Conventional First

The Air Force is designing its future bomber to strike targets deep in enemy territory with conventional munitions and the nuclear deterrence mission is not driving the aircraft’s requirements, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told reporters in Washington, D.C., Thursday. “I think the important part here is to recognize that we are building this airplane for conventional long-range strike,” said Donley. “This is the first airplane of this class that has been built for that purpose. It will be nuclear-capable, but [with] the B-2 and all of the bombers that came before it, the focus was the nuclear mission,” he added. The value of conventional long-range strike “is well-recognized and that is where we are focusing the capability,” he said. Donley said there has been no decision when the bomber—which is scheduled to enter the fleet in the mid 2020s—would incorporate the nuclear mission. But the Air Force is intent on “building in” early on the components that the aircraft would need on the nuclear side so as to “avoid longer term costs,” he said. (See also Bomber Clues.)