Congress must not let budgetary concerns stand in the way of an adequate Long-Range Strike Bomber fleet, members of Congress said Wednesday on Capitol Hill. “We have to stand firm with the numbers that the academics are telling us they need, the Pentagon is telling us they need, and, actually, the White House agrees that we need,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) said at the release of a Mitchell Institute report. Retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, dean of AFA’s Mitchell Institute, said the requirement for the B-2 fleet began at 132, and was gradually whittled down to just 20 aircraft. “We can’t afford to let that happen again,” with the LRS-B, he said. Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) said the LRS-B program is at a critical phase, and Congress “can’t allow sticker shock to set in.” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), agreed. Congress must “determine the number of bombers required for the future force based upon strategic and not budgetary considerations, and then, Congress needs to fully resource that requirement,” he said. Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam) said the US needs the LRS-B in production as soon as possible. “The world is changing, and we need to stay ahead of the threats to keep the peace,” she said. “In short, we need the LRS-B, and we need it very soon.”
When the Air Force sets a new program baseline for the B-52 re-engining this fall, there will be “some” cost increase, because the project wasn't previously fully funded, and the Air Force has a better handle on actual supplier costs and knowledge from ground testing, program officials said.