More disturbing news about the costly B-2 bomber: it is not only less stealthy than originally advertised, but more vulnerable to enemy fighters equipped with advanced heat-seeking sensors. This information, disclosed by Sun Pentagon correspondent Richard H.P. Sia, should be sobering to House and Senate conferees as they contemplate the B-2's fate in shaping the new defense budget.
Within recent weeks, pressure to downsize the B-2 bomber program has come not only from Capitol Hill but from the White House and the military's top brass. President Bush, though an exponent of Air Force plans for a 75-plane armada costing $64.8 billion, undercut his own cause by scrapping new short-range attack missile development as part of unilateral reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Mr. Sia reported that these SRAMs would have been a key armament for the B-2 bombers.
Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., hitherto Congress' most influential B-2 supporter, greeted the president's decision by saying the Air Force will have to "come up with what they really want the B-2 to do in this new world we're talking about." He offered a guess that the 75-plane goal will probably be cut on half.