Bomber Slips More to the Right

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, testifying Tuesday on the Pentagon’s Fiscal 2011 spending plan and new Quadrennial Defense Review, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that a new Air Force bomber “would probably not appear into the force until the late ’20s.” This is a seemingly significant departure from the Pentagon’s previous public estimates that had the bomber entering the inventory much earlier in that decade, or as soon as 2018, if one goes back to the 2006 QDR. Gates said the Defense Department is “still wrestling” with the type of bomber platform to pursue (e.g., standoff, penetrating, manned, unmanned, some combination of those attributes). The additional time for study that the department now intends to take will determine what the bomber should be, whereas the analysis up until now has focused on whether a new bomber was really needed, he said.