Bombing Run

By Marcus Weisgerber / March 27, 2009 at 5:00 AM

A group of six senators from South Dakota, Louisiana and Texas sent a letter to President Obama yesterday urging him not to cancel the Air Force’s plans to field a new bomber aircraft by 2018.

“We believe termination of the Next-Generation Bomber would do tremendous danger to our nation’s future ability to project power abroad, and runs counter to what senior defense officials in your administration have stated about the need for” the aircraft, the senators wrote in response to a press report asserting the White House had suggested scrapping the program.

The senators -- including John Thune (R-SD), Tim Johnson (D-SD), David Vitter (R-LA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) -- all have major Air Force bomber bases in their states that could eventually host the next-generation bomber.

Both South Dakota and Texas are home to B-1B squadrons at Ellsworth AFB and Dyess AFB, respectively, while Louisiana is home to B-52s at Barksdale AFB.

“The need for this new long range strike capability is urgent because, while our current wars are being fought in undefended airspace, the conflicts of the near-term future will likely feature heavily defended sophisticated and deadly air defense systems,” the senators wrote.

The senators argue that a stealthy new bomber is needed because the Air Force only flies 20 radar-evading B-2 bombers, which are based in Missouri. Those aircraft are expected to remain operational for several decades.

On another note, Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota were not listed on the letter – noteworthy given that their state is home to Minot Air Force Base, a major B-52 Stratofortress hub.