10. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Taylor)1


  • Improved Manned Strategic Aircraft


  • (a) JCSM–37–64, dated 20 January 19642
  • (b) CM–1140–64, dated 20 January 19643
  • (c) Memo for Sec AF, dated 23 January 19644

Reference (a) recommends approval of an Air Force proposal to reprogram FY 1964 and apportion FY 1965 Air Force funds to initiate a program definition for a follow-on manned strategic aircraft system and to initiate advanced technology on “long-lead-time” development items, including avionics and propulsion, to reduce the time required to achieve an operational capability. This recommendation is derived from two basic considerations: (1) That strategic aircraft in general can be justified on the basis of diversity, flexibility, responsiveness, reliability and the need for timely reconnaissance; and (2) that the B–52/B–58 force will be reaching the end of its effective service life in the early 1970’s. Specifically what is being proposed are budgetary actions, in [Page 23] advance of programmatic decisions, beyond the funds currently being applied to the over-all program concerning strategic aircraft.

The present program relating to strategic aircraft includes: (1) aircraft design studies to further delineate possible characteristics of a new strategic aircraft; and (2) a rather extensive advanced technology program including avionics, propulsion, and sensors.

The aircraft design studies will serve as the basis for a specific proposal (or proposals) by the Air Force. The Air Force proposal, when available, will provide something concrete on which to base a decision whether or not to proceed with a Project Definition Phase. It is to be noted that the basic objective of a Project Definition Phase is to provide detailed technical and management data upon which incentive or fixed price contracting can be based. It is not a substitute or supplement to the studies required to establish the basic design and utility of a proposed system.

With regard to the program on avionics and propulsion, I would welcome specific suggestions as to what are possible deficiencies and improvements. These suggestions must, of course, be judged on a case-by-case basis in comparison with other claims for resources.

In my view, the case has not yet been made that the additional capability that would be provided by an Improved Strategic Aircraft warrants a decision to proceed with the development program recommended by the Air Force. First, the detailed studies by the Air Force have not progressed to the point where detailed aircraft specifications are available. When they are, the potential superiority of the now proposed aircraft can be compared to the B–52. This superiority must be such as to warrant the large expense of replacing the B–52. It is to be noted that the investment in the B–52/B–58 fleet, along with the KC–135, is over $15 billion. Second, I have not been presented with convincing evidence that this fleet will, from the standpoint of air vehicle wear-out, be at the end of its useful service life in the early 1970’s. This question is currently being studied by the Air Force and by my own staff. Third, the Air Force has not yet submitted the information requested in CM–1132–64 dated 16 January 1964, Subject: Requirement for Follow-on Manned Strategic Aircraft.5 In that memorandum the Chiefs asked the Air Force to provide an analysis setting forth the reasons why a strategic bomber system is required as a follow-on of the B–52/B–58 systems and why such a bomber system should have the characteristics of the aircraft described in JCS 1478/104–1.6 The Chiefs pointed out that: “Such an analysis should undertake to determine whether any follow-on manned bomber system of attainable characteristics is justified in view of the competing systems in the time period in question, and, if so, [Page 24] whether the particular system proposed with its specific characteristics is the preferred follow-on system.”

I can see no advantage to pre-judging proposals not yet received by now taking budgetary actions beyond those already in force. Certainly it is not necessary to make a decision now on FY 65 apportionment. As to reprogramming of current year funds, that is possible at any time.

I will want the views of the Chiefs on the specific proposals of the Air Force when they are available.

Robert S. McNamara 7
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 200, Defense Programs and Operations, LeMay’s Memo to President and JCS Views, Box 83. Secret.
  2. Not found, but reference may be to a January 20 JCS memorandum on “Improved Manned Strategic Aircraft,” at least part of which McNamara quoted in a January 21 memorandum to the Secretary of the Air Force, as follows: “This effort will require approximately $50 million in FY 65, which will be provided by certain adjustments within the current and proposed Air Force budgets if this proposal is approved.” He asked the Joint Chiefs to propose their adjustments by January 25. (Ibid.)
  3. Not found, but reference may be to a January 20 memorandum by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on “Manned Strategic Aircraft,” at least part of which McNamara quoted in a January 23 memorandum to Chairman Taylor, as follows: “The Joint Chiefs of Staff have requested the Chief of Staff, Air Force to provide them by February 15 a statement concerning the concept of employment of the proposed bomber and an analysis of the reasons of the Chief of Staff, Air Force for favoring a new bomber with the characteristics indicated.” McNamara also asked for copies of this memorandum as well as General LeMay’s January 4 memorandum. (Ibid.) For LeMay’s January 4 memorandum, see Document 1.
  4. In this memorandum, which responded to the January 20 JCS memorandum on “Improved Manned Strategic Aircraft,” McNamara asked for “the general specifications and characteristics which you have in mind for such a plane, including speed, range, bomb load, general design approach, engines to be used, defense suppression equipment to be carried, nature of offensive weapons systems, reconnaissance sensors, etc., etc., and the time schedule for the development plan.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 200, Defense Programs and Operations, LeMay’s Memo to President and JCS Views, Box 83)
  5. A copy is ibid.
  6. Not found.
  7. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.