Thursday, June 24, 2010

Will the B-1b survive budget slashing?

June 24, 2010

AIR FORCE Magazine's Daily Report today delves into the question of potential early retirements of the B-1b Lancer ("B1 Be Gone?"), despite the fact that the aging Air Force fleet has far older aircraft in the inventory, including the Eisenhower-era B-52 bomber and the KC-135 tankers. However, the ancient tankers are the only means of global reach and cannot be retired without replacements, and the B-52 has unique capabilities that are not replicated elsewhere and no replacement bomber is in the works. Facing mandated cuts, the Air Force has limited options.

Above: A B1B Lancer prepares to receive fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker above Northern New Mexico, Apr. 21, 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)

AIR FORCE Magazine reports: The Air Force Council meets Thursday to evaluate a number of potential cost-saving moves under consideration to meet savings targets mandated by Defense Secretary Robert Gates (see Donley Aims to Protect Force Structure above). Options reportedly on the table include early retirement of all B-1B bombers. The Lancers have been worked hard with great effect in Afghanistan in recent years, and have received many capability upgrades. There's also talk of possible further reductions in fighter wings on top of the 250-aircraft cut already being made in Fiscal 2010. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, asked Wednesday about such considerations during a Capitol Hill speech, declined to comment on specifics. "We’re still in the middle of our deliberations," he said. But he pointedly wouldn’t rule out further force structure reductions.

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