Air Force Chief Calls New Bomber a “˜Must-Have Capability’

Elaine M. Grossman, Global Security Newswire
See more stories about...
Elaine M. Grossman, Global Security Newswire
Sept. 18, 2013, 10:02 a.m.

NA­TION­AL HAR­BOR, MD. — The Air Force chief of staff on Tues­day said that des­pite a threat of con­tin­ued se­quest­ra­tion or oth­er deep budget cuts in com­ing years, he re­gards the ser­vice’s next nuc­le­ar-armed bomber air­craft as a ne­ces­sary ex­pendit­ure.

“The Long-Range Strike bomber pro­gram is one of our top three pro­grams,” said Gen. Mark Welsh, who has served as the top U.S. air of­ficer since Au­gust 2012. “It is a must-have cap­ab­il­ity.”

Oth­er mod­ern­iz­a­tion pri­or­it­ies for the Air Force in­clude new F-35 Joint Strike Fight­er air­craft and KC-46 aer­i­al re­fuel­ing planes.

The Air Force ex­pects to pur­chase 80 to 100 of the new bombers, be­gin­ning some­time after 2020. The ser­vice has re­ques­ted $379 mil­lion for re­search and de­vel­op­ment of the Long-Range Strike bomber in fisc­al 2014. An­nu­al ex­pendit­ures for the stealthy air­craft could reach $10 bil­lion by 2021, De­fense De­part­ment lead­ers have told Cap­it­ol Hill.

The ser­vice head’s re­marks this week fol­lowed De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel’s warn­ing last month — as he un­veiled the res­ults of his “Stra­tegic Choices and Man­age­ment Re­view” — about a stark de­term­in­a­tion to be made in the nuc­le­ar-mod­ern­iz­a­tion arena.

Hagel said that con­gres­sion­ally man­dated spend­ing cuts could force the De­fense De­part­ment to either buy a lim­ited fleet of new bombers or main­tain lar­ger quant­it­ies of aging nuc­le­ar-cap­able air­craft, with few or no mod­ern re­place­ments.

Welsh sug­ges­ted that the Air Force could not af­ford to com­prom­ise on en­sur­ing that it can con­tin­ue to hit tar­gets at long range, a cap­ab­il­ity that he called “found­a­tion­al” to his ser­vice. He re­it­er­ated the re­marks in Wed­nes­day testi­mony be­fore the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

“Glob­al Strike will con­tin­ue to be a fo­cus area,” the ser­vice chief said on Tues­day, speak­ing at an Air Force As­so­ci­ation sym­posi­um just out­side of Wash­ing­ton.

Welsh also un­der­scored the im­port­ance of main­tain­ing high stand­ards in his ser­vice’s day-to-day hand­ling of nuc­le­ar weapons, fol­low­ing a new re­port last month of failed ICBM unit in­spec­tions at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. That was the second such in­cid­ent in the past six months, fol­low­ing in­suf­fi­cient ICBM read­i­ness drill res­ults at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., in March.

“The nuc­le­ar mis­sion — con­tinu­ing to strengthen the en­ter­prise — is still our No. 1 pri­or­ity in the United States Air Force and it will re­main that way,” Welsh said at the AFA event. “In our nuc­le­ar in­vent­ory, we have two-thirds of the tri­ad that provides nuc­le­ar de­terrence for the United States of Amer­ica. That’s a huge re­spons­ib­il­ity.”

The Air Force has sought to strengthen its nuc­le­ar train­ing and op­er­a­tions over roughly the past five years. The ini­ti­at­ive fol­lowed an ac­ci­dent­al 2006 ship­ment of war­head fuses to Taiwan and a mis­taken bomber trans­port of six atom­ic-armed cruise mis­siles across sev­er­al U.S. states the fol­low­ing year.

The ser­vice cre­ated its Glob­al Strike Com­mand in 2008 to over­see nuc­le­ar-armed bomber and ICBM units.

“It’s a big deal for us,” Welsh told the con­fer­ence audi­ence. “We can’t ever af­ford to get this wrong.”

Dur­ing a sep­ar­ate Tues­day ses­sion at the same for­um, Maj. Gen. Sandra Fin­an im­plied that the re­cent ICBM read­i­ness-in­spec­tion fail­ures re­flect her ser­vice’s ded­ic­a­tion to hold­ing its per­son­nel to high per­form­ance stand­ards.

“We do de­mand per­fec­tion in the nuc­le­ar en­ter­prise,” said Fin­an, who com­mands the Nuc­le­ar Weapons Cen­ter at Kirt­land Air Force Base, N.M. “To be hon­est with you, the nuc­le­ar en­ter­prise is not for every­body, be­cause you have to be de­tail-ori­ented. You have to pay at­ten­tion to everything you do, be­cause everything you do mat­ters.”

What We're Following See More »
BACKING OUT ON BERNIE
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
2 days ago
THE LATEST

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

AKNOWLEDGING THE INEVITABLE
UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
4 days ago
THE DETAILS

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Source:
AP KEEPING COUNT
Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

Source:
TRUMP FLOATED IDEA ON JIMMY KIMMEL’S SHOW
Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
4 days ago
THE LATEST
CAMPAIGNS INJECTED NEW AD MONEY
California: It’s Not Over Yet
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.

Source:
×