Defense comptroller: Military wants ‘80 to 100’ new bombers

The Defense Department could purchase up to 100 models of a new bomber aircraft, Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale revealed on Wednesday.

“We want to buy 80 to 100 new bombers,” Hale said, “not just 20.”

That means the Air Force and industry “will have to keep costs down,” the comptroller said during a conference in Washington sponsored by Aviation Week magazine.

Senior DoD and Air Force officials say cost will be a top consideration this time, in contrast to recent unsuccessful attempts to develop and buy a new bomber. Officials say holding down the price will push the Air Force toward using more already available technologies. 

Details of this latest bomber concept are slowly emerging. The Air Force plans to spend about $3.7 billion over five years on the bomber program.

It will be “optionally manned” — meaning commanders would have the option of launching it with a pilot in the cockpit, or flying it like an unmanned aerial vehicle. Defense officials say it likely will be capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are expected to compete for what will be a lucrative contract to design, develop and build the new bombers.