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 »
WITH LIVE BLOGGING
Trump Deposition Video Is Online
2 hours ago
STAFF PICKS

The video of Donald Trump's deposition in his case against restaurateur Jeffrey Zakarian is now live. Slate's Jim Newell and Josh Voorhees are live-blogging it while they watch.

Source:
SOUND LEVEL AFFECTED
Debate Commission Admits Issues with Trump’s Mic
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

The Commission on Presidential Debates put out a statement today that gives credence to Donald Trump's claims that he had a bad microphone on Monday night. "Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump's audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall," read the statement in its entirety.

Source:
TRUMP VS. CHEFS
Trump Deposition Video to Be Released
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A video of Donald Trump testifying under oath about his provocative rhetoric about Mexicans and other Latinos is set to go public" as soon as today. "Trump gave the testimony in June at a law office in Washington in connection with one of two lawsuits he filed last year after prominent chefs reacted to the controversy over his remarks by pulling out of plans to open restaurants at his new D.C. hotel. D.C. Superior Court Judge Brian Holeman said in an order issued Thursday evening that fears the testimony might show up in campaign commercials were no basis to keep the public from seeing the video."

Source:
A CANDIDATE TO BE ‘PROUD’ OF
Chicago Tribune Endorses Gary Johnson
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

No matter that his recall of foreign leaders leaves something to be desired, Gary Johnson is the choice of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board. The editors argue that Donald Trump couldn't do the job of president, while hitting Hillary Clinton for "her intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust." Which leaves them with Johnson. "Every American who casts a vote for him is standing for principles," they write, "and can be proud of that vote. Yes, proud of a candidate in 2016."

FUNERAL FOR ISRAELI LEADER
Obama Compares Peres to ‘Giants of the 20th Century’
7 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Speaking at the funeral of former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, President Obama "compared Peres to 'other giants of the 20th century' such as Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth who 'find no need to posture or traffic in what's popular in the moment.'" Among the 6,000 mourners at the service was Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Obama called Abbas's presence a sign of the "unfinished business of peace" in the region.

Source:
×