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The "Strategic" Conventional Bombers
CSC 1993
SUBJECT AREA - Strategic Issues
Title:  The "Strategic" Conventional Bombers
Author:  Major Jerry L. Dillon, United States Air Force
Thesis:  The unique capability our heavy bombers possess significantly
add to our nation's potential to conduct conventional operations
successfully and technological advances must be pursued to insure this
much needed capability is preserved.
Background:  In every major conflict since WWII US heavy
"strategic" bombers have flown conventional missions.
Ironically, it is the bombers nuclear role most associate
with these aircraft.  This association has perpetuated myths
of the missions these bombers can perform.  Some of these
myths are: strategic bombers only carry nuclear weapons,
strategic equals nuclear and strategic aircraft cannot
operate in a tactical environment.  Long-range strategic
bombers can strike targets in minimum time launching from
CONUS bases.  This provides any CINC time to hold an enemy
at bay until follow-on forces arrive in theater.  This
global reach also provides the CINC with weapon systems that
do not rely on in-theater assets.  The cutting of forces and
dwindling budget makes protecting our interests abroad more
complex.   It is imperative old stereotypes do not impede the
development of the most capable group of weapon systems in
our military arsenal.  Our "strategic" bombers possess a
capability that will contribute to any CINC's conventional
combat power and must be preserved.
Recommendation:  The Air Force must make a conscious effort to dispel
the myths that surround their bomber community.  With the lack of a
global nuclear threat conventional capabilities must now receive the
attention they deserve.  Upgrades to our bomber force must concentrate
on standoff weapons and smart bombs.  The money spent to integrate
advanced technological capabilities are small in comparison to the
potential payoffs.
Thesis:  The unique capability our heavy bombers possess significantly
add to our nation's potential to conduct conventional operations
successfully and technological advances must be pursued to insure this
much needed capability is preserved.
I.	Myths about "strategic" bombers
	A.	Strategic bombers only carry nuclear weapons
	B.	The word "strategic" equals nuclear
	C.	Theater warfare is the domain of smaller tactical aircraft
II.	History and the "strategic" bomber
	B.	The Korean War
	C.	Vietnam
	D.	The Gulf War
III.	Current conventional capabilities of our "strategic" bombers
	A.	The  B-52
	B.	The  B-1
	C.	The  B-2
IV.	The future of the "strategic" bomber
	A.	Assuming the conventional role
	B.	Developing a capability to meet war time requirements
	C.	Insuring our capability does not shrink out of proportion to
		our size
       Over the last several decades, a major part of US national security
hinged on keeping the former Soviet Union at bay.  During this time, our
nations  heavy strategic bomber force was charged with the lone-
penetrator role.  Striking targets with a variety of nuclear weapons.
Although this strategic nuclear mission is the mission typically
associated with our bomber force, history is witness to the conventional
capability of these weapon systems.  Now with the end of the Cold War,
the importance of a weapon system with the ability to strike the most
remote parts of the world has increased.  The unique capability our
heavy bombers possess significantly add to our nation's potential to
conduct conventional operations successfully and technological advances
must be pursued to insure this much needed capability is preserved.
      Several factors emphasize the importance of long-range heavy
bombers in the conventional role:  The increasing requirement for swift
power projection worldwide in response to a crisis.  The need for long-
range strike capability in response to terrorist attacks.  The present
constraints on the defense budget increases the demand for multi-mission
weapon systems, demanding more capability from fewer systems.  These
factors emphasize the need for further development of the roles and
missions concerning our heavy bomber force.  However, such an
examination cannot take place without first studying some of the myths
about "strategic" bombers.
    There are persistent myths that interfere with the understanding of
the variety of missions our heavy bombers can perform.  These myths are
interrelated and hinder the understanding of the versatility of modern
strategic aerospace power.
    The first of these myths is simply; the only missions strategic
bombers perform is the delivery of nuclear weapons.  This belief is
understandable considering this is the reason heavy bombers were
initially designed.  This myth is also perpetuated by the two nuclear
missions flown over Japan towards the end of WWII.  Fortunately the use
of this capability was not needed to end the Cold War and now the bomber
community can explore, even further,  its conventional capabilities.
"Strategic" bombers were used in conflicts during the Cold War period,
ironically, performing the very mission many are unaware exists.  The
fact is, our nation's bombers have performed gallantly in the
conventional role, yet still this myth exists.
    Another myth the heavy bomber community fights is; "strategic"
equals nuclear.  Many military members, not only in our sister services,
but also in the Air Force, do not understand the word "strategic" does
not equal nuclear.  Air Force Manual 1-1 defines strategic as,
"encompassing key targets, whether vital industrial complexes,
infrastructure, population centers, or a specific military center of
gravity, which, if effectively destroyed or damaged, directly affects
the enemy's capability or will to resist." (1:152)  This definition
matches precisely how heavy bombers are typically employed.  Defeating
an enemy's ability to wage war or his will to fight, is the ideal
mission for our heavy bombers.   Nowhere in the manuals definition is
there any mention of the word nuclear-nor should there be.
    The final myth I will address that affects our heavy bomber force
is, theater warfare is strictly the domain of smaller tactical aircraft.
This could not be farther from the truth.  Our bombers have played a
major role in past wars conducting missions ranging from providing
ground troops with close air support to interdiction missions.  Many
examples from history where "strategic" bombers were used in a
conventional role had a direct input on the enemy's defeat.  The
argument can be made that B-52 missions over North Vietnam played a
principle role in bringing that conflict to an end.  During the war in
the Gulf, the one thing the Marines wanted prior to starting the ground
war was B-52 strikes.  These two examples provide evidence heavy bombers
not only can be used, but are requested, by ground troops in tactical
situations.  With the versatility of todays modern weapon systems, we
must categorize weapon systems by capabilities not by stereotypes.
    When trying to understand what the future holds for our heavy
bombers in a conventional role it is important to look at history.  Past
wars abundantly illustrate the vital role heavy bombers have played.
For illustration I will examine four periods of history:  WWII, Korea,
Vietnam and South West Asia.  Inarguably the heavy bombers contributions
while delivering conventional ordinances, often in situations and
campaigns not of a "strategic" nature, has changed the world.
	The US first developed a sizable heavy bomber force during WWII.
They were used extensively in both the European and Pacific theaters.
The Boeing B-29 "Superfortress" was the bomber used most widely in the
Pacific because of its range.  This massive aircraft had a range of
3,250 miles and could carry 12,000 lbs. of bombs.  With the B-29's
carrying capacity, the pace of the bombing campaign in the Pacific
increased month by month.  "in March, LeMay's bombers had released
13,000 tons of bombs on Japan; in July the figure was 42,000, by the end
of the summer it was expected to exceed 100,000 tons per month." (4:174)
Conventional bombing was not the only mission these versatile aircraft
conducted in the Pacific.  About 12,000 naval mines were delivered and
some 4.5 million leaflets were scattered.  The use of a "strategic"
bomber in the conventional role was clearly demonstrated during WWII.
    After WWII not only our strategic bomber forces but the entire
military suffered during the period of demobilization.  With the
tremendous drawdown, many bomber units operated from bases not equipped
to support their missions.  Bomber aircrews cross-trained, flying in all
crew positions, thus not being given the time needed to become
proficient in any position.  This peacetime mismanagement of the crew
force was a product of the belief that nuclear war was not probable.  At
the same  time however, there were high officials in the Air Force who
believed the probability of nuclear war was not the issue.  They
believed their job was to train aircrews.  General Leon W. Johnson, then
Commander of Fifteenth Air force, was one who thought this way.  When
asked what he thought his mission in the late 1940s was, he stated, "I
never thought of it as atomic warfare only.... All we were trying to do
in the late 1940s was to get the crews trained in their specialities,
get the crews ready to be marked, as Curt says, (ref. General Curtis E.
LeMay) combat ready." (5:76)
    The Korean War was a difficult war at a difficult time for the then
Strategic Air Command (SAC).  With most of our bomber training focused
on a nuclear war against the former Soviet Union, Korea was not seen by
SAC as one for their major concerns.  Even with the new B-47 coming on
line, SAC chose to again use the B-29 in Korea deploying five bomb
groups in theater.  The B-47 was saved for what was considered the real
threat, Europe.
    In Korea the B-29's were tasked with performing interdiction and
close air support missions.  These missions were not what the generals
in SAC wanted to see their long-range bombers doing.  Nevertheless, this
was the B-29's mission for the entire war because of a restriction
placed on the bombers from striking strategic targets north of the Yalu.
"How not to use the strategic air weapon," (6:86) was the comment of then
Commander of SAC, General LeMay, when asked what he learned from Korea.
It just goes to show-nobody is right all the time.  God bless you
General LeMay!
    In Vietnam the versatility of heavy bombers delivering conventional
munitions was again demonstrated.  For the first few years of the war,
US bombers attacked tactical targets while our fighters struck strategic
targets.  US heavy bombers also conducted missions against targets such
as enemy troop concentrations, supply areas and lines of communication.
Their missions were direct support and close air support missions.  They
could also be called interdiction missions but not what is traditionally
referred to as strategic missions.
    During the intense bombing campaign, code name "Linebacker II,"
B-52's in joint effort with Naval and Air Force fighter-bombers
delivered tremendous firepower to North Vietnam.  In just eleven days of
bombing military structures, electrical power networks, petroleum
storage depots, railroad yards and anti-aircraft defenses were severely
damaged.  Over 20,000 tons of bombs were dropped in just over 1,700
sorties.  Because of the destruction caused by this fierce conventional
bombing effort, the Vietnamese agreed to resume peace talk negotiations.
    In Vietnam conventional capabilities of the B-52 were demonstrated
with convincing success.  Even though this air power demonstration was
impressive, the most valuable characteristic of todays bomber force,
world-wide strike capability from CONUS bases, had not yet been
demonstrated.  The first evidence of this world-wide conventional
capability was witnessed during "Bright Star-1982," a joint exercise
involving elements of the US Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force.
    The bombers sought to meet a precise target time
    as part of a schedule that included fighter strikes
    and then a land assault.  The timing problem was
    particularly complex because the bombers had launched
    the day prior from bases 7,500 miles away.  The first
    B-52 appeared low on the horizon only moments before
    the target time, with five more bombers following in
    trail.  Within four seconds of the target time, the
    lead bomber released a train of twenty-seven 500-pound
    bombs on the target.  Five more times 27 bombs dropped
    as each aircraft crossed the range at low altitude.
    Just as rapidly, the bombers were out of sight,
    continuing on their mission for another 7,500 miles to
    a landing base in North Dakota. (3:1)
    The war in the Gulf is probably the biggest success story for
conventional capability of the heavy bomber.  The first wartime display
of heavy bombers (B-52G's) launched from CONUS bases, striking their
targets in enemy territory and returning home took place.  This
capability demonstrates just what advantages our heavy bomber force
provides a CINC.  The ability to stage from outside the theater of
operation not only relieves pressure from in-theater assets but also
gives the  CINC the element of surprise needed for success.  When our
bombers were called to perform direct support missions just prior to the
ground war, "strategic" bombers concentrated their conventional power on
the elite Republican Guard, breaking their will to fight.  The success
of the ground war is testimony of the outstanding contribution
"strategic" bombers can and will play in the future.
    Of the three "strategic" bombers in service today, two are about
forty years old:  the B-52G and the B-52H.  These aircraft were
developed in the 1940s and early 1950s and have long been our mainstay
of the strategic bomber force.  Modification of the B-52G early in the
1980s provided the US with the superb conventional platform utilized in
the Gulf War.  The B-52H has greater range and does not rely on water
augmentation for heavy-weight takeoffs.  Both aircraft have the
capability of delivering a variety of weapons supporting both land and
sea missions.  Their ability to deliver gravity bombs, short range
attack missiles, air launched cruise missiles and sea mines makes both
reliable weapon systems and valuable national assets.
    The Rockwell B-1 is quickly taking over for the B-52G in the
conventional penetration role.  Modern weapon delivery capabilities and
sheer numbers make it the logical replacement.  With the nuclear mission
finally out of the forefront, the B-1 is quickly gaining experience as a
conventional platform.  Of the three "strategic" bombers (including the
20 B-2's the Air Force has purchased) that will take us into the 21st
century, the B-1 is the fastest and can carry the heaviest payload.  The
B-1 can presently deliver the MK-82 general purpose gravity bomb.  With
the planned enhancements and its current capability, the B-1 is the only
weapon system that can fill the gap created by the cut in B-2
acquisition numbers.
    Air Combat Command will take delivery of 20 B-2's late in calendar
year 1993.  Therefore, current capabilities do not exist, which leaves
the discussion of the B-2 for the following section of this paper.
    With the end of the Cold War, our heavy bomber force best serves the
CINC in the conventional warfighting role.  The bomber package of
B-52H's, B-1's and B-2's will provide our planners with the versatility,
range and payload making them the most capable group of weapon systems
in the US arsenal.  This is not to say our bomber force will not retain
their nuclear capability but that acquisition and training will
concentrate on developing their conventional talent.
    This new conventional role will provide bomber crews an opportunity
to train in a more realistic environment.  In the past, our crews flew
nuclear training missions against radar training sites with bombing
accuracy evaluated electronically.  Experienced crews can fly these
missions with little effort.  Conventional training missions put more
emphasis on actual weapon drops, adding realism.  According to Major
Stephen M. Boykin, Director of Training at Dyess AFB, TX., "currently
about two-thirds of the B-1 flight hours are directed toward
conventional training compared to only about one-third a year ago." (2)
An increased number of conventional training missions equates to more
weapons drops.  This is something the heavy bomber community needed for
    To understand what the future holds for our nation's heavy bomber
force we must first look at what the Department of the Air Force views
as potential targets for their bombers.  "The Bomber Roadmap," a
Department of the Air Force document published in June 1992 indicates
what planners consider the future targets of our bomber force:
	-	Emerging capabilities for the production, support and use of
		weapons of mass destruction
	-	Massed conventional forces of an adversary threatening or
		invading friendly states
	-	Key nodes of enemy command and control, and air defenses
	-	Enemy air attack assets and other offensive capabilities
	-	Enemy capacity to wage war (7:3)
This probable target list is the basis for Air Force acquisition and
training.  Systems are being developed and training is being focused to
combat targets in these categories.  All efforts point in the direction
of developing the most capable bomber force to meet our country's needs.
    In the future, we cannot plan on having almost six months to build
up forces for an impending conflict, like in the Gulf.  If our potential
adversaries have paid attention, and you know they have, we will not
have this luxury again.  This is an area our heavy bomber's capabilities
can be used to their fullest.  As a nation, we must be able to respond
with as little warning as possible to prohibit our enemy, wherever he
may be, from overtaking our strategic vital interests.  Even with
considering forward deployed aircraft carriers and strategically
positioned allies, we cannot count on short-range air assets holding the
enemy at bay by themselves.  Long-range "strategic" bombers are not a
replacement but the ideal complement for our short-range assets.
     Along with not having months to prepare for a conflict, we also can
expect our potential adversaries to better prepare for war than our last
opponent did.  With the success of the air campaign in South West Asia,
it also can be assumed our future enemies will place greater emphasis on
defending their high-value targets from air strikes.  We can expect
targets like command and control centers, and weapons of mass
destruction storage areas to be defended even more than they presently
are.  Enemy air defense measures can also be expected to be improved
around these high-value targets.  To meet our country's needs, the move
is already on to ensure our shrinking defense budget does not mean a
less capable "strategic" bomber force.
    The key to weapons employment in the future will rely on the
development of weapons that take advantage of their respective delivery
platforms.  With the development of B-1 and B-2, the B-52 will convert
to the standoff role relying on cruise missile type weapons to defeat
enemy targets.  Restricted by its large radar cross section and slow
speed, the B-52 is well suited for this standoff role.  Numerous
standoff weapons are under development to complement the B-52's existing
capability.  This change in mission for the B-52 complements the
aircraft's inherent capabilities.  Also this mission change will
eliminate the added structural stress of the low-level penetration
mission, extending the airframes operational life.
    Realization of the B-1 force enhancement program has the highest
priority for our future bomber force.  The B-1 is becoming the center-
piece of our bomber force replacing the aging B-52.  One of the major
reasons for this transition is the B-1's performance is more compatible
to other aircraft of future strike packages.  To accomplish this
transition, the B-1 must be able to accomplish both standoff and
penetration missions.  Destroying time sensitive targets during the
initial phases of a conflict will be the B-1's primary role.  Upgrading
the B-1 provides the CINC with the most capable bomber ever to conduct
air interdiction and close air support missions.
    The first delivery of the B-2 is expected late 1993.  Stealth
technology will enable the B-2 to accomplish its intended mission;
penetration of the most heavily defended target areas.  Phasing the B-2
into our bomber operations will provide any CINC with the ability to
defeat time-sensitive targets, buying time for follow-on forces to
deploy into theater.  Also, the B-2 will have the capability to employ
guided munitions, adding flexibility to interdiction and close air
support missions throughout the conflict.  The B-2 will be an excellent
addition to our current bomber force.
    Opportunities overseas are diminishing because of the changing world
order and the decreasing defense budget.  To protect US vital national
interests, we must maintain our capability to fight from a distance.  It
is critical our "strategic" conventional weapon systems can deliver
sufficient combat power anywhere in the world.  The Air Force will rely
on the technological advantage to provide its bomber force with the
ability to deliver this combat power.  The complementary characteristics
of the B-52H, B-1 and B-2 provide the US with a combat capability
unmatched anywhere in the world.  The unique inherent capabilities of
our long-range bomber force must be preserved by timely technological
advances equal to the tasks they must perform.
1.	Air Force Manual 1-1, Vol. II. Headquarters US Air Force,
Washington D.C., AF/XOXWD, 1992.
2.	Boykin, Stephen M., Major, Director of Training, Dyess Air Force
Base, TX., Telephone interview, 1993.
3.	Keaney, Thomas A., Strategic Bombers and Conventional Weapons,
National Defense University Press, Washington D.C., 1984.
4.	Kennett, Lee, A History of Strategic Bombing, Charles Scribner's
Sons, New York, NY., 1982.
5.	Kohn, Richard H. and Harahan, Joseph P., Strategic Air Warfare,
Office of Air Force History, Washington, D.C., 1988.
6.	Kohn, Richard H. and Harahan, Joseph P., Strategic Air Warfare,
Office of Air Force History, Washington, D.C., 1988.
7.	The Bomber Roadmap, Department of the Air Force, Washington D.C.,

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