Cartwright: Get Rid of the New Bomber

Well, Marine Corps Gen. James “Hoss” Cartwright, the nation’s second highest military officer fired a shot at the Air Force’s renewed effort to field a stealthy, long-range nuclear bomber early in the next decade, saying we just can’t afford it.

Here’s what he said today to DoDBuzz’s founding editor, Colin Clark, who now runs AOL Defense:

“I’m known as a bomber hater,” a smiling Cartwright said this morning when I asked him whether the country needed such a plane. The general’s main worry is that we will build an “exquisite” aircraft, loaded with the latest stealth, able to fly huge distances and crammed with expensive sensors and end up being able to buy only a few of them. He noted the progression of bomber production numbers: 100s of the venerable B-52; 65 B-1s; and 20 B-2s.

“Building five or 10 of something isn’t going to do something for us,” he said, adding that he wants to think of an aircraft of which we could build “hundreds.”

He went on to tell Clark that he thinks a cheaper, unmanned bomber (that wouldn’t carry nukes, for obvious reasons) is the way to go. He apparently said that he didn’t remember any manned version of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). There you have it, the outgoing vice chairman of the joint chiefs sounding off against building a new version of the Air Force nuke triad. Oh, and he also confirmed that the Pentagon is considering getting rid of an aircraft carrier.

The country, Marine Gen. James “Hoss” Cartwright said, cannot afford to buy an upgraded nuclear triad of new bombers, new intercontinental ballistic missiles and new nuclear missile submarines.

Cartwright, outgoing vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, also confirmed that the Pentagon is considering — as part of its budget deliberations — scrapping its next aircraft carrier, the first official confirmation by a senior military official. Cartwright spoke with reporters at a Defense Writers Group breakfast here.





  • aSDF

    how much will they be cutting (in percent) that they are thinking about the bomber AND cvn cancellation?

  • blight

    A “Revolt of the [Air Force Generals]” is in store.

    Aand we’re back to the whole “we don’t need stealth bombers, we can use ALCMs” thing of Carter/Reagan.

    The future is probably smaller fighter-bombers a la F-111; and not 30-ton carriers. However, you can make a small aircraft very expensive, independent of size…

  • S O

    65 may be the figure of in-service B-1Bs, but the production run was 100.

    A few years ago there was a reduction b about 30 for saving operation & upgrade costs.

  • Joshua

    Finally, a sensible remark from someone with power. I’ve always felt that these high tech innovations always end up blowing the wallet up, and never doing much other than raising problems. Look at the F-35’s numerous issues right now… And thousands are “suppose” to be produced. B-2’s are great aircraft and are very useful, but with such a high pricetag and low number, I think it’s time we look to more affordable aircraft that we can produced larger numbers of… Whether manned or unmanned.

  • STemplar

    Seems like we have more luck and better results with our high tech munitions than delivery platforms in regards to costs and schedule. Maybe we should think in terms of OTS delivery options and high end munitions with superior range.

  • brianckramer

    Pilots will be obsolete by the time these are done…Why waste Billions on another go-nowhere design effort?

  • Forrest Cantrell

    Penetrating weapons, not penetrating bombers. As for the CVN, we may just have to live with one fewer.

  • Belesari

    I agree with scraping thidea for now.

    But i’d like to see them think about the idea of a Large flying wing that isnt dependent upon stealth and can use EW warfare and eventually Lasers.

    Not nessesarily unmanned though. Pilot copilot and EW officer.

    Weapons payload atleast equal to the B-2.

    And yes build atleast 100 build alot of them. Keep the base airframe cheaper by not requiring super stealth (and also cheaper that way in maintanence cost). Then make it capable of carrying more capable EW and eventually laser or other anti missle systems.

    The most successful bomber in our history and one that has performed the best isnt the Billion dollar ones like the B-2 or B-1 or f-117.

    Its the B-52. Always ready and reliable.

    That is what we should try to build from. Especially sense more and more stealth aircraft are becoming vulnerable as more and more people devise mechanisms to track and destroy them.

  • Belesari

    Oh and dont cut the CVN. We need more of them to begin with. Maybe you should think about making them just a little cheaper eh?

  • SJE

    The general is speaking uncomfortable truths. The Marines have current needs, while the AF is already blowing the budget with their current aquisitions and now want more toys.

  • J Hughes

    I really want a new stealthy manned/unmanned nuclear bomber, BUT…. Cartwright does have a point.

  • chaos0xomega

    I agree with Cartwright, but calling out the Air Force is a low blow, when his beloved corps is fielding (or attempting to field) an ‘ “exquisite” aircraft, loaded with the latest stealth, able to fly huge distances and crammed with expensive sensors and end up being able to buy only a few of them.’ Not to mention the whole EFV thing which was (thankfully) killed dead.

    • Belesari

      Huge distances? It has a patheticly tiny range.

      450nmi combat range (Which it hasnt met).

      But the biggest thing is that the Marines Harriers NEED to be replaced badly. The harrier has alot of faults and they are getting old.

      Do i think the F-35B is what they should have gone for? No but its only thing available.

      • MCQknight

        And the Air Force NEEDS to replace its bombers! The B-52’s are already ancient and they’re getting more and more expensive to operate the older they get. Anyways, the B-2 would orignally have been bought at a comparable price to the B-1 if we had bought them in quantity, but Congress cut the aircraft to 20 after most of the sunk-cost R&D work had been done so you end up with a 2 billion dollar bomber.

        And btw, if Cartwright thinks that UCAVs will be magically cheaper just because they don’t have a man in the cockpit, then he’ll be sorely disappointed. One only has to look at the huge cost of the new Global Hawks to understand that simply taking the man out of the cockpit does not a cheap aircraft make.

  • Hunter78

    Cartwright is completely right. He should be CJCS. Get the f* out of flying coffins. If we can’t lead in uav’s we’re out of business.

  • Perry C. Joyce

    Finally someone said what all Americans are thinking. Enough with the high tech toys, they’re expensive and often take decades to work out the bugs. What we need are inexpensive, effective weapons systems and weapons delivery systems that our service ppl can rely on to get the job done. New bombers, CV(n)s’ etc are a waist of bloody money. Especially now that the U.S. is pushing the debt ceiling. Our military leaders need to cool thy’re jets till we get a grip on the national debt.

  • I love the logic on these boards. “We can’t afford gold-plated technology anymore! Let’s buy some flying robotic bombers, instead!”

    Predators / Reapers are only cheap because they’re the airframe and engine equivalent of a tuned-up Cessna. See Global Hawk..

  • William C.

    Well this time lets just not cut the damned production run as politicians are prone to doing.

  • John B

    Sell the flat-top to the Chinese. they would love it and will get it one way with our debts, or another, like espionage. If we did not outsource our jobs and know how to these third world countries, our bloods will not be spilled, and we will not have to worry about them now then.

  • Billy

    Should have never went with the F35. Should have just designed a new F15 thats supermanuervable with Thrust Vectoring. Sometimes lowtech is better than super hightech products.

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Evening Folks,

    General Cartwright makes sense. The era of manned combat aircraft is coming to an end, if it already hasn’t ended. Cutting a CVN makes sense only if the nuclear industrial base can be maintained, but that could be done by adding an nuclear platform.

    Next legacy platform to get rid of the F-22. There is a lot of speculation going on regarding the problems with the F-22 and most of them have nothing to do with the O2 generator. The “almost crash on Hampton VA.” woke up some AF people. Word is that F-22 flight and ground crews are putting in requests for a transfer into another communities. Since web sites are disappearing and some folks have gone silent it appears that scrapping the F-22 is under full consideration. The lesson here is you can’t take 30 years to make a cutting edge weapon, when its ready it already obsolete.

    Byron Skinner

    • J Hughes

      How come you always start off with good evening, are you a nightly news journalist? lol And what does allons mean?

    • Guest

      It’d be great to have a source for that claim…

  • Joe

    I think we should have gone with more B-24s than B-17’s…Oh Crap, am I ever 60 years to late! Pretty much like the next super duper steathy whatchamagiggy the Air Force wants to develope…it will be still working out the bugs and outdated when needed.

  • Jeff


    What we are seeing here, unfortunately but not unexpectedly, is the services circling the wagons trying to protect their share of a budget pie that is rapidly shrinking. In this context Gen. Cartwrights comments are not unexpected. What is unfortunate about this situation is that over the last decade the upper levels of the DOD has been purged of Air Force officers, preventing the nation’s airpower needs from being effectively articulated. This is readily apparent in the General’s comments. While we cannot repeat the acquisition mistakes of the past, maintaining the ability to preserve strategic options by the ability to penetrate heavily defended airspace and hold an adversary’s critical assets at risk is a fundamental national requirement. We cannot rely solely on networked (unmanned) aircraft as any adversary that would require the use of an aircraft like this can also contest our use of the electromagnetic spectrum. In reality these comments are more about taking money and political clout from another service more than any realistic assessment of our nation’s defense needs.

  • Max

    I don’t completely agree with the General for the simple fact that as the platforms become more technologically advanced, you really don’t need to build hundreds when 10 or 20 will suffice. A case in point is the SR-71 platform, we only built about 50 airframes, and they performed rather well.

    • USA

      Speaking of SR-71 – could the SR-71 be converted to a bomber?

    • TMB

      Max, the problem with only building 20 of something is that you’ll never have all 20 ready to use at the same time. For our older airframes, the readiness rate is rarely above 60-70%. For high tech brand new systems with teething problems, the rate will be as low as systems falling apart with age. (The DoD cheered when the V-22 got UP to 70%. For the B-2, they only built 20 and one of them crashed a couple years back. There will never be a replacement.

  • Dfens

    This is nothing but a boondoggle. If they want more B-2’s, they should have bought more B-2’s. Instead they pull this crap where they only buy 20 and a few years after the line is cold come to us and say, “we need a new bomber just like the last one we built 20 of?” What total bs!

  • darksidius

    This general is completely mad you cant absolutly not defeat a defense like China with a little bomber type uav. J-20 and another fighter close the sky of China and missile like s 400 can easily defeat a drone style bomber. To defeat the defense like Russia or China you must go higher and faster with a medium type bomber with supersonic stealth attribute. Air force general don’t here this guy and continue with your program because its the security of the world in this game.

    • Dfens

      Hell yeah, get rid of the fragile and expensive stealth coatings and build something to cruise in at Mach 3+ and 100,000 ft. It would be wasting their sorry asses before they knew what hit them. Better make it a heavy bomber, though, ’cause it’s going to need to carry a lot of fuel to get a decent load of nukes anywhere they’d do some good.

  • Maxtrue

    I think the issue here is far more complicated. First, the size of any new bomber depends on what it carries. Hypersonic EPW missiles, DEW pods etc are going to be large and heavy. Second, the range, speed, ceiling height and stealth depends of our adversary’s defenses. Third, it is clear that drones cannot do what manned air craft can do in certain areas that are important. To answer the question about whether we need a new bomber, we have to answer these questions first.

    Advances fighters and air defenses make stealth, speed, ceiling height, range important. It might be sensible to build some White Knights that could loft hypersonics to near suborbital range. It might be sensible to build a loitering bomber that deliver DEW. It might be sensible to build a stealth fast bomber that can penetrate hostile environment in the heat of battle. I would argue the weapons and strategy play a huge role in deciding the number, design and quantity of new bombers.

    Last, one builds from the materials available. What exactly do we have that is new we can work with? And what exactly will the bombers face in terms of counter weapon systems?

    Therefore, this debate seems to rest on largely unvetted assumptions.

  • brian

    So what happens when we need to do heavy deep strikes into a heavily defended airspace? Send in the whole air force? What happens if we no longer have such a capability to act as a deterrent or at least leverage in negotiations? If you don’t think the B2 doesn’t enter into hostile countries minds when thinking about confronting us, your mistaken. Its like saying we shouldn’t have carriers because we don’t use them that much. We don’t use that much because everyone is scared of them.

    I think the general isn’t thinking clearly on these matters and the whole thing has become political as opposed to objective decision based on security goals. Our carrier force can’t take another loss, we have already pared as many carriers down as we possibly could without significantly compromising security and capability.

    I think this is just BS

  • Sanem

    the predominance of UAVs will only get worse, be it because of cost ($10 million vs $100 million), performance (20 hours vs 4 hours on station) or technology (humans don’t get much smarter with every generation, computers do)

    the F-35 is the prime example: it’s computers can detect, identify, track and target multiple targets optically

    imagine what UCAV’s will be capable of in 10 years, or even 20. this is the way to go; if we don’t the Chinese certainly will, and they will sell to countries like Iran

    • Maxtrue

      China is nowhere near our capability. There are also some missions only manned air craft can accomplish for some time to come. I also don’t think the world is ready for autonomous air craft bombing even more people. Right now we’re far more worried about future air craft, missile and sub sales to Pakistan and others from China.

      Musk prepares to launch Falcon 9 and Rutan is readying the White Knight 2. I think there are many options here and it would be smart to clarify the emerging threats and explore the technical means. You aren’t going to hit Iran with drones only.

      The EU is presently build a hypersonic platform that looks oddly like our original space plane. Given limited resources we have to pick our hardware carefully, but I wouldn’t think putting all our eggs in the Drone Basket is the best way to go nor do I think future weapon systems can be carried or operated robotically anytime soon given the software, technical and legal challenges to flying terminators….

      They are a critical part of our force….

  • SJE

    I’m not against new technology and new systems. But there is so much money being thrown at new systems, with little cost control, at the expense of actual needs. When the Defense Contractors and the Pentagon see their new toy budgets being cut, they might start to focus on doing more with less.

  • bigRick

    oh I get it, let’s build another ubber expensive bomber (airplane) and never use it in real combat becasue
    !.) it is too expensive to lose one
    2.) it doesn’t bring any unique capabilities to the battle
    3) the air crews have to fly all the fricken way from consus to drop any bombs
    4.) the air force doesn’t give a shit about troops on the ground-they just want to say “we did our share”
    5.) it’s a very expensive way to get ordinance on the enemy

    does this sound like the F-22 anyone?

    the air force shouldn’t get another dine until they get they act together

  • Lance

    I agree with him. We have enough bombers with long range missiles to nuke Russia or China two times over. We need more F-22 and upgraded F-15s and a new fighter to replace the F-18E for carriers. We dont need UAVs and we need most of the money in the DOD budget to train and maintain our force. Or well be in the Carter era again with the military buying new toys but morale and training gone to new lows.

  • My2Cents

    It’s just budget politics. When a politician is told that they only x% of the budget that they demanded and that they need to propose a budget within those limits, they always say that they are going to have to cut the most unacceptable programs.
    For local government it is police and school teachers.
    For state governments it is Medicare and highways.
    For the Federal government it is Social Security and healthcare. (They are going to throw grandma out into the street!)
    Of course everyone in politics knows this game, but if you don’t play it the people on the top assume that they can cut even more because it is not hurting enough.

  • Tim Uk

    Use the money to buy more SSBN’s filled to the brim with cruise missiles and a few Ballistics . They are undetectable and deliver the goods in a variety of roles Probably the best bang for buck the US or UK has ever got .

  • He should add the Marine JSF to the scrap heap also. A Marine Airwing with 40-60 A-129 Super Tucanos would be greatly appreciated by Soldiers and Marines alike. Low, slow and accurate. Everything the fast movers of all branches hope they are. You remember those guys on the ground this whole ball of wax is there to support in the first place.

  • Big Rick you are spot on. Great observation. And to Tom the time to stop these Humongus projects is now, before they get rolling. Here is a news flash, Boeing has not actually started on their new tank, but is already projecting time and cost overruns. Airbus guaranteed their price. Funny how it always works out in the USA.