Continuing our midweek focus on stealthy jets, Air Force brass today said budget pressures are the reason that it will take until the mid-2020s for the next generation stealth bomber to be operational, despite the fact that it is being developed with existing and "mature" technologies.
"It's an issue of affordability and fitting this program in with all those other Air Force priorities we've outlined today; building the [KC-46] tanker, building the Joint Strike Fighter . . . funding satellites on a schedule that we need to make sure we don't reach the point of mission failure," Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee today.
Donley was answering a question from New Jersey Democrat Rep. Steve Rothman, as to why it will take so long to field an aircraft built using "proven" technologies. DoDBuzz asked this very question on the day the Pentagon rolled out its fiscal year 2012 budget.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz then added a bit of clarity as t the weapons the bomber will carry, confirming that in addition to normal guided bombs and nuclear munitions, the jet will carry "stand-off" weapons, aka cruise missiles.
Yesterday, Donley and Schwartz told Senators that the service hopes to buy 80 to 100 of the new bombers, which are expected to reach initial operating capability in the "mid 2020s." The Air Force included $197 million for the bomber in its FY-12 budget request and has slated $3.7 billion for the plane over the next five years.