104. Executive Summary of a Paper Prepared in the Office of the Secretary of Defense1

B–1 Requirement, Production Readiness and Arms Limitation Implications

Throughout 1976, the Department of Defense, Air Force and special review groups have conducted an intensive review and evaluation of the B–1 program in preparation for the DSARC III procurement milestone. The requirement for strategic bomber force modernization as well as confirmation of previous B–1 cost effectiveness analyses, production readiness and arms limitation implications are areas which [Page 447]have received special attention during the review process. The conclusions reached as a result of these critical reviews reaffirm the viability of the overall program and strongly support a decision to initiate production and deployment of the B–1 at this time.

The strategic bomber force is an integral and irreplaceable component of our strategic offensive forces and provides important and unique contributions not available with our ballistic missile forces. Soviet efforts to alter the strategic balance in their favor and the projected threat to the US bomber force in the post 1980 time frame fully support the requirement for bomber force modernization.

Our ability to economically and effectively offset future Soviet threats by continuously modifying the B–52 force is constrained by a physically and technologically aging airframe. By the time the B–1 initial operational capability (IOC) is attained, the average age of the B–52 force will be about 24 years old. Deployment of the B–1 is an essential step in US plans for modernization to offset the concerted Soviet attempts to gain nuclear superiority and reduce the threat posed to the Soviets by our strategic forces.

The current Soviet SLBM force trends and improved capabilities which threaten bomber force launch survival can be offset by the B–1’s faster escape speed, greater resistance to nuclear effects, and shorter take-off distance to permit dispersal to a larger number of airfields if required. The effectiveness of projected Soviet defenses will be seriously degraded by the B–1’s high penetration speed at very low altitude and low radar cross section in combination with high quality electronic counter-measures. The superior B–1 launch survival and penetration characteristics combined with its improved accuracy and larger payload capacity, compared to the B–52, will provide a highly effective contribution to the future US strategic deterrent posture.

Extensive investigations of alternatives for bomber force modernization identify the B–1 to be the most capable and cost-effective option. On 8 October 1976, following a review of the Joint Strategic Bomber Study (JSBS) conducted at the request of the Secretary of the Air Force, Honorable Edward E. David, Jr, Doctor Michael M. May and Honorable Paul H. Nitze concluded:

It is our opinion that aircraft which, together with their armaments, have an assured capability to penetrate Soviet defenses are an essential element of an adequate US strategic nuclear deterrent . . .

Given the size of the Soviet offensive and defensive forces, and, in particular, given the ability of the Soviets to respond to any US deployment decisions, we have come to the conclusion that the B–1 should be procured for inclusion in the force . . .

[Page 448]

We believe that the speed at low altitude, ECM potential, low radar cross-section and hardness of the B–1 provide better assurance of flexibly meeting the range of possible threats than do any of the forces which do not include the B–1. Furthermore, we believe the B–1 can give us these superior capabilities at comparable cost and at an earlier date than any of the other systems suggested . . .

The B–1 has had the benefit of more careful preproduction planning and exhaustive component and vehicle testing than any previous military or civilian aircraft at the same procurement decision milestone. The test program has confirmed the accuracy of analytical predictions of performance.

The major structural components of the aircraft have been subjected to static tests at loads which exceeded by 50% those which would be experienced in flight. Fatigue tests to several lifetimes of expected aircraft service have been accomplished. Four lifetimes of fatigue testing on all major structural assemblies will be completed over two years before the first production B–1 is delivered. Currently, four of the six B–1 structural assemblies have completed four lifetimes, and the remaining two have completed two lifetimes. Testing on the last two structures is continuing. The successful static and fatigue testing already completed provides high confidence that the B–1 is structurally capable of performing its strategic mission.

The flight test program has now accumulated over 360 hours and has successfully explored all mission requirements. The operational modes of the aircraft have been demonstrated, and extensive high speed, low altitude, automatic and manual terrain following activities have been reliably and safely executed as well as supersonic flights to speeds above Mach 2.1. Routine refueling with KC–135 tankers has been accomplished on almost every flight.

The Air Force Test and Evaluation Center has reported that, based on their participation throughout the test program and the three Initial Operational Test and Evaluation flights conducted to date, operational effectiveness and suitability are good and that all deficiencies that have been identified are correctable and being worked. Based on data obtained from the flight test program, the Air Force concludes that the B–1 will provide the capability and operational flexibility necessary to effectively modernize the strategic bomber force.

At the request of the Secretary of the Air Force, an ad hoc Technical Assessment Committee, chaired by Professor Courtland Perkins, was formed to review the technical status of the B–1 program. The Committee was unanimous in its view that a production decision could be made with real confidence from the point of view of technical status. [Page 449]Specifically, the report of the Committee, issued on 7 October 1976,2 contains these conclusions:

Many of the subsystems of the B–1, such as the engine and offensive avionics, can be viewed with confidence unusual for a weapon system of this complexity and at this stage of development.

There are no apparent technical problems that would prohibit the achievement of a successful production airplane on the proposed time scale.

This is a fine airplane of intrinsic versatility which can be exploited for many varied missions currently unidentified.

From a technical point of view, the Defense Department can make a production decision on the B–1 with confidence . . .

In base year dollars (1970), the B–1 program estimate at the time of the development decision was $9.9 billion. A number of program changes have occurred since that time and the current estimate in base year dollars has risen to $11.1 billion. In then year dollars, the program has grown from an estimate at the development decision of $11.2 billion to a current program estimate of $22.8 billion. This growth is primarily due to the effect of economic escalation and there has been no real cost growth since 1973.

The B–1 program, technically and managerially, has been based on deliberate and measured steps to insure production readiness. The necessary preparatory actions are now complete and the B–1 is ready for production.

Finally, a timely B–1 production decision considered in the context of national objectives in the arms limitation environment, is not only useful and complementary, but essential. The B–1 program:

• Provides a highly visible step in modernizing US forces, reflecting national resolve and determination to maintain a capable, balanced force as a precursor to effective Strategic Arms Limitation (SAL) negotiation.

• Allows the achievement of agreed force levels of effective Strategic Nuclear Delivery Vehicles (SNDVs) in the relevant time frame, and modernizes our force in the process.

• Keeps pressure on the Soviets to continue negotiations.

• Allows the US, if reduced force levels are negotiated, to retire older, less effective systems, phasing them out in a manner fully synchronized with the achievement of national SAL goals while retaining a more effective final force.

[Omitted here is the main text of the 19-page paper, marked Secret. The paper has three sections: B–1 Requirement, B–1 Production Readiness, B–1 Arms Control Implications.]

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Agency Files, Box 8, Defense, Department of, 11/18/76. Secret. Davis forwarded the paper for review to Robinson, Bush, General Brown, and Lynn under a covering memorandum, November 10. Davis also sent a copy to Wade in his capacity as Chairman of the Defense Review Panel Working Group. (Ibid.)
  2. Not found.