- An ICBM in the Topol-M class employ about 15-16 minutes from red button pressed to detonations of the thermonuclear re-entry vehicles in the enemy continental territory ,with an effective warning's window of the incoming attack for the opposing side variating, at best ,between 6 and 11 minutes.
And is a very drastic sledge hammer action from which there is no return.
ICBMs are not something you select as your first response to a problem... it is the LAST.
Without Bombers of course you are restricting yourself as to the options you have at your disposal to respond to the problem at hand.
Both sides have their defcon system of states of alert... the highest state involving the launching of a full scale nuclear attack... the point is that it is a level lower than this that bombers will be dispersed and loaded and manned,and slightly higher than this they will be in the air getting topped up by inflight refuelling aircraft and flying to their operational start positions... 6 minutes warning will be plenty because the bombers will not be in hangars or anywhere near their bases when the enemies ICBMs start landing on their bases.
moreover a single mid-air nuclear detonation above an airfield would not only destroy 100% of parked aircraft and majority of aboveground structures ,but would render any take-off from the attacked airfield absolutely impossible for weeks....( and a thermonuclear war would ,very likely, last no more than 30-40 minutes !!)
That cuts both ways however... a single nuclear warhead hidden in a satellite could easily be detonated above any point on the planet high in space in the Van Allen belts and create an enormous EMP effect over any air defence systems operational area. Even if the AD is hardened to protect it from such an attack the air will be ionised for at least 30 minutes making radar and radio communication useless... plenty of time for a slow lumbering subsonic bomber to slip through, and also plenty of time for a modern flying wing supercruising bomber to get within 5,000km of its target area and release a cruise missile... because 30 minutes after that EMP attack ICBMs and SLBMS will have done their damage too and by the time the bombers get to their launch positions there will not be much organisation left to stop the final blow... for either side.
For a conventional conflict without nukes we will likely have what we have now... both the US and Russia have bombers they can use against small states, but are not likely able to penetrate each others defences without serious risk.
Austin, the point raised by D. Rogozin is just that ,at today, a strategical bomber ,for itself, don't represent anymore a significative menace for any advanced nation and all its "deterrent" potential is instead exerted entirely by the very long range cruise missiles it cary (and also them lose theirs penetration potential at an incredible rate any year).
A bomber is no longer a bomber... it is a cruise missile platform... just like a sub can be a cruise missile platform or a SLBM carrying platform. Cruise missiles have the flexibility of using conventional warheads for tasks 30 years ago would have required a nuke or a large flight of vulnerable bombers carrying large amounts of bombs.
Precision guided weapons and indeed unusual weapons like the father of all bombs make the strategic bomber a much more flexible tool, and more multipurpose than the other two legs of the nuclear triad. SSBNs and ICBMs are deterrence tools to fend off armageddon. Strategic bombers can have a wide range of uses both as a deterrent and as a real tool of large and small wars.
The flight range and speed of a Tu-160 or Tu-95MS means that conventionally armed cruise missiles can be delivered to any point on the planet within a day with the precision to hit a particular house. Previously to hit such a target would need hundreds of bombers carrying enormous loads of bombs and there is still no guarantee that the house in question will be hit... so really the only way to be sure would be with a nuke.
The current situation is three very different aircraft with little actually in common, though with upgrades their radars and avionics will have some commonality, but components like engines and structures will be quite different.
A new aircraft that can perform the jobs these three aircraft currently perform with a modern low drag super cruising design would be well worth the money invested.
This new aircraft doesn't need to be super stealthy because by the time it flys over modern air defence systems either the cruise missiles will have been used to take down the AD, or the ICBMs and SLBMs will have done the same.
Being able to fly everywhere at mach 1.6 will greatly reduce transit times and could potentially lead to a new non stealthy civilian SST that is economically viable... just in time for the sillyness after the world economic recession...
The other part of detterent like ICBM and Submarine of more or less covert , Bomber is a visible and flexible deterrent value of Triad.
More importantly it is a political step that can be made and then unmade to test your opponents resolve... you can make a public display of returning your bombers to their bases to communicate to your enemy your intentions... you can't do that with subs unless your enemy can track your subs...
If instead you mean PGM -Precison Guided Munitions- to be used in local conflicts , the fleet of Su-34 and modernized SU-24M witht theirs new models of the KAB series ,the new UPAB and also the various models of Kh-38M will offerer a very wide option for this type of missions and at a very long range.
Su-34s and even Su-35s will offer excellent air to ground capability, but for larger weapons in the Russian arsenal like the FAB-3000, FAB-5000, FAB-9000 and Father of all bombs you need a larger aircraft to get the job done.
For a go in there and hit target x then the Su-34 would be ideal, but the PAK DA needs to combine extreme long range ( up to 15,000km with a relatively light payload of 12-24 tons... ie 6-12 2 ton cruise missiles) or a much heavier payload over a shorter range... say 40 tons over a 10,000km flight range. These performance figures roughly equate to the Tu-160s performance with the 12 Kh-101/102s internally and an inflight refuelling before leaving Russian air space and a tactical mission respectively.
There is no reason why a fairly modest payload of a range of weapon types and weights along with extra fuel could not be used to support even a single unit or base, with a PAK DA flying around a target area at low speed for days with a wide range of weapon types ready for use at a moments notice against a range of target types.
Internal carriage of weapons means low drag and low RCS and of course the size of the aircraft means larger sensors which should allow observation of the ground from higher safer altitudes, and simply the ability to carry a much wider range of weapons of different weights makes it more flexible.
An FAB-9000 from above 15km altitude would hit the ground with enormous energy even if it didn't explode...
Which was designed as an LPI system in large part to find mobile SS-25 TELs (which in turn became hugely amusing when they fitted it with the smaller JDAMs). That made it a weird kind of weapon to have, because that's only truly relevant in a first-strike scenario, unless they figured Russia would be firing silo-based missiles first and keeping mobile SS-25s for the second wave, who knows.
I remember they claimed the B-2 was going to be a TEL killer, but they stopped going on about it after Desert Storm... it seems that even with air superiority and a fairly little country to hide in, and plenty of recon assets and even soldiers covertly on the ground they didn't manage to destroy a single scud launcher before it launched its missile in Iraq... and they realised it would be impossible to attempt such a thing over Russia...
Which kinda makes the B-2 a bit of a white elephant unless you want it as a first strike aircraft to try to take out Russian nuclear capabilities in the hope that the remaining nuclear capacity can be dealt with using ABMs in various places.
If it gets to the point that you're launching nuclear-armed bombers at somebody, seriously, do you really think a recall is going to happen? If the other guy figures it out (which involves nothing more than a dude with a cellphone somewhere near the base), he's not going to hold back either, and then we'd best be figuring out how to quickly exit this rock because the Stone Age will have nothing on what's left.
Only if the launch of bombers is a prelude to launching ICBMs. If it is an escalation in a chess game then it is the most useful piece on the chess board because it is a serious threat yet can be recalled after it is moved to position.
What the US really needs in a new bomber is something like a Tu-160 with 5th gen engines that allow it to supercruise except just the same as the Su-24 used swing wings but the more sophisticated wing of the Su-27(34) is fixed, applying the same technology to the wing of the Tu-160 with a fixed flying wing shape in a wing that allows supersonic cruising without moving (making it cheaper and lighter and easier to make) and with the ability to super cruise in dry thrust should lead to good range and shorter flight times.
The result is a plane that can do the job of the B-1B and B-52 that doesn't cost as much as a B-2 but has some stealth features to make it more survivable.
But of course they will want it to be able to do everything which will make it even more expensive than a B-2 and you will only get 30 of them and the B-52 will continue to serve till 2050...