In an instant, four tons of steel and explosives slammed into the 522-foot-long warship Schenectady, blowing it apart in a cataclysm of smoke, dust and sound. Overhead, a pair of U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52 bombers orbited, one of them having just released four laser-guided bombs. The huge, eight-engine warplanes had flown directly from Louisiana to attack the decommissioned Navy landing ship as part of an exercise near Hawaii on Nov. 23, 2004.
Archived posts with tag ‘B-2’
The Air Force’s bomber troubles stretch a long way back. The last bomber to be developed and purchased without huge cost overruns was the B-52, which began development in the late 1940s. Twice in subsequent decades the Air Force launched a new bomber program in order to replace the now-classic B-52, only to see costs rise and production terminated early. Seventy years after its design was conceived, the B-52 remains America’s most numerous strategic bomber.
When China began testing its first aircraft carrier earlier this month, Washington was quick to issue a stern rebuke, scolding Beijing for its lack of transparency regarding the vessel’s purpose. “We would welcome any kind of explanation,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
It began with an email in late February. The message, sent by air planners at the Germany headquarters of U.S. Africa Command to the 608th Air and Space Operations Center located at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, jump-started a “byzantine” process of communication, planning and paperwork involving no fewer than 10 U.S. military headquarters scattered across the globe.
First, there was the undetectable, ship-killing flying boat. Next, a brand-new jet fighter equal to the U.S. F/A-18. After that, a stealth fighter capable of striking Israel. Then a killer drone nicknamed the “ambassador of death.”
It’s been a pillar of the U.S. military’s approach to high-tech warfare for decades. And now, it could be become obsolete in just a few years. Stealth technology — which today gives U.S. jets the nearly unparalleled ability to slip past hostile radar — may soon be unable to keep American aircraft cloaked. That’s the potentially startling conclusion of a new report from Barry Watts, a former member of the Pentagon’s crystal-ball-gazing Office of Net Assessment and current analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington.
After a decade of steady expansion, the Chinese military has made significant strides toward limiting the United States’ ability to deploy its own armed forces in the western Pacific. A combination of new submarines, long-range anti-ship missiles and heavily-armed jet fighters underpins what the Pentagon calls Beijing’s “anti-access, area-denial” strategy, aimed at keeping the warships of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, based in Japan, out of the South China Sea.