Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Note From AFA President --Bomber

Only every now and then does one run across an article that completely lays out an issue … and in as few words as possible explains it to the public.
An example of one is entitled:  “Why the US Wants a New Bomber.”  It was written by David Axe and appeared in The Diplomat  … but it is essentially an interview with Lt General (Ret) David Deptula.  Gen Deptula, himself a fighter pilot, lays out the case for why … the United States … not the Air Force … or the Department of Defense … but the United States needs a new bomber.
There are lots of pithy quotes from the piece.  Here are a couple to interest you. 
“The U.S. Office of Management and Budget recently stated that existing bombers are adequate for projected missions over the long term. Did that change? Or did the Defense Department have to convince OMB that current bombers aren’t adequate?
The OMB statement was actually something of an anomaly: OMB has no military competence and shouldn’t be attributed any. [The Office of the Secretary of Defense] and the Air Force consistently indicated from 2006 to 2009 that the Air Force needed a new bomber, and then did so [again] from April 2009 through today.
DoD reasoning was that the B-1 and B-52 are aging and non-stealthy and the B-2, while stealthy, is only available in small numbers.”
 “Why not just upgrade existing bombers to meet future threats? What will the new bomber do that old, upgraded bombers can't?
The Air Force currently operates three types of bombers: the B-52H, the B-1B and the B-2A. Design of the B-52 began in the late 1940s and the last one was delivered in 1962. It has been upgraded many times and has excellent range and payload. However, no amount of updating can alter the fundamental characteristics of the aircraft – like its shape and resulting large radar signature – that make it relatively easy to detect and very vulnerable to air defenses of even modest sophistication. …
The B-1’s design dates from the 1970s and they were built in the late 1980s. They have also been modified many times over the past 25 years and are more survivable than the B-52s, but again their design characteristics place fundamental limits on how much upgraded sub-systems can extend their ability to penetrate advanced air defenses. Thus, B-52s will increasingly be used in the stand-off weapon-delivery role, and exclusively so in operations against well-defended adversaries.
The B-2 stealth bomber was developed in the 1980s and the last was delivered in the late 1990s. They were designed to penetrate advanced air-defense systems and are the only Air Force bombers capable of survivably delivering large weapons – or large numbers of smaller weapons – in a non-permissive air environment.
However, the Air Force has only 20 B-2s, roughly one-fifth of what’s generally regarded as the minimum-required stealth bomber force for major air campaigns in either East Asia or Southwest Asia – and remember, the new defense strategy calls for global strike forces capable of conducting two such campaigns concurrently. As our adversaries adapt to known U.S. military strengths by acquiring more advanced air defenses, mobile systems or hardening important targets the capacity of the B-2 fleet will fall ever further behind the demand for its capabilities.
In other words, the new bomber will restore a balance between Air Force bomber capabilities, capacities and demands.”
For your consideration.

Michael M. Dunn
Air Force Association
"The only thing more expensive than a first-rate Air Force is … a second-rate Air Force."  --  Senate staff member


Tom said...

Totally agree we need a new bomber.

Randy Durham said...

Gone from the discussion has been the need for a stealthy transport for special operations forces in denied territory (AFSOC's #1 priority for over 15 years). Even with the long-accepted requirement no longer being discussed, the new bomber could provide the technology and basic platform for such a transport being fielded.

Captain Michael Rea said...

As we turn into the early 21st Century, and arrange our weapons procurement to fit the next 50 years, it seems to this observer that we are feeling our way blindly as if expecting that an Ouija Board will better show us the way.
Exhibit A is the so-called “Bomber Puzzle” that is loosely referred to as the follow-on to the projected phase out of the B-1B, the B-2A, and the venerable B-52G/H. Some new bomber design will be put forth, and defined by budgetary constraints to carry the strategic bombing mission into mid-century, and then these current bombers can take their hallowed place on the retired rolls. I doubt it will happen!
What happened with the B-1 and B-2 anyway? Weren’t these two aircraft supposed to supplant the B-52 decades ago? Have they succeeded? Not really! Then why do we want to fund, design and build a new model bomber – so we can build a half dozen phony “stealth bombers” invented by some think tank at M.I.T.? No, not in my lifetime!
Years ago, military aircraft were designed and built by airmen, mission planners, and engineers; not congressmen, or computer programmers, or someone who has some wacky definition of stealth. The longevity of the B-52 is proof of what I say.
The success of the F-15's, and the hot rod F-16's and F/A-18's, the ferocious A-10’s, and even the Navy AD-4/A-1H Skyraiders designed by Ed Heinemann – for close air support - have proven to be far superior to the modern stealth fleet that sits parked, mothballed, and forgotten, waiting to be called into action. That call to action will never come of course, these toys are too expensive and fragile; they really can’t perform the Air Force mission!
As of FY 2012, the total USAF bomber fleet stands (about) like this:
• B-1B 65 airframes (100 built)
• B-2A 19 airframes (21 built)
• B-52(H) 94 airframes remaining (744 all models built)
These stats are scary! It seems “stealth” is the magic BB for aircraft procurement these days; it’s a money pit of course, look at the F-22. Even a pilot and engineer can see that, and they could do the job better. Take the F-117 for example. Apparently there were about 59 F-117’s built. The F-117 fleet operated for about 6-8 years; where are these stealthy airplanes now? Retired! Disassembled and stored.
The failure of these programs is an object lesson for USAF, the Congress, and the procurement community at large – they are failing to properly provide for the defense of our country by sloughing off on their responsibility to procure lethal equipment. This failure is almost criminal.
I have a solution:
Step one; to fix this mess is to bring back the Strategic Air Command as a separate Unified Command. SAC knew what they were doing with the bombers, their mission was security of the West and they succeeded. Let the bomber officers run the bombers, and define the procurement and mission requirements for now and into the future. I still have a photo on my desk, which I took in 1959, of the Andersen AFB front gate sign which reads, “Security Through Air Power, Strategic Air Command.”
Step two; is to take ASC Wright-Patterson out of the procurement business for military aircraft and weapons. Get rid of the civilian management of ASC. Air Force pilots and WSO’s fully rated in the aircraft and weapons systems being procured should run the procurement.
I feel the Air Force Association has a vital role to play in the structure of the Air Force now and into the future. Let’s not be timid and silently “just report” procurement actions, and inactions, but instead take an aggressive pro-active role in shaping the force with the weapons of the future to provide for the common defense of our country.