Warplanes: February 21, 2004


The U.S. Congress is trying to force the U.S. Air Force to bring 21 B-1B bombers out of retirement. Impressed by the effectiveness of heavy bombers (because of long range, heavy bomb load) in Afghanistan and Iraq, Congress was not happy with the air force decision to retire 32 B-1Bs in 2001. This was done because the B-1B costs twice as much to operate (per flight hour) as the B-52s (which could do anything the B-1B did in Iraq and Afghanistan). The air force says it will cost $130 million each to bring the B-1Bs back into service, plus the higher operating costs. Congress wants the retired aircraft back in service by 2009. The air force would rather spend the money on upgrading it's existing fleet of 60 B-1Bs and other heavy bombers. Disputes like this are all too common, with Congress forcing the military to buy weapons the generals don't want or keep unneeded bases open. It's all about politics, either posturing by members of Congress or getting money spent in their districts to enhance their re-election prospects. 


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