Bomber Replacements, Bomber Numbers

The Air Force could buy Long-Range Strike Bombers for “25 years or so” and the aircraft will eventually replace the B-1 and B-52, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said Monday. Commenting on a new Bomber Roadmap, which he said remains unfinished, Welsh said the Air Force would “start to field” the LRS-B “in the mid-‘20s, and it would probably continue for 25 years or so; that’s a rough guess depending on production rates, etc. in the program.” Other senior USAF officials have suggested the LRS-B would be bought over about 10 years, starting in about 2023, noting service plans call for both the B-1 and the B-52 to serve into the 2040s, and the B-2 to almost 2060. Either way, Welsh said, “the B-52 and B-1 will time out, eventually,” joking that the “B-52’s going to try to make 100 years.” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said USAF has stepped up to “check our numbers” on the LRS-B and confirmed that revised acquisition and operating figures provided to Congress recently are correct. She admitted that previous ones supplied were inaccurate because they were inadequately “coordinated,” though the actual cost estimate hasn’t changed.