Debt Concerns Aside, Air Force designing new long-range bomber with “nuclear capability”

Northrop Grumman's classified bomber prototype: Long-range strike aircraft that could be a remarkable option generator in future force and operational planning. (Aviation Week and Space Technology)
Northrop Grumman's classified bomber prototype: Long-range strike aircraft that could be a remarkable option generator in future force and operational planning. (Aviation Week and Space Technology)

All the Washington talk about mounting debt and fiscal deficits won’t stop the design for a new long-range bomber championed by USAF Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Philip Breedlove. Next Generation Bombers are seen as critical for long-range strikes against Iran or whomever a future administration may wish to hit.

Bill Sweetman at Aviation Week (Ban the Bomber? 6/25/2010) just last June was bemoaing Pentagon calls and “requirements ‘ trickling down from the highest levels’ … for an aircraft much smaller than the Next Generation Bomber that has been studied up to now.” Sweetman quoted Lt Gen Breedlove deputy chief of staff for operations, plans, and requirements) citing Air Force Magazine saying that the “word ‘bomber’ can no longer be spoken in the halls of the Pentagon.” Sweetman can rest easy.

John A. Tirpak reports in Air-Force Magazine (Birthing the Bomber) on January 13 Air Force Secretary Michael Donley … [s]peaking at an Air Force Association-sponsored Air Force Breakfast Series event in Arlington, Va., … said USAF has satisfied Defense Secretary Robert Gates. ….  (Gates [in early January] blessed the bomber project.)

Sec. Gates may have had a change of heart.

Many view stealth technology as, if not totally worthless, then on that side of the operations spectrum; lots of tax-payer money for some lucky defence corporations, though, and this is important to some sectors of American society.

From Air Force Magazine, January 27, 2011:

Leaning Forward, but not Overreaching: The Air Force will design its new long-range bomber by leveraging the best of today’s technology and not trying to incorporate exceedingly risky approaches, USAF Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Philip Breedlove told lawmakers Wednesday. “One of the cost-savings approaches we have for this bomber is to not lean forward into technology that’s not proven, but bring our aircraft up to the current day’s standards,” he testified before the House Armed Services Committee. For instance, Breedlove said stealth technology has advanced much since the B-2 bomber came along through subsequent work on the F-22 and F-35. “So the new bomber will have better stealth capability, but not [by] making leaps forward that we can’t count on,” he explained. This same mindset applies for the bomber’s avionics, information-gathering systems, and so on. Breedlove said the anticipated cost of the new bomber “is not fleshed out totally yet,” but the “distinct goal” is to control cost so that USAF can procure a fleet “that makes us operationally relevant around the world and around the target set.” The platform, he continued, will “start out” in a conventional role and then “grow into a nuclear capability” later on.

Some critics knock down Gen. Breedlove for his endorsing a report clearing a  “colonel [Col. Kimberly K. Toney] who sent an (sprawling) e-mail to thousands of airmen in Europe directing them to visit a far-right, Catholic website, where President Barack Obama was compared to Adolf Hitler and the Antichrist.” (Leopold, The Public Record, April 2, 2009)


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