In This Review

Flying Blind: The Politics of the U.S. Strategic Bomber Program
Flying Blind: The Politics of the U.S. Strategic Bomber Program
By Michael E. Brown
Cornell University Press, 1992, 358 pp

In examining the acquisition process of every major American bomber program of the postwar period--15 programs ranging from the B-35 of the 1940s to the B-2 of the 1980s--Brown has tackled a subject of great complexity and considerable secrecy. Bombers have taken an average of 10 years to build and have been in service an average of 20 years. With the help of a great deal of previously classified or hard-to-access data, he has succeeded in producing a first-class work of defense studies and political science. Contrary to common assumptions, he found little to support the contention that economic incentives and technological imperatives primarily drove the programs. Even the impact of bureaucratic politics had its limits. Rather, long-term strategic military requirements were paramount. But since these were often fuzzy, the U.S. Air Force was frequently "flying blind" in its strategic appraisals and therefore its bomber programs. With the more diffuse geopolitical landscape we have now entered, will the task of identifying true needs not become all the more difficult?