The Panel to Review Long Range Air Power, an independent panel mandated under Section 8131 of the Fiscal Year 1998 Defense Appropriations Act and charged to evaluate the adequacy of current planning for U.S. long-range air power and the requirement for continued low-rate production of the B-2 stealth bomber, concluded its review of the nation's bomber force requirements this week and has provided its recommendations to the White House and Congress.
The panel was charged to "recommend whether additional funds for the B-2 should be used for continued low-rate production of the B-2 or for upgrades to improve its deployability, survivability, and maintainability."
The panel received briefings and held discussions with representatives of the principal organizations within the Department of Defense and industry associated with long-range air power.
The panel investigated a wide variety of issues including the advantages and limitations of long range air power, the value of stealth, advances in counter stealth technology, force tradeoffs, plans for new precision guided munitions, and Department of Defense budget forecasts.
After careful review and discussions of all the information made available, the panel recommended that all of the $331 million appropriated in FY98 be used for the baseline B-2 program and for upgrades to improve the deployability, survivability, and maintainability of the 21 existing B-2 stealth bombers.
The panel also recommended that the Department better exploit the potential of the current B-1, B-2 and B-52 bomber force through more operational attention and additional investment in support and upgrades, and that the Department develop a plan to sustain the bomber force for the longer term.
Former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Welch chaired the panel.
Joining General Welch on the panel were Samuel Adcock, Daimler Benz Corp.; Sen. James Exon; John Foster, TRW Inc.; Fred Frostic, Booz Allen-Hamilton, Inc.; former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Merrill McPeak; Mr. Walter Morrow, MIT Laboratory; Donald Rice, former Secretary of the Air Force; and retired Air Force Gen. Robert Rutherford.