Key point: The Navy lacks a heavy-hitting, long-range bomber platform.
During the closing stages of the Cold War, the United States Navy was developing a new long-range stealth bomber that could strike at even the most heavily defended targets from the deck of an aircraft carrier. But the ill-fated program was cancelled; leaving a gap in naval aviation capability that has not been filled to this day.
Called the McDonnell Douglas/General Dynamics A-12 Avenger II—a product of the Advanced Tactical Aircraft (ATA) program—the new bomber would have replaced the long-serving Grumman A-6E Intruder. However, as the Soviet threat evaporated, then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney cancelled the A-12 program on January 7, 1991, due to massive cost and schedule overruns as well as severe technical problems. But while the stealthy A-12 had its problems, the bomber’s demise led the Navy to today’s problem: A carrier air wing that does not have the range or penetrating strike capability to defeat advanced anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities.