The House Armed Services Committee wants more clarity on how many B-21s the Air Force needs to meet combatant commander requirements. The committee’s mark of the National Defense Authorization Act directs the Secretary of the Air Force to submit a report to HASC and the Senate Armed Services Committee estimating the number of B-21 aircraft USAF believes it needs to meet requirements, according to a committee summary of the bill. The report must also include a “detailed explanation” of how the analysis was done and what assumptions were made, a “range of numbers” to meet B-21 requirements given best-case and worst-case assumptions, and a detailed transition plan to integrate the B-21 into the bomber fleet. Air Force officials have said they must keep most details about the B-21—including its cost—secret, to avoid allowing adversaries to “connect the dots.” The Air Force initially said it plans to procure between 80 and 100 of the new bombers, though officials now say the number will be 100. However, the committee report notes HASC has received independent testimony saying USAF needs between 174 and 205 of the aircraft. (See also: Back to the Future Bomber.)
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.