First Off, the US Air Force is looking to base bombers and tankers in Australia:
While I hear there are still difficult details to be ironed out, the United States and Australia appear close to agreeing to regularly fly strategic bombers and airborne tankers from Darwin and Tindal air base in Australia.
Gen. Lori Robinson, the commander of Pacific Air Forces, told reporters at a Defense Writers Group breakfast this morning that no decisions had been yet about which bombers would operate from Australia. Robinson’s predecessor, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, first mentioned the possibility that bombers would rotate to and from Australia in July 2013.
The talks with Australia have gone on for some time. David Shear, assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in May that the U.S. planned to send B-1 bombers to Australia. He clearly jumped the gun a bit as Australian officials were quick to say, not so fast. As with the agreement for US Marines to train and rotate in and out of Darwin, the two sides have yet to work out all the details. I hear Australia is unhappy that the US wants them to pick up a substantial portion of the bill to pay for our troops while they’re there.
“We’re in the process of deciding on timing of when that will happen,” Robinson said this morning. “So final timing hasn’t happened as we are working our way through all of that.”
Currently, B-1s, B-2s and B-52s rotate in and out of Guam for Pacific presence operations. Should the US also be able to maintain bombers, at least for routine issues, that would mark a major increase in US regional flexibility. (Warships benefit even more from being based near their area of operations).
The US Air Force (USAF) is studying options for new bomber and tanker aircraft rotations through Australia, according to a senior US military official.
The United States has reached an agreement with Australia on a "force posture initiative", General Lori Robinson, commander of the USAF's Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), said during a 18 November Defense Writers' Group breakfast in Washington, DC.
"The idea is much like what we do in Guam - rotation of tankers and bombers to do training and working with Australian allies … as well as training our pilots and aircrew - to help them understand the vastness of that region," said Gen Robinson.
The bombers and tankers would rotate through Australia's RAAF Base Tindal, but details about numbers of aircraft and timings are still being negotiated. "So that's all part of the conversations that we're having now," she added.
The new Northrop Grumman Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) could also be involved in that effort once it is deployed, the general said.
Advocates of the Long Range Strike Bomber are stating the total bombers made ought to be boosted from 80/100 to 200:
Lawmakers and analysts renewed calls Wednesday for the Pentagon to build significantly more next-generation bombers than currently planned, arguing that the Air Force needs a fleet of 200 advanced bombers to project power in a more dangerous world.
In study released today by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Moeller made the case for the Pentagon to procure a modernized bomber force of 200 aircraft by 2045.
“America desperately needs to rebuild its bomber force, starting with the [Long Range Strike Bomber] and then moving forward,” Moeller said. “100 new bombers, the analysis finds, is not enough.”
The Air Force plans to buy 80-100 LRS-Bs to replace the service’s aging B-1 and B-52 bombers, a number many advocates have decried as insufficient. The 100 LRS-Bs, plus the 20 existing stealth B-2 bombers, will not be enough to meet future threats, Moeller argued.
“Limiting production of the new bomber, LRS-B, to 100 airframes would severely decrease the options available to national decision-makers during times of crisis or periods of instability,” Moeller wrote in the study. “A modernized bomber force of 200 aircraft will sustain America’s asymmetric advantage in long-range precision strike for decades to come.”