New Strategic Stuff

There’s an operational requirements document for the new Long-Range Strike Bomber program, according to Air Force Global Strike Command boss Lt. Gen. James Kowalski. He told defense reporters in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 6 that both Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Hostage and he are satisfied with the ORD, but that ACC has the lead on requirements and Global Strike Command is providing the nuclear expertise, to “ensure that bomber, when it comes off the line, is nuclear-capable.” Kowalski said the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office is managing the bomber project. He also reported that the Long Range Standoff vehicle, or LRSO—the planned replacement for the AGM-86 cruise missile—is for now a strictly nuclear program. However, “if there is a requirement, you could certainly spiral off a conventional variant,” he said. There’s a significant gap in capability between the JASSM Extended Range conventional stealth cruise missile and the LRSO, noted Kowalski. A reporter also asked him if, given the shrinking size of the B-52 fleet and its planned retention to the 2040s, re-engining the bombers would make sense. Kowalski said while he’d “love” to have a new B-52 engine, there are “plenty” of TF-30 engines available—the bombers’ current powerplants—and plenty of parts for them. A re-engining wouldn’t pay for itself within the period that the Defense Department requires, so “there’s no business case,” he said.