Air Force chief describes future bomber

The Air Force's top general on Tuesday reaffirmed his service's commitment to fielding a new stealth bomber by 2018.

The future bomber will be capable of penetrating sophisticated enemy air defenses day or night, said Air Force chief Gen. Michael Moseley, at a breakfast in Washington hosted by Government Executive. To survive daylight raids in heavily defended enemy territory, the bomber would need to be fast and highly maneuverable in addition to stealthy.

"We can make 2018," Moseley said, "because we've asked industry to look at using the existing engines, existing sensors, existing weapons, weapons bays, just like we built the F-117 in the late '70s and early '80s. We used F-15 landing gear; we used internal structures off of other airplanes."

He noted that the export to potential enemies of advanced fourth-generation integrated air defenses and modern Russian-built Sukhoi and MiG fighters means many existing Air Force jets would not survive future air campaigns. "The 2018 [bomber] will have the signatures and the capability to survive day or night in any of those environments," Moseley said, adding that the new bombers will "tear up" enemy air defenses.

The Air Force currently has only 21 B-2 penetrating bombers, Moseley said. The service's 97 B-52 and 67 B-1 nonstealth bombers have proved to be "wonderful trucks" to use over Iraq and Afghanistan to provide 24-hour air support to ground forces, but would not survive against modern air defenses, he said. The new fifth-generation bomber will be much stealthier than even the B-2 stealth bomber and F-117 stealth fighter, as those planes used 1970s and 1980s technology, he added. The 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review directed the Air Force to field a follow-on to the B-2 bomber by 2018. There has been considerable speculation surrounding what a new bomber will look like. In 2002, then-secretary James Roche directed the Air Force to look at modifying the Lockheed Martin-built F-22 Raptor fighter into an "FB-22" version. The B-designation indicates bomber.

Studies by Lockheed Martin showed an FB-22 -- which would largely resemble the existing F-22 but with larger wings that would hold more fuel to extend its range -- would offer improved stealth, the ability to defeat enemy fighters and the possibility of a two-man crew to ease pilot strain during long-range bombing missions.

But some discount the idea of a future bomber resembling an F-22. "To get the range and payload" the Air Force wants in a new bomber, the service would need a much larger aircraft, said Rebecca Grant, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Va., think tank.

Moseley said the Air Force has a stated need for 381 F-22 fighters, although the service has been authorized only 183 by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He said without the full 381, the Air Force would not be able to generate as many attack sorties as would be required in future wars.

Instead of the traditional 24 planes per squadron, squadrons would have only 18 F-22 jets. "You don't have the overall capacity to deploy and generate forces with 183 total versus 381... [you have] less ability to provide the capacity to theater commanders, less sortie generation rate, less training capacity," Moseley said.

He said that beyond the 2018 bomber, the Air Force is considering a next-generation one that will incorporate much greater "technological leaps." New technologies the service is examining include a Mach-5 speed capability and the ability to fly at very high altitudes -- possibly exoatmospheric ones.

The Air Force chief also said the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are straining current defense budgets, and added that it's time for the country to have a discussion on the percentage of gross domestic product that is devoted to defense spending. Current defense spending is close to 4 percent of GDP. While declining to state a desired percentage, Moseley said, "I think on the aegis of what would be a 1 percent or 0.5 percent [increase], what would that mean to the Army's Future Combat Systems, Navy shipbuilding, Marine modernization… and recapitalization of the Air Force. I think there is something there to have a reasonable discussion."

Click here for a complete transcript of Moseley's remarks at the breakfast.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.