The Bomber Gap

The 2008 defense budget request funds only 56 B-52 bombers, and Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) wants to know how this could be, since Congress “insists on 76.” Dorgan says that, if the Air Force retires 38 BUFFs (including 18 in attrition reserve at Minot AFB, N.D.), Air Force officials “clearly could not do what they did with Operation Iraqi Freedom,” sending 80 forward to sustain 42 in combat. He maintained the Pentagon decision “is going to create a bomber gap” because a new bomber isn’t due until 2018 at the earliest, and that’s “more likely to be 2020 or 2024.” In response, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England and Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, JCS vice chairman, talked about the need to retire older, more-expensive-to-maintain airframes to aid recapitalization elsewhere and about the fact that the use of new weapons gives each aircraft greater capability. Dorgan asserted that he has heard those arguments, and “this doesn’t add up when you get to 56.” (Read more about the bomber situation in Rebecca Grant’s “Return of the Bomber: The Future of Long Range Strike.”)