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Return of the Bomber: The Future of Long-Range Strike

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This monograph on the future of the bomber begins with an introduction that chronicles the success of the VIII Bomber Command during World War II. The commander of the VIII Bomber Command, Brig. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, U.S. Army Air Forces, led his fliers on long-range missions into the heart of Nazi-occupied Europe. Things have changed since then. The Air Force stopped acquiring new bombers in 1997, and the result is a bomber gap. The USAF has maintained its bomber fleet, but the fleet is old and in constant need of modernization. The lack of modern bombers severely hampers the United States long-range strike capabilities. Part I, The Bomber Gap, reviews 80 years of American bomber force development, the demise of the B-2 bomber program, the success of the B-52 in Operation Desert Storm despite the glory going to precision attack by fighters rather than strategic bombing, and the risks of having an insufficient fleet of long-range stealthy bombers. Part II focuses on modernizing the existing bomber fleet the use of the B-52 and the B-1B in Iraq in 1996 and 1998 the debut of the B-2 in Serbia in March 1999 and the role of the B-52, B-1B, and B-2 in Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001 and in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Part III, Closing the Gap, examines the warning signs that the current long-range strike force will not be adequate for the future, including barriers to forward base access a change in course about the bomber fleet that started with a December 2003 long-range strike summit and the February 2004 Corona South meetings and the 2005 Quadrennial Defense Reviews key goal Develop a new land-based, penetrating long-range strike capability to be fielded by 2018 while modernizing the current bomber force. Part IV looks at the desired capabilities of a new 2018 bomber in terms of range, payload, survivability, speed, and persistence optionally manned bombers and autonomous refueling. Part V presents the views of skeptics and other challenges.

Subject Categories:

  • Bombers
  • Humanities and History
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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