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

Elaine M. Grossman, Global Security Newswire
Add to Briefcase
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 »
WWE WRESTLING OWNER
Trump to Nominate Linda McMahon to Head SBA
7 hours ago
THE LATEST
$6.3 BILLION FOR RESEARCH AND OPIOIDS
Senate Sends Medical Cures Bill to Obama’s Desk
12 hours ago
THE LATEST
HAD CONSIDERED RUNNING FOR GUV IN 2018
Oklahoma AG Pruitt to Get the Nod for EPA Chief
13 hours ago
THE DETAILS
TO BE ANNOUNCED IN COMING DAYS
Trump To Nominate Gen. John Kelly For Homeland Security
16 hours ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump has chosen Gen. James Kelly to be his secretary of homeland security, making Kelly the third general tapped by Trump to serve in his administration. The official announcement is likely to come in the next couple of days. Kelly, who did not endorse Trump during the campaign, "was the commander of U.S. Southern Command until earlier this year."

Source:
EFFORT LIKELY TO DIE IN COMMITTEE
Jordan Can’t Force a Floor Vote on Impeaching Koskinen
1 days ago
THE LATEST
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan attempted to force a floor vote on impeaching IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, but "the House voted overwhelmingly to refer it to the Judiciary Committee. ... The committee will not be required to take up the resolution." Earlier, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi "made a motion to table the resolution, which the House voted against by a 180-235 margin, mostly along party lines."
Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login