LRS-B Versus Standoff Missiles

The Long-Range Strike Bomber will be a difficult sell to Congress because of short-sighted math, said retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, dean of AFA’s Mitchell Institute. Congress will only be able to see the LRS-B as yet another expensive stealth bomber, comparing poorly with the cost of long-range standoff missiles or potential hypersonic missiles mounted on the ancient B-52, he said. In a short campaign, standoff weapons may have the edge in cost per aimpoint, but “in a major theater war—and does anybody think we’re done with those?”—the LRS-B’s ability to drop cheap munitions over and over makes it clearly “the most cost effective approach,” he said. In a major theater war, like Desert Storm, there were “40,000-50,000 aimpoints,” which would be prohibitive with standoff missiles. The LRS-B shouldn’t even be called a bomber, Deptula said, but a “long-range sensor-shooter,” capable not only of attacking deep behind well-defended lines, but serving as an information collection and transfer node once it’s there. The “true value” of the system will be lost unless the Air Force takes the time to shape the discussion and explain what the aircraft can really do, Deptula said. Otherwise, it will be viewed “as the latest version of the P-47.”