Contrary to popular belief, the Air Force does have well-defined ideas for what it is looking for in a next-generation bomber—it simply can’t talk about them just yet, said Gen. John Corley, chief of Air Combat Command. Speaking to reporters Friday at AFA’s Orlando air warfare symposium, Corley said, “I have a set of crisp, clear, requirements of which I cannot speak inside this room.” Part of the reason for the secrecy is that ACC has not yet sorted through the details of what requirements will be key performance parameters, what the “threshold” requirements will be, what capabilities would simply be nice to have, and so on. More important in terms of public disclosure, however, is the fact that the details of some of the requirements offer insight into what the Air Force knows—and does not know—about enemy threats. Ultimately, Corley said, the “2018 bomber” will be a serious, major acquisition program that will yield a long range strike aircraft that will be viable for decades. The 2018 bomber is therefore not just a stop-gap solution to be used until a revolutionary bomber is fielded, which is expected sometime around 2035.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.