Arsenal of Technocracy

The Air Force is keeping mum on the “arsenal plane” concept teased by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in a budget preview speech in early February. Carter said the concept, developed by the Strategic Capabilities Office, would rely on an “existing aircraft” to carry loads of standoff munitions that would be cued to their targets by fifth-generation fighters deep inside enemy territory. Lt. Gen. Mike Holmes, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for plans and requirements, told reporters Friday the concept is being worked with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, but he declined to say if the potential platform is a B-52 or B-1 bomber, or something else. “We want to keep our options open,” Holmes said, saying the idea may “close a couple of gaps,” without elaborating. He also declined to limit the concept to a ground-attack mission, leaving open the possibility of an air-to-air role as well. “We’ll be looking … to see what the most productive mix really is,” he said, “and see if there’s enough there to make it worth investing beyond the concept phase.” Asked if it might come along within the next five years, Holmes said “our record has not been great on developing things in five years.”