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U.S. Must Invest More In Its Geriatric Bomber Force

This 4th of July, Americans witnessed flyovers of our airpower. It was a far cry from the airpower displays over Washington, D.C., that I viewed as a boy on national holidays in the late 1950s. Then, dozens of B-47 bombers literally cast a shadow over the viewers. On this Fourth, only three bombers were on display­­—a B-52 built in the Kennedy years; a B-1B built during the Reagan administration; and our “newest” bomber, the B-2, over 30 years of age.

To put the current bomber deficit situation in historical context, in 1957 the Air Force had 2,334 bombers in its inventory; in 1990 it had 411; the 2021 budget plans for 140. Yes, times have changed, but arguably the security challenges for the foreseeable future are much more complex and challenging than ever before. 

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Military Conducts Live-Fire Coordination, Interoperability Training on Hawaii island

Interoperability training among the nation’s armed forces is occurring in Hawaii on an unprecedented scale — and China is the reason, defense experts say.

In the most recent example, two Air Force B-52 bombers, more than 1,500 Schofield Barracks soldiers, at least 30 Army helicopters and Arkansas-based C-130 cargo carriers deployed to Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii island for a 10-day “fire support coordination exercise.”

“Being able to practice close-air support with B-52 bombers dropping over 15, 000 pounds of high explosives while running alongside our Army brethren in a company movement with (helicopter ) attack aviation to the left and active artillery to the right, provided numerous lessons, ” Capt. Austin Hairfield, with the 25th Air Support Operations Squadron, said in an Air Force news release.

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Plans for Pentagon’s Future Flying Bomb Truck Begin to Take Shape

Defense Department officials may select a bomber already in the Air Force’s inventory to become its munitions-packed “arsenal plane,” Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said Tuesday.

Roper told reporters in Washington, D.C. that the service has a vision for its current bomber fleet, which constitutes turning the bomber force — the B-52 Stratofortress, B-1 Lancer or B-2 Spirit — into “something else” in the future. Hypothetically, a B-52 loaded with multiple hypersonic weapons can evolve from its standard function into a “missileer,” Roper said.

The acquisition chief said the service has been working with the Air Force Global Strike Command on hypersonic weapons tests on the B-52. The Air Force in June flew its first test flight of the AGM-183A Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon, a hypersonic weapon known as ARRW (pronounced “Arrow”).

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Air Force bomber plan: B-2, B-52 and B-1 to fly into 2040

The B-52 will be armed with long-range, nuclear cruise missiles? the B-2 will elude the most modern air defenses and the B-1B bomber will fire hypersonic weapons — if the Air Force?s plan for the next several decades comes to fruition.

Air Force weapons developers are immersed in an intricate plan to bring the service?s bomber fleet into future decades — by adding weapons, avionics and networking technologies to current aircraft and moving quickly to bring new B-21 bombers to the force.

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