Bomber Musings

In the upcoming quadrennial defense review, the health of the industrial base will be a factor in how to proceed with the next Air Force bomber program, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said April 16. “Keeping design teams together is a matter that the department needs to consider,” Schwartz told an audience during a National Aeronautic Association luncheon in Washington, D.C. He said the QDR will also examine what range, payload, “duration,” and “observability characteristics” will be needed from a new bomber, as well as whether it will be manned or unmanned, and whether it should be nuclear-capable or not. Defense Secretary Robert Gates earlier in the month had announced the delay to the start of the bomber program, and, the day before the address by Schwartz said the future bomber will also be shaped by the results of the post-START nuclear reduction talks with Russia. If deployed nuclear weapons levels go down significantly, “the question is whether the traditional triad makes sense anymore,” Gates said in his remarks at Air University at Maxwell AFB, Ala., (thereby implying that continuance of the nuclear bomber leg might be re-examined.) And, “maybe a manned bomber isn’t the answer” when mulling future long-range strike, given the advent of long-endurance, armed unmanned aerial vehicles like the MQ-9 Reaper, he said. (For more Daily Report coverage on the Schwartz luncheon, read The Military Requirement is 243.) (Full transcript of Gates at AU)