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Budget Realignment: US Reduces Support for B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit, Puts Emphasis on B-21 Raider and B-52J Stratofortress

US Air Force budget documents indicate a decrease in investment in the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit strategic bombers by the end of the 2020s. The priority is now 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 Global Strike Command has consistently stated its intention to allocate its limited human and financial resources to the B-21 Raider and B-52 Stratofortress. The goal is to retire the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit, which have experienced diminished mission effectiveness in recent years.

The Spirit fleet comprises 20 aircraft, but Global Strike Command can only utilize 14 of them, as the others are either undergoing testing or maintenance. Additionally, the stealth systems are complex and demand significant man-hours for maintenance. The B-21 Raider is expected to exhibit much greater efficiency in this aspect.

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

For fiscal years 2024-2028, the service has requested $284.9 million from the US Congress for B-2 Spirit-related acquisitions. The funding starts at $107.9 million in FY2024 and gradually decreases, reaching $57.16 million in FY2025 and sharply dropping to $15.78 million by FY2028.

The funding for research, development, testing, and evaluation of the B-2 Spirit exhibits an even steeper decline, starting at $87.6 million in FY2024 and eventually decreasing to a few thousand dollars in FY2028. The majority of these funds will be allocated to 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 also requests $32.68 million for research and development in FY2024-2025, and a minimal amount in FY2027-2028.

The B-1 will also be equipped to accommodate the new weapon systems. The US Air Force has abandoned Lockheed Martin’s Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) program due to unsuccessful tests. Consequently, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman are collaborating on a hypersonic missile as part of the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM) program.

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