Will China and Russia force the US to buy 145 stealth bombers?
WASHINGTON, (BM) – The Pentagon intends in the coming years for the US defense to rely on the strike power of 145 B-21 Raiders stealth bombers. How many of them will be nuclear and how many conventional – is not clear. But Washington plans to show striking power in response to the Chinese and Russian threat posed by the east wind.
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US President Joe Biden plans to nominate Frank Kendall as Secretary of the Air Force. Kendall recently said he fully agreed with the US Air Force’s plan to acquire 145 B-21 Raiders. According to the future Air Force secretary, this bomber will be essential, and his first task will be to retire the US Navy from B-1 and B-52 bombers.
The number 145 was first mentioned in 2020 by General David Goldfine, who was Chief of Staff of the Air Force. In Congress, he said at one of the hearings that “this is a perfectly appropriate number” but never justified why the Pentagon chose this particular number.
According to analysts from Washington, the number of 145 bombers is the maximum allowed, and it is not excluding that this figure will decrease over the years. Optimistic forecasts are that the United States will be able to afford 100 B-21 Raiders.
The Global Air Force Command (AFGSC) is also analyzing the future acquisition and believes that the United States will have a staggering figure of 220 bombers of all kinds in years to come.
What is the budget for the bombers?
Of course, the question that immediately follows is – how much will this cost the American taxpayer? Let’s not forget that the US Government will give every year money to maintain the operational capabilities and armaments of the bombers, so such an investment is not a one-off.
There is a calculation from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) back in 2016 that the acquisition of 100 B-21 Raiders will cost the state $ 80 billion. Equivalently today, this amount is already $ 89 billion.
But this money can be the slightest problem for the budget. The bombers will likely spend $ 40 million a year for maintenance only. Separately, the Pentagon must do its job very well, as each of these bombers must be armed with cruise missiles, long-range missiles, and various types of bombs. And last but not least – how many of these bombers will be nuclear?
How many of the planned B-21 Raiders will be nuclear?
This decision is a rather complicated issue for the US administration. Three factors will answer it.
First, the United States conducts annual exercises, several in number, on its air force capabilities. For example, the United States currently has 21 B-2 bombers in service. Every year 60% or 12 of them participate in training and military exercises. Grounding the other nine bombers also costs the taxpayer money, although they are not often blown up. The B-21 Raiders will also take over the role in military exercises in years to come. Still, with 100 available, the critical question is – how many bombers will participate in these exercises? Let us not forget that military exercises vary in capacity, duration, and size. The Pentagon cannot maintain the 60% in question as it does today because it means using the ability of 60 bombers.
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An obstacle to Washington’s desire to acquire a large number of bombers may meet with fierce resistance, especially in compliance with the new START treaty. This treaty places strict restrictions on various nuclear weapons systems, including nuclear-capable bombers. The United States can circumvent the START treaty by converting nuclear bombers into conventional ones. But the Kremlin believes such a transformation is quite limited and in no way guarantees that these bombers cannot quickly regain their nuclear capabilities.
The third reason is the one we have already mentioned – funding. The United States has the largest defense budget globally, but that doesn’t mean the Congres can’t increase it at some point. In recent years, Washington has gradually and slightly increased its budget. But acquiring a hundred B-21 Raiders means depriving some critical defense units of the promised money. So the question is – which domain will not have enough money at the expense of the new bombers?
The new bombers require different bases
The new design of the B-21 Raider means that the United States must consider a place where it can be appropriately stored and operated. It is assuming that perhaps this year, the US Air Force will perform the first test flights of the B-21 Raider. Probably for this purpose, observers have noticed that the Edwards Air Force Base is already undergoing reconstruction.
Some structural halls and ramps have already been erected at the base, which is supposed to be the first home of the new bombers. Other conjugated bases where the Pentagon will house the bombers are most likely Ellsworth in South Dakota and Whiteman in Missouri. There is logic, as these two bases are currently home to the B-2 Spirit.
Analysts in Washington say that if the Pentagon acquires at least 100 new bombers, the United States will have to decide where the others to locate them because the three bases mentioned above will not be enough.
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