Need For The B-2 Bomber AUTHOR Major Lynn M. Harris, USAF CSC 1991 SUBJECT AREA - Aviation EXECUTIVE SUMMARY TITLE: NEED FOR THE B-2 BOMBER Introduction: The B-2 should be the most effective means of maintaining the contributions of the United States bomber force for the long term. B-2's Contribution To U.S. National Security: The B-2 is an intercontinental bomber that employs stealth technology. Its primary mission will be to deter a nuclear attack by providing the bomber leg of our strategic Triad with the capability to penetrate Soviet air defenses. The Threat: Since 1965, the Soviets have invested over $400 billion to create a formidable integrated air defense system. By the mid-1990s, the Soviet homeland defense force will consist primarily of look-down shoot-down systems and new surface-to-air missile systems continue to replace older ones. This threat extends beyond the Soviet Union to other areas such as the Persian Gulf and the Pacific, where United States forces might be called upon to operate. Stealth Technologies Reduce The B-2's Signature: "Stealth" is a popular name for a group of technologies more precisely termed "low observables". Stealth not only protects an aircraft (defense) , but greatly enhances the aircraft's likelihood of prosecuting a successful strike (offense). Stealth Technology Is Proven In Southwest Asia: The success of the F-117A stealth fighter in the Persian Gulf war demonstrates the importance of continuing the B-2 stealth bomber program, a system almost canceled by Congress last year. B-52 Nor B-1 Are Viable Long Term Alternatives: The B-52 is already so constrained by advances in air defense technology that it is losing its viability as a penetrating bomber. Also, the B-1 will be increasingly constrained by the evolving air defense threat environment. Cost: Because the B-2 has drawn such critical attention and comment, cost has emerged as one of the most important issues in determining whether or not the B-2 Program goes forward. Counting Rule In Strategic Arms Reduction Talks: In the ongoing Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START), the United States and the Soviet Union have agreed to count bombers as the equivalent of one nuclear warhead. Conclusion: The most effective method of maintaining the viability of the bomber force is to procure the B-2. THE NEED FOR THE B-2 BOMBER OUTLINE Thesis Statement. The B-2 is the most effective means of maintaining the contributions of the United States bomber force for the long term. I. B-2's contribution to U.S. security A. B-2 employs stealth technology B. Nuclear deterrence must remain paramount II. The threat A. The Soviets have invested heavily in air defense B. The threat extends beyond the Soviet Union III. Stealth technologies reduce the B-2's signature A. More precisely known as "low observables" B. Provides defensive and offensive capabilities IV. Stealth technology is proven in Southwest Asia V. Neither the B-52 nor B-1 are viable alternatives A. Improved Soviet air defense system B. B-2 negates the Soviet investment in air defense VI. Cost B. One of the most important issues C. Costs are expressed in differing ways VII. Counting rule in Strategic Arms Reduction Talks VIII.Conclusion A. The U.S. should procure the B-2 B. Advantages overcome the disadvantages NEED FOR THE B-2 BOMBER The United States Air Force's commitment to the B-2 bomber is rooted in the historical experience of long-range bomber development and operations, the bomber's indispensable role in supporting nuclear deterrence, and the unique flexibility that makes it a particularly effective weapon for conventional operations and the projection of U.S. power. Understanding the flexibility of long-range bombers, in both nuclear and conventional operations, is key to understanding their utility in supporting U.S. national security objectives across the spectrum of potential conflict. The rapid changes in the global security environment have added unprecedented uncertainty to our security planning and have increased the importance of flexibility and adaptability when developing weapon systems. The B-2 should be the most effective means of maintaining the contributions of the United States' bomber force for the long term. B-2's Contribution To U.S. National Security The B-2 is an intercontinental bomber that employs stealth technology. Its primary mission will be to deter a nuclear attack by providing the bomber leg of our strategic Triad with the capability to penetrate Soviet air defenses. (7:6) The maintenance of a stable, deterring nuclear balance vis-a-vis the Soviet Union must remain paramount. (8:101) Only Soviet nuclear forces today have the capability to destroy our nation and the Soviets continue to modernize. Although Soviet forces are likely to be reshaped to meet arms control constraints, their weapons will continue to improve in capabilities. Nuclear power is the Soviet's undisputed claim to superpower status. (7: 14) For the foreseeable future, the Soviets will retain the capability to deliver thousands of nuclear warheads against our nation. With uncertainty about the future course of the Soviet Union, the United States must continue to maintain its strategic nuclear capability. The bomber enhances the stability of the nuclear balance. (8:102) Its high survivability promises any aggressor that an attack will be met with devastating retaliation, while its slow speed compared to ballistic missiles means that the bomber does not pose a credible first strike capability. Because it can be generated, dispersed, launched under positive control, and then recalled or redirected, the bomber also provides the U.S. a highly flexible means of sending a variety of unmistakable messages to an adversary to help defuse and stabilize crises. The bomber's flexibility makes it the only element of the Triad that makes key contributions in both conventional and nuclear roles. In nuclear operations, the penetrating bomber provides the best combination of accuracy and weapon yield compared to any current or projected Triad system. (8:105) The bomber crews capabilities to assess whether sites have useful targets present and whether high priority locations targeted by more than one weapon require a follow-up attack enhances efficiencies. According to General John T. Chain, Commander- in-Chief Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC), "the B-2's unique capabilities will increase our ability to hold at risk a wide range of Soviet offensive forces on an enduring basis." (10:23) In essence, the penetrating bomber can hold more targets at risk than the actual number of weapons carried. The penetrating bomber's complementary relationship with cruise missile carriers also enhances the effectiveness of the air breathing force as a whole. The bomber's unique flexibility in projecting conventional power has become even more vital in these times of instability, uncertainty, and rapid change. The long- range bomber employing conventional weapons can deter, deliver a tailored response, or punch with devastating power if required against any location on the planet in a wide variety of roles. The bomber is one of the nation's premier power projection assets which contributes significantly to U.S. security. The Threat The B-2 bomber has resulted from a conscious attempt by three successive administrations, representing both political parties, to ensure that the bomber leg of the Triad remains a viable deterrent in the face of expanding ground-to-air and air-to-air threats. Since 1965, the Soviets have invested over $400 billion to create a formidable integrated air defense system. It numbers 10,000 radars, more than 8,000 surface-to-air missile (SAM) launchers, over 3,000 airborne interceptors and fighters, and growing numbers of tankers and airborne warning and control aircraft. By the mid-1990s, the Soviet homeland defense force will consist primarily of look-down shoot-down systems, such as the MiG-31 Foxhound and the SU-27 Flanker, that is, aircraft capable of detecting and engaging aircraft flying at low levels. New SAMs continue to replace older ones, giving the Soviets potential coverage from sea level to the fringes of the atmosphere against current United States systems. Just the Soviet yearly average production of SAMs during the Gorbachev era, excluding man-portable SAMs, is staggering: 16,000 per year since 1986. (1) This threat also extends beyond the Soviet Union to other areas such as the Persian Gulf and the Pacific, where United Sates forces might be called upon to operate. The conflicts in these areas are likely to be low or mid- intensity struggles, but should not be confused with low or mid-level technology. Many of these nations possess competent and well-equipped military forces with increasingly sophisticated air defense systems. Traditionally, the major nations such as the Soviet Union, United States, France, Great Britain, and, more recently, the People's Republic of China, have exported weaponery at best only slightly less sophisticated than that fielded by their own military forces to Third World nations. During 1960 to 1988, for example, the Soviet Union delivered over 32,000 SAMs, exclusive of man-portable systems and associated equipment to nations in the Americas, Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. (1) We should expect such exports to increase as the Soviets seek additional hard currency to bolster their faltering economy. Many of these developing nations have also produced quite sophisticated weapons of their own. Modern fighter aircraft are also increasing in number and capability throughout the world. Even when excluding the United States, the Soviet Union, China, and the nations of Western and Eastern Europe, a count reveals over 9000 tactical fighters deployed around the world. The bulk of these fighters are from previous generations, but many have been upgraded with new avionics, radars, and weapons. Many nations, responding to regional tensions and threats, are modernizing with the latest generation equipment. MiG-29s, for example, are currently found in Third World nations such as Cuba, India, Iraq, North korea, and Syria. (1) Stealth Technologies Reduce The B-2's Signature "Stealth" is a popular name for a group of technologies more precisely termed "low observables." They involve efforts to actively reduce the observable "signatures" of an aircraft in the electromagnetic, optical, thermal, and acoustic environments. The term stealth, however, has come to be associated primarily with radar cross-section (RCS) reduction. First applied in rudimentary fashion to the Lockheed SR-71 stratigic reconnaissance aircraft, "stealth" has grown steadily more sophisticated through the years. Its origins date to the early years of the Second World War, when British radar technicians first examined the potential of "radar camouflaging" aircraft to evade detection. Subsequently, German engineers applied promising radar- absorbent coatings to submarine snorkel breathing tubes so that Allied search radars could not detect them. Stealth as a concept is nearly a half century old. But it was not until the emergence of the Lockheed F-117 fighter that aerospace technology succeeded in creating a military aircraft that had a truly profound reduction in RCS, and, hence, in radar "signature."(2) Stealth not only protects an aircraft (defense), but greatly enhances the aircraft's likelihood of prosecuting a successful strike (offense). It enables the attacker to slip in around the most critical defenses of an opponent, and get so close to a target before possibly finally being detected that there is little chance of thwarting the attack. It reduces the effective range of an adversary's defenses to the point where they are essentially nullified. Stealth thus provides a revolutionary force-multiplying combat leverage. It must be stressed that stealth does not render an aircraft "invisible," nor is it intended that it do so. Rather, by a variety of means to include configuration shaping, coating, absorbers, and structural materials, the probing effectiveness of radar and other sensors can be greatly reduced. Stealth Technology Is Proven In Southwest Asia The Persian Gulf war underscores a continued reliance on high-technology weapons. The success of the F-117A stealth fighter also demonstrates the importance of continuing the B-2 stealth bomber program, a system almost cancelled by Congress last year. Richard Cheney, Secretary of Defense, reinforced this belief: If there is one lesson learned out of the gulf conflict, it is the value of stealth. In the first hours of conflict, 40 percent of all bomb- ing missions were flown by the F-117A stealth fighter-bombers, which constitute 5 percent of the Air Force fleet. We simply could not have done what we have done as effectively and as efficiently and as low a cost to life, both ours and the enemy's, if we had not had that stealth capability. Criticism of Pentagon weapon systems as being either too technologically sophisticated to perform well in actual combat or not suitable for regional threats, have proved wrong. Technology is key to keeping casualties low. There is a direct link to the number of lives we lose in combat and how much money we spend before the war starts on our capabilities and the quality of the equipment. (6) B-52 Nor B-1 Are Viable Lone lerm Alternatives. Over the years, the proliferation of improved Soviet air defenses have steadily eroded our capability to accomplish penetrating bomber objectives. (10:24) The United States' future bomber force must be capable of operating in the face of highly sophisticated air defense systems in both nuclear and conventional operations. The B-52 is already so constrained by advances in air defense technology that it is losing its viability as a penetrating bomber against sophisticated defenses. The B-1, whose design dates to the mid-1960's, will continue as a useful system for years to come. However, it too will be increasingly constrained by the evolving air defense threat environment. General Chain, CINCSAC, said: 69 B-52G bombers were removed from the strategic arsenal in 1988 because they could no longer penetrate Soviet air defenses. .. By 1998, the 96 B-52Hs will not be able to penetrate the Soviet Union either..., the B-1B will be limited to the less-defended areas against which the B-52H would fly today. Only the B-2 would be capable against heavy Soviet air defenses. (5:24) In essence, the B-2 negates the tremendous investment the Soviets have made over the past decade to modernize their air defenses. (10:25) The B-2 is envisioned as the cornerstone of the bomber force. A failure to build the B-2 would begin the atrophy of the strategic bomber fleet, which would mean eventual disintegration of the balanced Triad concept. The B-2 should be procured to keep the unique and flexible contributions of the penetrating manned bomber available to support U.S. national security across the spectrum of potential conflict. Cost The B-2 is an expensive weapon system, but certainly not the most expensive weapon system under consideration. The original Department of Defense (DoD) plan was to procure 132 B-2s through fiscal year 1997 at a total program cost of $75.4 billion. However, according to Secretary of Defense Cheney, the changing face of Europe and promising trends in the Soviet Union allow the United States to reduce the total B-2 purchase without excessive risk. Secretary Cheney now proposes the Air Force procure a total of 75 B-2s at an estimated total cost of 61.1 billion. This will be sufficient to deploy two aircraft wings. (7:6) The preceding pages have provided an illustration of the B-2's potential contribution to U.S. national security, but because it has drawn such critical attention and comment, cost has emerged as one of the most important issues in determining whether or not the B-2 Program goes forward. Currently, on a cost-to-complete basis for the planned 75 aircraft force, the program is only the seventh largest compared to other ongoing DoD programs. On a per unit basis B-2 costs are comparable with other systems. (11:173) For example, in a "flyaway" or "sailaway" basis, the cost to build a weapon system after the expenditure of research and development funds, the revolutionary B-2, for a buy of 75 aircraft, cost about the same as a naval frigate, of which almost 100 are currently in service. (11:175) These systems have differing capabilities and uses. The B-2, for example, would be of limited utility for anti-submarine operations, just as a frigate could not deliver massive quantities of ordinance thousands of miles away. Each system's value must be judged on the basis of its contribution to U.S. national security, not just cost. Aircraft costs are expressed in differing ways. Acquisition or program cost includes money spent on research and development, the cost to build the aircraft, the procurement of initial spares and support equipment, technical orders, and initial training. Flyaway cost is the cost to manufacture the aircraft and provide other associated items, such as quality assurance, government-supplied equipment, and warranties. In addition, a variety of different dollar values are used in these categories. Base year dollars reflect cost with inflation removed in constant year dollars, typically the year in which the program started. Current year dollars show cost in today's dollars. Then year dollars show weapon system cost based on the years when funds were actually spent. The cost of programs procured in future years are increased by projected inflation rates. The latter are normally the highest of these estimates.(9) For example, if inflation rates are projected to run at 4 percent annually, compounded over 20 years, which is not an unusually long development and deployment period for major weapon systems, will more than double any price or cost expressed in then year dollars. Using these criteria, the following table illsutrates the cost of each B-2 based on the current 75 aircraft buy and the previously planned 132 aircraft buy: Click here to view image Critics of the B-2 tend to focus on program unit cost in then year dollars. But concentrating on unit program cost fails to consider the value of the revolutionary advancements in new technologies, aerodynamics, three dimentional design and development, highly automated manufacturing processes, and large composite structural materials, to name a few. Many of the advancements in this partial list will benefit the United States' industrial manufacturing sector for many years to come. In the future no U.S. military or civilian aircraft will be designed without reference to the technologies, manfacturing processes, design capabilities, and other advancements that were pioneered on the B-2. Research and development money spent on the B-2 has expanded the United States' significant lead not only in stealth technology, but in aerospace technology. Once development ends, program cost is primarily of historic interest. This is particularly true in the case of the B-2. Since more than 40 percent of the total program cost has already been expended, making decisions on the basis of total program cost is of limited value. (9) An analogy is found in manufacturing. Compare the current status of the B-2 with the design and production of a new product. In the case of the B-2, we have conducted initial research and development, initiated and completed design work, created the required tooling to produce the machines, conducted extensive testing, and have produced test articles which are proving highly successful. We are on the verge of production. In other words, all that is left to do is to capitalize on this investment and produce the aircraft. Now is the time to reap the benefits of these years of research, development, and progress in technology. We must focus on what is left to be spent, not what has been spent, to capitalize on this investment. Counting Rule In Strategic Arms Reduction Talks The bomber's attributes have led both the United States and the Soviet Union to regard it as the most stabilizing element of modern strategic forces. In the ongoing Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START), the United States and the Soviet Union have agreed to count bombers as the equivalent of one nuclear warhead. They are trying to cap each other's nuclear arsenal at 6,000 warheads and their greatest emphasis is on limiting the number of ballistic and cruise missiles. (4: 18) The framework of 6,000 strategic warheads for each superpower comprises 4,900 ballistic missile warheads and 1,100 bomber weapons. Air-launch cruise missiles (ALCMs) would be counted individually within the bomber subceiling, but an aircraft carrying gravity weapons and Short Range Attack Missiles (SRAMs), typically about 20, would be considered a single weapon. (5:24) Different accountability rules are applied in the START negotiations to the various types of bombers. Bombers are configured in three different ways for nuclear operations. (1) a pentrating bomber enters enemy airspace to deliver gravity bombs and SRAMs; (2) a "shoot/penetrate" bomber first fires ALCMs and then enters enemy airspace to deliver other weapons; (3) a "stand-off" bomber is only equiped with cruise missiles which launches these weapons from outside enemy airspace, but does not penetrate. Under the current U.S. government position, each U.S. ALCM-equipped bomber, configured for either stand-off or shoot/penetrate missions, would count as ten warheads. Even though, for example, each ALCM-capable B-52 can carry a maximum of 20 cruise missiles. Penetrating bombers count as only one warhead, regardless of the number of individual devices carried on board. For example, under the proposed START guidelines, a single Trident submarine with 192 warheads counts as more accountable warheads than the entire projected force of B-1s and B-2s, which will carry over 2500 nuclear warheads. (3:50) The U.S. should continue to rely heavily upon the bomber force to cover critical targets. Only the penetrating bomber provides the leverage in a START-constrained world to meet future target coverage requirements while simultaneously increasing the stability of the nuclear balance. Even if future arms control agreements reduce the counting rule advantage of the penetrating bomber, a pure cruise missile force would still not provide the same capability as a mixed force. Reliance solely on cruise missiles would create a less flexible, less capable, and more vulnerable force. Conclusion The stealth B-2 should become the backbone of the bomber fleet and thus provide U.S. national security with the stabilizing, deterring, and flexible capabilities of bombers for the long term. The bomber, and the survivable penetrating bomber in particular, is a flexible weapon that can be adapted to meet the changing needs of U.S. national security policy. The most effective method of maintaining the viability of the bomber force is to procure the B-2. The Air Force's plan for the 1990's, capitalizes upon the inherent characteristics of airpower: speed, range, flexibility, precision, and lethality. The B-2 in many ways epotomizes airpower's inherent attributes of providing true global reach and deterring global power. Bibliography 1. Air Force Chief of Staff Briefing Entitled: The B-2 In Perspective (Undated) 2. Atkinson, Rick The Story Behind the B-2 Bomber. The Washington Post, 8 October 1989. 3. Aviation Week & Space Technology Opposition to B-2 Threatens Viability of Strategic Triad. 19 March 1990. 4. Aviation Week & Space Technology The B-2 and START. 14 December 1987. 5. Bond, David F. Congressional Debate on B-2 Turns to Arms Control Impact. Aviation Week & Space Technology, 31 July 1989. 6. Cheney, Richard Statement to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, 26 April 1990. 7. Powell, Colin L. General (USA) Enduring Realities, Enduring Defense Needs. Defense 20, September/October 1990. 8. Rice, Donald, Secretary of the Air Force, The Manned Bomber and Strategic Deterence. International Security, Summer 1990. 9. Secretary of Defense's Major Aircraft Review, (Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense, October 1990. 10. Singleton, Tom Lt Col (USAF), Johnson, Ray Capt (USAF) The B-2 -Aother Perspective. Combat Crew, September 1990. 11. U.S. Air Force Cost and Planning Factors (Washington, D.C.: Headquarters United States Air Force, October 1989).
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