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The Next Bomber: During his July 22 confirmation hearing to be Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz responded to Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), who questioned the need for the  so-called interim bomber, saying: "The new bomber will enable us to maintain the capability to engage targets at a distance. And recognizing, again, the threat environment is likely to become more complex and more demanding, and thus we'll need an airplane that's properly designed to perform in that environment." Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) wanted to know if the Air Force was still aiming for a 2018 date for the new bomber, since Pentagon acquisition boss John Young has stated recently that the date isnot necessarily a sure thing. “That is the plan, and if that is physically achievable, we will do so,” Schwartz said.