The U.S. Air Force will keep costs and military requirements for its future bomber aircraft tightly constrained, service Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said this week.
"Cost is going to be a no-kidding independent variable in this," Welsh told reporters at a Wednesday breakfast session, according to Jane's Defense Weekly.
The flying service intends to buy 80 to 100 of the nuclear- and conventional-capable aircraft beginning in the 2020s, with each bomber costing roughly $550 million. Welsh said that unit price should be enough to make the bomber a "capable machine," Jane's reported.
To develop the new stealthy aircraft, the Air Force is spending $440 million this year, and intends to ramp up to $1 billion for its R&D investment next year, the Air Force News Service reported.
Welsh said that to control costs, his service must avoid the temptation during the ongoing developmental phase to gold-plate the new bomber with like-to-have but unnecessary capabilities, a phenomenon sometimes called "requirements drift."
"We are not going to go there," he said at the Defense Writers Group forum, saying the bomber would use only proven technologies, the military news service reported.
Welsh also noted that the Air Force would cut back on the number of lethal drones it fields for counterterrorism operations, according to a Wednesday report in the Washington Post.
With a growing focus on boosting the U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, the Air Force will reduce drone activities from the current average of 62 combat operations per day worldwide to something more on the order of 45, Welsh said.
The service uses the drones in counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan -- where U.S. combat operations will mostly draw to a close in 2014 -- and in Yemen, Somalia, West Africa and along the Turkish-Iraqi border, according to the Post report.
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