More BUFFs Needed?:

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), long-time B-52 advocate, has concerns about the a presumed bomber gap and the future of the venerable bomber, which he reminded attendees at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Wednesday would be in the inventory for at least “another two to three more decades.” The committee asked for a review into the gap between legacy bombers and the next generation bomber, and, Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley told the committee, that study is “in the [five-sided] building right now” and should surface by the end of the month. None too soon for Dorgan, who said, “I’m in support of the next generation bomber, but between now and then what do we do?” Mosley acknowledged, though, that the service’s new plans for the nuclear-capable BUFFs might require keeping 76 combat-coded tails, up from the budgeted 56. Following last year’s Bent Spear incident, USAF has decided to revamp its use of B-52s in its air expeditionary force rotation. Moseley told the lawmakers that Air Combat Command probably would soon begin to rotate B-52s squadrons between their nuclear and conventional roles. He said one squadron would rotate for six months or a year at a time into the nuclear mission, while two other B-52 squadrons would perform in the conventional role, since the Air Force still needs the ability to deploy to the Pacific or the Middle East quickly. He expects the number of combat-coded bombers to go up, but he said ACC and the Air Staff hadn’t yet determined the final number.