Build the Bomber Fleet

The Air Force’s current bomber fleet is well below the need for a credible deterrent in the future, meaning the service needs to procure the higher end of its projected 80-100 B-21s, the number two commander of US Strategic Command said Friday. Air Force Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, deputy commander of STRATCOM, said the military has “a deficit in long-range strike ability” and is dependent on aging bombers, the younger of which is still 25 years old. “We are not where we need to be,” Wilson said during an AFA Mitchell Institute event on Capitol Hill. Wilson, who previously served as commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, said the issue going forward on the air-based leg of the nuclear triad isn’t just in the size of the fleet, it’s also with the weapons themselves. There has been growing opposition to the long-range standoff missile, which is unfounded because without a new missile, “we lose the air leg of the triad in large measure,” Wilson said. The current air-launched cruise missile was designed in the 1970s and will not survive in a contested environment. The military doesn’t want to completely redesign the missile, just instead move the warhead to a new, survivable missile that “can make it to the target,” Wilson said. (See also: The Future of Long-Range Strike and AFA Urges Congress to Fund LRSO Missile.)