Strategic Bombers:

Adding Conventional Capabilities Will Be Complex, Time-Consuming, and Costly

NSIAD-93-45: Published: Feb 5, 1993. Publicly Released: Feb 22, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed current conventional strategic bomber force capabilities and assessed Air Force plans, schedules, and costs for equipping strategic bombers with conventional war fighting capabilities.

GAO found that: (1) the Air Force planned to make the B-1B strategic bomber the backbone of its bomber force and equip B-52, B-1B, and B-2 bombers with precision-guided munitions; (2) while the B-52 bomber delivers a wide variety of weapons and performs a variety of missions, the B-1B bomber currently can deliver only one kind of bomb and its mission is limited; (3) low altitude bomb-to-bomb collisions and excessive bomb-reloading times limit the effectiveness of the B-1B bomber; (4) corrections to remedy bomb collisions would not necessarily reduce current mission objectives; (5) the B-2 bomber was designed to have a nuclear and conventional role, however information was insufficient to project the aircraft's future conventional capability; (6) the Air Force's bomber roadmap was inadequate to make funding decisions and failed to address the contributions of carrier-based and long-range theater attack aircraft; (7) modifying B-1B and B-52 bombers for conventional capabilities would total over $3 billion; (8) bomber modification costs could be greatly understated due to operational, defensive avionics systems procurement, and war readiness spare parts problems; and (9) total modification costs could increase by $11 million due to the Air Force's failure to include the cost of procuring and developing exclusive nonprecision-guided munitions.

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