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From Legacy to Next-Gen: The US Reallocates Funding to B-21 Raider and B-52J Stratofortress

US Air Force budget documents indicate a decrease in expenditure on the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit strategic bombers by the end of the 2020s. The focus is shifting towards the next-generation B-21 Raider nuclear bomber and the B-52H Stratofortress, which will be designated as the B-52J following an upgrade.

Here’s What We Know For several years, Global Strike Command has expressed its intention to allocate its limited human and financial resources to the B-21 Raider and B-52 Stratofortress. The Air Force also plans to retire the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit, as these bombers have not demonstrated significant mission effectiveness in recent times.

The Spirit fleet currently comprises 20 aircraft, but Global Strike Command can only deploy 14 bombers due to ongoing testing and maintenance. Additionally, maintaining the stealth systems proves to be complex and requires a substantial amount of manpower. It is anticipated that the B-21 Raider will be significantly more efficient in this aspect.

The B-1 supersonic bomber fleet has recently been reduced to 45 units. However, the US Air Force has decided to continue investing in funding and expertise to enhance the capabilities of these strategic aircraft.

The Air Force has requested $284.9 million from Congress for the fiscal years 2024-2028 (FY) for B-2 Spirit-related procurements. The funding will commence at $107.9 million in FY2024 and nearly halve to $57.16 million in FY2025. By FY2028, it will significantly decrease to $15.78 million.

Allocations for research, development, testing, and evaluation for the B-2 Spirit exhibit an even steeper decline, beginning at $87.6 million in FY2024 and reaching only a few thousand dollars in FY2028. Most of the funds will be directed towards avionics upgrades.

Regarding procurement funding for the B-1 Lancer, the US Air Force is seeking $12.8 million in FY2024, $3.31 million in FY2025, $4.74 million in FY2026, and approximately $1 million in FY2027-2028. The service aims to secure $32.68 million for research and development in FY2024-2025, with only a few thousand dollars requested for FY2027-2028.

The B-1 will also be equipped with new weapon systems. The Air Force decided to terminate Lockheed Martin’s Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) program due to failed tests. Instead, the focus is on the hypersonic missile being developed by Raytheon and Northrop Grumman as part of the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM) program.

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