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What future for strategic bombers

More than 30 military and civilian strategic air power experts gathered on May 5 to discuss ideas for a new long-range strike bomber.

The Bomber Advisory Group examined past and current global strike success stories and strategic air power’s role in the 21st century. The group also brainstormed ways to bring Barksdale Air Force Base’s surrounding Shreveport-Bossier City community into the thinking about the future of strategic air power.

strategic bomber

Dr. Rebecca Grant, the director of the Gen. William Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies, and Lt. Gen. Jim Kowalski, the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command attended the conference. Past Eight Air Force commanders, Lieutenant Generals Phillip Ford, Tom Keck and Bob Elder also attended.

Not all the nation’s decision-makers understand why America must build a new bomber right now, Dr. Grant said, “and it is up to the practitioners of strategic air power to help us frame that answer – why does America need a new bomber right now, what are these missions?”

“This group is quite a distinguished group of people,” said Maj. Gen. Floyd Carpenter, the Eighth Air Force commander and the commander of Strategic Command’s Air Forces Strategic. “We need advocates for these types of capabilities,” he said.

The general pointed out the prior Eighth Air Force commanders and industry leaders who know from experience how to articulate the nation’s need for long-range bombers.

strategic bombers

During her overview of strategic airpower, Dr. Grant discussed the evolution of bombers from 1917 on, as they addressed national strategy and security needs.

“Air power is key to our foreign policy,” she said. “Look what we did with Libya,” referring to Operation Odyssey Dawn. “Air power was key to the ability to have that response.”

In the Air Force Posture Statement for 2011, Michael B. Donley, the Secretary of the Air Force, discusses the need for a new long-rang strike bomber.

“We must sustain our ability to consistently hold any target on the planet at risk with the development of a Long-Range Strike Family of Systems capability — including a new penetrating bomber — to create desired effects across the full range of military operations in both permissive and contested environments,” Secretary Donley said.

In January, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced plans for the Air Force to invest in a new long-range, penetrating, and nuclear-capable bomber capable of either manned or unmanned operations, according to the Posture Statement.

“A major focus of this program is to develop an affordable, long-range penetrating strike capability that delivers on schedule and in quantity,” Secretary Donley said. “This aircraft will be designed and built using proven technologies, will leverage existing systems to provide sufficient capability, and allow growth to improve the system as technology matures and threats evolve.”


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