QDR “Tiger Team” Explores Bomber Requirement

The future of the Air Force’s next-generation bomber program hinges on the judgment of a group tasked with re-examining the effort as part of the current Quadrennial Defense Review, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Development David Ochmanek told defense reporters Tuesday in Washington, D.C. A “tiger team” has been assembled explicitly to take a new look at the requirements and concepts for a long-range penetrating strike and intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance platform, he said. “A manned bomber may or may not be the right answer, but we understand there is a set of operations that needs to be done in the future,” Ochmanek explained. The team is re-examining the nature of the mission as well as opportunities and technologies for accomplishing it and will submit a report to Defense Secretary Robert Gates in the early fall, he said. “The word requirement is a loaded word in the building,” Ochmanek said when asked if the requirement still exists for the future bomber as articulated in the 2006 QDR. He continued, “What I would say is there is a recognition of the importance of being able to locate, characterize, and attack targets in a hostile air defense environment.” Gates in April shelved plans for the Air Force to move forward with a program aimed at fielding the so-called 2018 bomber due to a perceived lack of clarity in the requirements. Ochmanek conceded that one of the criticisms of the QDR so far from the “red team” in a recent meeting was the lack of new concepts for operating against high-end, anti-access adversaries. (For more from Ochmanek’s discussion, read QDR Scrutinizing Two-War Concept and Gloomy Forecast.)