Why doesn't Israel/[insert country] have jet bombers?

Sparked by thread on bomber cat-and-mousing.

You’re planning your defense funding for strategic weaponry. Money is not no-object.

F-15s, 22s, 35, yes, yes, and yes. More, please.

Israel doesn’t have the kind of bombers like the enormous ones of US, Russia, England?

If not, what is the argument? I’m interested in the bang for buck of different technologies within different strategic threats.

Clearly they don’t think they need them to defend themselves. If Israel, for example, decided they wanted to nuke Tehran they have other ways of doing it without having to buy, train pilots for, and maintain expensive jet bombers.

Aren’t bombers mostly for long-distance bombing? Most of the enemies Israel has are fairly close by, so fighter jets might make more sense.

Where would they use them?
They have KC-707 refueling tankers to get their F-15s to any target that would actually threaten them.
They, unlike the U.S, cannot (virtually) guarantee unlimited air superiority, so they would have no way to send slower bombers over Iran or Pakistan without losing them to the air defenses of those countries.
They, unlike the U.S., are unlikely to get into the sort of war that requires extensive area bombing.
If they planned on a war with Russia or India, they might have a need for a larger single-purpose bomber, but they do not currently have a large opponent that far distant from Israel to justify the expense.
If they did want one, where would they get them? I suppose that Boeing or Airbus might be talked into taking a shot at creating a new bomber, although there would be additional costs (that would begin very high), to design a plane to take advantage of current technology when no such plane has been designed in over 30 years. The U.S. B-1 and B-2 fleets are not large enough for the U.S. to sell off part of them to Israel. The age of the B-52 fleet would make maintenance a nightmare. Russia might still have a few Tupolevs flying around, but they would present the same maintenance problems, to say nothing of the issue of persuading Russia to sell to Israel.

In fact, although I have not bothered to thoroughly check the issue, I suspect that the U.S., Russia, and China are the only air forces still flying long-range bombers and the Russian Tupolevs and their Chinese H-6 knock-offs are all approaching ancient status. It is not that Israel is not acquiring a bomber, but that no one is.

ETA: simulpost w tomndebb

Bombers have two advantages over fighter/bombers like the F-16, F-15E, and F/A-18 to mention just the US types. The carry more payload and they carry it a farther distance.

Bombers have two disadvantages over fighter/bombers. Setting aside stealth, they cannot penetrate into well-defended airspace and nobody sells export versions of their bombers.

So Israel, et al, don’t need the range, and need to be able to penetrate into well-defended airspace, and can’t buy them anyway. Hence they lack bombers.

The F-15E has much shorter legs. As tomndebb said, tankers can extend that range. BUT … you can’t get tankers into well-defended enemy airspace, and you may not even be able to safely operate them too close to the edge of the airspace you control. Long range SAMs are very effective against non-maneuvering mid-altitude targets.
What’s lacking right now in the product catalog is a medium / light bomber that could penetrate 1000-1500 miles in and out of semi-defended airspace. The FB-111 was such a beast, and arguably the SU-30 was too. Israel and many other second-order powers would really like to have something like this.

The US & Europe has refrained from selling anybody this sort of weapon because it’s real hard to fig-leaf it as fundamentally a defense-only weapon against <insert neighbor here>.

And: long-range missiles are MUCH cheaper than bombers.

Unless you want to do carpet bombing over a large area for protracted periods, the delivery of warheads is much cheaper and easier without huge, slow, seen and heard for miles before they get there bombers.

Those fighters can be armed with nuclear weapons. If the Israelis orSouth Koreans need a little more range, they have their own cruise missiles available.

The F-15E “strike eagle” variant can carry an awful lot of bombs. Total payload is 24,500 lbs, though obviously if it needs to go very far it won’t carry anywhere near that much in ordnance alone. By one point of comparison, the B-17 that was once a long-range heavy bomber only had a maximum payload of 17,500 lbs, and the maximum bomb load it ever carried in combat was 8,000 lbs.

For the purposes of fighting limited, low-intensity defensive wars, a couple dozen F-15Es (on top of the rest of the multirole fighters) provide plenty of capability.

Aside from the mid-altitude and non-maneuvering flight, are there other reasons why non-stealth bombers cannot penetrate into well-defended airspace?
What if bombers flew at low altitude while in well-defended airspace?

What enabled the FB-111 and the SU-30 to do that?

Flying at low altitude leaves them vulnerable to a wide variety of smaller air-defense weapons, including artillery, rapid-fire cannon, vehicle and man-portable anti-air missiles, and things like trees, telephone poles, power lines, and terrain.

Yes, terrain. Aircraft have been successfully shot down by sand dunes.

For an example of why the low-altitude approach is not ideal for big bombers, I refer you to Operation Tidal Wave, an American raid on Romanian oilfields during WWII which featured the Ninth and Eighth Air Forces sending around 170 B-24 Liberator heavy bombers in at low altitude during daylight to avoid German radar. The result was that they flew headlong into heavy air defenses and lost nearly a third of their planes in the raid without destroying their target.

Big enough to carry a substantial payload and range, and able to travel very fast, even at low altitudes. One favored tactic of the Aardvark and it’s Raven electronics warfare variant was to use terrain following radar and autopilot to race along at tree-top level, letting the computer steer them around any obstructions while moving too fast to be easily engaged by the aforementioned threats. Nowadays US doctrine is to try to smash the enemy air defense system as early as possible so the bombers can perform their mission in relative safety. This is done with dedicated hunter-killer planes performing “Wild Weasel” missions, or by attacking known command and communications systems from a distance with cruise missiles or precision strikes.

The basic reason is that the Israeli Air Force doesn’t believe in overspecialization, nor could it afford it if it did. An F-15 may not be able to bomb fortifications or take out tanks s well as a bomber or an A-10, respectively, but it *can *do those things - while those two can’t do anything else. Having all your fighters multi-role means that you an use your entire air force to win the battle for air superiority and against enemy air defenses, and once that’s done, you can use them to support the ground troops at their leisure.

Bombers are expensive to run. Not the most recent of data, but according to a 2013 report, a B-52 had a cost-per-flight-hour of $69,708. An F-15, in comparison, costs only $41,921 per flight hour.

@MichealEmouse: **Raguleader **pretty well nailed it.

Extreme low altitude was an effective tactic in my era, the 1980s. We’d happily drive into enemy territory at 100 feet at 500+ knots. Given any kind of non billiard-flat terrain we were confident nobody could detect us at a distance and even if we flew through a valley that had a SA-4 or -6 in it we’d be over the next ridge before they woke up & got rounds off at us.

To be sure, that exposed us to small arms & un-aimed HMG/autocannon barrage fire. But given the lethality of middle-altitude SAM systems against non-stealth aircraft, low altitude was the least bad option available and was very effective at defeating long range detection, SAMs, and most counter air.

In the intervening years there have been paradoxical developments: Lethality of first-world air defenses has increased dramatically. Absent stealth, if you’re tracked you’re doomed. But meantime the enemy we’re actually fighting or planning to fight is doing good to muster a handful of ratty heavy machineguns. So avoiding barrage small arms fire is job #1; do that and you’re golden.

So against half-assed ragtag IS-style opposition you fly straight and level with impunity in the middle altitudes. But against near-peer adversaries …

Nowadays with effective lookdown-shootdown radars, enemy AWACS, and phased-array and AESA ground-based radars plus faster launch systems it’s a different story. Today, if you drop into a valley that has enemy ADA/SAM in it, you’re gonna get shot at. With real high P[sub]k[/sub]. And if the bad guys have counter air, low altitude is no sanctuary at all.
As to FB-111 & SU-30, it was mostly a matter of aircraft size & design priorities. All else equal, a bigger aircraft will have longer range. It’s a manifestation of the square-cube scaling law. -111s could penetrate against 1990s opposition & carry the fuel to go a very long way once behind enemy lines. Simply because they were 2 or 3x the size/weight of an F-15E, much less 3 or 4x the size/weight of an F-16.

We are still fighting today that stealth is not aerodynamically efficient. And stealth is an absolute requirement to survive against a near-peer opponent. So we can’t both survive and go deep unless we use a very large platform *a la *B-2. A more bizjet or big RJ-sized penetrating stealth bomber is possible. But it’ll have 90% of the pricetag of a B-2 for 1/3rd the range & payload. That’s not a winner at the Pentagon budget office, nor in Congress.

What’s interesting is studying some of the old anti-air tactics. Back in the old days, defenders would send up balloons trailing long cables, or string cables between telephone poles, with the intent that low-flying aircraft would risk getting snagged (snagging a cable at 300 knots is an excellent way to ruin your entire day). The Germans particularly liked stringing cables across tempting approaches such as canyons and ridges overlooking important facilities or bases.

The counter to these defenses was simple: Just fly high enough for their anti-air gunners to get a clean shot at you.

Sadly, that counter-air tactic was still effective into the 1990s: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cavalese_cable_car_disaster_(1998)

Big bombers are what are called “strategic” bombers. They’re typically used to bomb strategic targets in the enemy’s homeland like factories, populations, and the like. Think B-17s/B-24s in WWII Europe, and B-29s against Japan. This means big payloads dropped very long distances from their airbases. In modern day usage, that typically means nuclear weapons, but most of the US ones can also drop an absurd number of conventional bombs as well.

That’s why only countries like the US and Russia have that kind of bomber; nobody else really plans to have a total war where they’re going to bomb someone’s populations, industrial capacity and general infrastructure.

Someone like Israel isn’t planning on fighting that kind of war, and for the most part, doesn’t need that kind of range, as I suspect F-15Es could hit any neighboring Arab capitol anyway.

Especially seeing as the IDF has fast packs and can buddy tank in addition to AAR.

You mean the Su-24. The Su-27 family was solely designed for air superiority and interception until the Su-30MKI was introduced with some (relatively minor) ground attack capability.

I was working in a State Park near Dayton, Ohio. Very picturesque valley (with an unfortunate groundwater contamination problem). With absolutely no warning, 2 F-16s hopped the ridgeline, dropped into the valley, then hopped over the next ridge and were gone. It took them less time than it takes to read that sentence. About knocked me on my ass I was so surprised. I can’t imagine that even someone with training would have been able to get a shot off at them. I would also be that in a real war they would have been flying faster and lower.

Great cite. The best layman overview of technology/tactics development of the F15 I have ever read.

And certainly spot on for this thread.