The Case for the New Bomber

In a briefing with reporters Tuesday, retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, dean of AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, previewed his soon-to-be-released study on why the Long-Range Strike Bomber program is vital to maintaining effective, versatile, and efficient US military power projection. Since the end of the 1991 Gulf War, adversaries have adjusted to how the US fights wars, Deptula said. That’s why nations such as Russia and China have poured money into anti-access, area-denial tools, including advanced surface-to-air missiles, ballistic missiles, and cyber attacks. Adversaries have learned that “if [the US] is going to get access to a region, we are going to win, and win quickly,” Deptula said. Though the US fields 124 mission-capable bombers today, 87 percent are non-penetrating, pre-stealth aircraft. This poses grave risks for survivability in a campaign against modern A2/AD threats, he noted. As evidence, Deptula points out, the 20-airframe B-2 fleet was used in the opening night of the last four major US air campaigns, from Operation Allied Force in 1999 to Libya in 2011, because of its ability to penetrate modernized defenses and “dramatically increase” the ability for US assets to reach the hardest targets in the opening wave.