The Air Force’s Strange Love for the New B-21 Bomber

By William Astore, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, who taught history for 15 years at the Air Force Academy, the Naval Postgraduate School, and in Pennsylvania at a technical college. He’s never forgotten his visit to the Trinity site in Alamogordo, New Mexico, where the first atomic device was tested in 1945, nor his time in Cheyenne Mountain Complex, hunkering down under 2,000 feet of granite, waiting for a nuclear war that never happened. His personal blog is Bracing Views. Originally published at TomDispatch

Did you know the U.S. Air Force is working on a new stealth bomber? Don’t blame yourself if you didn’t, since the project is so secret that most members of Congress aren’t privy to the details. (Talk about stealthy!) Known as the B-21 Raider, after General Doolittle’s Raiders of World War II fame, it’s designed to carry thermonuclear weapons as well as conventional missiles and bombs. In conceptual drawings, it looks much like its predecessor, the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, all wing and no fuselage, a shape that should help it to penetrate and survive the most hostile air defense systems on Earth for the purposes of a “global strike.” (Think: nuclear Armageddon.)

As the Air Force acquires those future B-21s, the B-2s will be retired along with the older B-1B bomber, although the venerable B-52 (of the Cold War era), much modified, will remain in service for the foreseeable future. At $550 million per plane (before the inevitable cost overruns even kick in), the Air Force plans to buy as many as 200 B-21s. That’s more than $100 billion in procurement costs alone, a boon for Northrop Grumman, the plane’s primary contractor.

If history is any judge, however, a boon for Northrop Grumman is likely to prove a bust for the American taxpayer. As a start, the United States has no real need for a new, stealthy, super-expensive, nuclear-capable, deep-penetrating strategic bomber for use against “peer” rivals China and Russia. But before tackling that issue, a little history is in order.

Déjà Vu All Over Again

A long time ago (1977, to be exact), in a country far, far away, President Jimmy Carter did a brave thing: he cancelled a major Pentagon weapons system just before it was due to start production. That was the B-1 bomber, a plane with sophisticated — that is, expensive — avionics designed to allow it to penetrate Soviet airspace in the event of a nuclear war and survive. Carter cancelled it for the most sensible of reasons: it wasn’t needed.

The Air Force had already developed air-launched cruise missiles that allowed bombers like the B-52 to strike enemy targets with precision from hundreds of miles away. It was also, like all modern weapons systems, outrageously expensive. Why spend vast sums on a new bomber, Carter reasoned, when the plane added little to the nation’s nuclear deterrent? In addition, that cancellation was meant to send a message to the military-industrial complex — that he would neither be beholden to nor intimidated by defense hawks who touted each and every new weapons system, no matter how expensive or redundant, as “essential.”

I was then a teenager with a yen for American warplanes. I’d even made a model of the B-1, complete with “variable geometry” wings that could be extended forward for low-speed flight and swept backward for high-speed, supersonic flight. In my mind’s eye, I can still see it, almost all white like the prototype that Rockwell International, its primary contractor, actually built. In a symbolic act of protest against Carter’s action, I took my model, taped a couple of firecrackers to it, and dropped it from the top floor of our house, blowing it up in a most satisfying way. So much for the B-1, I thought.

I was too young to know better. When Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, as part of a massive defense buildup (that Carter, ironically enough, had actually begun), he revived the B-1. The Air Force soon committed itself to buying 100 of them at a then-astronomical $280 million each. The B-1B Lancer (as it became known) has served in the Air Force for the last three decades, never (thankfully) fulfilling the purpose for which it was built: a nuclear attack. Plagued by accidents, high operating costs, and maintenance issues, the B-1 has been a disappointment to an Air Force now eager to replace it with an entirely new bomber, more or less guaranteed to have a similar history.

However much I loved the prospective plane as a teenager, I felt quite differently once I was myself in the Air Force. As a young lieutenant in 1986, I even wrote a paper for a contest within the service in which I argued that the concept of a manned, “penetrating,” strategic nuclear bomber was deeply flawed. In essence, I took the Carter position, suggesting that the other “legs” of America’s nuclear triad (ballistic missiles launched from silos and similar missiles on nuclear submarines) were more than enough to deter and defeat enemies (no less destroy the world), and that new “precision” technologies like cruise missiles rendered risky manned bombing missions deep into enemy airspace not just obsolete but antediluvian.

Not surprisingly, my paper didn’t win and the B-1B did. But it was an absurd addition, even by Air Force standards, given that the U.S. had an overwhelming arsenal of missiles at its command, together with a fleet of B-52s that, though lacking in speed and stealth, was aging rather well. In fact, B-52s are still flying today, which isn’t that surprising when you consider the development of highly accurate missiles that allow such a plane to “standoff” from targets and so limit its exposure to enemy air defenses.

Meanwhile, the Air Force, never a service to say no to expensive, high-tech weapons systems, no matter how redundant, was hard at work on a stealthy bomber that would achieve its vision of “global reach, global power, and global strike.” What emerged was the B-2 Spirit, a stealth bomber so expensive ($2.1 billion a pop) that only 21 were ever built. It was also pricier than the B-1 to operate and less reliable thanks to its fragile “stealth” coatings, which required lengthy, high-cost maintenance. In other words, both planes proved expensive disappointments that, fortunately, were never tested on the primary mission for which they were built: incinerating millions of people in a nuclear war.

Enter the B-21, whose very name is supposed to indicate its cutting-edge nature, as the first bomber of a new century. It’s already being readied to reprise the grim, predictable histories of its predecessors.

Will the Bomber Go the Way of the Dodo?

Old ideas and hallowed traditions die hard, especially when they’re so lucrative for the military-industrial-congressional complex. Just look at the staying power of the disastrously overpriced F-35 stealth fighter, projected to cost $1.45 trillion over the life of the program. Put bluntly, today’s future-driven Air Force still wants to be capable of taking the fight to the enemy in a manned bomber, just as in the past. It still wants its air crews to put bombs on target. At a time when remotely piloted drones like the Predators and Reapers are rendering redundant so many human fighter pilots sitting in real cockpits, the Air Force has no intention of allowing its strategic bombing force to go the way of the dodo. Its leaders will always fight for manned strategic bombers because it fits their image of themselves: dodging enemy fighters, missiles, and flak, and taking the fight to the enemy’s doorstep.

In fact, not only does the Air Force want the B-21 as its “fifth generation” bomber, it also wants a new fighter jet to escort it on deep penetrating missions into China, Russia, or other countries. Think here of the legendary P-51 Mustangs, which accompanied U.S. strategic bombers deep into Nazi Germany during World War II. In other words, the Air Force’s vision of future aerial war bears an eerie resemblance to the action scenes in the classic 1949 war movie Twelve O’Clock High, except instead of the B-17s and P-51s of World War II, fifth generation bombers will join with sixth-generation fighters to claw their way through enemy airspace.

Of course, Pentagon officials have an array of talking points to support their case for the B-21. These include: maintaining parity, if not supremacy, vis-à-vis China or Russia or some future, ill-defined enemy and the need of our heroic troops for the latest and best in weaponry. They emphasize that canceling a major weapons system like the B-21 is tantamount to unilateral disarmament, that it would betray weakness to rivals and foes, and that manned bombers provide maximum flexibility since, unlike missiles, they can be recalled or redirected after being launched.

In truth, however, Twelve O’Clock High scenarios look increasingly ridiculous and outmoded in the twenty-first century. But don’t tell that to the U.S. Air Force. When its strategists visualize bombers, all they see is potential, promise, and even fulfillment. But history shows us something else: the potential for widespread and indiscriminant destruction and massive casualties. If anything, since World War II, America’s arsenal of bombers has emboldened the U.S. to strike in places and in ways clearly counterproductive to just about any definition of national security, even as untold numbers of innocents have perished from the ordnance fired or dropped from those planes. The Vietnam War — during which the U.S. dropped seven million tons of bombs — is a perfect example of this.

Here’s the nightmarish reality of actually bringing such weapons systems online: when the U.S. military develops a capability, it seeks to use it, even in cases where it’s wildly inappropriate. (Again, think of the massive B-52 bombings in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in a counterinsurgency campaign classically meant to win “hearts and minds.”) Fielding a new strategic bomber for global strike, including potential thermonuclear attacks, will not so much enhance national security as potentially embolden future presidents to strike whenever and wherever they want in a fashion devastating to human life. The B-21 isn’t a force-multiplier. It’s an Armageddon-enabler.

Flying High in our B-21s

Having marketed himself as a savvy military critic, is there any possibility that Donald Trump will have the smarts of Jimmy Carter when it comes to the B-21 program? Will he save America at least $100 billion (and probably far more) while eliminating yet another redundant weapons system within the Department of Defense? Fat chance. Even if he wanted to, The Donald doesn’t stand a chance against the Pentagon these days.

Flush with billions and billions of new taxpayer dollars, including funds for those F-35s and for new nukes from a bipartisan coalition in an otherwise riven Congress, America’s military services will fight for any and all major weapons systems, the B-21 included. So, too, will Congress, especially if Northrop Grumman follows the production strategy first employed by Rockwell International with the B-1: spreading the plane’s subcontractors and parts suppliers to as many states and Congressional districts as possible. This would, of course, ensure that cuts to the B-21 program would impact jobs and so drive votes in Congress in its favor. After all, what congressional representative would be willing to vote against high-paying jobs in his or her own state or district in the name of American security?

So here’s my advice to young model-builders everywhere: don’t blow up your B-21s anytime soon. Rest assured that the real thing is coming. If the Air Force wants to ensure that it has a new bomber, in the name of blasting America’s enemies to oblivion, so be it. It worked (partially and at tremendous cost) in 1943 in the flak- and fighter-filled skies of Nazi Germany, so why shouldn’t it work in 2043 over the skies of who-knows-where-istan?

Why does “your” Air Force think this way? Not just because it loves big bombers, but also because its biggest rivals aren’t in Russia or China or some “rogue” state like Iran. They’re right here in “the homeland.” I’m talking, of course, about the other military services. Yes, interservice rivalries remain alive and well at the Pentagon. If the U.S. Navy can continue to build breathtakingly expensive nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (like the much-troubled USS Gerald R. Ford) and submarines, and if the Army can have all its tanks, helicopters, and associated toys, then, dammit, the Air Force can have what truly makes it special and unique: a new stealthy strategic bomber escorted by an even newer long-range stealthy fighter.

And don’t just blame the Air Force for such retrograde thinking. Its leaders know what’s easiest to sell Congress: big, splashy projects that entail decades of funding and create tens of thousands of jobs. As congressional representatives line up to push for their pieces of the action, military contractors are only too happy to oblige. As the lead contractor for the B-21, Northrop Grumman of Falls Church, Virginia, has the most to gain, but other winners will include United Technologies of East Hartford, Connecticut; BAE Systems of Nashua, New Hampshire; Spirit Aerosystems of Wichita, Kansas; Orbital ATK of Clearfield, Utah, and Dayton, Ohio; Rockwell Collins of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; GKN Aerospace of St Louis, Missouri; and Janicki Industries of Sedro-Woolley, Washington. And these are just the major suppliers for that aircraft; dozens of other parts suppliers will be needed, and they’ll be carefully allocated to as many Congressional districts as possible. Final assembly of the plane will likely take place in Palmdale, California, integrating components supplied from sea to shining sea. Who says America’s coastal enclaves can’t join with the heartland to get things done?

Even if President Trump wanted to cancel the B-21 — and given his recent speech to graduates of the Naval Academy, the odds are that there isn’t a weapons system anywhere he doesn’t want to bring to fruition — chances are that in today’s climate of militarism he would face enormous push-back. As a colleague who’s still on active duty in the Air Force puts it, “What makes today worse than the Carter days is our flag-humping, military-slobbering culture. We can’t even have a discussion of what the country’s needs are for fear of ‘offending’ or ‘disrespecting’ the troops. Today, Carter would be painted as disloyal to those troops he was consigning to an early death because every procurement decision centers on a ‘grave’ or ‘existential’ threat to national security with immediate and deadly consequences.”

And so the Air Force and its flyboy generals will win the fight for the B-21 and take the American taxpayer along for the ride — unless, that is, we somehow have the courage to pry the control sticks from the cold, dead hands of hidebound military tradition and lobbying firepower. Until we do, it’s off we go (yet again), into the wild blue yonder, flying high in our B-21s.


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  1. Louis Fyne

    arguably as an example, if you want to be purely utilitarian, nearly all of the US Navy, especially the aircraft carriers, should be replaced with submarines of various types.

    But like the B-21, aircraft carriers and their planes, are sexier and a guaranteed jobs program for contractors, political constituencies and pilots and the generals/colonels/upper-middle management who need to oversee them all.

    1. a different chris

      Dunno if they are “sexier”, have you ever contemplated the shape of a submarine? :D

        1. sierra7

          Could firing of torpedoes be considered the culmination of the sex act????? Holy Moley!!!!

  2. voteforno6

    The Air Force is a service run by pilots, for pilots. They’re taught from the very beginning that air power can win wars all on its own. So, it’s no surprise that they would push for yet another expensive platform like the B-21.

    I find it amusing that they want another new fighter to escort these new bombers…what the heck is the F-35 for, then? Or, maybe we can split the difference – give them the new fighter, but have them escort B-52s instead, as that would work just as well.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        Also, the B-2 isn’t particularly stealthy anymore. This is the only article I could find with a quick search – it’s five years old but still relevant as it also touches on this new program:

        And note this:

        Since the 1980’s, 21 B-2s have been built and the program has cost more than $50 billion.

        After consulting some AI and running an alogithm, I managed to calculate that each B-2 costs about 2.5 billion simoleons. So the new ones (which will also likely be obsolete before they roll off the production line) are supposedly going to cost $550 million?!? – that’s the best joke I’ve heard all day.

        1. nervos belli

          These new toys supposedly cost 550 million to build. Something similar was said about the B2 when it was designed. The reason the B2 costs almost a billion dollars per to build is that only 21 were made instead of hundred or so planned. Sound familiar?
          About the B-2: “A procurement of 132 aircraft was planned in the mid-1980s, but was later reduced to 75.”
          Exactly the same bullshit is fed from the Air Force right now with 100 certain and maybe 200 if all goes well.
          Just like what was said about DD(X) and the LCS by the Navy.

          To get to the 2.5 billions actual cost per plane for the B-2, you need to add maintenance, parts and all that. Something this new wonderplane for 550 millions will need as well and is not contained in the figures quoted yet When you look at F-35, it will need a lot more of it compared to the old and cheap (hah) B-2, so I guess even as it stands now, the program will probably cost 2 or 2.5 billions per plane even if a miracle happens and those 550 million are actually true.

          Still, at 100 planes, another 250 billions for the defense budget. A billion there, a billion here, and soon it’s actual money.

        2. Synoia

          The may be stealthy in the RF (Radar) sense. Stealthy in Infra-Red (Heat), not at all.

          Physics is physics. I suspect the ‘Enemies” know this was well.

    1. albert

      “…I find it amusing that they want another new fighter to escort these new bombers…what the heck is the F-35 for, then?…”

      It could be that the F-35 is a disaster, and the AF wants a dedicated escort with specific functions that existing fighters cannot perform. See the PM article for details. ( )

      Lest I sound supportive of the plan, I’m not. I’m against both.

      Regarding your question, the most reasonable answer is “The F-35 is another money making opportunity for the Defense Industry.”

      . .. . .. — ….

      1. animalogic

        “…I find it amusing that they want another new fighter to escort these new bombers”
        Here’s a budget idea – the US could buy, say, a Mig 31, or a Sikhoi 35S for this escort role ? Potential ?? I reckon it’d be a winner !
        (Sorry, my sense of humor is a bit retarded)

    2. Samuel Conner

      Re: I find it amusing that they want another new fighter to escort these new bombers…what the heck is the F-35 for, then?

      Or distressing.

      As I understand it, the F-35 has insufficient range for deep penetration strikes; it requires refueling and the Air Force (and Navy) doesn’t have stealth tankers. The short legs of the F-35 is a problem for the Navy, as it requires either placing tankers at risk, or the carriers themselves.

      This older item has I think previously been linked at NC. It’s relevant to the inter-service problem of the short range of the F-35

  3. JBird

    I know that much of the military is just there as an ego boosting, empire building, jobs program, but I have always been puzzled as to why they don’t seem care about having their stuff work? The latest anything seems to fall apart. If you are going build it anyways and we will still need at least a small military, why not make something functional even if gold plated? At least to avoid being embarrassed.

    1. bronco

      That isn’t just a military issue. Its systemic to everything in the US. If anyone has ever read the Foundation books by Iaasc Asimov , it feels to me we are using them as a blueprint

    2. oh

      Yeah, why not build fast inter-city trains and fast local transportation what we all can use?

    3. fajensen

      Dick Jones: I had a guaranteed military sale with ED 209 – renovation program, spare parts for twenty-five years… Who cares if it worked or not?

      Exactly, who cares!? It’s not like it will ever be needed to work; after the return strike there is no place to land anyway, so missiles will serve the same function as this pile of pork.

      The worse the system, the better the options are for resource extraction on the hot-fixes, service, spares, logistics, documentation, change manager, service organisation and training.

      An entire ecosystem of parasites and petty fiefdoms can thrive and grow on just one military system!

      It’s a damn shame that it is not possible to waste any precious public funds on any life-furthering works, like unleaded water.

  4. twonine

    Senator Angus King, last year at this time, talking about his #TrickledownWeaponomics program.

    LONG RANGE STRIKE BOMBER: The bill authorizes more than $2 billion for research, development, testing and evaluation of the long-range stealth bomber, B-21, which will be a central pillar of our national security strategy to deal with future threats. Pratt & Whitney in North Berwick will be the engine supplier for the B-21.

  5. Carey

    “Fifth-generation global precision attack platform.” Yeah, that’s what we need, as the planet burns. /s

    We are so forked.

  6. ambrit

    Like the “stealth” aircraft of the title, the Popular Mechanics site bundled a “stealth” extortion attempt into its’ link.
    No, I will not “purchase an ad exemption” for this one story, and no, I will not allow ads. There are many things in this ‘best of all worlds’ that I can do without. So, I won’t be reading Popular Mechanics online anytime soon. Back to paper stories, hand turned in public libraries for me.

  7. Jon S

    A few thoughts:

    1. I work in County government in Florida. Fire and Sheriff’s departments work the same way. Everyone has to have the latest technology. No expense spared, because if they don’t get it: “babies will die”. I look at the overly complex junk they purchase and I know, without a doubt, it will never get used in the way it was intended. And will have zero impact on performance. Must be a flaw in the human condition.

    2. The new B-21 is being engineered a 1/2 hour drive south of my home, in Melbourne, FL. They’re creating over 5,000 jobs at an average pay of $110K. Local politicians slobbered all over themselves to give Northrup whatever tax breaks they could give. Housing prices are going through the roof. I just think they made Melbourne a prime target in a nuclear exchange.

    3. My personal opinion is that private industry could supply all of the goodies people want, while employing maybe 1/10th of the population. So the DOD is really just a jobs program. The benefits are many: high-paying union jobs for the locals, lots of votes for existing pols, and a military that you can use to extend the neo-liberal order to other countries to maximize profits.

    1. hemeantwell

      You’re right about the jobs program aspect, but the point’s often been made that it’s a relatively inefficient one.

      It would be interesting to compare tech trickle down to civilian use from the research resources blown for each of the services. I don’t hear of much coming out of Air Force projects these days. Drones?

      The militaries of the major powers are nominally out to kill each other but are for the most part mutually dependent for collective justification. Our Defenders in the Pentagon must have been guzzling champagne after Putin recently touted his list of wonder weapons.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Not much in the record about how opening the floodgates of MMT money for the Armageddonists and careerists has sucked so much “tech talent” into pathways that lead to Slaughterbots ™ and Cybergeddon prep and creation of thousands of little innovations that seem likely to lead to mass die-offs of us humans. Each little innovation, of course, has its little clique of adherents who think “this is really cool stuff!” and “look what we can do” and such short-sighted idiocies.

        One missing reference in the piece is to that other bombing-back-to-the-stone-age “mission” to burn down and blast pretty much all of Korea, “NORTH AND SOUTH” — that was “only” about 635,000 tons of ordnance from the air and another big bunch from artillery and other puny ground weapons…

        Another thing missing is any hints or suggestions about what might be done to derail the Armageddon Express that we are now riding on. One might, if one were cynical, infer that somewhere in the author’s mind is an intent to persuade us that all this stuff he is writing about is inevitable, and hence all resistance is futile.

  8. d

    Not so sure that the drones can do much in a high tech conflict, after all they need to maintain contact with those that control them, which works well if your opponent cant interfere with that link, break it, and the drones dont do much. but then cruise missiles do the job, but there is no abort of the mission, since your opponent could find that too. not that manned bombers are the best choice either. but given the world we live in, what do you do?

    1. nervos belli

      Drones as they are right now are only very modest beginning. Every silicon valley company worth more than a billion has a autonomous car program.
      Why do you think the military doesn’t want the same and is actually working on it?

      Autonomous cars are (almost) impossible. The environment is to unstable, too unpredictable and the computers simply too stupid.
      However, for the military this is a non-issue. The military, especially drones, already have a lot of collateral damage, “fire on civilians” “fire on friendlies”, etc. So autonomous planes are not much worse than the military is now. Everyone killed is a terrorist anyways no matter if he or she is 5 or 95.

      The only reason they aren’t fully automated already is the Air Force is run by pilots for pilots with pilots as someone already wrote above. So with human controlled drones now, computer controlled ones later. It will happen. Doesn’t really matter if you fire a cruise missile or start a drone plane.

      Cruise missiles can’t do every job. For CAP, interdiction, etc. a plane is still better. And without a meatbag it will even do better.

      1. d

        And given how well automated cars have done so far, why would you expect drones to be better? and given high tech opponents, you would expect them to find ways to break any drones that come their way.and i guess the us showing how to, since we have opponents who have drones too

        1. nervos belli

          If current automated cars were autonomous weaponized drones, they’d be fine already.
          It doesn’t matter so much if they crash: more money for Boeing/Lockheed/Grumman. Just as long as they don’t crash into the hangar or kill maintenance personal.
          It doesn’t matter if they kill another few kids: that already happens with human operators, no one will see it and besides: they were all terrorists anyways.
          The enemy already breaks drones and fighter planes. War is always attrition. The point of drones is: maximizing money for B/L/G, effectively wage wars for the needed or wanted outsourcing and at the same time no more body bags at home which make those wars unpopular.

          Planes are not needed against high tech opponents: against them, onl nuclear bombs are of any use. The US never fights against those either. They very carefully negotiate where in Syria they can attack with cruise missles so not to kill a single russian soldier for example. And Russia is acting similarly.
          All that firepower in the defense budget outside the department of energy which handles the a-bombs, is purely for colonial wars. Ok, the delivery systems like subs and missiles are important too, and paid from the defense budget.

      2. Synoia

        The environment is to unstable, too unpredictable and the computers simply too stupid.

        Nonsense :-)

        1. Computers don’t make mistakes, they repeat your mistakes endlessly.

        2. You are overestimating management’s intelligence.

      1. d

        No it would be nice if we lived in a world that wasnt riven with greed, lust for power (Of all sorts) unfortunately that itsnt our world

        1. JTMcPhee

          Yep, resistance is futile. At least the Borg in Star Trek offered some compensations to the mopes they absorbed into the Collective…

  9. IanB

    And as to the B-1B, 60 Minutes a couple of weeks ago actually did some investigative reporting (rather than their usual corporate and military shilling) on the friendly fire deaths in 2014 of several soldiers in Afghanistan. It turns out that the B-1B is being used for close air support (??!!!!!!??) for ground troops. However, the sensor pod retrofitted to the B-1B to monitor ground activity does not have the ability to detect the infrared strobes used by the ground troops for Identification Friend or Foe. This resulted in a 500 lb bomb being dropped on a special forces team in the midst of a firefight – the air crew could see the muzzle flashes, but couldn’t see the IFF beacons…

    The piece ended by noting the B-1B is still being used for close support, and the pod still can’t see the IFF beacons, four years after the initial incident.

    So murdering Army personnel is yet another acceptable side-effect of re-purposing a bomber utterly unsuited to ground support.

    1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

      Exactly. Its already enough deaths from Army suicides.

      The Easter i was discharged back in 2014, 3 Army enlisted took their own lives.

      F these garbage contractors. PAY THE TROOPS

  10. Bobby Gladd

    Tangentially, regarding DOD $$$

    The recent annual GDP of North Korea is reported at about $12.5 billion.

    The new USS Gerald R. Ford carrier price tag alone is now running at $13.1 billion.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Don’t forget to tack on several billion more for the cost of the squadrons aboard, the crew, ancillary equipment and weaponry. Call it five billion more. As they say in Washington – a billion here, a billion there and pretty soon you are talking about serious money.

    2. John Wright

      I’m old enough to remember the Gerald R. Ford jokes.

      One of them:

      “Gerald Ford was on an escalator and it broke down.”

      “He was stuck for hours.”

      LBJ supposedly said “Jerry played too much football without a helmet.”

      But I can never “pardon” Ford for his unconditional pardon of Nixon, supposedly for the good of the country, emphasizing that “important” people suffer enough by losing their position in well-bred society that they should not be considered for jail time.

      For the good of the country, Ford should have wound down Nixon’s War on Drugs and put Nixon on trial.

      First Ford got a Profile of Courage medal from the John F. Kennedy Library in 2001.

      Now they named a carrier after him.


  11. Disturbed Voter

    Without WWII and the Cold War, the army of the unemployed would have happened, per Marx. Automation is the death of the human race, because it makes people obsolete. We could all be painters or writers, but nobody will pay for that “shit”. In American culture, poetry is dead, for a reason.

  12. The Rev Kev

    They may build these things but in the end they will be mostly used for launching bombs against tribal fighters carrying AK-47s and RPGs at a cost of a million dollars for of them killed each – versus the cost of a bullet.

    1. JTMcPhee

      The cost to kill each “gook,” in McNamara’s efficient zero-base-budgeting Vietnam Imperial wealth transfer operation, came to about $400,000 in maybe 1971 dollars. That’s if you give the Fokkers in the military the benefit of the doubt and accept the high reported “body counts,” and a number at the top end of the range for estimates of civilian dead in all four countries — South and North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia — and exclude the Pol Pot Khmer Rouge millions.

      Thar’s GOLD in them thar megadeaths! ( and, like the little girl said in the old “Shake ‘n Bake” commercial, “And Ah helped!”

  13. Altandmain

    While I’m skeptical about what this author says on drones, which like all technology solutions promised will have severe limitations, this B-21 has one real purpose: to make Northrop Grumman and the military industrial complex rich.

    The issue with every technology is that it does come at a cost. For example, drones can be jammed and the connection is very delicate. There have been quite a few drones that have crashed due to that. In some cases, the drones have crashed into enemy territory and have been recovered by enemy forces.

    In the case of this B-21, reliability will be an issue. The flight to maintenance ratio of these aircraft, like the B2 before them, will be poor. They will be hangar queens and needing delicate maintenance. That does not bode well for a bomber which will need to sustain a high sortie rate in any serious war.

    1. JTMcPhee

      I thought that for the war they are meant for, there will be only ONE sortie… “What good are all these weapons, if we don’t use them?

      I know, the next expose after the aircraft are “deployed” will likely be ground support. Of Imperial troops that have violated all those silly international laws and invaded, or continued to “kick a$$” in, one Sh!thole country or another.

      There’s an infinite number of War Game scenarios that might could play out in the future. The MIC wants to have full field firepower to shoot their way through each and every one of them, with purpose-built and mission-switchable Vastly Expensive Hardware (VES.)

  14. Rates

    Did anyone see those bombers in Star Wars The Last Jedi? Especially the part where they had to be on top of the enemy ships before they can drop the bombs?

    What’s wrong with that you wonder? This is outer space. There’s like … NO gravity.

    I bet the Air Force guys were the ones who came up with that scene.


  15. Henry

    The use of the word tax payers is a bit problematic in his article. I think we all familiar with mmt know how the Air Force is actually able to afford all this.

  16. JBird

    Let’s see. Last I checked at least 15% of Americans have food insecurit which means that have problems paying for food and sometimes go hungry. This does not mean one actually qualifies for the average 50-150 per person per month of food stamps. Trust me on that.

    So a minimum 48,000,000 Americans can and often do go hungry. At a magnificent $50 per or week or $2,600 per year for a low balled amount to support each of the low balled number of people that’s 124 billion per year to adequately fund it.

    The program actually spends around 70 billion per year so it really underfunded by over 54 billion. The estimated current cost of buying those flying white elephants would cover that 54 billion. But that’s socialism or something. I guess.

    Richest country my posterior.

    Russia! Deplorables! Great economy! Gunz! Look! Over! There! Squirrels!!

    Being constantly hungry is one of the worse things in the world, and yet we can afford fancy new toys, but cannot feed our people. There are plenty of things to argue over or worry about but tens of millions of Americans, more people than our largest States, go hungry or face homelessness every day of every week of every year; this has been happening, and getting worse, for decades. Yet the Republicans go all serious on abortion and the Democrats do on guns as human life is so, so precious to them.

    Well another useless rant. I just hope some realize that TPTB don’t give a fig about most people.

  17. Tyronius

    Well, it seems the war on the American Taxpayer is going well.

    The only casualty is posterity- but who cares about them? They don’t vote or make tax deductible contributions to political campaigns so they don’t count.

    Perish the notion that we could employ the very same armies of engineers, deploy the very same aerospace contractors and spend the very same dollars we don’t have and can’t spare on building a space exploration and colonisation capability. At least that way we’d have something to show for all those wasted trillions.

  18. Jim A.

    Of course this rather ignores the fact revealed later that one of the reasons Carter cancelled the B-1 was that research into stealthy, radar absorbing technologies were showing some promise. Why buy the B-1 when the “stealth bomber” may be just around the corner? Of course turning early, promising technology demonstrators into a semi-working kinda deployed bomber turned out to be REAL expensive and difficult.

    It is interesting to remind people that unlike president “bone spurs” Carter was a Navy vet, a trained nuclear officer, albeit one that resigned his commission before he could serve on a nuclear sub. He is portrayed as an anti-military liberal. The reality is more that he had a skepticism of the pentagon born of having been in the service.

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