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The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments is due to roll out its report on long-range strike this afternoon, while a Pentagon study of the same topic is due to report within the next several weeks, in time for its conclusions to be reflected in the FY2010 budget request. Air Force people seem to be more optimistic about the idea of a new bomber - or, as it is often described, a long-range ISR and strike system - than they were a year or so ago, after the cancellation of the Next Generation Bomber. Air Force secretary Michael Donley says "we have been working in DoD to evaluate how far we have come in 12-18 months since NGB was terminated" and commented at the Air Force Association yesterday that he and his staff have been studying lessons of past bomber programs - most of which, since the B-52, have been terminated or produced fewer aircraft than planned."We need an inventory that's large enough that allows us to both maintain a force in CONUS and deploy them outside CONUS on a regular schedule," Donley says, "but not so large that we can't afford it." Industry people, meanwhile, talk about a force of 100 aircraft costing about $500 million apiece - about five times as much as a fighter and a total investment similar to building a new SSBN fleet. Outgoing USAF ISR chief Lt Gen Dave Deptula - in the course of warning that potential-adversary missile and fighter developments are jeopardising US air supremacy - stressed the need to replace the "geriatric" US bomber force. It's notable that Deptula has been the leading advocate for regarding the ISR and strike missions as indivisible and that his view now seems to be widely accepted. Bomber advocates at least seem to believe that the Pentagon study will not reject a new bomber in favor of cruise missiles - which they argue would actually be more expensive, including ship, submarine and air platforms and the technology that would be needed for a stealthy cruise missile that could find and hit moving targets.
ar99, tacair, afa10
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