16 March 2009

B-3 Program Killed

[T]he Obama admin has decided to delay purchase of a new tanker by five years and cut out altogether the Next Gen Bomber program . . . [but] no final decision has been made . . . . the F-22 line will be kept open, with production funding for as many as 40 more planes, and that the F-35 will be trimmed back from plans in 2010, but ramp back up in 2011 . . . though . . . [there are] no numbers to attach to [F-35] Lightning II buys.

From here.

The Next Generation Bomber has been called the B-3 by pundits and was reputedly similar in concept to the B-2 stealth bomber (long range, stealth, flying wing with a reasonably large payload), but more modern in its technology. This project is purportedly in early R&D stages with the basic concept itself something that has just been decided upon.

The new tanker is to replace the KC-135 (it looks like a commercial airliner with the tube hanging out that fighter planes touch their nose to while in flight to refuel). A first attempt at a tanker contract was embroiled in corruption exposed by Senator John McCain. A second attempt at a tanker contact was awarded to a consortium led by European aircraft maker Airbus, but cancelled after an appeal by Boeing related to the procurement process, which was currently in the process of being reopened.

The proposed F-22 purchase increase is reduced from a previous report that 60 more F-22s than originally planned were proposed. A temporary or permanent cut in F-35 procurement to offset increased F-22 procurement was implied when an increase in F-22 production was anounced, but not expressly stated. The F-22 is a fighter plane designed for air to air combat and small payload stealth bombing missions early in a conflict that replaces the F-15 fighter in service now. The F-35 is intended as a a multipurpose replacement for the F-16 and F-18 (at least), and comes in a plain vanilla Air Force version (the F-35A), a vertical landing version for the Marines and foreign allies (the F-35B), and an American aircraft carrier version (the F-35C).


Michael Malak said...

For conventional weapons, I've seen only morally repugnant uses of bombers.

For nuclear weapons, "nuclear triad" is a misnomer -- the only viable nuclear platform is subs. And this country has enough nuclear subs to destroy the world over.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The B-52 was instrumental in the early part of the campaign to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan. Bombers also played an important role in the war in Kosovo.

All war has moral issues associated with it, but it isn't obvious that the bombers are used a larger percentage of the time for ill purposes than, for example, ordinary firearms.

Michael Malak said...

The only just war in the history of this country is the Revolutionary War, as it freed us from an Anglican theocracy.

What about Afghanistan? I, a Republican delegate, will have to turn the tables on you, a Democratic Party officer, by citing commondreams.org. (The fact is that commondreams.org is more libertarian, like myself, than it is liberal.)


"A Just Cause, Not a Just War"

I've long held that "war by proxy" (e.g. Contras) and "war by remote control" (e.g. Sudan aspirin factories and Kosovo) are two of the greatest evils. And to repeat the words of many politicians who have been lambasted over these words, they represent a form of cowardice.

Michael Malak said...

And to throw out an even more provacative statement:

Killing the B-3 is perhaps the best thing Obama has done as president. So it seems that I am defending Obama and you are opposing him :-)

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Not really.

Killing the B-3 was a good move.

But, I don't favor the B-3, primarily because I think the B-2 and F-22 and cruise missiles and ballistic missiles sufficiently meet the nation's need for its mission, and not because I am philosophically opposed to bombers. I also tend to favor a bomber version of the soon to enter service P-8, in lieu of most of the cruise missile platform role of our current surface fleet.

I do have some doubts about delaying the next generation air tanker (even if one were to oppose war entirely, they have use in disaster response missions, for example, and the current model is getting old from heavy use).

I am largely ambivalent about the F-22 v. F-35 trade off.