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 »
SHARES THEIR LOVE STORY
Bill Clinton Gets Personal in Convention Speech
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

“In the spring of 1971, I met a girl,” started Bill Clinton. In his speech Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention, Clinton brought a personal touch, telling parallel stories of his relationship with Hillary Clinton and the work she has done throughout her career. He lauded the Democratic nominee for her career of work, touching on her earliest days of advocacy for children and those with disabilities while in law school, her role as Secretary of State, and her work in raising their daughter, Chelsea. Providing a number of anecdotes throughout the speech, Clinton built to a crescendo, imploring the audience to support his wife for president. "You should elect her, she'll never quit when the going gets tough," he said. "Your children and grandchildren will be grateful."

LOUD “BLACK LIVES MATTER” CHANTS RING OUT
Mothers Of The Movement Endorse Hillary Clinton
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

A coalition of mothers whose children lost their lives in high profile cases across the country, known as the Mothers Of The Movement, were greeted with deafening chants of "Black Lives Matter" before telling their stories. The mothers of Sandra Bland, Jordan Davis, and Trayvon Martin spoke for the group, soliciting both tears and applause from the crowd. "Hillary Clinton has the compassion and understanding to comfort a grieving mother," said Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin. "And that's why, in the memory of our children, we are imploring you — all of you — to vote this election day."

SOUTH DAKOTA GIVES HER CLINCHING DELEGATES
Clinton Officially Democratic Nominee for President
11 hours ago
THE DETAILS

With the South Dakota delegation announcing its delegate count, Hillary Rodham Clinton is officially the Democratic nominee for president, surpassing the 2383 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Clinton is expected to speak at the convention on Thursday night and officially accept the nomination.

THE QUESTION
How Many People Protested in Philly Yesterday?
15 hours ago
THE ANSWER

About 5,500, according to official estimates. "The Monday figures marked a large increase from the protests at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where even the largest protests only drew a couple of hundred demonstrators. But it’s a far cry from the 35,000 to 50,000 that Philadelphia city officials initially expected."

Source:
NO BATTLEGROUND STATES LEAN TRUMP
NY Times’ Upshot Gives Clinton 68% Chance to Win
15 hours ago
THE LATEST

Only a day after FiveThirtyEight's Now Cast gave Donald Trump a 57% chance of winning, the New York Times' Upshot fires back with its own analysis that shows Hillary Clinton with a 68% chance to be the next president. Its model "calculates win probabilities for each state," which incorporate recent polls plus "a state's past election results and national polling." Notably, all of the battleground states that "vote like the country as a whole" either lean toward Clinton or are toss-ups. None lean toward Trump.

Source:
×