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.

    • icedrake

      Doesn’t change the overall trend though, does it?

  • 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.

    • Curt

      Of course its a vicious circle. B-2s aquisition was largely expensive due to the R&D and development we sank into them (spread across only 21 aircraft). Unit cost of the B-2 when the program was truncated was less than 50% more than a commercial 747-400. The big money is all upfront..

    • citanon

      In Korea and Vietnam American GI’s died by the truckload. In Iraq I, II, and Afghanistan they suffered no significant casualties in major combat operations.

      The high tech “money wasters” flying over head might just have a little something to do with that… just a guess.

      The reality is that we’ve had it good for so long in this country, that we don’t remember what it’s to be like when we didn’t have our gee-wiz gadgets. The fact is that there are others out there who are more sophisticated than pre-medieval tribes wielding AKs and RPGs. They are actively pursuing all the gee-wiz gadgets we are beginning to spurn, and if the tables are ever turned, we will be in a world of hurt.

      • blight

        In Iraq II and Afghanistan their supply chain did not supply anything like the volumes of manpower or equipment that America encountered in Vietnam or Korea. You suffer casualties in proportion to how much fight your enemy throws down, and on what kind of scale, and with what kind of equipment. A contrast to our experience in Iraq II and Afghanistan would be Israel’s raid into Lebanon, on the heels of otherwise successful experience in Gaza. The real difference is that Hezbollah didn’t exactly fade into the shadows, but fought with ATGMs, practiced concealment, operated from fortifications, while exploiting the ability to fight in civilian areas. Despite “high tech money wasters” overhead the Israelis did not make good headway.

        • SJE

          Exactly. The existence of advanced technology obscures that so much of war is still boots on the ground, good intelligence, and forming alliances.

  • 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.

    • J Hughes

      So maybe if we used current off the shelf tech COST it wont turn into another F-35.

  • 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.

        • Belesari

          Yes i dont understand why everyone goes “a drone its magicly cheaper!!!”

          Yes we need to replace the legacy bombers what we dont need is another bomber that we need 250 of but end up with only 75-80 because they cost to much.

          And the airforces new “all stealth all the time with extra stealth nutsacks for our men” slogan doesnt help.

  • 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.

    • SCTA

      Yep, just have all UAVs so the first one to knock down enough of our satellites owns us. i just don’t get the whole “go unmanned” thing. It reminds me of the all GPS guidance for every weapon crap. We are so reliant on orbiting hardware, first nation that gets a decent anti-sat capability (can we say China?) will defeat us in detail.

  • 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.

    • superraptor

      Let’s have an honest strategic debate. There are a lot of things we dont need including tacair bases in Japan, South Korea and Germany. We don’t need the LCS debacle. We need Nuclear Deterrence vis a vis a ever more powerful China which is actually building all the things we are not building including ICBMs with 10 MIRVs. This means building new nuclear warheads for the US and new ICBMs as we have a rather geriatric arsenal. We need standoff weapons which could be hypersonic cruise missiles loaded into arsenal aircraft such as converted B-787s or 747-8s (see P-8 conversion of B-737). Do we really need a deep penetrating bomber which can fly into central Mongolia undetected? Maybe not. But maybe we need a new version of a hypersonic long range SR71. And we need air superiority which means we need something other than the F-35.
      Maybe we can do with 9 supercarriers if we commit to increase our subforce.
      We could have a more powerful miltary for less money. But an honest debate will not be allowed by our great leaders as it collides with their agenda ( for example dsimantling unilaterally our nuclear arsenal)

  • @Earlydawn

    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..

    • Belesari

      Unfortunaty that seems to be everywhere.

    • blight

      Yup. R&D is R&D. The Pred and the Reaper are the equivalents of Cessnas with teeth. Building a fighter jet will be expensive, whether or not it is manned.

  • William C.

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

    • blight

      Easier said than done. One minute, an aircraft costs 50 mil. The next, 100 mil/each. Then it goes up, and up and up…

  • 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?

      • blight

        Allons is French, for “let’s go”. More literally, it’s “we are going”, but you get the idea.

        Jesus, offering a polite greeting before launching into a post is bad?

    • 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.

    • icedrake

      Let me guess: Your solution would be to direct more funding to AF programs, at the expense of the other branches?

      • citanon

        The truth is it is always a tradeoff between services. Currently ground vehicles are actually have the largest proportion of defense acquisitions, not aircraft, but if you examine future threats, one has to wonder if the current investment in new ground vehicles is wise. It’s time to think about re-balancing the budget towards long range strike.

        • blight

          We spent the ’90s investing in our air force to the expense of the ground services (“Clinton years”). M8 AGS, Wireless TOW and ground Hellfire died, and things like the F-22 and JSF shrank but weren’t /killed/.

          Then post-Iraq was the ascendancy of the ground services. If the AF couldn’t deliver interesting toys (recall they were focused on NMD, F-22, JSF and ABL at the time), then that’s on them.

          However, we’re hindered by arms control treaties which stymie us in IRBMs, conventional ICBMs (and things sharing launch profiles similar to them which we think may cause false alarms in Moscow), and in the long run our investments in PGS may cause the Soviets to wail that they are just surrogate platforms to get around arms control treaties.

          Or they will argue that due to long range, they are “strategic” weapons just like conventional ICBM, and they will be right in that a conventional ICBM or a conventional PGS is halfway to a nuclear weapons delivery system.

          We ended the Cold War with treaties enabling us to step back from nuclear hell, but those treaties place some limitations, or open cans of worms for our weapons systems. But throwing those treaties away is opening Pandora’s Box.

  • 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?

      • blight

        She’s dead Jim. Please don’t resurrect the dead SR-71.

        The answer is yes, but the payload would be limited. The A-12 was originally designed to fire air to air missiles, and seemed to do so without problems. However, testing did not go far. From a cost-effective standpoint, the SR- was an expensive weapons platform, built pretty much around going fast moreso than being a truck.

        And nowadays, modern air defenses can track high speed targets such that a SR- wouldn’t be as “invulnerable” as it was during the Cold War.

        • PMI

          The A-12 was the original CIA recon bird. You are thinking of the YF-12.

          • blight

            You are correct. A-12 being precursor to the SR-71 as well.

            Armed with AIM-47, precusors to the Phoenix.

          • anon

            About the only advantage an SR-71 family bomber would have is its altitude and speed. According to Ben Rich, there were actually proposals made to turn the A-12 into a bomber, equiped with a kinetic energy bomb - think “rod from god” at a lower cost (and lower effectiveness).

            Supposedly, the Air Force nixed the idea due to the absence of a guidance system for the bomb (which was just a specially shaped 1 tonne lump of steel).

          • blight

            The idea was probably a little ahead of its time. In Vietnam, it was a big deal when they used laser guidance to nail a bridge…

          • Dfens

            The SR-71 could be vastly improved on now. We have the CFD technology to reshape the intakes so they aren’t round and have a stealthier shape to them. Same with the exhausts. Plus we have much better engine technology than the SR-71 had. Bigger is definitely better when it comes to supersonic aircraft, so I’d prefer we make something with a 40,000 lb or more internal carry capacity.

          • blight

            For perspective, the J58’s on the SR-71 delivered 25 kpound*feet of thrust each. F-22’s F119’s do >35 kpound*feet each. For perspective.

            The straight thrust numbers are interesting on an armchair level, but the SR’s numbers come from altitudes the F-22 is not intended to operate at. New engines, or something out of the inventory of ramjets and whatnot the Air Force has lying around…

          • Dfens

            The altitude isn’t so much the issue. You make up for thin air with additional speed that forces more air into the intakes. The main issue is temperature of the compressed air at Mach 3+. We have so many new materials now better able to handle high temperatures, that a new Mach 3+ vehicle should really kick ass.

      • Robert A. Fritts

        If you do your home work you will find the 1st CIA derived project became the A-5 and RA-5C. An amazing aircraft. We put it on carriers and it was just too large. I think VFP-7(?) was the last operator. Look at the Air intakes, wing shoulder structure, except for missing twin vertical stabilizers it is the model for all of the follow on US and USSR fighters. Funny was we made it into a bomber with a rotary bomb bay for nuke mines and bombs. Finally they stripped it and made a recon bird, the mission it was originally designed for.

        • blight

          Meaning the Vigilante?

    • 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.

      • SMSgt Mac

        They built 21 B-2s. AV-1 was going to be a dedicated flight test mule with the remaining 20 kept in combat capable configurations, and 16 of those were to be PAA (combat-coded). This would allow 4 at any time to be in heavy depot maintenance, mod/upgrade, etc. Congress authorized constructing more B-2s, but Little Billy Clinton used the money to upgrade AV-1 to Block 30 configuration instead of starting the production line. There are now 20, and still 16 PAA combat coded. The B-2 has a SIOP mission and thus a subset are set aside from use in conventional conflicts. Sleep well.

  • 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!

    • blight

      Yup. They should’ve handed the contract to Lockheed, who already had proven stealth aircraft experience. But nooo, they had to alternate contracts with Northrop to keep them happy. Oh well.

      • Dfens

        They wouldn’t have got the flying wing if Lockheed had built them, not that the flying wing is the greatest shape for a stealth bomber, but at least it’s something different. As it was, Northrop had such a difficult time pulling off such a large aircraft that Boeing largly took over as the prime and many parts of that bomber were made in Boeing’s Auburn facility just South of Seattle. Maybe Lockheed will propose one of these for this competition:… . A joined wing would be novel and would generate a lot less boundary layer (and subsequent parasitic drag) than a flying wing. By the way, I happen to know that joined wing in the picture was never submitted as a CSA candidate layout. They did have one stupid configuration that had the engines mounted directly behind the wings, though. That got a laugh or two.

    • Dude

      Original order for the B-2 was around 120. It was reduced to 20 during flight test.

  • 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.

    • blight

      It’s not unvetted as so much as we have yet to really digest the implications of future technology. We’re basically where Guderian, Fuller and Hart, et al were at in the ’20s. Where do we take tanks?

      You’re probably right in that it would be best to wait and see where the technology goes before building bombers that later on are totally inappropriate for the equipment at hand.

      • Maxtrue

        First, here is more from the general:…

        I think many ideas have been kicked around here and we can come to some conclusions:

        1. DEW is the best strategy against proliferating missiles and air borne threats.
        2. energy production is becoming a real limiter to fielding technology we have.
        3. Hypersonic missiles and advanced EPW are critical confronting emerging threats.
        3. Ballistic missile trajectory for Global Strike and EPW are not likely to considered.
        4. Getting these advanced missiles to their firing locations requires new air craft.
        5. Manned air craft will play a critical role for the next two decades.
        6. Metamaterials, stealth technology, scram hybrids, DEW turrets, mini-reactors
        are all areas we are presently exploring.
        7. Advanced missiles and air craft being envisioned today by China and others requires dealing with range, stealth, weapon loads and electronics in creating new air craft.

        So I think assessments of what we think adversaries will have and the strategy to continue superiority is more critical than the present holes in technology to deliver a finish product tomorrow. I am not sure the present leadership here wants DEW or hypersonic “spears” falling from White Knights.

        Each item on the cutting block needs to be first positioned in a strategic context that allows Americans to understand the world that is unfolding. As many experts point out, the only thing that will maintain our leadership beyond the spread of democracy is our superior products and the workers/ assembly lines that build them.

        • blight

          The interesting note is the hypothetical going back to the C4-sized Trident. It’s not a terrible idea, and still provides some deterrence until our fiscals get back into order and new SSBNs can be built for the longer-range missile.

          We /could/ cut into the new carrier builds, or stick with the transitional Nimitz design which is bought and paid for. However, even scrapping a giant CVN is bound to be expensive, so when Enterprise is finally retired even that will cost a pretty penny.

          • Maxtrue

            At this rate we’ll sell it to China….one China business man wants to buy the Royal Ark.

            Perhaps DT could explore the new class of Russian Ballistic missiles and the stealth maneuverability component of warheads. I think they are anticipating what this administration wants to cut. Axe mentioned that there are more secret projects we have than the few he posted at Wired in a Gallery. Again, I think strategy is not getting to the public which leaves them confused about the direction.…

            I don’t think these can penetrate Fordo, but I see the use of bombers as a platform. And of course there was the suggest to convert B-1 as a DEW platforms. One more time: it depends on our strategy and what we plan to deliver past what defenses. At least, that’s my take as an amateur reader…..

  • 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

    • SJE

      We have CURRENT needs elsewhere in the military. A fleet of ships that are not operational, copters and vehicles being worn out in the desert, etc. Lets focus on actual needs, instead of some hypothetical.

      Besides, WHAT nations would be attacking with a “deep strike” despite heavy air defenses? The only ones with the most serious air defenses are North Korea, China and Russia. Its pretty safe to say that any “deep strike” on those would be more than just a single sortie. Iran and Pakistan is the other likely adversary with significant air defenses, but these are more likely to be overwhelmed by current US technology.

  • 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….

      • blight

        Autonomous attack is essentially what we have with Tomahawk cruise missiles. The world is ready for it, but just doesn’t know it.

        I wouldn’t say that a UAV bomber is ready to pick out targets like tanks amid camouflage and operate in CAS, but they are capable of executing simple missions that involve flying to a point and striking a GPS coordinate. And considering our ac are used in missions like “HVT is in this hut, fly in and destroy it” or “Saddam has a missile battery, take it out” or “drop bombs on this bridge”…

        • TMB

          I watched a Marine F-18 pilot get embarrassed by a superior when the young captain stood up and said “I don’t know why we need to study all this maneuver warfare stuff. All I need to do my job is a 9-line, a grid coordinate, and a time on target.” The major then asked him “Then why do I need you? Boeing has a robot that can do that already.” The major wasn’t trying to humiliate him, but rather get him to think of himself more than just a bus driver for bombs and consider what a human can do that a machine can’t.

          • blight

            You’re right, but the point still stands. Even Army Air Corps had bomb truck missions: destroy this railway. Hit this bridge. Knock out this ball-bearing factory. For static targets, why send good men to die?

            For “complex” targets, orchestrate with manned units. I mean, we’ve replaced a lot of those types of bombing missions with cruise missiles…all the missions we flew over Vietnam at great losses could have been done today with salvoes of cruise missiles. And tomorrow, we won’t use cruise missiles if we can use bombs (unless the target is heavily defended with poor odds of making it back, in which case cruise missiles are cheaper and more are available to be expended than UAVs).

          • Sanem

            exactly, cooperate with local human assets. they’re already working on giving control of a AQ-10 to soldiers on the ground, and AWACS has proven itself capable of controlling UAVs, as could probably any two-seater fighter (my beef with the F-35 and F-22). no lag, and it combines the advantages of UAVs with those of humans (situational awareness)

      • Maxtrue

        P.S. If you look at the artist’s rendering imagine the engines are scram/ram hybrids, the underbelly skin designed to repel lasers and DEW, a hydrogen powered third engine (not shown) for extending ceiling, and internal mini-reactor or fuel cells that can power DEW, you have a tree-hugging, high altitude stealth bomber that is super fast and able to carry 50,000 lbs. Now try to shrink and build what you need and get it all into that space would be quite a feat. I think however, that is about one to two decades away at best…..

        Or it might not be great cost/benefit to put all that in a single new bomber of very limited number….

  • 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

    • Guest

      the Raptor brings new capabilities to the battle…

      • Guest


  • 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.

    • Tee

      I agree with you Lance. If we were smart we would look into a new small ultra high tech fast little fighter made out of 60-70% composites, that would be cheap enough to build and produce a lot of them. Something that can be carrier capable very fast and rearm and refuel off a 800 meter stretch of highway. So it could be used by both the Navy off carriers and the Marines as Expeditionary aircraft after they hit the beach. Well it’s in production and it’s called the Gripen NG. Scrape the F-35 program and use the money like this:

      Gripen NG is a True 4.5++ Gen fighter not like the Super Hornet at a 4.2 Gen. The Gripen NG can land and refuel & rearm then take off from any 800 meter 2 lane strip of highway. ( Long runways in a shooting war might be hard to find) It Super Cruises at Mach 1.2. Has AESA radar & IRST capabilities. 4 Gripen NG’s can be refueled & rearmed by a C-130 or a couple of choppers or a truck, by 6 men in 10 minutes. It’s maintenance costs are about 1/2 of what a F-16C costs. It can be carrier capable very quickly ( See Brazil ) and it cost only 60 million each. So

      JSF F-35 $380 billion to develop and procure 2,457 aircraft.

      3000 Gripen NG X $60 million = $ 180 Billion
      800 F-22 Raptors X $120 Million = $ 96 Billion
      400 F-15 S/E X $100 million = $ 40 Billion

      Total = $316 Billion ( Save 63 Billion )

      With 1743 more aircraft ( 800 Free F-22 Raptors & 400 Free F-15 S/E )
      And make some of those new Raptors a Stretch version F-22B with a larger internal payload, and a Navy version that’s carrier capable.

      • Guest

        God you are hell of a troll

        • Tee

          No trying to make a point. The JSF is a POS and we need to cancel that program before we waste any more money on it. I use to be a F-35B Fanboy all the way. The more I learned about the F-35, the more I understood the major problems with it. I’m a IT professional and have been for 20+ years. The simplest way I can explain the problems that will be affecting the F-35 is ( Think MS Vista and all the hardware that wouldn’t work with it because of the OS being 64 bit). Most of our current weapon systems were built on older tech (circuit boards & OS’s etc). Most can be over come but the cost to make them work will become staggering as the are just now finding out. A lot of this is because of the supply chain that must keep stuff active for 10 years or more. 10 years in Electronics is 3 life times in technology advancements.

  • 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.

    • blight

      For fed government, ss/medicare/debt service are the largest line items, and also the fastest growing. From a triage standpoint, they would have to be addressed first, otherwise everything else is simply trying to stop a runaway Toyota. For all sides, it makes good political sense to support the more-likely-to-vote and generally-affluent elderly, who ironically don’t need SS all that much.

      I wish SS had limits on percent returns, adjusted to inflation. Thus people who were there at the beginning and seemingly put in quite a bit back then would still make a fair amount later on. Baby boomers who retire at ages where previously people died too soon would live too long, and would hit a threshold where benefits would be rapidly garnished, especially if they had lots of assets.

      SS may need to be repurposed. It should be intended to ensure that the elderly do not have to eat dog food for dinner, and not be something we take for granted. SS might take the unpleasant step of sourcing elderly persons to food stamp programs to spread the burden, which may make more interesting at state and federal levels in other departments.

      With Medicare, the government already does unrealistically low billing per procedure. However, this leads to doctors billing multiple procedures, or doing other shenanigans to maximize collections. There are discussions in the medical profession about how to reform medicare, such as moving away from direct reimbursement of all tests (easily gamed by running excessive tests) and perhaps to a fixed “budget” per patient and incentives based on health outcomes more than tests run on patient. I leave it to the doctors to discuss how to reform Medicare…they are the primary users, and without their support Medicare will keep floundering.

  • 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 .

  • Robert A. Fritts

    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.

  • Robert A. Fritts

    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.

    • Robert A. Fritts

      I meant tanker.