Bad Vintage

In addition to the advent of area-denial and anti-access capabilities that military futurists foresaw in 1992 as a way to check US power and place a greater premium on long-range strike platforms (see above), that year was also ominous for bombers in two other ways, according to Barry Watts, a senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Appearing March 18 at a Mitchell Institute-sponsored airpower forum in Washington, D.C., Watts noted that President George H.W. Bush, in 1992, discarded a long-agreed plan to buy 75 B-2 stealth bombers and instead slashed the buy to 20. (The Air Force later converted a test aircraft to give it a total of 21.) It was also the year that Strategic Air Command was disestablished, eliminating high-level advocacy for such systems. After that, the Air Force “really lost its focus” on the nuclear and bomber mission, Watts said. Re-establishing that focus is why the Air Force has decided to create Air Force Global Strike Command, a new nuclear-centric major command, as part of its efforts to reinvigorate its nuclear mission.