The Air Force, together with the Navy, intends to pursue a new cruise missile design starting in Fiscal 2011 that has “standoff capability critical to nuclear deterrence,” according to USAF budget officials. It is a potential replacement to the aging nuclear-tipped Air Launched Cruise Missile, which has been operational since 1982 and is carried on B-52H bombers. The officials said the Fiscal 2011 budget proposal earmarks $3.3 million toward this effort, which is meant to address concerns over ALCM survivability. According to one budget document, the Air Force is conducting an analysis of alternatives “for the future of long-range strategic standoff vehicles” in Fiscal 2010, with its completion set for Fiscal 2011. The Air Force has also been exploring an ALCM service life extension to keep the missile viable out to 2030 since some if its components “cannot be sustained beyond the initial service life,” states the document.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.