Stealth and other technology efforts that have been pursued in secret as part of the next generation bomber program could be split off into their own research and development program, according to Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), who chairs the House Armed Services Air and Land Forces Subcommittee. He told defense reporters in Washington June 18 that there is “general agreement” in the full House, but particularly the Armed Services Committee, that the Pentagon should pursue these technologies, but he said there’s a question about “whether it’s going to continue to be associated with the next generation bomber.” He called that “more problematic.” The technologies have been part of the NGB for some time, but may have “wider application,” Abercrombie said, so the R&D “needs to be pursued.” (Some lawmakers have been pursuing resurrection of the NGB, the so-called 2018 bomber that fell to the Pentagon 2010 budget axe.) Abercrombie begged off providing an opinion on whether the bomber itself is needed, indicating he’s not intimately familiar with the issues of structural fatigue in the existing bomber fleet. The Air Force put $140 million in its Fiscal 2010 unfunded priorities list for a classified program that Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz acknowledged last week would go for continuing development of stealth, advanced radar and datalink technologies, among others.
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