Funding for development and production of the Air Force’s Long-Range Strike Bomber, now funded at about $5 billion annually, will climb gradually to about $7 billion in fiscal year ’19, then jump up to between $9 billion and $10 billion between Fiscal 2020 and Fiscal 2022, before beginning to ramp down again, according to a chart released by the Pentagon. The chart was included in the “Annual Aviation Inventory and Funding Plan, Fiscal Years 2015-2044,” which has been required by Congress as a supplement to the Pentagon’s budget request for the last several years. “The current goal is to achieve an initial capability in the mid-2020s, and to hold down the unit cost to ensure sufficient production (80-to-100 aircraft) and a sustainable bomber inventory over the far term,” according to the document. The chart shows USAF holding the legacy bomber fleet inventory (B-52, B-1B, and B-2) steady at about 160 aircraft until Fiscal ’21, then declining by about five airframes per year thereafter. During the next 10 years, USAF intends to continue modernizing its current bombers, updating the B-52 with “machine-to-machine retargeting” capability, improve sustainability of the B-1B, and increase the survivability of the B-2, according to the report.
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.