An “Evolutionary” Bomber:

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who has a stake in the Air Force’s plans to field a next generation bomber since Ellsworth Air Force Base in his state is on the service’s roadmap of likely beddown locations, expressed concern whether USAF would, in fact, make the 2018 fielding date during Wednesday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne maintained that the service does stand by the 2018 date, but he explained that it would be an initial capability only. He said, “We recognize you’re not going to have a squadron, you’re going to have a flight-rated system of that in the 2020 time frame.” Much of the program remains classified, at this point, but Wynne noted that site work would have to begin in 2012. He added, “I think the committee is going to be extremely pleased with the way we’ve integrated technologies … to make this happen.” Chief of Staff Michael Moseley told reporters last week that the 2018 bomber is “doable” using existing technology and that’s what the service has asked industry to do.