Farnborough, UK The Air Force is “looking at” employing the B-21 stealth bomber as a missileer, shooting volleys of air-to-air missiles at targets designated by F-22s and F-35s, Air Combat Command chief Gen. Hawk Carlisle told Air Force Magazine Monday. Carlisle, asked about the Air Superiority 2030 program, said “we have to build another platform,” to augment the F-22 and F-35, but one that’s not necessarily a sixth-gen fighter. This “PCA,” for Penetrating Counter-Air, would have to be “big. Range and payload is a part of it,” Carlisle said, noting it would have to be “a broad-spectrum” aircraft with stealth and the ability to fuse and “integrate avionics.” The B-21 “may very well be part of it, that is one of our developmental plans,” he said. To put distance between this concept and simply another fighter, USAF has dropped calling it “F-X” and the unfortunate “NGADS,” for Next Generation Air Dominance System. USAF will also look at equipping older bombers for standoff missileer duties, “with the ability to fling stuff into the theater, with guidance from stuff that’s forward.” The PCA, “I believe, … will be a new platform, it will have range and payload, an ability to rapidly and incrementally add new technology” and efficient engines from the AETP project.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.