ELLSWORTH AFB–Ellsworth Air Force Base will continue to provide strategic bomber support as the Air Force released its plan for the bomber fleet in its Fiscal Year 2019 President’sBudget Request February 12, 2019.
“Based off the Secretary of the Air Force’s vector, those that are bomber bases now should
expect to be bomber bases in the future,” said Col. John Edwards, 28th Bomb Wing commander.
“The Air Force will continue to work the details of fielding the B-21, but we can expect
Ellsworth to be a bomber base in the coming years.”
Noted in the press release from the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs, the budget request
detailed the Air Force plan to update the B-52 Stratofortress fleet and continue modifications to
the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit fleets while continuing to acquire B-21 Raiders.
“As part of our decisions presented in the FY19 President’s Budget, the Air Force will update the
B-52 bomber fleet and fund development of replacement engines,” said Secretary of the Air
Force Heather A. Wilson. “We will also continue necessary B-1 and B-2 modifications to keep
them relevant until the B-21s come on line.”
Once sufficient B-21 aircraft are operational, the B-1s and B-2s will be incrementally retired.
Delivery and retirement timelines are dependent on the B-21 production and delivery schedules.
“If the force structure we have proposed is supported by the Congress, bases that have bombers
now will have bombers in the future,” Wilson said. “They will be B-52s and B-21s.
The B-21, which the Air Force plans to start fielding in the mid-2020s, will eventually become
the backbone of the U.S. strategic bomber fleet and serve as a visible, flexible deterrent to
adversaries and assure U.S. partners and allies.
“Modernizing and recapitalizing our bomber force is absolutely central to the recently released
National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review,” said Chief of Staff of the Air Force
Gen. David L. Goldfein. “Our bomber force allows the commander in chief to hold targets at risk
anywhere on the globe with unparalleled range and our most diverse payloads.”
The decision to maintain the B-52 is based on numerous factors including maintenance and
sustainment metrics, such as aircraft availability, mission capability, supply, maintenance hours
per flying hour and total cost perspectives.
“With an adequate sustainment and modernization focus, including new engines, the B-52 has a
projected service life through 2050, remaining a key part of the bomber enterprise well into the
future,” said Gen. Robin Rand, Air Force Global Strike Command commander.
The Air Force’s bombers are an integral component of the nation’s strategic deterrence and
global strike capabilities. The nation requires that the bomber force remain a potent and decisive
asset throughout the spectrum of conflict in the modern battlespace.
“At the end of Desert Storm in 1991 we had 290 total bombers,” said Rand. “Today that force
has dropped to 157 bombers at five bomb wings and 15 total force bomb squadrons. That’s a 46
percent decrease in our bomber force while we have conducted continuous combat operations
such as Allied Force, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Odyssey Dawn, Inherent Resolve and
Freedom’s Sentinel, in addition to continuous bomber rotations in the (U.S. Central Command)
and (U.S. Pacific Command) areas of responsibility.”