The next bomber in the US Air Force inventory should be stealthy and subsonic. It should travel 2,000-nautical miles to its target and have enough fuel on board to get home. It should carry at least 28 500-pound bombs. And (surprise!) there should be a human pilot on board.
These are the conclusions of the air force's recently completed analysis of alternatives for a next-generation bomber to be fielded around 2018.
This is supposed to be a new thing, of course, but those specifications seem strangely familiar.
Anyone remember the A-12 Avenger II? It, too, was a stealthy, subsonic, manned aircraft that blurred the boundary between an attack aircraft and a bomber.
Dick Cheney cancelled the A-12 program on 7 January 1991, just as the bombs started to fall on Baghdad during Operation Desert Storm.
True, the A-12 was conceived as a carrier-based land attack aircraft, but it wasn't entirely a navy bird. According to our dog-eared copy of Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1991-92, a "USAF A-12" had been proposed as a replacement for the F-111.
The F-111 was designed to carry 24 500-pound bombs and travel 1,800 miles, and it's not unfair to think the proposed USAF variant of the super-secret A-12 would have been very similar in capability.
So, congratulations, taxpayers: Watch the air force spend billions of dollars over the next decade for an aircraft that General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas very nearly delivered to the navy and the air force 15 years ago.