Title: Square Pegs and Round Holes: Air Force Doctrine and the B-2 Bomber

Subject: The place of the B-2 bomber in current Air Force doctrine, based on past doctrinal perspectives on long-range strategic bombers.

Author(s): Terry T Kono; Budd A Jones (Faculty Advisor)


Abstract: AFM 1-1 and the United States Air Force's new vision paper, Global Engagement: A Vision for the 21st Century Air Force, allow significant flexibility in the employment of Air Force resources. However, as doctrine or the core for doctrinal development, both documents intimate significant flaws in the process of creating guidance from theory, then applying that guidance to warfighting. An incongruent relationship exists between the creation of formal Air Force doctrine and the development of operational weapon systems.

More specifically, the Air Force's inventory of long-range strategic bombers, although conceived as weapons of nuclear deterrence during the Cold War, must now fit within the parameters of post-Cold War air power doctrine. In the B-2 in particular, the Air Force justifies the existence of a platform not entirely compatible with its overarching doctrine of global reach, global power, and global attack--an aircraft whose technological advances belie anachronistic origins. Thus, it denies or subjugates the application of other possibilities for strategic attack. The lingering correlation of nuclear deterrence and long-range strike to the word "strategic" represents a doctrinal parochialism that resists the development of more effective, appropriate theory and doctrine--and their accompanying weapons. The extremely focused remnants of that forty-year-old doctrine must now meet the more varied demands of post-Cold War hostilities.

Doctrine and technological development should be interrelated. Ideally, we first develop concepts from ideas and theories. Through experience, we validate these concepts. The resulting written, published, authoritative guidance is formal doctrine; we can then derive the technological means for employing that doctrine. Thus, we start with ideas, develop the concepts, test those concepts in the crucible of experience, produce the doctrine, build the weapon system, and enter the next evolution of the process. What happens when we procure weapon systems based on obsolete doctrine? Worse yet, what happens when we build doctrine around existing resources designed from obsolete ideas?

If the ongoing doctrine process is supposed to maintain the Air Force's essence and its mission--air power--then allowing the proliferation of incompatible systems denies coherence among ideas, doctrine, and practice, and results in dogmatism and pragmatism.

Last updated 1998 Mar 12