Bomber Timetable

Look for a new Air Force bomber “early in the 2020 decade,” chief of staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said yesterday. He termed the operational date a “hunch,” and as being the delay price paid for terminating the next-generation bomber program, which was supposed to have been flying by 2018. Schwartz also said he thinks the next bomber will be “evolutionary, not revolutionary.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates killed the bomber, Schwartz said, because the Air Force “did not do our homework” in defining the parameters of the aircraft’s mission and capabilities. Schwartz didn’t say when the program would reappear in the budget, but it’s zeroed in Fiscal 2010. That’s significant, because it leaves no money to keep design teams together or even to conduct an analysis of alternatives. Schwartz said he doesn’t think Gates or his deputies “sense any less need” for a long range strike capability, but they want more definition in the program.