The term “next generation bomber” is “dead” in the halls of the Defense Department and Air Force, Lt. Gen. Philip Breedlove, top official on the Air Staff for operations, plans, and requirements, said Thursday. Speaking at an Air Force Association-sponsored Air Force Breakfast Series presentation in Arlington, Va., Breedlove said the new long range strike aircraft now being mulled will be smaller than the NGB would have been—NGB was to have had a payload of 27,000 pounds—and will lack the ability to penetrate the toughest enemy air defenses alone. However, he said, it will be stealthy and long-legged enough to do so as the “utility infielder” among a family of weapons. Breedlove said that, for the first time, requirements for a major combat aircraft are not following the traditional, bottom-up route through Air Combat Command, but are trickling down from the highest levels of the Pentagon.
The Collaborative Combat Aircraft will be operational in the late 2020s, several years before the Next-Generation Air Dominance family of systems, Air Force officials told the House Armed Services tactical aviation panel. The CCAs will first be “shooters,” then electronic warfare platforms, then sensors, in that order, they added.