Is 2018 Still in Play for New Bomber?

The Air Force has concluded that “more money and possibly a little more time is required” to field its next bomber aircraft, Pentagon acquisition czar John Young told the Senate Armed Services Committee June 3. This doesn’t mean that the 2018 fielding goal is unobtainable. But it does mean that some changes in programming are necessary to keep the program on track, he said. He added that he is committed to presenting the Congress with an achievable program that is properly resourced. “I strongly support the need for the new bomber,” Young told the committee. “But I do not intend to put my neck on a piece of paper that will start a program that is going to be the next hearing a few years from now about how the costs are growing.” Speaking with reporters after the hearing, Young said he had not been willing to give his blessing to the bomber program based on the initial funding profile and requirements that the Air Force plotted. “I, to be honest with you, didn’t think that was achievable,” he said. However, he credited USAF for making progress since then, based upon his recent in-depth look at the bomber plans. “They’ve laid out a program that includes some level of prototyping and some of the things I’ve insisted on,” he told the committee. Just last week, Young said he traveled to see first hand “the potential for this program.” Asked by reporters what exactly he had gone out to observe, he declined to elaborate. While the Air Force does not have many developmental activities currently ongoing in the unclassified realm for the bomber, there are allegedly more ambitious activities occurring in the classified sector in support of it. Young also told the committee that he has asked a Defense Science Board team to review the bomber plans.