Congressional Documents

Commander
Air Combat Command
[COMACC]

B-2 Congressional Written Statement

House Appropriations Committee

National Security Subcommittee

11 Jun 97

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

Thank you for this opportunity to appear before you to address the role of our bomber force, and especially the B-2, in our warfighting strategy. Air Combat Command is responsible for organizing, training, and equipping our U.S. based combat air forces for worldwide employment. We have responsibilities in three broad mission areas -- air defense, nuclear, and theater combat. First, we provide early warning radars for surveillance, and air defense forces to protect the sovereignty of North American airspace. Second, we provide battle management and nuclear forces to United States Strategic Command. Air Combat Command is responsible for one leg of our Nation's nuclear triad, our long range bomber force. Third, we are responsible for providing combat ready forces to the combatant commanders around the world for use during operational contingencies.

In response to changing national security requirements, we have substantially reduced our force structure and personnel. In 1988, the USAF had more than 38 Fighter Wing Equivalents (FWE -- 72 combat coded aircraft), 231 combat coded bombers, and 607,000 people. Today the USAF has 20 FWEs, (a 48% reduction in force structure), 100 combat coded bombers (a 56% reduction), and 379,000 airmen, (a reduction of 38%). The still heavy security commitments and other challenges this smaller force faces in a dangerous and uncertain world make our ability to rapidly project lethal combat power increasingly important. The forces we project must also be sustainable -- we have logged over 700,000 flight hours over Iraq and Bosnia in the six years since the end of the Gulf War.

Our efforts to provide combat ready airpower for theater commanders must be focused not only on building the world's best long range bomber force, but also on maintaining a balanced set of land based airpower capabilities to maximize our ability to deter aggression, prevent conflict, conduct peace operations, and to fight and win our nation's wars. As our weapons systems become more technologically advanced, they rely more heavily on information dominance. Therefore, that balanced mix of forces must include a robust capability to provide C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance). After considering the need to provide a balanced mix of force capabilities, I am convinced our programmed force, including a total of 21 B-2 bombers, is the right mix of airpower assets for this nation, given the fiscal constraints within which we must build an Air Force for the next century.

Within Air Combat Command, the balance of forces today includes fighter, bomber, rescue, reconnaissance, electronic combat, and command and control aircraft. Our 100 combat coded bombers include 78 active duty (78%) and 22 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve aircraft (22%). Of our 1026 combat coded fighter and attack aircraft, 522 are active duty (51%) while 504 are Guard or Reserve (49%). This blend of forces includes a "high-low mix" of capabilities in both our fighter and our bomber fleets. In both cases, a small number of our highest capability aircraft act as force enablers, allowing other "lower end" systems to operate with greater impunity.

The high end of our fighter mix includes a small number of today's premier air superiority fighter, the F-15C, to be replaced over the next fifteen years by the F-22 Raptor. Within our bomber force, the B-2 is the high end system, optimized for deep attacks into enemy airspace with little or no support. The B-2's ability to reach deep into enemy defense networks and disable command and control, infrastructure, integrated air defense, and other high value targets makes this aircraft a valuable force enabler. The

B-1, the backbone of our conventional bomber fleet, will employ its high speed, maneuverability, and improved defensive systems to attack the next level of medium and low threat targets with large payloads of highly accurate point and area munitions. In so doing, it will strike the bulk of the targets attacked by bombers. The B-52's contribution early in a conflict will be limited to a standoff role, but will follow up with direct attacks on lower threat targets when enemy defenses are weakened. This combination of aircraft meets the mission requirements of geographic commanders while providing our nation the maximum return on its investment in land based airpower.

The Air Force and Air Combat Command have maintained a steadfast commitment to bombers that manifests itself not only in our modernization accounts, but also in our Operations and Maintenance funding. For the period FY96-98, our command will spend 26 percent of its O&M budget on 78 active duty combat coded bombers and 49 percent of its O&M dollars on 522 active duty combat coded fighters. Over the next five years we will dedicate 30 percent of our O&M budget to bombers and 40 percent to fighters. We will also employ 22 percent of Air Combat Command's greatest asset, our people, to sustain these bombers as compared to 42 percent to sustain our fighters. The B-2 program by itself will consume 9.8 % of Air Combat Command's O&M budget.

Our robust commitment to bombers through both our investments and our operations budget, has paid off with quantum leaps in combat capability that now allow us to hold any target in the world at risk. We recently added stealth and precision to our bomber fleet's unmatched range, payload, and responsiveness. No other portion of our force structure combines these intrinsic characteristics. The B-2's ability to deliver 16 highly accurate GPS guided munitions on a single sortie has changed our thought process from how many sorties it takes to destroy a single target, to how many targets can be destroyed by a single aircraft sortie. All three of our bombers will soon be able to combine mass and precision in this manner, and further improvements will provide all bombers with precision standoff weapons to strike highly valued and heavily defended targets while minimizing risk to aircrews. When deployed forward early in a crisis, no other part of our force can equal the bombers of Air Combat Command, and especially the B-2, in decisively halting an invading force bent on threatening vital United States interests. And by halting an invading force early, the options available to the United States and its allies to end a crisis are multiplied.

Because it provides capabilities not present in any other portion of our force structure, our bomber fleet is a unique and vital component of our military forces. At the same time, other airpower capabilities are optimized to perform other critical missions, including peace operations, combat search and rescue, electronic warfare, and defensive counterair. The fighter and attack aircraft in Air Combat Command offer flexibility to perform a wide variety of missions. They also provide us the ability to sustain a lengthy air campaign, something that bombers by themselves, especially if operating from the CONUS, are unable to perform. Each Global Power bomber mission to the Middle East requires the commitment of 4 tanker sorties for each bomber employed. When employed in this Global Power mode, each bomber can sustain an average of one sortie every four days. When deployed forward to locations just outside a theater, bombers sustain an average of one sortie every two days at a cost of one tanker sortie per bomber employed. This contrasts with forward deployed fighters that can average one and one half sorties per day with a much lower tanker cost, only one tanker for every eight fighter sorties. These numbers do not discount our bombers' unparalleled capability to combine mass and precision in decisive strikes, rather they point out the complementary capabilities bombers and fighters bring to an integrated and balanced airpower package.

The B-2's revolutionary stealth technology also presents us with challenges as we sustain B-2 operations. Primary among these challenges are extensive low observable maintenance requirements on the aircraft's radar absorbing skin. These maintenance requirements currently limit B-2 operations to flying each aircraft only one day out of seven. If I had more funds to invest in the B-2 fleet, I would certainly place greater emphasis on stealth materials that are more durable and quicker to repair. I would also pursue command, control, and communications upgrades to improve flexibility.

In short, bombers provide unmatched responsiveness and bring massive firepower to bear against select targets while forward deployed fighters give us the capability to keep sustained pressure on a broad array of targets over a prolonged period. Our bomber force's capability to provide immediate and overwhelming firepower to any corner of the world within hours of launch has long placed these aircraft at the core of our power projection strategy. I support our currently programmed force of 21 B-2 bombers for the reasons outlined in the Quadrennial Defense Review. This fleet size works within our overall mix of airpower capabilities to meet national security requirements, maximize combat capability within current fiscal constraints, and produce a balanced set of airpower capabilities for the United States. Thank you Mr. Chairman for the opportunity to present this statement. I will be happy to answer your questions.