The Air Force needs to proceed with development of a long range, strategic bomber to replace its aging fleet of B-52s and the more expensive limited role B-1Bs and B-2s, said Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Ga.
Until this year, the Air Force has been working on a new bomber program, which had the goal of developing a prototype bomber by 2018. There is no indication that work on a new bomber would be done at Robins Air Force Base, Marshall said Wednesday, “or that a home base decision has been made.
“It is too early for that, right now. That’s not to say Robins would not be capable or in the running for a new bomber. At the end of the day, Americans need this program” for defense of the country.
Robins is no stranger to bomber wings. The B-1B Lancer of the Georgia Air National Guard flew out of the base until 2002. Also, Robins served as a Strategic Air Command base for B-47s, and ultimately B-52s, until 1983.
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The Air Force mainly relies on its B-52 Stratofortress for conventional air strikes using high explosive bombs. Those aircraft were built in the 1950s.
The B-1B Lancer and B-2A Spirit fleets were designed for specific missions and are not flexible to meet a wide range of missions, according to Air Force documents that lay out the service’s need for a new bomber.
“What we have in the inventory today is mostly old or very expensive to fly. The B-52s date to the 1950s, and our B-1s and B-2s are tremendously expensive to fly,” Marshall said. “When we need the capability of a new bomber, it can’t be just sitting around on a desktop as a study. We have to move forward.”
The White House allocated no money in its fiscal 2010 Department of Defense budget for development of the bomber, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last year the Pentagon needs to better understand the need for a new bomber and the technology to build it.
The Air Force has spent about $100 million on bomber research since 2005, and there was about $40 million set aside for further study of the bomber in the 2010 budget. The White House cut that money, and removed about $30 million more the Air Force wanted for research on a new bomber over the next five years.
The Air Force has been researching bomber replacements on and off for 20 years.
“It’s time to quit the studies and proceed,” said Marshall, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “We’ve spent millions on studies. At some point, there’s nothing left to research. We have to make a decision. My support is to proceed with the Next Generation Bomber program. The Air Force needs it.
“We’ve enjoyed this strategic advantage since the end of World War II. We can’t wake up some day and have let it go.”
To contact writer Shelby G. Spires, call 744-4494.