Defense Act Targets Future Bomber’s Nuclear Gap

H.R. 4310, this year’s defense policy act, mandates that the Air Force’s future bomber must be capable of carrying nuclear weapons on the date that it commences initial operations. Further, the new bomber must be certified to use those weapons no later than two years after that date, according to the legislation. President Obama signed H.R. 4310 into law on Jan. 2. Section 211 of the act contains the language on the future bomber. Air Force officials have said the service wants to have the new bomber design available for operations starting in the mid 2020s to complement the B-2A and B-52H fleets, and eventually supplant those two platforms. Unlike bombers of the past, the Air Force is designing the new airplane first and foremost for conventional long-range-strike roles. At some later to-be-determined point, the platform would take on the additional role of nuclear deterrence, the officials have said. (H.R. 4310 conference report; caution, extremely large-sized file.)