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July 21, 2011—The Air Force's new penetrating bomber program fulfills a service "core competency" and must be acquired, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Philip Breedlove said Wednesday.

Speaking in Arlington, Va., courtesy of AFA's Mitchell Institute, Breedlove said the Air Force must continue to have the ability to strike any target on the globe from the air.

It's "a valuable deterrent, even in a strictly conventional role," he said.

"Long-range strike is a capability the nation currently depends on. We have used it well in . . . Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq. And we will continue to need its capability well into the future," especially in anti-access, area-denial situations, he asserted.

Breedlove's remarks came less than a week after Marine Gen. James Cartwright, Joint Chiefs vice chairman, challenged the need for the bomber, arguing that it would be an exquisite platform affordable only in very small numbers.

Breedlove countered that it "will not be an exquisite . . . platform capable of accomplishing all the missions by itself." Instead, "it will rely on" the family of long-range strike systems, leveraging offboard sensors and systems as well as its own, he said.

The Air Force needs 80 to 100 of the new bombers, he said. Accordingly, "affordability will be . . . key," he added.

Breedlove, whose speech topic was the Air Force-Navy AirSea Battle concept, noted that both services agree that long-range strike is a "central" capability in AirSea Battle.