A precious few new details about the Long Range Strike-Bomber program emerged at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said in a press conference on Friday the bomber program would be “a competition” and “is under way.” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has blessed a program for between 80 to 100 aircraft at a unit cost of $550 million, with a “target delivery for the mid 20s,” said Donley. He said Panetta has directed that the project be conducted “in a streamlined fashion under the Rapid Capabilities Office.” Donley said the Air Force is “putting in place the foundations that we think will keep the program under control” in terms of cost and schedule. Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, also at the press conference, said the Air Force would exercise keen “discipline” in establishing requirements. “Although some have suggested that supersonic dash may be a requirement for such a platform, you won’t hear that from us,” he asserted. Schwartz also emphasized the “family” aspect of the LRS system. That family includes some systems in “ongoing development” and others that are “fielded capabilities,” he said. Accordingly, “we will leverage all that work across multiple projects. . . . Not everything is a new start,” he said. Donley said despite the strict boundaries, “I’m not suggesting it’s not going to be a challenge. This is complex work.”
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.