Senator John Thune
South Dakota’s Ellsworth Air Force Base’s 28th Bomb Wing is home to two of the three combat squadrons operating the B-1B strategic bomber. Of the three aircraft that currently comprise our bomber fleet, the B-1B has the highest payload, the fastest maximum speed, and operates at the lowest cost per flying hour.
As potential adversaries continue to modernize their anti-aircraft systems, our ability to penetrate those systems must also modernize. The next generation bomber will ensure our ability to operate effectively in anti-access and area-denial environments. As the Air Force continues to modernize, the Long-Range Strike Bomber remains a must-have capability for future combat operations and an important part of a 21st century strategy to protect our interests worldwide, both as a deterrent and as a military asset.
Beyond greater national security concerns, the next generation bomber program is potentially important for South Dakota. As the current home to an important military workhorse, the B-1B, Ellsworth would be a natural fit for a future home to the next generation Long-Range Strike Bomber.
On Thursday, December 19, 2013, the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which is the primary vehicle for authorizing defense spending for Fiscal Year 2014. Included in the compromise version of the bill was my amendment that puts Congress on record in support of the next generation Long-Range Strike Bomber. The amendment also highlights the importance of upgrading our current bomber fleet, including the B-1B Bomber based at Ellsworth Air Force Base in order to maintain combat effectiveness in the face of continued advancements in the anti-access capabilities of foreign powers.
My amendment emphasizes our commitment to the ongoing development of the Long-Range Strike Bomber, and I will continue working with my colleagues in the Senate to ensure the necessary backing for the completion of this program. Our Armed Forces must have the next-generation capabilities that they need to defend our country against future threats.