Bomber Evolution

“Geography still matters” and there is “value to the President in having a long-range strike capability” in the form of a new bomber, outgoing Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said in his last interview with Air Force Magazine. The need for a bomber “was recognized in the strategic guidance a couple of years ago,” but the project has had its ups and downs because USAF wasn’t being realistic about it, Donley said. “We actually have a pretty poor record on bomber programs,” Donley allowed, saying that the B-70, B-1, and B-2 all were either stopped or “truncated” because they reached too far technologically, and their expense made it impossible to buy them in needed numbers. After former Defense Secretary Robert Gates killed the Next Generation Bomber in 2009, the Pentagon “took a significant deep breath and a long look at what we needed to reconsider” in the bomber. The replacement project, the LRS-B “involves a lot less risk,” Donley said. It emphasizes “mature technologies,” and USAF “set requirements…early so that we made tradeoffs in range and payload…early.” The “family of systems” approach will also help prevent the Air Force from “attempting to build an aircraft…destined to be something that we could not afford.”