Saturday, May 17, 2008

Carter - More Than Just Peanuts

When Carter took office in 1977 he ordered a review of the entire program. By this point the projected cost of the program had risen to over $100 million per aircraft, although this was lifetime cost over 20 years. He was informed of the relatively new work on stealth aircraft that had started in 1975, and decided that this was a far better avenue of approach than the B-1. Pentagon officials also stated that the ALCM launched from the existing B-52 fleet would give the USAF equal capability of penetrating Soviet airspace. With a 1,500 statute mile (2,400 km) range, the ALCM could be launched well outside the range of any Soviet defenses, and penetrate at low altitude just like a bomber, but in much greater numbers. A small number of B-52 operating outside interception range could launch hundreds of ALCMs, saturating the defense. A program to improve the B-52 and develop and deploy the ALCM would cost perhaps 20% of the price to deploy the planned 244 B-1A's.[12]

On 30 June 1977 Carter announced that the B-1A would be cancelled in favor of ICBMs, SLBMs, and a fleet of modernized B-52s armed with ALCMs.[7] Carter called it "one of the most difficult decisions that I've made since I've been in office." No mention of the stealth work was made public, the program being top secret, but today it is known that he authorized the Advanced Technology Bomber (ATB) project in early 1978, which eventually led to the B-2 Spirit.[13]

Taken from Wikipedia, with thanks.

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