Sooner, Not Later

The United States must start developing a new long-range bomber soon if it wants to have it in the force by the mid 2020s, said Mark Gunzinger, a retired Air Force colonel and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, D.C. Speaking on a long-range strike panel at AFA’s Global Warfare Symposium in Los Angeles, Gunzinger said affordability and payload capacity are especially important attributes for this platform in the Pentagon’s “family of systems” approach for long-range strike. He favors a force of up to 100 optionally manned penetrating bombers, each with a 20,000-pound payload capacity, 4,000-5,000 nautical mile unrefueled range, and the necessary hardening to perform the nuclear mission should the need arise for that at some point. This bomber would team with carrier-based penetrating strike, intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance assets, and electronic attack platforms. Gunzinger singled out the latter as being “inadequate” in the Defense Department’s current planning. Since the success of any future strike platform in anything but a permissive environment will hinge on adequate penetrating electronic attack, DOD needs to plan better and utilize unmanned assets in this critical role, he said Nov. 18. (See also Get Moving on Long-Range Strike)