Providing an Effective Bomber Force for the Future

by Glenn Buchan, David R. Frelinger

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In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the authors outline RAND's assessment of what is necessary to provide the United States with an effective bomber force for the future. They focus on the implications of recent Air Force decisions to reduce the size of the bomber force. Drawing on several years of RAND analysis on how to use bombers to their best advantage in the future world, they argue that the currently planned bomber force could be effective in supporting a single major regional conflict, but only if the bombers are equipped with more effective weapons, modified to be more flexible and effective in a variety of roles, and used in more innovative ways. Key weapons that are not in the current Air Force plan include more accurate versions of smaller bombs and large numbers of long-range cruise missiles. The bombers themselves need better avionics, improved bomb racks, and, in some cases, better sensors and communications equipment. New operational concepts need to be developed to allow different bombers to be used in tandem for mutual support in providing massive firepower most efficiently. Even then, a larger bomber force could be needed to cope with two demanding regional conflicts simultaneously.

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