14 September 2010

Sustaining America’s Strategic Advantage in Long-Range Strike

Mark A. Gunzinger, Sustaining America’s Strategic Advantage in Long-Range Strike (Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 14 September 2010).

The ability to conduct long-range strike operations has long provided the United States with a decisive military advantage over its enemies. Today, that advantage is dissipating. Despite the crucial role long-range strike capabilities have played in our nation’s wars over the last seventy years, it is unclear whether the United States will make the investments needed to sustain this advantage in the future. Chronic underinvestment in the US military’s long-range strike “family of systems” — land-based bombers, carrier-based strike aircraft, cruise missiles and supporting airborne electronic attack platforms — combined with the creeping obsolescence of current systems could lead to a future force that is relegated to fighting on the periphery and cannot effectively penetrate anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) battle networks. Considering the time that is required to develop and field new weapon systems, if the next defense budget continues to defer needed long-range strike investments, a gap is likely to emerge in which the nation could lose its conventional long-range strike advantage for a decade or more. Consequently, the United States has a critical choice to make: either accept this loss on the assumption that long-range strike is less relevant in the future, or implement a plan and provide sufficient resources to maintain its long-range strike advantage. This paper suggests options for the latter choice as a point of departure for developing and sequencing new capabilities that will sustain America’s long-range strike strategic advantage for the next thirty years. …