The outgoing Vice Chairman of the JCS, Gen. James Cartwright, an ignorant general also known as President Obama’s favorite general, has run his uninformed mouth yet again, proving how ignorant and how stupid he is.
Cartwright (who admits he’s a “bomber hater” and who was one of those who convinced Secretary Gates to kill the nascent Next Generation Bomber program in 2009) has questioned the repeatedly-proven (by two successive QDRs, as well as numerous other studies and real-world threats) need for a bomber and has demanded that it be completely unmanned, and claimed that no one has proven to him that it needs to be manned or optionally manned.
Yet, the truth is that it needs to be optionally manned. An unmanned bomber would be unsuitable for some threat environments, e.g. those that would be saturated with jammers and other electronic warfare weapons (which could jam or disable a drone’s link to the operating station), places which such links cannot reach, places which require aircraft with pilots onboard to be situationally aware first-hand, and theaters where immediate, onboard retasking would be required. An unmanned bomber cannot fight in any of these environments. A manned or optionally manned bomber could.
Also, there’s no way that an unmanned bomber would ever be trusted with nuclear weapons.
And once you lose your link to a bomber, it’s lost and hundreds of millions of dollars go down the drain.
An optionally manned bomber would offer the DOD maximum flexibility: it could fight both in theaters where a manned bomber would be required and in theaters that are too dull, too dirty, or too dangerous for a human crew.
Cartwright, who has never flown aboard, or even touched, a bomber, also blathered nonsense that a missile (e.g. a Prompt Global Strike System) would be cheaper and better suited for long-range-strike missions than a bomber. He’s wrong. A PGS would not be cheaper. The unit cost might be lower (an LGM-30 Minuteman ICBM costs about $100 mn), but it would be usable only once. Once you use it, it’s gone. A bomber could cost, under optimistic estimates, $440 million, but it could be used for 50 years or more. Moreover, missiles are vulnerable to SAMs, while stealthy bombers are not. Missiles are too expensive for serious military campaigns. They (including PGSes) can be used only against a limited number of fleeting or high-value targets (like Ayman al-Zawahiri).
There is no alternative to a bomber.
Cartwright also blathered nonsense that deploying PGSes would allow the US to reduce its nuclear stockpile. That’s gibberish. America’s nuclear deterrent is designed for a totally different mission (nuclear deterrence) than PGSes (long-range strike). America’s nuclear doctrine is a no-first-strike policy (though not declared).
The only thing he got right is that the Next Generation Bomber type needs to be produced in significant numbers – not just 21 like the B-2 type, but 80-100, and it must not cost $1.2 bn per copy like one B-2. (I believe it needs to be produced in the hundreds; doing so would bring down unit cost even more significantly.) And the USAF is working to ensure exactly such a result.