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May 16, 2012

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Krypton

Why do we need penetration bombers when we already have standoff missles available- and with better ones to come- that make manned penetration of a target necessary? I mean, if Tom Cruise wants to volunteer, I'd cheerfully throw away his "contribution", but not one of our REAL pilots. We still need offensive weapons aboard the bombers, but if we do, how long will it take to screw-on a couple of boxes and a missle rail? A B-52 or B-1 could CARRY a small manned or UAV interceptor. The Brits didn't even have a usable jamming system on their Vulcans before the Falklands started.

The B-2 was really impressive when it dropped the same bombs the B-1 and B-52 could drop for little real money. And they still talk about the crew sleeping quarters on the B-2 being an aluminum chaise from Wal-Mart (no offense, Big W). Advanced on-board systems usually fit in the weight/volume requirement for the existing system, with room left over for at least a case of beer. And all indications are that the Sovs (and therefore, the Iranians, the Chinese, ...) have already solved the "stealth" problem. And what possible good is a subsonic bomber? The eye remains the primary detection device, and the brain the primary fire-control-system. THAT WON"T CHANGE.

Face it- the real reason they had all those NGB requests was to see what the vendors were ready to offer for the requirement. They gave us back the F-35, the F-22, and the LCS. In any case, NO ONE IN THE PRESENT GOVERNMENT can hide 660M in a rounding error. The F-18 may not be your dream-gun, but it works, will work now, and will work ten years from now. Neither the F-22 nor the F-35B may ever fire a shot in anger. By the way, they solved the intercept problem for submarines before WWII, and they solved it again for ACM in the SAGE system. The entire Sage computer, including comms, fits on an 8x10 printed circuit, now (it was never much more powerful than a Commodore 64).

What we need in the next generation is a bunch of contractors we can trust to do their best. All else is folly.

@DFENS: Tight, bright, and to the point. Thanks for the comment.

Zbigniew Mazurak

The comments about the next gen bomber and the F-35B/C are utter garbage, written of course by ignorant hacks zealously hostile to a strong defense.

First, the Next Generation Bomber. There is a clear and URGENT need for it. The USAF's B-1 and B-52 bombers - which make up the vast majority of its small bomber fleet - are nonstealthy, have large RCSes, and are therefore easy to detect by modern radar and easy to shoot down for any enemy. They furthermore lack any defensive armament. Moreover, the cost of maintaining them (especially B-1s) is significant and rising due to their old age.

These old nonstealthy bombers are easy to shoot down and therefore unsurvivable in any environment except the most permissive ones, where the enemy is an insurgency or a weak country unable to contest control of the air. Yet, this kind of war environments is scarce and becoming even less frequent. Countries such as China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela have advanced Integrated Air Defense Systems and, in China's, Russia's, and Venezuela's case, advanced fighterplanes.

These heavily-defended theaters will be those in which the USAF will be forced to operate in the future in almost any contingency. Yet, the only current USAF bombers capable of surviving in such an environment are a handful (20) of B-2s. And even they won't remain stealthy forever: their stealth technology is 80s' vintage. By the 2020s or the 2030s, they may lose their ability to penetrate enemy airspace as well.

Delaying, or even worse, cancelling the development of the Next Generation Bomber would cause the Air Force to completely lose its already small (due to the small size of the B-2 fleet) long-range penetrating capability by the time B-2s lose that capability. This, in turn, would cause the USAF to be unable to strike any targets protected by modern IADS and/or fighters, thus creating huge sanctuaries for America's enemies - a scenario that America cannot accept.

It is therefore imperative to begin the NGB's development NOW - not a year from today, not in 2023, not in 2024, but NOW - and to complete it BEFORE the B-2 loses its penetrating capability.

POGO complains about the cost ($6.3 bn over five years), but its own figures show that this would be just a few hundred million dollars in the first 2-3 FYs, and only a few billion in FY2016-FY2018. The Air Force, with an annual budget of ca. $150 bn, can certainly afford such tiny expenditures, even if it has to cut spending elsewhere. Even the entire $6.3 bn sum is small - especially given that it would be paid over five years, not one FY - which, on average, amounts to just $660 mn, which is a rounding error in the DOD's budget.

To sum up, the Next Gen Bomber is, contrary to POGO's lies, absolutely needed, and needed now, and even if POGO's numbers are correct, it will cost only peanuts to develop - a tiny price to pay compared to how much almost every other DOD weapon program costs, and compared to the overwhelming bias in the DOD's budget in favor of short-range weapons (e.g. the F-35) and against long-range strike weapons, which the nonpartisan CSBA says amounts to a 20:1 ratio.

I am hardly the only person saying that the NGB is necessary. Successive SECDEFs from Rumsfeld to Panetta have said the same, as have the current CSAF and SECAF, their predecessors, their colleague Adm. Greenert, and numerous outside experts from the CSBA and the Heritage Foundation[1]. This requirement has also been validated by two successive QDRs - those of 2006 and that of 2010. The fact is that, contrary to POGO's lies, the Next Generation Bomber is needed - and fast.

Now, the F-35B. POGO falsely claims that the Super Bug has capabilities that "rival" those of the F-35. That is completely false; the Super Bug has no such capabilities. Not turning capability, not thrust, not TTW ratio, not speed, not stealthiness (and thus survivability), and not weapons possible for integration (the F-35 can, for example, be fitted with Meteor A2A missiles; the Super Bug cannot). The Super Bug's combat radius (350 nmi) is DECISIVELY inferior to that of the F-35B and F-35C. Yet, range and endurance are absolutely vital, as is stealthiness, because it determines survivability. If a plane is not survivable, it's worthless - and that's exactly true of the Super Bug.

The "proven" Super Bug, like B-1s and B-52s, has "proven itself" only in permissive environments (Afghanistan and Iraq) where the only opponent is an insurgency unable to contest control of the air. It is useless for any war theaters in which the enemy is a country with advanced IADS and/or fighters. It's not even fit for any real A2A combat (and has not partaken in any), because it's not a real fighter, but rather an attack jet. And it doesn't have the STOVL capability required to take off from and land on amphib ships and primitive airfields, which is an absolute non-negotiable USMC requirement.

In short, Ben Freeman and Mia Steinle have, like other POGO anti-defense hacks, once again proven their utter ignorance, and not "waste" in the defense budget. And contrary to their pious denials that

"These amendments would result in savings without compromising security..."

The fact is that the amendments delaying the NGB and cancelling the F-35 would GRAVELY compromise security by undermining America's airpower and its ability to operate in A2/AD environments and penetrate defended airspace. These amendments were rightly rejected. They shouldn't even have been considered.

[1] See e.g. Mark Gunzinger, Sustaining America's advantage in Long-Range Strike, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Washington DC, 2010.

Dfens

The Air Force hasn't had a new tactical cargo aircraft since the 1950's, but they're wasting our money on a bomber to replace the last one they built in the 1990s that they told us they only needed 20 of then? Right. There's probably 300 different variants of the C-130 flying right now, while the B-2 still has only one role, dropping bombs. Cargo aircraft are the Swiss Army knives of the airplane world and can do any job up to and including dropping bombs, but the US Air Force definitely needs a new dedicated bomber. Pretty thin.

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