New Long Range Strike Bombers Needed for U.S. Air Force
The Air Force says it is committed to building a new fleet of bombers to replace the decades-old bombers now in use.
But the plane, known for now as the Long Range Strike Bomber, will have to compete for funding with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the KC-46A flying tanker, unmanned aircraft and military research and development as budgets tighten and the Pentagon is under pressure to scrutinize programs, industry analysts said.
It remains to be seen what other programs will be cut back or eliminated to preserve money for the priorities, analysts said. Military research and development is certain to be squeezed, said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group in Fairfax, Va.
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base will be affected by whatever is decided. The base is home to headquarters of the Air Force Research Laboratory as well as the Aeronautical Systems Center, which manages key aircraft and weapons programs.
The Pentagon is already adjusting to spending reductions of $500 billion during the next decade. And those cuts could more than double unless Congress reverses the automatic spending reductions that are to start in 2013 because of the November failure of the congressional bipartisan deficit reduction committee to agree on cuts.
“There are a lot of unfunded priorities,” Aboulafia said., “In the here and now, just keeping the F-35 going is the priority.”
Congress hasn’t appropriated enough money to allow the Air Force to really get started on the new bomber program, Aboulafia said.
Using the cost of the B-2 stealth bomber program as a guide, the new bomber could easily cost well in excess of $100 billion, he said.
The Air Force said it hopes to field the new bombers in the mid-2020s, before the aging fleets of B-52 and B-1 bombers go out of service.
“We must build a new bomber to continue to provide presidents with options to hold adversaries at risk at any point on the globe,” the Air Force said last week.
A new bomber program is considered critical to supporting the defense industry’s manufacturing base, in particular for advanced stealth materials and engineering, officials said.
The Air Force said it will focus on making trade-offs on capabilities of the new bomber as necessary to keep costs per plane within budget targets.
The goal is to ensure production of 80 to 100 new bombers, Air Force officials said.
Source: By John Nolan, Staff Writer - 12 December 2011 - Cox Ohio Publishing News (www.daytondailynews.com)
Photo: New Long Range Strike NGB Bomber would compete for tight funding. (Photo by Northrop Grumman)