Can the Air Force Afford the New Bomber?

If the Pentagon holds to its current plans to chop hundreds billions of dollars from defense spending over the next decade the U.S. Air Force may need to rethink it’s acquisition plans according to Todd Harrison defense budget specialist at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, an influential DC think tank.

The Defense Department is looking to shave hundreds of billions of dollars from its budgets over the coming 10-12 years; this means that all branches of the military will see pain and the Pentagon will probably have to make some tough choices in what strategic areas it wants to invest in and where to cut funding, argues Harrison.

These choices will likely mean that high-end weapons do well at the expense of things like MRAPs that are needed for COIN operations, argues Harrison.

However, the Air Force will have too many major programs under production in the 2020s to avoid cuts to its high-end weapons buys. By the early 2020s the Air Force will still be buying plenty of F-35 Lighning II Joint Strike Fighters and the KC-46A tanker will also be rolling off the assembly lines. These two expensive programs are to be joined by the services new bomber; of which the Air Force plans on buying around 100.

Here’s what Harrison said this morning on the subject at a press conference to discuss the Pentagon’s budget:

If you look at the Air Force’s projection for aircraft procurements, you see several big programs that are all, in theory, going to be in full-rate production at the same time in the 2020s. The tanker will be in full-rate production, the bomber will be ramping up to full-rate production and the JSF will still be in full-rate production. I don’t see how the Air Force can handle, budget-wise, all of those programs being at full-rate production at the same time even at current projections — even if the budget’s not cut, even if it’s allowed to grow, I don’t see how they can handle all three of those programs at the same time.

If we have substantial cuts in defense spending by 2020 then I think it is nearly impossible, unless we’re willing to make major sacrifices in other parts of the procurement budget.

So, with the F-35 and KC-46 already on contract that leaves the bomber as the odd man out. Outgoing vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Gen. James Cartwright is already pushing for a scaled down version of the fancy but supposedly cost-effective bomber (if not scrapping it entirely). Who knows what the next crop of Pentagon leaders will think of the recently revived program as they make budget choices in the coming years.

  • Jason

    I dont want to sound like a d**k, but how hard is it to put 1.2 Billion on the USAF Budget? Lets say $600 Million a pop, and you by 2 a year until you reach 100, how hard could that be? Yes, I know that is a lot of money, but when you have a $550 Billion Base Budget, $1.2 Billion is a tiny piece of the budget. I honestly thing this is military spin, and they WILL be build. Just like the USN will have 11 CSG, even with all of the “ground noise” over the past week. Smoke-and-Mirrors.

    • brianckramer

      The problem is it will start out $600 Million, end up costing 1.5 Billion, only end up with 20 in service, then be retired before being used in combat.

      Not to mention in 10-20 years, pilots will be obsolete and UAV will be the standard.

      • MCQknight

        The only reason the B-2 cost that much (which I assume you are refering to) is because Congress gutted it just after production started and all the R&D costs were sunk. It drives me mad when people like Cartwright point at the B-2 and say “Look! The last bomber cost 1.5 billion dollars and so we could only buy 20!”, when in reality it’s we cut the B-2 bomber cost to 20 so it cost 1.5 billion dollars each.

        For comparison, if the F-35 were cut today, the handful of F-35’s that have been delivered would each be much more expensive than the B-2 since we’ve already sunk billions of dollars into that program but only have a few aircraft.

        • brianckramer

          True, but a sunk cost is a sunk cost, and if development takes 20+ years, and the end result is an aircraft whose capabilities no longer match the real-world needs (B-2), expecting the brass to keep ordering more just to keep the per-unit costs low is ridiculous. We need more rapid development, cheaper units, and most importantly, unmanned bombers. Crew endurance has become the limiting factor in long-range bombers.

          • brianckramer

            We won World War 2 not because our planes were significantly better than the Germans or the Japanese, but because we could build more. Imagine now if we had to ramp up production of F-22 or F-35, we could maybe increase output to about 20 a year. Not gonna cut it in an all-out war.

          • saberhagen

            BS! Mustang was much better than anything else at that time. It wouldnt mean anything if you had 1 million fighters that didnt have range to fight over the German sky (like Mustang).

          • Thomas L. Nielsen

            “Mustang was much better than anything else at that time”

            Better than the later marks of the Spitfire, the Lavochkin La-7 or the FW-190D series? I think that depends on how you define “better”.

            Hat off to the Mustang though, regardless. It was/is one of the greatest fighter aircraft of all time.

            Regards & all,

            Thomas L. Nielsen
            Luxembourg

          • saberhagen

            RANGE. Without its range, its impossible to bring the fight right into the sky of the Third Reich

    • RandFan1776

      So, if it took ten years to develop the aircraft (and let’s be honest, based on recent aircraft development projects, that’s an almost absurdly optimistic projection), we would then, at two aircraft per year, be buying the last aircraft 50 years after production began. And 60 + years after Development. If we had followed a plan like that in the past, we would just now be buying the last F-4’s and F-105’s. Fine aircraft to be sure, but a little past their time.

      • joe

        But not altogether innaccurate considering the B-52.

      • ChuckL

        Another comparison would show that the F-4E can out run and out maneuver the F-35 and it carries more air to air missiles to boot. Under visual identification rules the F-4E just might be the better choice. The only advantage that the F-35 has is in the missiles themselves, but those could be fitted to the F-4 giving it the advantage.

        If we have to ramp up production again, it better be the F-22. at least it has a good chance to win.

    • IKnowIT

      Pretty f-ing hard when you are broke. All the other crap, and programs, should be cut as well (inlcuding outside the military).

  • Forrest Cantrell

    No. They can’t.

  • superraptor

    well, when the PLA rolls out their first B-2 sized stealth bomber which probably will happen soon, Tea Party Republicans may see that the defense budget will have to be increased even if it means to allow substantial coldwar-level tax increases to go forward

    • STemplar

      You assume the Chinese would want us to build a new generation bomber. I don’t think they do, I think they’d rather we continue to piss away hundreds of billion on the F35. If they wanted us to spend money on a new bomber they would have rolled one of those out instead of the J20.

      • SJE

        The Chinese don’t have to spend all their cash on fruitless endevors, but can just wait while the US exhausts itself.

        • IKnowIT

          Ehh… They have our bond interest each month. A lot of it.

    • xxx

      if there is one thing that tea party republicans would want to spend money on, it is defense

      • Cranky Observer

        > if there is one thing that tea party republicans would want to
        > spend money on, it is defense

        Spend money, yes. Pay taxes to pay for it, no. The US borrowed $1.4 trillion from the PRC to fund the wars of 2003-2011+ and not only did we not raise taxes to, say, the level when HW Bush left office to pay for it we _cut_ taxes three times. I wonder if any of them even realize what this farcical “balanced budget amendment” they claim to desire would do to gubmint programs that they also claim to support?

        Cranky

      • Jay

        you say that like it’s a bad thing.

        The federal government has to spend money on defense, it’s in the constitution.

        The government doesn’t have to spend money bailing out banks, buying GM, stimulus funds for ‘shovel ready jobs’ that cost $200,000 each, “cash for clunkers”, funds for acorn, amnesty for illegals, etc. All that crap is optional at best, but Obama and the dems like it much more than defense.

        • Cranky Observer

          > The federal government has to spend money on defense, it’s
          > in the constitution.

          “…provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and…”

          Note that general welfare is on an equal footing with common defense.

          Cranky

          • Bob

            Promote the general welfare does not mean welfare. It means roads and sewers, and power grids. Promote the GENERAL welfare means things that benefit the general population. Not any one individual or group of individuals. Regardless of what any bunch of liberals think. If it meant welfare why did it take 150 years for anybody to notice that welfare was not being paid to unwed mothers? Shouldn’t Washington have started sending out welfare checks as soon as he took office if that is what is meant by promoting the general welfare? Just like abortion being a constitutional right. Why did the people who wrote the constitution not realize that fact if it were a right? Why did it take a liberal judge 150 years later to realize that this right had been overlooked? Because like welfare it is not a right. It’s a product of the living constitution as liberals like to call it. Which means that the constitution means whatever some liberal judge decides it means regardless of what the text actually says.

          • Iman Azol

            Bob: Those pesky founders didn’t have TV either, therefore, TV broadcasting is not a right.

            You’re not entirely misplaced in your desire for limits, but your approach shows a poor grasp of the Constitution. EVERYTHING is a right. Having the government pay for it is not.

            Read Amendments 9 and 10.

          • blight

            Who would protect American children from wardrobe malfunctions on TV and swear words on the radio? Who would force TV networks pulling Saving Private Ryan on the fourth of July due to its overly violent nature?

            Once big government goes away, TV and radio will get interesting.

    • ruger

      Defense is a constitutional requirement and it is irrelevant to whether the tea party is accepting of the spending. Your premise that nothing should be given up is where I disagree. At some point the Govt. will have to decide between funding a bomber and study the sexual activity of ???? and it will be at that point where the adults should step it. Unfortunately, it will not be a war with China that is the demise of the US, it will be the over-bloated, un-balanced, and over-regulating(taxes) US govt. that ushers in the collapse – from within. The govt. is killing any growth and the economy is dying. …very sad. If you’ll note the emphasis in Urban Training for the military. They are steps ahead of us.

    • ChuckL

      Sorry, but you are forgetting Article 1 section 8 of the Constitution. If we eliminated all of the unauthorized programs except Social (IN)Security, we would be building a surplus in the national treasury. What is really bad is that most of the programs that would be cut this way are just massive losers by any measurement, and they are only legal as state programs.

  • brian

    I think the question should be, does the US government think the security of the nation is worth paying for a new bomber?

    • Cranky Observer

      > I think the question should be, does the US government think
      > the security of the nation is worth paying for a new bomber?

      Perhaps the question should be phrased, does the average American voter think that acquiring new military hardware is worth paying more taxes for? And are they willing to call their Representative and tell him so?

      Cranky

      • brian

        this isn’t even a little dent in the budget. If we just cut .5% from SS or Medicare, we could easily pay for it. Defense is a necessity all these other programs are nice to haves

        • ChuckL

          Brian, you said “all of these other programs are just nice to have.” I disagree. Many of them, in education, environment, and welfare have been nothing but loses in finance as well as doing what they were supposed to do. all of the federal government education programs have resulted in less educated graduates and more cheating, including the school officials, both principals and teachers in Atlanta, so far, and growing in the effected regions. Environmental programs have resulted only in increased costs for energy which reduces our production capability. Ethanol as a gasoline supplement has reduced our fuel mileage, increased both fuel and food costs.

          Dumping all of the bad programs will provide a balanced budget, or a surplus, and funds for what we need to resume our position as the manufacturing facility of the world.

          • blight

            So because people cheat in Atlanta, you propose to cut public education all across the country? And because Lockheed can’t deliver F-22’s on budget, we’re never buying from Lockheed again?

  • Jeremy

    IMO, the bomber is a necessity. Countries like China will continue to build systems to deny access by America. It is extremely important to have the capability to penetrate advanced defense networks from long ranges. Since it is unlikely we’ll be in another major counterinsurgency campaign after the Afghan war, I’m okay with cutting back on counterinsurgency equipment. We’ve got to invest more into long range strike systems, so it would be a bad idea to cut out the bomber.

    • Forrest Cantrell

      But the question asked was, Can We Afford It? I’d love to see a new bomber, but with spending inevitably to be cut, what programs do to eliminate to buy a new bomber? CVNs, SSNs, fighters, troops? And if experience is any judge, several dozen bombers will be all we will get. I suggest money would be best spent elsewhere.

      • USAF Retired Patriot

        Another area that would save millions, if not billions, would be the EARNED INCOME CREDIT. how have people earned the right to be paid for what they haven’t earned? Example: $14,000.00, in addition to any and all income taxes paid in last year being refunded. How is that okay?

        • blight

          2010 Tax Year (from irs.gov)

          Earned Income and adjusted gross income (AGI) must each be less than:

          $43,352 ($48,362 married filing jointly) with three or more qualifying children
          $40,363 ($45,373 married filing jointly) with two qualifying children
          $35,535 ($40,545 married filing jointly) with one qualifying child
          $13,460 ($18,470 married filing jointly) with no qualifying children
          Tax Year 2010 maximum credit:

          $5,666 with three or more qualifying children
          $5,036 with two qualifying children
          $3,050 with one qualifying child
          $457 with no qualifying children

          It’s earned income because people work low paying jobs? Think of it like…tax cuts for the poor. And when they buy things with the EITC, it “creates jobs”, to use the current parlance.

    • MCQknight

      Right. Not to mention that it is far easier to re-equip a convential force to fight an irregular war than it is to re-equip an irregular-orented force to fight a convential war. It takes 10-20 years to design, build, and field a new fighter, bomber, or aircraft carrier. It takes 1 to design, build, and field an MRAP.

    • RandFan1776

      Given that in every important way a manned bomber is inferior to an unmanned aircraft, why, exactly, other than to preserve pilot as a military occupation, are we considering building a new manned bomber?

      • joe

        Because the one function they won’t mention in public debates; a next generation bomber forms one side of the strategic triad.

        You will not see the airforce or any DOD politician promoting any situation where they may have to use the words “unmanned” or “autonomous” and “fully armed strategic nuclear weapon” in the same sentence!

      • anon

        because Human Pilots offer a level of flexibility that unmanned systems cannot match, especially if communications with command are disrupted

        • http://twitter.com/Earlydawn @Earlydawn

          We have a winner. I will never understand all these posters who think that drone comms are unjammable. What are you going to do when your nuclear-armed stealth bomber can no longer receive tasking from the Pentagon?

          • citanon

            Exactly. In today’s world attacking our communications and space systems would be a no brainer for a peer adversary.

    • dda

      China is a nuclear state developing ballistic missiles at a high rate. If we go in it won’t be with bombers.

    • john

      We are so far ahead of China and other countries that they are not even trying to keep up. China’s only goal is regional military strength, not global dominance. The fear mongering military-industrial complex feeds itself with artificial security dilemmas to produce the illusion that we are “falling behind”, we could cut our military entirely except for our ICBMs and corresponding personnel and we would be no less secure than we currently are. Any war between the US and China is going to be ICBM based, no amount of stealth bombers is going to change that. All our having a superfluously powerful air-force/military does is encourage asymmetric attacks and nuclear first-strikes.

  • Josh

    It isn’t a question of need… of course we need the new bomber (unless we’re going to pretend that heavy bombers haven’t been a deciding factor in the last 70 years of warfare). The main issue is if Congress is going to act to get control of this insane procurement process we’ve let ourselves get sucked into. (Again, the answer is probably no. Not as long as the lobbyists and their money are allowed to stay in DC) The USAF has gotten itself into a situation where it’s flying aircraft that are FAR beyond their service life and now there’s no money to replace them.

  • chaos0xomega

    I don’t understand why we don’t just restart production on things like the B-1/B-2. Most of the R&D costs are already sunk, maybe invest a few billion more to update some of the systems for new-build versions, and restart the production line. We can have new bombers in service ‘tomorrow’ rather than ‘next year’ , without serious additional investment into new R&D, etc.

    Lets be honest, is the latest stealth tech that big of an improvement on the ‘legacy’ stealth of the B-2? Are we that positive that we can maintain a stealth advantage and all its associated costs in the face of advancing radar technology that would make low-rcs obsolete?

    • anon

      Probably because politicians like to demand that when they cut a program, all the jigs, tooling etc are melted down for scrap so that their opponents cannot campaign against them on a platform of restarting production.

      Look at what happened to the Avro CF-105 Arrow

    • citanon

      1. B-2’s stealth technology and the legacy subcomponents are very expensive to maintain. A new fleet of B-2s will not be affordable without extensive integration of coatings, avionics, engines, and production techniques from the F-35 generation of aircraft. At that point, you might as well design a new bomber, which is what the Air Force wants to do.

      2. Radar technology is advancing, but so is stealth technology. Since the days when the B-2 was designed there has probably been orders of magnitude reduction in the RCS of new designs. The newer designs probably also carry improved signature management across a wider swath of the EM spectrum, and may integrate new signature management concepts.

      • ChuckL

        The B-2 and the F-22 are in a near tie, followed by the now defunct F-117 and trailed by a large bit by the F-35.

        You can find most of this on the AirPowerAustralia web site. Don’t forget the design parameters. The F-22 was to be the Air Superiority Fighter replacing the F-15. Speed, maneuverability, and stealth were paramount. The F-35 was to be the “bomb truck” replacing the F-16. It wasn’t to be used until the F-22 had cleared the battle space of dangers.

        • citanon

          APA has no credibility with the engineering community. Their “analysis” of stealth signatures aircraft capabilities are based on completely flawed methods. The B-2 does not have the same signature management as the F-22. It may have a similar signature in certain parts of the EM spectrum, but its signature is likely very different in other parts.

      • blight

        The B-2’s outer coatings and composite materials are of an older generation compared to the new stuff. A coating upgrade is likely to cost kajillions of dollars. Reviving a old program means systems integration of new off-the-shelf with what is already in the aircraft itself, an onerous process.

    • ChuckL

      Only the B-2 and the F-22 are capable of survival in a heavily defended air space using a networked radar system. Because of its smaller size the F-117 is susceptible to low frequency or long wave radar.

      The F-23 prototypes were supposedly even stealthier than the F-22 and just a tad faster, and Northrup was supposed to have also proposed a medium bomber version. That might be worth another look. Incorporating the most recent developments in coatings should be no problem and would have the advantage that they are already in use. As the F-22 and F-23 engines were the same, it would also provide spare engines for the F-22.

      Fortunately the Air Force has paid to have all of the F-22 tooling kept in usable condition.

      • Gerald Hartley

        I think you’ll find that the B-2 and the Yf-23 tooling has been kept in usable condition also.

  • IKnowIT

    Can we afford it? Nope. We can’t afford most anything else either. People need to get used to the idea of cutting EVERYTHING, whether we personally agree with it or not.

  • dan

    Spending money on a new bomber is foolish. What we need to do is get our fiscal house in order.
    If that means putting off some programs then we need to do that.
    Besides cruise missiles can do the job as well as a bomber and a whole lot cheaper.

    • blight

      This echoes of Douhet’s thesis that bombers would replace armies fighting and dying in the fields, since they were cheap and could strike enemy cities directly.

      Did they?

      • anon

        In about the same way that cheap, deadly surface-to-air missiles replaced expensive, unreliable fighter aircraft in air defence

        • blight

          They also replaced lots of 20 and 40mm cannon. Bofors and Oerlikon were not pleased…

    • Iman Azol

      Cruise missiles are half a million a pop, and you only use each one once. A JDAM costs about $50,000. An aircraft can deliver thousands of them in a few hundred sorties.

      Not to mention they already stopped building cruise missiles, so your logic fails there, too.

      However, feel free to propose your brilliance to the JCS. I’m sure they’ll give it the attention it deserves.

  • darksidius

    Air force must invest in new long range strike system, its vital. Because we are at the beginning of a gigantic tsunami on the world, with the problem of money in the world and maybe a futur war. The country who invest in new technology will be the winner of the world of tomorrow. Stop to say spending dollars is a problem tomorrow this new bomber will save your life. If we refuse to spend money on high tech weapon, nobody will be in security, because country like Iran, North korea or China can possess weapon who stop current airplane and attack will be impossible and after that the world will be everywhere insecure.

  • http://www.hcp.kk5.org Brian Black

    If all they wanted was a re-warmed B2, incorporating technology developed for other programmes, then it probably would be affordable.
    But the US really can’t help itself when it comes to spending money. They’ll leap on every opportunity to make this more expensive than it need be.

  • http://www.hcp.kk5.org Brian Black

    If all they wanted was a re-warmed B2, incorporating technology developed for other programmes, then it probably would be affordable.

    But the US really can’t help itself when it comes to spending money. They’ll leap on every opportunity to make this more expensive than it need be.

    • Sal

      Amen.

      The real question is should the U.S. spend tens of billions developing what is essentially a B2 with less range, less payload, and no supercruise capability?

      IMO no way in hell.

    • anon

      I believe the last time we saw this obsession with new, radical weapons over improvements to existing ones was late WWII germany…

  • J Hughes

    Does the AF need 500 Minuteman ballistic missiles and thousands of nuclear bombs when our SSBNs are by far the best most destructive deterrent?

    • Jeremy

      Hell, we need new SSBN’s in the near future as well. It’s another program that will cost billions of dollars.

      • chaos0xomega

        Just pointing out that the land based missiles are also way cheaper than operating SSBN’s plus the costs associated with developing new ones.

        • J Hughes

          but the Russian’s know exactly where they are located

          • blight

            If they launch first, those silos will be empty anyways.

    • Mike Schlesiona

      If you would keep up to date with your facts, the AF does not have 500 Minuteman ICBMs. The number is 450–150 per missile base. Probably the bare minimum to sustain a credible deterrent force.
      M Schlesiona

  • Vitor

    How can the armed forces of a country with ever-growing debt whose currently is over 14 trillions can afford some giant project?

    • citanon

      Simple. Because we make $12 trillion dollars a year.

      • Vitor

        I see you are really naive about how GDP is calculated.

    • ChuckL

      Eliminate the politically kept but useless projects and restrict the federal government to what it was designed to do. That is national defense and only what the states can not do for themselves.

  • Lance

    We need to scrape these worthless programs like another B-2ish bomber or that dumb ICC competition both are worthless and not needed. We need to upgrade the B-2 and B-52 again. That will push both planes into the 2030-40s before wearing out.

    • anon

      As the old AF joke goes, when the last of the B1 and B2s are flown to the bone yard, they’ll be flown home in a B52

      • anon

        sorry, missed out the vital word “Crews”

        When the last of the B1 and B2s are flown the bone yard, their crews will be flown home in a B52

    • Bob

      I am 75. When I was still in high school, one of the first three B-52s built in Seattle, crashed. I eventually accumulated over 4, 000 hours in B-52Bs and B-52Gs. Lance, even with major retrofitting, you can only beat a dead horse so many times. Time is long past being “up” for B-52s and B-2s have been whipped so many times it, too, is long passed dying. Metal fatigue is a sure way to kill our crew members before they can fly in defense of our country.

  • bigRick

    how many bombers does it take to drop a bomb? hundreds

    how many fighters does it take to go zoom zoom? hundreds

    how many golf courses does the air force need? hundreds

    how many times does the air force support the troops on the ground without whining and bitching? none

    • ChuckL

      and how many unknowledgeable “bigricks” do we need?

      My vote is one less

    • Josh

      Hmm… that’s not the way I remember it. But, of course I was actually there…

    • Bob

      Damn few times did I whine. Even though I came home with severe damage to our F-4, my worst experience involved supporting ground troops in contact.. The VC was on their MPC trying to get inside. We spilled portions of our Naps too near the MPC and thought we were killing our men inside. Their yelling was to come in about 20 meters closer to burn the guys on top of the MPC. My story is not unusual, so stop your whining and disrupting of a solid brotherhood, regardless of which service you criticize. When we as a nation stand together and quit bickering, nothing can stop us. We are all in this together; sink together or swim together.

  • jamesb

    The Air Force could always give the C-27J back to the Army along with Liberty program and the CV-22 program……

    He, he, he…..Good for the AF dog robbers…..
    If they want to be the fast mover service why not give the C-5, C-17’s to the Army also?

    • Josh

      You mean the C-27J that the Air Force developed with L-3 that the Army insisted they be allowed to buy?

  • J Hughes

    Cut the number of F-35s and nuclear bombs (Obama’s idea).

    • J Hughes

      Do we really need 5,000 nuclear warheads?! Im sure 1,000 is plenty

    • SJE

      Obama’s goal of reducing nukes is two fold
      1. Reduced costs for a program that is a vital deterrent, but is not actually being used. We have current needs for current forces.
      2. Making the case that if we can go to less, then the Pakistanis, Norks and Iranians can cut too. This is the biggest deal.

      • Iman Azol

        They can cut, but will they?

        chirp, chirp, chirp

        • blight

          The Norks have yet to detonate a proper nuke and have proper missiles, the Paks have a delivery system and nuclear capability, and Iran is methodically going with uranium enrichment on a very large scale in addition to a parallel missile design program.

          It would be a good day to have SM-3’s offshore of the I-Wanna-Build-A-Nuke club.

  • Dfens

    Build a new tactical cargo hauler with a reduced or low radar signature instead. The cargo plane can be used to insert and supply special forces troops without telling the world where they’re hiding, it can refuel stealth aircraft in theater instead of off at a safe distance, and it could be used to drop bombs too. Really, that’s just scratching the surface of what such an airplane could do. It would be a great anti-submarine platform, great for command and control, perfect for ground attack (a great AC-130 replacement), surveillance, the list goes on. We’d get a hell of a lot more bang for our buck out of a tactical airlifter than any other type of aircraft we could build. Plus airlifters aren’t so sexy that they USAF is willing to sell its soul to buy one. Well, they came close to that with the C-17, but “Precious” (the F-22) made that program look like the War of the Roses. Plus a tactical airlifter would be smaller than C-17, somewhere between the C-130 and A400M.

    • Mastro

      You want a stealthy A400 after we just bought 200+ C17’s and how many C13J’s??

      Plus we FINALLY selected a new tanker.

      Bad timing, man- bad timing.

      We actually DO need a stealthy bomber/F111 type plane – too bad there’s no way we cando THAT at less than $1 billion a plane.

      • Dfens

        I just told you how.

        • IKnowMoreThanAll

          Not really. You described an aircraft that will either perform poorly as a stealth bomber or terribly as a tactical cargo aircraft. Also, a stealth cargo aircraft would be prohibitively expensive to be a trash hauler. Besides, you never mentioned how to get around the political battle that would be waged between ACC and AMC.

          • anon

            Not to mention your proposal for an air to air refueling system that doesn’t compromise the stealth characteristics of either the fueler or fuelee when it’s used

          • Dfens

            Yeah, I’m sure it would be real difficult to put stealthy angles on a boom. No, you’re right. Those have to be round. After all, they’ve always been round.

          • Dfens

            A low signature cargo plane would be a “poor bomber”? I suppose that’s because they don’t drop payloads on target now? Oh wait, maybe it’s because they don’t have Head up displays or GPS now? No, well, perhaps it is because it would be too hard to roll a rotary launcher and bomb racks into a payload bay? No, clearly that’s not it. Well, then there’s Air Force politics. Like I should give a f about that. I’m sure the US taxpayer that pays their salaries are just as concerned as I am.

          • Iman Azol

            Dfens: Your idea is brilliant and obvious, and is just like the plane used by…um…help me out here, which air force has that money-saving, capability-improving idea of yours? I’m sure someone somewhere in the world has one?

            Well, as an expert on strategy and aircraft engineering, you should take your advanced degrees and market the concept. You do have degrees and experience in this field, yes?

          • Dfens

            Well, let’s see, which Air Force in the world is buying a heavy bomber right now? Let’s compare that number to the number of countries that are buying variation of the C-130J, shall we?

            The last heavy bomber rolled off the assembly line in 1996, though the fleet of B-2’s were not fully operational until 2003. The C-130 rolled off the line and was operational in 1956. The last C-130J rolled off the line yesterday and several hundred more already ordered.

            The C-130 has done everything from dropping 30,000 lb bombs to landing on aircraft carriers (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aircraft/c-130-var.htm). The B-2 drops bombs, and, what, makes julienne fries? But clearly, what we need is another B-2 bomber, because that’s what would provide the biggest profit to the defense contractors.

          • blight

            The B-2 is a stealth bomber, and that is why the airframe cost >500M and the overall R&D spread out between all platforms was closer to a billion. We paid Northrop to learn how to do what Lockheed already learned doing F-117 as corporate welfare.

            A stealth cargo/fuel tanker/flying electronics box would essentially be a cargo hauler that could carry bombs and cost as much as a stealth bomber. It may sound like good fiscal sense about bringing the cost of bombers down, but what you’re really doing is bringing the cost of a “basic” tanker up.

            You’re comparing assault rifles to sniper rifles. Sniper rifles are expensive, don’t get much play and make little fiscal sense. They are very good at their niche, however. Assault rifles are cheaper, get more play and stick around longer. Can you put a scope on an AR? Perhaps. Is it a good sniper rifle? At certain ranges. If those ranges are good enough for you, more power to you. Should we buy more sniper rifles to bring the per unit price down? No. Should we compromise on specs to make an sniper rifle that can function as an assault rifle?

    • citanon

      So basically you want to build a stealth bomber that’s not nearly as stealthy, that is everything to everyone who ever needs to haul cargo, and that’s even bigger, and more expensive than the current proposals, that probably can’t be unmanned, and wouldn’t be nuclear qualified, and would mainly supplant a fleet of aircraft that we’ve just finished buying.

      Did I get that right?

      • Dfens

        I’m suggesting we build a tactical cargo airplane that does the same things our current tactical cargo airplanes do. What part of that did you not understand?

    • blight

      The magic wonderplane you propose would be called the “Joint Ominbus Aircraft” and would probably cost a few billion a pop.The temptation of replacing the C-130, P-3/P-8, AC-130, etc is rather tempting, but….

      I agree that airlift is given short shrift compared to the fighter mafia, and that there is a serious need for medium airlift between the C-130 and the C-17. However, trying to impose commonization to replace a family of aircraft isn’t the most practical way to do it. We could probably replace a large slew of support aircraft of varying ages with a smaller handful…

      • Dfens

        Certainly not! I am proposing a cargo plane that does what cargo planes do. The fact is, there are more variants of the current C-130 than any airplane ever produced. It is still a cargo plane.

    • Elwood

      Dfens, your NTCH may have “reduced or low radar signature” relative to legacy cargo A/C but it would glow in the dark compared to a B-1, radar-wise,…and the visual signature from it’s size, thermal signature from the sizeable engines required to push that bulk of structure, LO coatings, strange aerodynamic angles and “big” cargo of goods/people/fuel, and the accompanying acoustic signal fall well outside of what is low observable. You’d have trouble penetrating single digit SAMs and medium threat AAA.

    • Elwood

      And dropping a boom and opening air refueling doors inside contested airspace,…whoa! I can only think of a couple of fighter pilots that would be willing to put the radar into STBY, slow down to refueling speeds, and lock their cranium into the close formating position whilst anywhere within a 100 miles of a MIG-29 or SU-27 CAP or alert field. And most of them are dead, or slightly dain-bramaged from a big night in the Big House. Put down your version of “Flight of the Old Dog” and read up on Low Observable, radar basics, and maybe Jane’s descriptions of the adversaries’ Surface-to-Air kinetic defensive systems. You may change your mind about your NTCH’s ability to penetrate a double-digit SAM field.

      • blight

        Didn’t you know that our Bird of Prey fires while cloaked?

        Alternatively, Joint Omnibus Aircraft will have radar and missile systems while functioning as a refueler and carrying paratroops in the cargo bay. Well, maybe not troops in cargo bay, but there will be stealth, STOL capability, austere landing field capability, powerful radar and ISR systems…at which point, you don’t need air-to-air missile trucks anymore.

  • William C.

    Hmm… Order twice the amount we want because we can always to expect congress to cut half?

    • Dfens

      Order as many as you want. The more you order, the more production budget the program will have to convert into development budget when they start dragging it out. That’s all the C-130E modifications were in the contract for in the C-130 AMP program. The E’s were already at the end of their life. Everyone knew that. But they put them in the budget to be modified to cover the inevitable development cost overruns. Any country stupid enough to pay the same percentage profit on development and production deserves not to have any airplanes or ships.

  • J Hughes

    You would need like 20 F-35s to equal the amount of firepower that just 1 NGB could bring to the battlefield. Thats 20 human lives, 20 planes to need to be paid for, crews for 20 planes. So you take all that into account and ad the fact that the NGB could possibly be unmanned… Little strike fighters dont win air wars, bombers and air superiority fighters do.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jeffery.scism Jeffery Scism

      You sound like Curtis LeMay. AIR resources do not win wars, ground occupation does.
      Fighters keep air superiority, and protect the ground forces. THAT is the main battlefield job. Bombers are designated “precision heavy attack” at strategic and tactical targets. Fighters are supposed to be Air -to-air, but the trend at least from the 1980s has been to multi-role with ground support, CAS, and TopCap.

      Theater Nuclear weapons are a interesting subject of TREATIES, but are not effective in winning a war on the ground. They are not likely to be used in a regional war.

      The military has made the proper chice in that smaller munitions delivered with precision can do a very effective job, minimizing collateral damages. (Blowing things up always as some undesired local effects.)

      Weapons of mass destruction are basically obsolete on the battlefield. (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical, except harrassing agents)

      • J Hughes

        So they Army is prepared to buy thousands and thousands of ATACMS to replace the all bombers?!

      • Maxtrue

        Well bombers are designated for precision heavy attack. The environment they will fight future wars is becoming harsher to say the least. Twenty years out they had better provide protection from DEW and hypersonic weapons. The point of building a new bomber is that future weapons such as advanced EPW, DEW weapons and missile defense weapons ( a new task) will require superior range, ceiling, lift, stealth and electronics. Smaller munitions will not penetrate Fordo, nor will DEW and their power plants fit inside today’s fighter bombers. Clearly, we will need a new bomber, but the question is what weapons will it carry, what materials and technology are available (or not available for some time) as well as our adversary’s projected counter-measures.

        As far as the Gang of Six, $800 billion in reductions over 10 years is probably equal to today’s waste and fraud. It would be crazy not to start the design R & D on a new bomber, but it would crazy to build one that becomes obsolete by the time it flies. Last, depending on the weapons used for attack, more than one design makes sense. One would want a fuel-efficient high altitude steal bomber for EPW and hypersonics. One would need a faster more shielded bomber for ground support strikes in a battle environment.

        No one wants an LSC fiasco, but then on one wants Fordo to continue with impunity. Right now however, a mini-reactor required to power our proof of concept weapons is more important than a new bomber that is only a step ahead of the ones we have.

  • mpower6428

    the airforce should be absorbed BACK into the army, ICBM’s and all. as the marines to the navy.

    i mean sure…. the uniforms are cool and all but the amount of expenditure to justify its existence is pointless. Gulf War 1 is a perfect example.

    • blight

      So every time the political wind swings to air the army gets shredded, and vice versa? Not sure if there will be /money/ savings.

      • anon

        Plus, you’d have to absorb the Navy into the Marines, since the Marines are protected by the Constitution. I doubt that that would go down too well with the Navy boys

        • http://www.facebook.com/jeffery.scism Jeffery Scism

          Our military forces are already unified, they are just different branches of the same tree, being the Department of “Defense”. The real issue is that due to Posse Commitatus, the Military is not allowed to defend the USA, because defense of the USA is “civil” law. That is why we have a Border patrol instead of our military watching the borders.

          • blight

            “…it shall not be lawful to employ any part of the Army of the United States, as a posse comitatus, or otherwise, *for the purpose of executing the laws*, except in such cases and under such circumstances as such employment of said force may be expressly authorized by the Constitution or by act of Congress”

            Thus the military is free to “defend the USA”, but not to “execute the laws” without Constitutional authority or that derived from Congress.

            We have a Border Patrol because the military deprioritized border defense. The military /used/ to have border fortifications along the southern border in the early 20th century, and the military used to control the American frontier, acting as a barrier against the natives.

          • blight

            The history of the issue is tied in with the USIS (now known as INS).

    • Josh

      I always love when someone throws this absurd statement out. It saves the time it usually takes to realize that someone has absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.

  • Martin Combs

    My question is how would this new bomber fit into the Mission? We are flying 3 different systems..We have the B 52 and the B1.. Could the B 1 mission cover that of the BUFF? It was supposed to in the beginning..Next, what is the flight life of the B2? Can it be extended? And, will the new Bomber bring a new level of capability that will be more comprehensive? Look at the F117.. It did so much with so little..is this what the new bomber will do? These are the q’s that will determine if a new bomber is worth the investment..Do we know these answers?

  • Joe

    The Russians can’t find a B-2, and the Chinese can’t even shoot down a B-1, so who needs another bomber.

    • J Hughes

      They cant yet… Why even give them a chance in 10 years?

  • vince donadio

    we are at the start of yet another point wear money wise a long hard look at what is truly needed over what is wanted

  • David

    Frankly, we don’t need a new bomber when we have bombers that work now and two other components of the TRIAD that can more than pick up the slack and do it more effectively and cheaper. And we CERTAINLY don’t need to put more money into bells and whostles when we talk about reducing benefits and pay for the PEOPLE who operate those same bells and whistles. We can afford cuts…and a new bomber is the perfect place to start.

    • Jeremy

      Sure the bombers work now, but what about twenty years from now? Defense networks will continue to become more sophisticated. You can’t build an advanced bomber in a couple years. It takes many years to develop, test, and for it to eventually become operational. I can’t stress enough how important a new bomber is. IMO, it would be a disaster to cut it.

      • anon

        Whilst bombers only form part of the triad of strategic defence, they are the only part that can be used in a conventional, non-nuclear way.

        Try launching a conventionally armed ballistic missile, and see how long it is before you have to launch the real things.

        Not to mention the fact that ICBM’s are way more expensive per weight of payload delivered, since they’re one-use only jobs.

        • Maxtrue

          That is true. And I think the reasoning for a new bomber was not to increase strategic force but enable the US to strike conventionally despite emerging air borne threats. What will that strike mission be? Secret facilities? Defended strategic assets in a war? Naval positions or Space assets? A manned bomber must have a mission. If that mission is to destroy enemy under ground facilities with a new EPW then the requirements are far different than a bomber crossing enemy territory during combat and destroying numerous ground positions and bases. These different requirements produce different products. One can imagine a stealthy high altitude lifter that can loiter and carry 50.000 lbs of hypersonic EPW. One can imagine a very fast bomber with scram/ram and dorsal armor able to penetrate very hostile DEW space. This would be completely different engineering.

          Yes, bombers are something we often use in conventional roles. 1. Why are our present bombers unable to continue their mission with added servicing? 2. What role will new bombers play that are different? 3. What are the likely counter-measures that will be deployed against them? 4. What materials and technologies are critical in making new products superior to expected counter-measures? One would think these questions must be answered before the MIC begins another planned obsolescence project on limited funding.

      • Maxtrue

        See my comment below….it would also be a disaster to create something that doesn’t meet the criteria of merit.

        What we really need in bomber designs is a bit beyond our present manufacturing abilities. Perhaps we should start the process with a review of strategy and present production options. It may be worth waiting a bit instead of producing something we either don’t need or retires prematurely. That is the price of limited funds. I can point to several other areas in need of money: 1. Energy R & D 2. DEW 3. Kinetics 4.Material Science R & D (Stealth, NIM, Micro processors…etc.) 5. Drone technology 6. Sub-orbital and orbital lift capacity 7. Missile Defense (for tanks, bases, ships, etc.)

        To start: a competition of ideas using various material options based on the spectrum of warfare strategies. The artist’s rendering seems more of the same.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brucerpk Bruce R Kuzma

    America needs new bombers, fighters and pilots. Why? Because of the upcoming challenges that face the next generation. If America cannot defend her skies and take the lead to the enemy then America will be overtaken and conquered. Do not settle for a robotic defence force.

  • Tom

    There is NO need for a new manned bomber or frankly for new manned fighters. These things are expensive dinosaurs. Cruise missiles and unmanned planes can do the same job, only better, cheaper and without the loss of American lives.

    • Iman Azol

      Tom: until some North Korean 16 year old computer nerd hacks your precious remote controlled planes.

      That this isn’t an obvious threat to most people says many things about our educational system.

  • Franklin

    Nothing could be more stupid than building another manned penetrating bomber. A multi tasked heavy cargo stealth platform built using the Boeing blended wing body design could fill many roles such as Cargo, passenger, bomber, and tanker. It would have extreme range and not just sit somewhere doing nothing most of the time. This is a way to really save money, and increase tasking. We don’t need a dedicated aircraft that will just be a money pit.

    • M167A1

      Hi Franklin,
      I disagree (big surprise)

      Some missions don’t lend themselves well to multi-purpose aircraft. And bomber is one of these. Yes we could come up with something along the lines of the B-747 cruse missile carrier of the late 70s. But that’s not a mission we need this aircraft for, we have lots of ways to get cruse missiles to a target.

      That said, the hard reality is that we can’t afford this global role anymore. At some point the AF will have to chose what it needs most and it will chose tactical aircraft.

      • Franklin

        What I said before would depend on uav’s targeting and post recon. I am talking about a stealth platform, not a 747, and multi tasking is the only way to maintain capabilities and cut costs. It would even provide surge capabilities with retasked assets. The navy is putting bomb bay does on 737s for the P8I, and the air force can build a stealth blended wing bomber that can haul cargo.
        You don’t have to spend a fortune for an obsolete mission when you can robotize and commercialize using economies of scale for cheap saturation of opposing forces.

    • blight

      I’ve always had a soft spot for the Burnelli lifting body, though blended wing body is also acceptable. For starters, they tend to have more internal volume for the same lifting power, which is a plus when it comes to stealth designs (where weapons bays are best kept internal).

      It would be a nice pipe dream to have a common (though not necessarily interchangeable hull) that could execute the various support functions, such as refuelling or carrying limited cargo (like the KC-10). Having an aircraft that could do heavy strategic lifting (such as front and rear cargo ramps) would require some tweaks if you wanted the basic design to also support tanker operations.

      Having a cargo aircraft operate as a bomber means that instead of the reinforced deck of a cargo aircraft, you build the mounting points for bomb storage into the aircraft and redesign the internal structures so they can support bomb bays. Which also means that any electrical wiring or plumbing on any of your aircraft in production cannot go through the deck where bomb bay doors would potentially be in bomber variants.

      Your choice is between common aircraft with design compromises in the name of mass production, or a line of aircraft that is largely similar on the outside with at least some degree of parts commonality, but on the inside has a fair number of modifications to make them optimal for their duties.

      One is easier to get than the other; but building a joint super-aircraft means you will have design teams for every single possible function each trying to optimize the design for their own ends, tugging it every which way and trading general performance for cross compatibility.

      • Franklin

        The f35 has three designs in production. The new tanker is a 767 that can also carry troops or cargo. The new maritime patrol plane is a 737 with bomb bay doors. The C130 does weapons, cargo, tanker, troops and more. The C17 is also being mult tasked.

        Its all about plug and play. As far as wiring is concerned they should be flying by light by now. The bomb bay should install as a unit that can be replaced with a solid deck and be feed by magazines.

        Instead of having 100 troop carriers, and 100 cargo lifters, and fifty bombers, you would have 250 aircraft that are task capable. Economies of scale would kick in reducing overall cost including parts and maintenance.

        Going to the moon was a pipe dream, the Hubble Space Telescope was a pipe dream, now the James Webb Telescope can change our understanding of the universe. Building an aircraft that can have just as much use in peace as in war is another pipe dream. When we give up our pipe dreams then I think we are truely lost. William McKinley once said “Half-heartedness never won a battle.”

        • blight

          Right, but the three designs aren’t plug-and-play common. You can’t plug in parts to get a JSF-A to fly off a aircraft carrier. They’re common enough that manufacture is easy, but not common enough to the point of modular interchangeability.

          The military has tons of few-off aircraft that were procured and stuck on the most contemporary commercial aircraft. Alternatively, the AF is very procurement happy. This list is essentially off of Wikipedia (though globalsecurity has similar rolls of civilian-based aircraft filling many similar roles. The lion’s share are lightweight passenger craft.

          Aviocar: C-41
          Gulfstream III: C-20
          Gulfstream IV: C-20
          Gulfstream G550: C-37
          Gulfstream G100: C-38
          Learjet 35 & 36: C-21
          Beechcraft Superking Air: C-12, UC-12, NC-12, TC-12, RC-12, MC-12 Liberty,
          Twin Otter: UV-18
          Pilatus PC-12: U-28
          Fairchild Metroliner: C-26, RC-26, UC-26, EC-26
          Bombardier Dash 8: E-9
          367: KC-135, C-135, WC-135, OC-135, RC-135
          707: E-3, E-8
          737: C-40
          747: E-4, VC-25,
          757: C-32
          DC-10: KC-10
          DC-9: C-9 (discon)

  • bigRick

    The air force can see the writing on the wall-that there future is dim.

    So their strategy is to say “we need a new bomber” while everyone with any military sense know otherwise

    The days of manned bombers and fighter is nearing it’s end, it’ll take another 20 years but the “pilot” will be a thing of the past rest assured.

    The bomber based leg (and the land base legs) of the TRIAD and absolutely useless and a huge waste of money, the only thing the bad guys (with nukes) fear are our SSBNs

    Because of these two facts the air force is feeling mighty insecure right now so they are desperately looking for ways to add to their self importance-hence the cry for a “new” bomber

    • Iman Azol

      Bigdumbrick:

      As others who’ve actually thought about this have commented, remote vehicles are great if you you have total C3 control. IF the enemy gets the upper hand, one quarter of your fleet fratricides another quarter, while half turn on you.

      But, as I’ve suggested to others, feel free to express your brilliance to the JCS. I’m sure they’ll give it the attention it deserves.

  • oldmuddy

    The tea party jokers need to return to their bat caves. If we are going to return to the mentality of the 1950s and buy thousands of everything the pentagon wants, taxes HAVE to go up.

  • Billy

    What we need is Supermanuervable F-15s that can beat Russian Su’s and Mig’s. Use the F-22 Raptors in stock to take out Russian S-300’s, B-52’s pound enemy and we save millions of dollars! With all that money on R&D for stealth tech, we could be mass producing other stuff.

    • blight

      The Air Force is no longer in the business of mass production. The high cost of R&D for new aircraft is one part of it…

  • http://military.com TMax

    Here’s a novel idea! Why don’t we just save all the R&D costs and just let the Chinese develop something for a change? Then, we could just steal \ spy buy \ etc… the plans from them. Then we could put all our big money on productiion, and we’d still save a bundle!!! Hey, it works for the Chinese, the Russians, etc, etc, etc.!!!