October 27, 2015

CNAS Press Note: The Long Range Strategic Bomber Decision

By Jerry Hendrix

Washington, October 27 – As Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announces the selection of the design and manufacturer of the new Long Range Strategic Bomber, Center for a New American Security Defense Strategies and Assessments Program Director Jerry Hendrix has written a new Press Note, “The Long Range Strategic Bomber Decision.

The full press note is below:

This afternoon the Secretary of Defense announced the selection of the design and manufacturer of the long awaited “B-3” Long Range Strategic Bomber. Set to replace 60-year-old B-52 Stratofortresses and B-1 Lancers, as well as to take conventional weapon delivery mission stress away from the strategic B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, the selection of the B-3 design is the biggest defense acquisition news of the past decade. The design of the aircraft and overall size of the program have been unique among modern weapon programs in that the prime design factors have been the cost per unit ­­– no more than $550 million in 2010 dollars – and the size of the force – 80­ to100 aircraft.  All other characteristics have been variable. Two teams, Northrop Grumman and Boeing with Lockheed Martin, competed, submitting innovative designs that combined cutting edge technologies with proven off-the-shelf subcomponents to keep costs down. Now, with the selection of the Northrup Grumman design, the defense community has a decision, and none too soon.

The new Long Range Strategic Bomber will fill critical holes in both capability and capacity sets to wage sustained and persistent offensive bombing operations from range. The older B-52 and B-1 aircraft, with their obsolescent designs, have long fallen short of the technological requirements of modern war and have faced climbing maintenance and logistical challenges due to their advanced age. The proposed 80 to 100 aircraft will enable the bomber force to maintain consistent pressure in the combat zone, a problem for the 20 aircraft in the B-2 force, if called upon. The Long Range Strategic Bomber will roll off  Northrop Grumman’s production line at a time of rising anti-access/area-denial challenges in both Asia and Europe and at a tipping point in military aviation, as the force teeters between manned and unmanned solutions.

Ashton Carter and his defense team are to be commended for the care and deliberateness of their decision-making process. Let us hope that the Congress, the American people, and the defense industry get behind this new aircraft. It is a requirement for our current challenging times.

Hendrix is available for interviews on the Long Range Strategic Bomber decision. To arrange an interview, please contact Neal Urwitz at nurwitz@cnas.org, or call 202-457-9409.

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) is an independent and nonpartisan research institution that develops strong, pragmatic and principled national security and defense policies. CNAS leads efforts to help inform and prepare the national security leaders of today and tomorrow.


  • Jerry Hendrix

    Former Senior Fellow and Director, Defense Program

    Jerry Hendrix was the Senior Fellow and the Director of the Defense Program at the Center for a New American Security. A retired Captain in the United States Navy, his staff ...