NPR and the Bomber

With the Pentagon now undertaking a new Nuclear Posture Review, some in Congress are wondering how this will affect the Air Force’s plans for a next-generation bomber. Appearing with a group of Defense Department and Energy Department officials before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s strategic force panel June 3, Maj. Gen. Donald Alston, head of the Air Staff’s new nuclear integration and strategic deterrence shop, said, when asked about this, that the Air Force is “taking a hard look at the requirements and the technology available for the platform.” He said the Air Force likely will be more informed on the future course of the bomber by the outcomes of the current Quadrennial Defense Review than by the NPR. “But we do see linkage between both those examinations,” he noted. When asked by panel chairman Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) if the Air Force’s B-2 and B-52 bombers will be able to serve until 2030, Alston responded that the B-52 “has a lot of life left in it,” while the B-2 will ultimately be facing threats that will “exceed its capability as a penetrating platform,” thus driving the need for a new bomber. A preliminary report on the NPR is due to Congress in December. (Aston written testimony)