ...

    ooh goody - I'll look for a large bulge in my stocking at Christmas then :-)


    couldn't they just start being nice to everyone else?

    I'm afraid that doesn't seem to be part of the 'American dream' (tm), they prefer the schoolyard bullys' 'you're wrong, we're right, we're bigger, you're smaller' approach to international relations.

    I'll be interesting if Obama gets elected, since he would appear to be their best chance at a non-isolationist future.

    PH - stocking ... bulge, say no more.


  14. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Fighting the last war

    It's odd, isn't it? It's well established that armies equip themselves to win the last war ... but the US have had their sorry technologically superior asses whipped regularly for half a century.

    Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq ... and yet they still think that few more flashing lights and a lot more money will defeat angry peasants with AK-47s and bags of fertiliser. Dontcha just lurve the military-industrial complex?

  15. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    laser 9/11 ?

    Sure, a planefull of fuel exploding in a tower would certainly not be enough - the conspiracists had to imagine lasers to "melt" the steel supports.

    What they won't come up with.

    I'm surprised nobody has accused aliens. Not "in" enough anymore, I suppose.

  16. TeeCee Gold badge
    Dead Vulture

    @Scott Millar

    Thanks for the Friday laugh! Although the comments are funnier than the video.

    There's nothing more amusing than being reminded that there are people out there who are so mind-numbingly gullible that they'll believe this sort of horseshit.

    They'll be trying to convince us that some supernatural being created the world in seven days next or that we're all possessed by the souls of dead aliens..........oh, hang on a tic.

  17. Graham Marsden

    May I be the first to welcome...

    ... our Supersonic Robot Stealth Raygun Cyber-Bomber Overlords!

    (Mine's the one hanging next to the Pork Barrel)

  18. Murray Pearson

    9/11 and American Treason Against Humainty

    'Sure, a planefull of fuel exploding in a tower would certainly not be enough - the conspiracists had to imagine lasers to "melt" the steel supports.'

    The jet fuel could NOT melt steel, it was an oxygen-starved hydrocarbon-and-office-material fire burning about a thousand degrees too cold for that. The raygun stuff for 9/11 is absolute hogwash. There is a perfectly feasible explanation which is ACTUALLY SUPPORTED BY PHYSICAL EVIDENCE, and that is high-tech thermate of a type possessed only by — guess who? — the Pentagon.

    @Pete and others: Being nice is for chumps. That doesn't thickly line the pockets of your "defense" contractor friends. And, besides, everyone knows the Americans are the GOOD GUYS, remember? It has nothing to do with their behaviour, it's by f*cking definition.

    I'm not AC because, well, it's pointless pretending I can hide.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    hey bob whats that shadow...

    just how stealthy can a flying aircraft carrier get...

  20. Secretgeek

    Looking at my SAM radar screen...

    ...and all I'm seeing is the blue screen of dea....

  21. Anonymous Coward



  22. Anonymous Coward


    Silly, everyone knows it was termites wot brought down the twin towers.

  23. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    RE: Murray Pearson - get real.

    I think you'll find scientific tests has shown the temperature of the 9/11 fire was more than enough to do the job. Also, the "top-secret" thermate twaddle is just too funny - thermate is a widely understood and available development of good old thermite, which in iteslf quite simple to make. Any half-respectable amateur chemist could make a very effective thermate compound, but it is also very easily detectable due to the additives such as barium nitrate added to get the ignition temperature down to a low level (both thermite and thermate are pretty hard to get going, but the former can be helped along with waterproof camping matchheads, wink). Such a charge would also have needed to be copiously spread through the building in direct contact with the steel support frame, yet no trace of either thermate residue or additives were found, and there are no witnesses to the large amount of manual labour necessary to place so many charges so widely. Please loosen up your tinfoil hat and go do some reading of real scientific value such as the comprehensive debunking of just about every 911 "troofer" myth at

    In the meantime, having seen how long the USAF stretched the life of the old B-52s, I think they will simply opt to update the B-2 to later stealth tech rather than consigning their whole budget for the foreseeable future on such a point solution. The USAF does everything it can to keep its Mach2+ fighters top of the spending pile, and the Northrop plan would chew up all the budget for years. They have already started adding an attack capability to the F-22 to justify continued acquisition rather than simply bringing more F-16s back out of mothballing.

  24. Tim Bergel

    Let's not be too self-righteous folks

    "I'm afraid that doesn't seem to be part of the 'American dream' (tm), they prefer the schoolyard bullys' 'you're wrong, we're right, we're bigger, you're smaller' approach to international relations."

    True enough - but don't forget how the British Empire behaved when <we> were top dog. It's amazing how much more keen one gets on being well behaved when one isn't top-of-the-heap.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    @ Murray Pearson

    this may come as a shock, but the relationship between the strength of steel and the temperature is not "discrete". In other words, it does not magically disintegrate the precise moment it hits it's "melting point".

    Check out this graph to get a feeling of the relationships:

  26. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    All that technology (part 2)...

    ...and no obvious enemy to use it on?

    It takes two sides to start, and, more importantly, justify the budget for, a war. Who are the Yanks going to pick on next?

    Be afraid. Be very afraid....

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't all this sound familiar ...

    (With a little credit to Simon, above)

    Hmmmm. Yes, this sounds like something I might have seen on television. Basically, they want to build CYbernetic Low-observable Networked Redundant Arrays of Independent Drones with Extended Range ..... or .....


    ... with frakkin lasers on them!

  28. Kenneth Chan

    We need the Valiant

    To counter the US move to robot kill bot, I think we should build the Valiant (aka Doctor Who). No where to find a time lord?

  29. Andy Barr

    Come on Matt!

    Quickly a reply to Mr. Bryant, I had read through the link you provide re. 9/11...I agree some of the stuff thats evolving from the 'troofers' is utter nonsense...but the pancake theory, come on, mate...I've seen pictures of people waving from the holes the planes made - that doesn't make it hot in my book, a hundred floors below certainly isn't going to be hot enough to destabilise steel yet both buildings came down in just over ten seconds, basically freefall...suggesting, by the accepted theory, that all the steel in the building had reached 1100 degrees (the temparature stated by that article to reduce steel strength to 50%) and therefore provide absolutley no friction at all (although I am sure even at 50% steel is still strong enough to combat gravity, especially that much steel). Even the laws of mass get in the way, or should I say out the way, of this.

    Back on topic, and paraphrasing Bill Hicks, if they got these drones to deliver bananas to the starving billions, it would be money well spent...

  30. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    RE: Andy Barr

    There's a railway bridge in Scotland, can't remember which one, which was used as an example of metal fatigue years ago when I was at school. If I remember correctly, the bridge still stands, it was just that a fire spread through the wooden sleepers with enough heat not to melt or even buckle the bridge girders, but the effect was to make the metal too brittle to take the weight of a train, and the bridge was closed and then abandoned. The metal support structure of the WTC buildings likewise did not get enough heat to melt it, but enough to make it unable to support the weight of the floors above. It wasn't neccessary to get all of the building's metal structure up to 1100C, just a proportion of it. The kinetic impact of the collapsing floors pushed the rest down in the pancake effect. Think of it as having the top twenty-odd floors as the crushing weight and the area immediately below the plane strike as the area suddenly reduced to say 80% structural integrity - the top bit just squashed the bottom, and the impact just made it carry on down. If you want to understand more about it then look up building demolition, the theory is utilised daily when demolishing tower blocks by getting the building's own mass to do the majority of the work and have the debris go downwards rather than be sprayed outwards.

    As for people seen near the impact area, they could have been from the floors above trying to make their way down and finding further escape blocked by the fire. The impact carried the plane and fuel INTO the building, it didn't pile it all up on the side. In fact, the report shows large chunks of debris went right through the building to damage the surrounding buildings.

  31. Tim Robson

    @Flying Carrier

    It doesn't sound like a flying carrier. Nowhere does it mention anything about this drone deploying them, merely controlling them. Instead, it sounds like a bastard child (and next generation of) an AWACS (command and control), a Stealth bomber (sneaky), a Predator Drone (autonomous and with loitering capacity), and a Spectre gunship (airborne artillery). Mash all of those together, make it all actually modern tech and at least one iteration newer than those listed, and add in the whole "IT warfare" aspect, and you seem to have this platform.

    Will it work? Maybe. The problem is that it'll have to be fairly big to fit all of that and the power generation kit needed for it. Especially if the first iteration is intended to be manned. Stealth technology has come a long, long way in the last few decades, but so has detection technology, and stealth works better when it's not trying to disguise something the size of a house flying around the sky. When one of your requirements is "don't be seen", bigger is not always better.

    Might actually be better to design two or three main drone frameworks that can be modified for the task, such as ones meant to take of the role of a predator or reaper, ones meant to be command and control nodes, and ones meant for IT warfare. Then you can keep the size down, cover a bigger area, and field exactly what you need into an area. You might need 10 of these things for the firepower, 5 for IT warfare, but only 2 for the C&C side. Which is better, fielding 10 of them at the price for all that hardware, or fielding 17 of them for the price of one component set each? In addition, if you make them sufficiently modular, it's conceivable that you could ship over a bunch of the frames to the area, and a bunch of the modules with it, and then just pair them up as needed, and reconfigure them as needed. Would also make repairs easier- when several systems fail in the C&C module, just rip it out, shove a new one in, and put the drone back up, THEN worry about the systems that failed.

    I think we really need a military icon of some kind, even if it would really only get use around Mr. Page's articles.

  32. SnowHawk

    Difficult to believe

    So, how is an armed flying network node a weapons system to fight the last war?

    Simply modifying the existing B2 with new 'Stealth' technology is not a workable strategy. Stealth technology is not some component you install to make it invisible like a Romulan Cloaking Device. (Well, at least not yet.)

    What the hell is up the the troofer brigades this morning? Take an engineering class already. Do you idiots know even the basics of metallurgy? Tell me what Body Center Cubic means and you might get another few seconds of attention.

    Got a problem with American superiority? Come on over and enjoy it, 12 Million Mexican citizens will tell you, we're not particularly picky about who we let in, and if you've got some skills and intelligence we could use you to counter the troofers and evangelists.

    Mines the one with the Northrop logo on the pocket and the guide to unfortunate acronyms in the pocket.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Eat up your pancakes

    If the WTC floors collapsed in a 'pancake' fashion; how does that account for the collapse of the building's steel core? Either the floors detached from the building's steel core and then 'pancaked' one upon the other, which would not account for any forces to cause the collapse also of the core, or they did not detach from the core in which case I do not understand how one floor could collapse upon the next in such a so called 'pancaking' effect since I do not think pancakes include massive ridged structural steel sections designed to hold up an entire building fixed between them.

    So pancake lovers decide. The floors and the central core 'pancaked' or just the floors. Which way would you have it to be? Are pancakes not big flat things or is your preferred theory really the 'pancake and massive fixed wedding cake stand' collapse theory?

    Belief in such spiel is only for those who suffer their delusions because they simply find comfort in spoon-fed propaganda spouted by Popular Mechanics and the such - or that they are indeed another part of that very mechanism.

    On the other hand ask yourself; would the MIC kind of people, who make their way in life by massively profiting from the sales of 'supersonic robot stealth raygun cyber-bombers' and other such charming devices of military world domination, not find the occasion of 911 a useful device in allowing the US administration & population to support their preferred policies for war.

    Nazi Reich Marshal Hermann Goering said: Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

    The Nazi Fuhrer Adolf Hitler, in his 1925 book Mein Kampf, said: "The broad mass of the nation will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one."

  34. SnowHawk
    Black Helicopters

    Get thee to a University AC

    Oh Noes! Hitler comparisons! What can we do? Surely you can do better than that AC?

    You may be too far gone in your Bush Derangement Syndrome(BDS) for anyone to help you, but perhaps with some therapy you can avoid McCain Derangement Syndrome come Jan. 20th, 2009.

  35. Anonymous Coward


    These tower-collapse arguments are actually quite interesting. As a mechanical engineer, I'd think that the way an entire building structure behaves under "unusual" loadings (such as say, a planes-worth of burning jet-fuel) is certainly complex and probably still not very well understood. We don't *need* to postulate lasers, thermate, etc etc, but we probably can't also say "duh of course it collapsed it got so hot!". People need to realise that we don't always understand stuff as well as we think we do, therefore we still sometimes get surprised by the way things happen.

    Wish we could get people to understand that engineering isn't a finished subject!

  36. Ken Hagan Gold badge
    Black Helicopters

    Re: Fighting the last war

    "... but the US have had their sorry technologically superior asses whipped regularly for half a century. Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq ... and yet they still think that few more flashing lights and a lot more money will defeat angry peasants with AK-47s and bags of fertiliser. Dontcha just lurve the military-industrial complex?"

    The US, the MI complex, well which? The US certainly hasn't looked too clever in the last half century, though the Soviets ain't so great either, but the MI complex is doing fine, thank you.

  37. Kevin Kitts

    Once again...

    William Gibson proves prophetic. Northrop Grumman has just invented the "Screaming Fist" unit spoken of in Gibson's novel "Neuromancer". I wonder just how much Gibson knows of our future, and what Chesterfield he came in on.

  38. Chris G Silver badge

    Any fool

    With a little engineering and commonsense you can work out what made the Twin Towers collapse and it wasn't lasers or aliens it was basic physics as described extremely well by Matt Bryant and SnowHawk. All you conspiracists would do better to go back to school instead of watching crap films like Loose Change, get real! If you would like a simple explanation about the behaviour of steel frame and concrete buildings in fires , talk to a fireman.

    For those who are worried about being the focus of this flock technology, try investing in megawatt maser tech it won't shoot em down but it will seriously screw with comms.

  39. storng.bare.durid
    Dead Vulture


    SkyNet etc. Yay!

    AI's FTW.

  40. Wesley Parish

    Don't screw with the crew - but it's okay with comms

    "For those who are worried about being the focus of this flock technology, try investing in megawatt maser tech it won't shoot em down but it will seriously screw with comms."

    Right on! The only way the US is going to get away with this is if the ROTW forget a few details of physics and run around like a headless chicken screaming "ZOMIGOD! We is screwed!"

    I would not guarantee that the info is going to remain secret - except of course for those of us living in the various US allies. I expect that the effort's going to bankrupt the US to the extent that the PRC is going to just walk in and take it over, every bit that they haven't got via other lines of communication.

  41. Neil Stansbury

    @Murray Pearson

    Murray, gullible people like you are truly scary.

    Steel cores in building aren't "fireproofed" for fun. Steel begins to lose it's structural integrity from ~300C. It doesn't need to come anywhere near melting to fail.

    No doubt the rubber "O" rings on the Challenger didn't really lose their structural properties due to cold temperature either? Oh - I know aliens maybe?

  42. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Cave Man Thinking ....... when does IT end

    .... where? New Things to See and Friends to Make Things to See. Exercise the Mind? Create See Visions from Applied Shared Thought? Hmmm? .

    "It takes two sides to start, and, more importantly, justify the budget for, a war. Who are the Yanks going to pick on next?

    Be afraid. Be very afraid...." ... By Dodgy Geezer Posted Friday 12th September 2008 12:53 GMT


    They could always Engage with the CyberIntelAIgent Underground for AI Handles on Space Communication ..... HyperRadioProActivity Fright Flights. Nothing to be afraid of though with ITs Overall Control for IT is an Anonymised Shared Blessing in Cloaked Disguise.

    And armed networks are the ruination and an abomination on Earth, and they are not welcome or worthy in AI Space Communication. Sling your Hook Elsewhere for Blood Money, Honey Darling.

    Which has a certain Line drawn in the Sands/Golden Goal to Attain/ Attenuate

    "You may be too far gone in your Bush Derangement Syndrome(BDS) for anyone to help you, ..." .... By SnowHawk Posted Friday 12th September 2008 19:02 GMT

    Is Bush too far gone for help, Snowhawk? He's got nothing XXXXCiting 42 Offer and in a President is that Terminal and Catastrophic in Damage that is Caused.

    "Oh - I know aliens maybe?" And don't forget there is aliens and there are aliens and some of them are gremlins and others are Hornery Angels dancing with the Devil in a TailSpin in AI Spinning Tale ........ Global InterActive New World Order Governance Program.

    One of those Atlas Program Spin Offs for Virtualised Spaces .... Civilianised CyberSpace Environments ...... Virtually Real Time Zones with Ace Imaginative Drivers ........ Chip Cluster Pools in which to Swim and Phish with Live BAIT.

    Old World Wisdoms and Methodologies given the Binary Laundry Treatment .... Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Out of Existence is what Technology can Do 4U2.

  43. Mike Richards

    @ Anonymous coward

    'If the WTC floors collapsed in a 'pancake' fashion; how does that account for the collapse of the building's steel core? '

    In both cases the core was severely damaged by the impact. The WTC's core was also not capable of supporting the entire weight of the structure, a good deal of the vertical load in the buildings were handled by the exterior vertical steel columns. With both sets of supports damaged the building collapsed pancake fashion, the lower part of the core crushing down on itself like a soda can under your boot.

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