Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday he is committed to seeing that the US military has “an airborne, long-range strike capability,” a prospective B-3 bomber, if you will. Speaking at AFA’s Air & Space Conference, Gates said, however, the Pentagon must not repeat the mistakes of the B-2 bomber program in acquiring this new capability, be it a manned aircraft, unmanned platform, or some combination of both. The B-2, Gates said, “despite its great capability, turned out to be so expensive” that the nation could only afford a fraction of the original number. The small fleet size—today there are 20 B-2s—makes the loss of even one B-2 potentially “a national disaster akin to the sinking of a capital ship” since it would lessen the nation’s strategic options, he said. “It makes little sense to procure a future bomber … in a way that repeats this history,” he emphasized. Instead it’s imperative to pursue a capability that “can realistically be produced and deployed in the numbers originally envisioned,” thus placing a premium on meeting schedules, controlling costs, and bringing requirements “into line with reality,” Gates said.
Sept. 27, 2022
As the Air Force moves forward with its efforts to operationalize the concept of agile combat employment, leaders need to embrace an iterative approach that builds on itself, recognizing that ACE may never be fully complete, said Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.