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Report: House Wants Air Force Bombers To Go Nuclear Earlier

Site: AF.mil

While the Air Force had been planning on phasing in nuclear capabilities, a drafted bill from the House of Armed Services Committee would require the Defense Department to include those components much earlier, NextGov reports.

The House subcommittee on seapower and projection forces proposed language for the fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill that would require the Pentagon to include nuclear components on vehicles while they are being fielded.

Previously, the Air Force had planned to phase in nuclear capabilities once its long range strike bombers have been fielded without the extra weapons.

However, the subcommittee said it wants the Air Force to develop its strike bombers to be functional with both conventional weapons and nuclear weapons when the aircraft reaches its initial operating phase.

The bill is set to hit the full House Armed Services Committee for debate on May 9, according to a spokesperson who indicated it is not too likely many additional changes will be made to the bill until it goes to the House floor.

Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff, previously committed the branch to not certify nuclear weapon use until conventional weapons were proven to work in order to save cost and facilitate testing.

His idea was to save money by focusing on traditional weapon certifications and be prepared to certify new airplanes for nuclear operation once the B-52 and B-2 bombers age out.

Schwartz has said the program spending must be capped at $550 billion per aircraft or the project risks being cancelled.

Some House representatives expressed disappointment with this strategy but the House did encourage the Air Force to maintain its current dual-capable bomber fleets at existing levels, analysts Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris indicated.

Defense officials expect future bombers to be either remotely piloted or manned, feature enemy radar systems and have capabilities to destroy incoming missiles with lasers, the report said.

The U.S. Navy is facing similar requests from the House committee to increase or maintain its nuclear capabilities at a minimum of 12 ballistic missile submarines in the fleet.

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