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Elder Says Make Bomber Replacement Priority: The US needs to move quickly to field a new bomber because projections that the current inventory will last out to 2040 may be too optimistic, says retired Lt. Gen. Bob Elder, who led the nation's nuclear-capable bomber force for three years through June 2009. In fact, it's possible the Air Force's aging B-1 and B-52 bombers could wear out at least 10 years before their anticipated replacement date, Elder told the Congressional Long Range Strike Caucus Wednesday during a Capitol Hill briefing. He also argued that the US is simply not ready for an unmanned variant. "I don't think the nation is comfortable with an unmanned bomber. Maybe around the same time people are willing to fly in an unmanned commercial airliner, but I know I'm not ready for that," he said. The Air Force is still defining its future long-range strike platform. Its fielding is currently anticipated sometime in the 2020s.