Why Cut the More Economical BUFF?

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) is continuing his assault against the Air Force plan to cut 38 B-52 bombers, reducing the venerable fleet to from 94 to 56 airframes. Dorgan pointed out at Wednesday’s Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee hearing (at which he was a guest) that the B-52 has relatively low airframe maintenance costs compared to the B-1B and B-2 bombers. Both Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, commander of US Strategic Command, and Maj. Gen. Stanley Gorenc, Air Staff’s director of operational capability requirements, maintained that it comes down to age. Cartwright said that maintaining the size of the more modern B-1 and B-2 fleet and decreasing the B-52 fleet provides the preferred mix. Gorenc explained, too, that with more advanced weapons, the fleet’s size becomes less an issue, since the airframes grow exponentially more capable.