Value of Long-Range Strike

Learn more about why long-range strike bombers use a combination of range, payload and survivability to form the backbone of the U.S. Air Force’s strike and deterrent capability.

  • Bombers Carry Large Payloads

    Bombers carry larger quantities of munitions compared to fighters. A single bomber can strike more targets in a single sortie than a fighter.

  • Wide Array of Payloads

    Modern bombers like the B-2 Spirit can carry a diverse range of ordnance. A B-2 can carry 80 individually-guided precision munitions, a mix of small and large weapons, or two 30,000 lbs. Massive Ordnance Penetrators.

  • From Small To Large

    The internal bays of modern stealth bombers enable delivery of any munition or mix of munitions at long range. Our most modern current bomber—the B-2 Spirit—can deliver small weapons against surface targets or "bunker buster" munitions against hard and deeply buried targets.

  • Precision Weapons

    Precision-guided munitions enable planners to take full advantage of large bomber payloads—and provide a far greater increase in the combat value of bombers. The picture to the left shows the results of a B-2 strike against Libyan airfields in 2011: 16 weapons, 16 destroyed hardened aircraft shelters.

  • Precision Weapons

    This chart shows that bombers, while comprising a small percentage of the total force, have delivered a large share of the munitions in past conflicts. The advent of bomber delivered precision weapons, first seen in Serbia in 1999, radically increased the combat value of bombers in air campaigns.

  • Complete Global Coverage

    Long range enables responsiveness anywhere around the world in a matter of hours. Bombers can launch strikes from secure bases outside the range of adversaries. For example, a B-2 has an unrefueled combat radius of 3,000 nautical miles. The chart shows potential range rings from three key bases. Refueling can extend these ranges even further.

  • Persistent Close Air Support

    A bomber's long range translates into long endurance. Bombers fitted with precision weapons have provided close air support to U.S. ground forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. With precision munitions and a "deep magazine," the new bomber enables flexible response options during combat engagements.

  • U.S. Bomber Inventory

    We have the oldest and smallest number of bombers in service since before World War II. Only 20 of these aircraft—the B-2s—have the necessary stealth characteristics to survive against advanced air defenses that are proliferating around the world.

  • The Value of Stealth

    In 1991, the U.S. Air Force published this chart based on combat operations against an airfield in Iraq. The B-2 Spirit's revoluntionary combination of stealth, precision, range, and payload meant that just two B-2s could provide the same striking power as the 75 aircraft used in the operation.

  • Stealth Bombers Go First

    The U.S. relies on its stealth bomber fleet to go in first to strike the toughest targets.

  • Advanced Fighters

    Advanced long range fighters can be used to attack U.S. refueling aircraft, which are critical to extending the range and reach of U.S. airpower. These aircraft can also defend adversary air space.

  • Advanced Air Defense

    Very advanced integrated air defenses with long-range surface to air missiles are designed to shoot down non-stealthy aircraft.

  • Long Range Ballistic and Cruise Missiles

    Very long range ballistic and cruise missiles can strike bases and carriers to try to keep U.S. aircraft from operating in the region.

  • Increased Alert Posture

    The U.S. can visibly demonstrate political resolve by putting the bomber force on heightened alert.

  • Manage Escalation

    "Bombers play a key role in stabilizing and managing crises by providing a visible signaling option and rapid hedge against operational and technical challenges in other legs of the nuclear Triad."
    Admiral Cecil Haney, former commander, U.S. Strategic Command

  • Complicate Defense

    Bombers create a different problem than ballistic missiles which forces adversaries to spend more on their defenses.

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