Thursday, May 24, 2007

Air Force seeks 100 sub-sonic bombers as 'stop-gap'

Above: The Air Force has a fleet of 21 B-2 'stealth' bombers, built at a cost of $1.5 billion each.

The Air Force may trade building a faster bomber in favor of building a bomber faster — even if it means lowering technological expectations for now.

Expectations seem to have been dialed down from a supersonic, super-stealthy long-range bomber to a manned, subsonic aircraft with a range of 2,500 nautical miles. Sources say the service plans to buy only about 100 of the stop-gap planes while exploring other options for future bombers.

As recently as last year, the Air Force planned a new bomber program between 2025 and 2037. But the Pentagon’s 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review said the need was more urgent.

So service leaders developed a three-pronged approach: modernize existing bombers, use today’s technology to put a new long-range strike plane in the air by 2018, and seek new technology for yet another new aircraft for service no later than 2035.

Read the rest at Air Force Times