On 19 May 2009, Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz said that the USAF’s focus in the 2010 budget was on “Long-range strike, not next-generation bomber” and will push for this in the Quadrennial Defense Review. In June 2009, the two teams working on next-generation bomber proposals were told to “close up shop”. On 16 September 2009, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates endorsed the concept of a new bomber but insisted that it must be affordable, stating: “What we must not do is repeat what happened with our last manned bomber. By the time the research, development, and requirements processes ran their course, the aircraft, despite its great capability, turned out to be so expensive – $2 billion each in the case of the B-2 Spirit—that less than one-sixth of the planned fleet of 132 was ever built.” On 5 October 2009, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Ashton Carter said that the DoD was still deciding if the USAF needed a new bomber and that, if approved, the aircraft would need to handle reconnaissance as well as strike missions. In July 2010, Carter said he intended to “make affordability a requirement” for the next-generation intelligence and strike platform.

On 11 December 2009, Gates said that the QDR had shown the need for both manned and unmanned long range strike and that the 2011 budget would likely include funding for the future bomber. The USAF plans for the new bomber to be multi-role with intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. As a bomber, the LRS-B will be under Air Force Global Strike Command, while ISR assets are managed by Air Combat Command’s 25th Air Force.

In 2010, Andrew Krepinevich, director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, questioned a reliance on short range aircraft like the F-35 to manage China in a future conflict and promoted reducing the F-35 buy in favor of a longer range platform like the Next-Generation Bomber; then-United States Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne had rejected this plan in 2007. During debate on the New START treaty in December 2010, several senators raised the LRS-B as a reason to oppose or delay ratification.

On 6 January 2011, Secretary of Defense Gates made a speech on the U.S. defense budget for FY 2012, which announced a major investment in developing a long-range, nuclear-capable bomber, also to be optionally remotely piloted. He also said the aircraft “will be designed and developed using proven technologies, an approach that should make it possible to deliver this capability on schedule and in quantity. It is important that we begin this project now to ensure that a new bomber can be ready before the current aging fleet goes out of service. The follow on bomber represents a key component of a joint portfolio of conventional deep-strike capabilities—an area that should be a high priority for future defense investment given the anti-access challenges our military faces.” In July 2011, Joint Chief Vice Chairman James Cartwright called for a large UAV instead of a manned aircraft, including for the nuclear mission. Retired Air Force colonel and Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments analyst Mark Gunzinger has called for an optionally manned bomber, stating that purely unmanned bombers would be at a disadvantage without direct human pilot awareness

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and vulnerable to communication disruption.

In March 2011, the USAF decided to purchase 80 to 100 aircraft. The Global Strike Command indicated that one requirement for the bomber is to carry a weapon of similar effect to the Massive Ordnance Penetrator. In addition to the strategic bombing, tactical bombing, and prompt global strike roles typical for a bomber, the aircraft is to be part of a family of systems responsible for ground surveillance and electronic attack. The Obama Administration in its 2012 budget request asked for $197 million and a total of $3.7 billion over five years to develop the bomber, including modular payloads for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR), electronic attack (EA), and communications. It shall be nuclear-capable, but shall not be certified as such until older bombers are set to retire.

In 2011, the House Armed Services Committee added language that would require two engine programs for the bomber; Ashton Carter objected that the addition would interfere with plans to reuse an existing engine. Reportedly, the two most likely engines are the Pratt & Whitney PW9000 engine, which uses a combination of Pratt & Whitney F135 and commercial turbofan technology, and a derivative of the General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136. In May 2011, Air Force Undersecretary Erin Conaton announced that a program office was being set up for the bomber. The USAF asked for $292 million for the program in its 2013 budget request. The program has also been referred to as “Long-Range Strike-B” (LRS-B). In 2012, former Pentagon weapons tester Thomas P. Christie speculated that the bomber program had been initiated so that the Air Force would have a sacrificial program to offer during anticipated defense budget shortfalls. The USAF seems committed to the program, given a lack of other non-nuclear options to deal with “deeply buried and/or hardened targets, and committed two percent of their investment budget to the project, compared to three percent to sustain existing bombers.

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