The head of US Air Force Global Strike Command has called for a beefed-up bomber force of “175 to 200” bombers and will make a formal recommendation to the service chief of staff and major command leaders next month.
Gen Robin Rand says he does not imagine keeping more than four bomber types, meaning the balance of the shortfall compared to today’s force of 159 bombers could mean more long-range strike bombers.
“I believe we need to throw out the word ‘80 to 100’ (new bombers),” Rand said during a panel at the Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida on 26 February. “I prefer to use the term ‘minimum of 100’, and we’ll continue to refine that. I’m going to bring to you and the major command commanders some proposals later next month, but we will need a combination of bombers that will be somewhere in the 175-200 range.”
Only 21 Northrop Grumman B-2s were built
US Air Force
The air force’s current bomber force of B-1Bs, B-52s and B-2s average 34 years of age and the long-range strike bomber (LRS-B) will replace all but the Northrop B-2A through the mid-2020s.
Speaking to Flightglobal, Rand says the final number will be informed by combatant commander requirements and will probably mean not keeping four bomber types. The numbers do not count any potential new bomber type that may appear in the future, he says.
“It will be somewhere inside 175 to 200,” he confirms. “How much of that will be LRS-B? I said we’ve got to stop using ‘80 to 100’ and I want to go with a minimum of 100 LRS-Bs.”
The air force would need 16 to 41 extra bombers, depending on the final requirement, to meet that new force size, or about three to four additional squadrons.
The disclosure follows the service’s announcement on 26 February of the B-21 designation for LRS-B and release of an artist’s impression depicting Northrop’s flying wing design.
Northrop Grumman B-21
US Air Force