BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. FLEMING. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
Delaying development of the new bomber for 10 years would put the average age of the bomber fleet over 50 years old by the time a new bomber was fielded, our oldest of which, the B 52, would be nearly 75 years old. It would create unacceptable levels of risk regarding power projection requirements and would affect our national security.
The Air Force has only 19 B 2 stealth bombers in the inventory, but they are 1980s technology, very maintenance intensive and very expensive to own and operate. The aircraft availability rate of the B 2 bomber fleet today being ready at a moment's notice for a mission is currently less than 40 percent.
A mainstay of the U.S. global military power is the ability to conduct long-range conventional or nuclear strike missions anywhere in the world and against any type of threat. Therefore, it is imperative to maintain a credible bomber fleet.
The Air Force plans to affordably, cost-effectively develop off-the-shelf technology--stuff that exists today--instead of inventing new technologies which in the past have led to cost overruns.
And I would say to the gentleman, don't just take my opinion. It's in the President's budget, so the administration obviously supports it. The Air Force says it's one of its top priorities.
We're in a day when oftentimes Congress wants things for the Pentagon that the Pentagon doesn't want. In this case, the Pentagon and the Air Force wants it. But let me quote what the Air Force said:
Delaying the long-range strike bomber program for 10 years would create unacceptable levels of risk in our ability to directly support future power projection requirements, significantly impacting national security. The long-range bomber will possess unique capabilities, including long-range, significant payload capacity, operational flexibility, and survivability in anti-access environments. It will replace existing bomber aircraft, some of which will be over six decades old when the long-range strike bomber reaches initial operational capability.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT