Air Force General Stresses Need to Limit New Bomber's Cost

The United States must a control the cost of a next-generation nuclear bomber to ensure production of the system in large quantities remains viable amid $400 billion in defense cuts anticipated over the next 12 years, the Air Force's No. 2 officer said on Wednesday (see GSN, June 1).

The planned aircraft, intended to carry out long-range missions with or without onboard pilots, must be “designed and developed using proven technology,” Gen. Philip Breedlove said in remarks reported by Wired magazine. “We have talked to the potential competitors for this business. Where we want to start is today. We don’t want to lean very far forward.”

Controlling the aircraft's cost is central to ensuring that plans for the system are carried out, Wired said; in 2009, the Pentagon postponed plans to begin introducing a new long-range bomber in 2018 (see GSN, April 22, 2009). “We need to be able to afford this system, so we can afford to buy 80 to 100 of these platforms,” the general said. That would represent a four- to fivefold boost over the nation's B-2 bomber fleet.

The Air Force must cut $49 billion from its spending plan for the next half decade while pursuing the new bomber along with updates to other air- and space-based assets, the magazine reported. “We are coming under increased and what seems to be prolonged fiscal pressure that will challenge our ability” to maintain military systems more sophisticated than those of Beijing and other potential competitors, Breedlove said. “We’re flying the oldest air force we have ever flown.”

Breedlove said a long-range attack capability would play the core role in AirSea Battle, a planned suite of Air Force and Navy technologies for countering enemy systems intended to limit the U.S. ability to project its power overseas.

“It allows us to penetrate from lightly contested to severely contested airspace and networks,” the general said (Spencer Ackerman, Wired, July 20).

July 21, 2011
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The United States must a control the cost of a next-generation nuclear bomber to ensure production of the system in large quantities remains viable amid $400 billion in defense cuts anticipated over the next 12 years, the Air Force's No. 2 officer said on Wednesday (see GSN, June 1).