Will Shore Up B-52, B-1 Fleet
Air Force Chief Of Staff General T. Michael Moseley dropped
something of a bombshell in a recent speech before the Armed
Services Committee... regarding the US Air Force's next long-range
Military.com reports Moseley revealed the Air Combat Command is
conduction a study researching aircraft platforms and weapons
improvements... in an effort to determine the best path for a new
long-range strike capability for the future USAF. Those goals won't
be met by the current, aging fleet of B-52 Stratofortresses (many
of which have been flying for over 50 years, above) and B-1B
Lancers (relative youngsters, but still 20+ years old.)
The consensus? The Air Force will need a new bomber, capable of
knocking out ground targets ahead of its mission.
"We refer to it as, 'Kick down the door,'" said Lt. Col. Tony
Siler, ACC chief of the (aptly named) Ground Dominance Capability
Team. "Taking down a portion of the enemy's air defense is the
initial part of air warfare."
That is a capability current bombers lack, said Colonel Siler.
For all their considerable capabilities, the B-52 and B-1 (below)
still rely on escort fighters to clear the way into hostile
territory. Fuel efficiency, stealth capabilities and longer range
are also key considerations, Siler added.
The news of a new bomber comes as the USAF and other armed
forces are thinning their ranks, facing tighter and tighter
operating budgets. So... is this the best time to be talking about
a new, expensive aircraft?
Not surprisingly, Siler and others say yes -- for while the
current bomber fleet meets America's present needs, by 2018 many
believe those planes will be severely outdated.
And what about those who believe the concept of long-range
bombers is obsolete, in this age of long-range intercontinental
ballistic missiles? Well, consider this -- during Operation Iraqi
Freedom, bombers delivered two-thirds of the total Air Force
tonnage while flying roughly five percent of all Air Force strike
sorties, Colonel Shorb said.