Less than half of the US bomber fleet is ready to ‘fight tonight’

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer prepares to take off for a 10-hour mission from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, into Japanese airspace and over the Korean Peninsula, July 30, 2017. (Tech. Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger/Air Force)

 

WASHINGTON – Less than half of the bombers President Donald Trump would rely upon to be “locked and loaded” against North Korea could launch today if needed, according to the latest Air Force figures available.

That’s not a surprise to the bomb squadrons who have seen firsthand the combined effects of aircraft age, the demand of 15 years of air war operations and reduced budgets. But the numbers can be stark. Of the nation’s 75 conventional and nuclear B-52s, only about 33 are ready to fly at any given time, according to Air Force statistics. Of the 62 conventional B-1s, only about 25 are ready. With the 20 nuclear B-2 stealth bombers, the number drops further. Seven or eight bombers are available, according to the Air Force.

On a nominal basis you don’t have more than single digits of B-2s available to do anything,” said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, currently the dean of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace.

“If anything good comes out of the North Korea crisis,” it should be a wake-up call, he said.

“It’s not just the nation’s bomber force,” that is so stretched, Deptula said. “It’s the military writ large. The U.S. Air Force is the smallest and least ready it’s ever been in history – that should get people’s attention.”

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Divine Eagle: How much of a threat is China’s new high-flying drone to US air superiority?

Yesterday the press doubted China and Russia’s ability to pose a serious challenge. Today they’re 50-50. Tomorrow there’s likely to be no question.

 

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The US has led the way in the use of stealth aircraft in combat. Now the game could soon be up, as scientists in China and Russia are discovering ways to make the invisible visible. Mark Piesing reports

In May, grainy pictures emerged of a huge new twin-fuselage, high-altitude Chinese drone called the Divine Eagle. Those in the know instantly labelled it the “stealth-hunting drone”. Stealth technology is the equivalent of electronic camouflage for planes, making them hard for enemy radar to spot – but the Chinese drone is certainly big enough to carry the special radars developed to detect stealth aircraft. It’s able to fly high enough to detect them long before they can reach their targets. Its radar is rumoured to have been able to pick out an American stealth F-22 Raptor off the coast of South Korea almost 500km away. Continue reading

Inside the Ring: B-2 bombers’ ‘messages’

Three B-2 strategic nuclear bombers completed a tour of duty in Guam this week, as tensions remained high between the United States and China over what the Pentagon called a “dangerous” Chinese fighter-jet intercept of a U.S. surveillance plane last week.

Adm. Haney said in a statement that the bombers are intended to send a message to allies and adversaries.

“It is important for U.S. Strategic Command to continue to project global strike capabilities and extended deterrence against potential adversaries while providing assurance to our allies through deployments such as this,” he said. Continue reading

Communist Bloc Military Updates: Russia “hits afterburner” on stealth tech: PAK FA fighter to enter combat duty in 2015, PAK DA strategic bomber projected to enter service by 2025; modernizes Soviet-era inventory, upgrades for Blackjack and Backfire-C bomber fleets by 2020

All of the upgraded combat aircraft will remain in service until the Tupolev Design Bureau develops Russia’s fifth generation, stealth-based strategic bomber, PAK-DA, with the expectation that the first will enter combat duty in 2025.

Under the snappy title, “Russia hits afterburners on stealth tech,” Shane McGlaun and Trent Nouveau write: “It comes as little surprise that Russia has significantly accelerated development of its stealth program in recent years, and remains on track to debut an operational Sukhoi PAK FA twin-engine stealth jet fighter sometime in 2015.”

Full article: Communist Bloc Military Updates: Russia “hits afterburner” on stealth tech: PAK FA fighter to enter combat duty in 2015, PAK DA strategic bomber projected to enter service by 2025; modernizes Soviet-era inventory, upgrades for Blackjack and Backfire-C bomber fleets by 2020 (Once Upon A Time in the West)