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Inside the Ring
The bomber is a key requirement for the Air Force to replace aging B-52, B-1 and B-2 bombers, and according to defense officials one factor in going ahead with the new bomber is growing worries about China’s military buildup.
As China moves ahead rapidly with new stealth fighters and a missile capable of killing U.S. aircraft carriers at sea, and its strategic anti-satellite missiles, Pentagon war planners pushed for the new strike bomber.
War planners argued that the bomber is needed to fly deep inside China if Beijing were to begin firing salvos of anti-satellite missiles, first successfully tested in 2007, at U.S. satellites, which are used for everything from communications to weapons targeting. The new bomber would be called on to conduct rapid strikes against ASAT launchers before the Chinese could deal a potentially deadly blow to U.S. military capabilities.
Details of the new bomber remain sketchy and officials who briefed reporters on the aircraft provided only limited information. The bomber will be built to carry both nuclear and conventional bombs and missiles, and one likely weapon will be a new 600-mile-range cruise missile called the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER).
Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale said the bomber is a premier element of a “family” of long-range strike weapons that are “key to anti-access challenges that we expect to face in the future” — anti-access being Pentagon code for China in particular, which is building forces and weapons designed to prevent the U.S. military from supporting regional Asian allies such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
“It will be a long-range bomber. It will be a penetrating bomber. It will be a manned aircraft, though it will have the capability to be remotely piloted,” Mr. Hale said, noting that to keep costs down, it will be built with existing technologies.
The new bomber plan announced this year rejected past plans for using unproven technology, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Larry Spencer, director of the Joint Staff structure, resources and assessment.
The goal is to deploy the bomber in the mid-2020s.
Asked if the new bomber will be primarily remotely piloted or mainly flown by on-board pilots, Air Force Maj. Gen. Alfred Flowers, deputy assistant secretary for budget, said the concept now calls for “optionally manned; to be determined just how that will work.”
The notorious Iraqi defector to Germany known by the code name, Curveball, has gone public in a British newspaper, and he defended fabrications about Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction programs that were part of the reason U.S. forces invaded Iraq in 2003.
Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi told Britain’s Guardian newspaper he had few regrets about lying to Germany’s BND spy agency, which in turn passed on the false data to the CIA that eventually made its way to a major public presentation before the United Nations by Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2003.
“I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime,” said Mr. al-Janabi, a chemical engineer who worked in Iraqi industry before defecting. “I and my sons are proud of that, and we are proud that we were the reason to give Iraq the margin of democracy.”
The defector left Iraq in 2000 and was debriefed extensively by the BND. One of his biggest fabrications was that Iraq had mobile biological weapons vans that could be used to disperse deadly germ weapons.
Mr. Powell quoted from Curveball’s fabricated testimony during his February 2003 U.N. presentation, stating that U.S. intelligence had “first-hand descriptions” of bioweapons factories “on wheels” from an “eyewitness” who was “an Iraqi chemical engineer who supervised one of these facilities. He was present during biological agent production runs. He was also at the site when an accident occurred in 1998. Twelve technicians died.”
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About the Author
Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
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