In Air Force Doctrine, Den Beste argues that the Air Force doesn’t really want to work with the other branches. It wants sleek, high-tech aircraft, even when ugly, low-tech aircraft, like the A-10 can perform an important job better:
The problem is that no matter what the Air Force gets that has wings and might fly into a combat zone, the Air Force insists that it be designed to be able to participate in strategic bombing in hostile unsecured airspace. Which means everything has to be stealthy. Everything has to be loaded to the gills with avionics. And everything ends up costing a bloody fortune. (And it all ends up having to be “multimission”.)
He argues against the super-expensive jack-of-all-trades:
There seem to be two kinds of heavy bomber missions:
- getting into well-defended areas, bypassing air defenses, and taking out high value targets by delivering a small number of bombs very precisely.
- carrying a maximum bombload into an area where air supremacy has been established, and dumping it from high altitude to thoroughly plaster a huge area (or dump parts of it to thoroughly plaster several smaller areas in close succession).
The first requires bombers which cost their weight in platinum, if not more. It’s the B2 type mission, but does it really make sense for every single heavy bomber to be like that, at the expense of carrying capacity? Why is it that some bombs have to be shoved out the back of cargo jets? It’s because those bombs can’t be carried by aircraft made of platinum. They dump those mothers out of C-5′s because they won’t fit in the bomb bay of a B-1 (and the hardpoint can’t support that much weight). And even if a B-1 or B-2 could carry such ordnance, they cost so damned much that we can’t afford to purchase as many as we would really need for the area-obliteration mission. What’s needed is something that’s big, inexpensive, slow, heavy, unstealthy, inexpensive, long ranged and capable of carrying a hell of a lot reliably. And inexpensive.
I love this idea:
Some have proposed that the Air Force should augment its heavy bombers by purchasing what is half-facetiously referred to as “B-767′s”. (Jim Dunnigan is a big fan of this concept.) The idea would be to contract with Boeing to create a militarized bomber version of the 767, with a huge bomb bay and such essential structural changes as that would require but otherwise little different from the civilian 767. They’d be relatively cheap, have a huge carrying capacity (on the order of 4 times what a B1 can carry), fly long distances without refueling, be extremely reliable, and wouldn’t be even faintly “stealthy”. They might carry flares and ECM, but aside from that there’d be no defenses.
They could probably be acquired for about $80 million each, as opposed to about $200 million for the B-1 and a stunning $2.1 billion each for the B-2.
It is astounding to realize that the acquisition cost of two B-2′s exceeds the cost of one Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. For the cost of one B-1 we can purchase more than 4,000 Tomahawk cruise missiles.