Force gets a large portion of the funds allotted to military spending in order
to develop costly new aircraft programs and to maintain existing aircraft. The
Air Force is still in the middle of a bidding process to replace the aging
aerial tanker fleet in use, and last September the USAF also announced that a new bomber was critical for the defense of
When the USAF first mentioned the need for a new bomber the rough outline
was for a conventional bomber built on existing technology that would be
purchased in larger numbers than the current B-2. The USAF is now scaling back
their vision for that aircraft in the face of a tough budget crunch. Defense News reports
that the Air Force has noted that its plans for the bomber will be less ambitious than it previously
The lowered expectations for the new bomber will allow the USAF to better
manage the program and will make it easier for the contractor that builds the
aircraft to deliver on their promises.
General Norton Schwartz said, "We're not going to be as ambitious as we
perhaps were at one time." He continued, "And that kind of thing will
make it easier for us to manage and less challenging for industry to keep their
The Air Force might lower initial costs by making the aircraft easy to upgrade
later in its operational life for new capabilities. For instance, the aircraft
doesn't need nuclear capability now, but later it might. The bomber would be
built with the space needed for wiring and hardening for electromagnetic
protection so it can be cheaply upgraded for nuclear payloads.
While the USAF is being less ambitious about its future bomber, the Navy is
hitting a milestone with its new unmanned stealth bomber. The X-47B is a
stealth bomber that looks like a shrunken down version of the B-2. The Navy has
announced that the aircraft has taken its maiden flight.
Capt. Jamie Engdahl, program manager for the Unmanned Combat Air System
Demonstration said, "Today we got a glimpse towards the future as the
Navy's first-ever tailless, jet-powered unmanned aircraft took to the
The maiden flight for the X-47B lasted 29 minutes and the aircraft flew at up
to 5,000 feet with landing gear down. The flight is the first in a series of
50-flights planned for the year of testing. Once the first plane finishes its
testing, the second aircraft will start and after testing is completed the
aircraft will be sent to the Patuxent River Naval Air Station for the rest of
the carrier demonstration program.
Rear Adm. Bill Shannon, Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and
Strike Weapons said, "We are breaking new ground by developing the first
unmanned jet aircraft to take off and land aboard a flight deck. This
demonstration program is intended to reduce risk for potential future unmanned
systems operating in and around aircraft carriers."