The case for the B-3 bomber

Mackenzie Eaglen:
There’s a reason Pentagon leaders are obsessed with outreach to Silicon Valley and furiously pursuing ventures in innovation like the “Third Offset” strategy. That reason is because the U.S. military is being challenged in a fundamental ingredient of what makes America a superpower: Power Projection.

Advanced enemy air defenses, newer ballistic and cruise missiles, shrinking overseas basing, and hardened, buried and mobile targets are increasing. The geriatric B-52s and aging B-1s cannot survive against the surface-to-air missiles of China, Russia, and even Iran. Additionally, both Russia and China will soon field long-range fifth-generation interceptor aircraft sporting longer range air-to-air missiles, a combination specially designed to destroy non-stealthy bombers and their support aircraft at great range.

Until the Navy develops a long-range carrier drone, its carrier air wing will have a relatively short range; to make a difference, it will have to put a $13 billion carrier directly in harm’s way. Combined with the fact that U.S. overseas basing has shrunk and advanced air defense systems threaten our Reagan-era aircraft fleet, few American military assets will be able to freely enter enemy airspace, which leaves the United States vulnerable.

All of these developments make a new bomber a strategic asset and essential investment: America does not win the war without it. Even more important, buying a new bomber that can attack any target in the world should help prevent the war from ever starting in the first place.

In every conflict since Operation Desert Storm in 1991, American bombers have kicked down the door for follow-on strike fighter aircraft from the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. Stealthy B-2s were first to fly and clear the skies for other air assets and ground forces to maneuver in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

But America’s current bomber fleet is old, and small. The bombers available number large enough for a raid; not a campaign. That is hardly a fleet size that will deter potential enemies or factor into their decision making.
There is more.

One of the reasons there have been so few new systems developed is the cost of the planes.  Having this capability will require an investment that many in Washington would rather see go to social programs making it hard to get approval.  The F-35 is a case in point.  It is repeating a mistake from teh McNamara era of trying to make a plane do more jobs than speciality aircraft, and it winds up costing more than building dedicated air craft.

I do think the Navy's attack drone program is a needed option that allows a strike from carriers that are out of range of enemy anti ship missiles.


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