The Longer Wait

Unless there’s something truly promising going on behind a veil of secrecy, it looks like the chances of the Air Force fielding a new bomber platform in 2018 or near that time have all but eroded based on yesterday’s pronouncement by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Briefing reporters at the Pentagon Monday on the major reshaping of defense priorities reflected in the Fiscal 2010 defense budget proposal, Gates said DOD “will not pursue a development program for a follow-on Air Force bomber” until there is “a better understanding of the need, the requirement, and the technology.” He then said DOD will examine all its strategic requirements—which ostensibly should include the bomber—during this year’s Quadrennial Defense Review, nuclear posture review, and in light of the post-START arms control negotiations, which President Obama announced last week would take place later this year with Russia. Interestingly, it was the 2005 QDR that established the plan to develop the new bomber for fielding in 2018. Back then, it was called “a new land-based, penetrating long-range strike capability.” It remains to be seen how Congress will react to the delay. Just last month groups of Senators sent Obama letters on two separate occasions, March 13 and March 26, urging him not to delay the new bomber program.