Thank you all very much. And I hope everybody's enjoyed this tour as much as I have. And first, let me pay my respects to the men and women of the U.S. Air Force. I was telling General McPeak and the Secretary that I'm always so impressed by you all's dedication, certainly service. And I'm just delighted to be here with those that have made this exhibition possible from the research stage and right on up until now. I want to salute Dick Cheney, of course; our leader -- one of our leaders, Bob Dole, is with us today; Don Rice, of course, our Secretary; General McPeak, you've heard me speak about him; and Members of the Senate who took the time to come out here today -- our chairman, Sam Nunn, and others. And I'm just delighted you all are here.
Senator Warner, Senator Nunn, and the members of the committee have been strong supporters of Stealth technology even before the first prototype F - 117 in 1977. And we've now seen the promise of Stealth fulfilled with a remarkable success of the F - 117 in Desert Storm.
The F - 117 carried a revolution in warfare on its wings over Baghdad. And these remarkable aircraft flew only about 2 percent of the combat sorties, but struck over 40 percent of the strategic targets. The success of the F - 117 is a tribute to those men and women who could see -- even in the seventies -- the potential of Stealth, the need for Stealth, and had the strength and perseverance to see it through.
Among those who deserve special credit for the accomplishment are the members of this committee who gave that plane, the F - 117, their strong and continuous support. And there now is no question, Stealth works. And it's been proven in combat. And it broke the Iraqis' back, and it saved precious American lives. It flew hundreds of sorties through the most heavily defended areas without a scratch.
And the B - 2 takes the next generation of Stealth and applies it to a strategic bomber. This leap in technology will make a unique contribution to nuclear deterrence and will deliver the enhanced conventional capabilities that F - 117 pilots say they'd most like to have: more range, more payload. The B - 2 has 5 to 6 times the range and 10 times the payload, 10 times the payload of the F - 117.
Some claim they don't understand the mission of the B - 2. Well, let me try to clear it up. The mission of the B - 2 is deterrence: nuclear deterrence, conventional deterrence, deterrence all across the spectrum. And with the smaller forces and budgets that we're looking at in the nineties, that's the kind of flexibility and value that America needs. We need the B - 2 bomber. We cannot allow the House actions that would terminate this vital program to stand.
Partners with the B - 2 in deterrence are the new cruise missiles that also embody Stealth technology, and they will provide a cost effective way to keep some of our older bombers viable, and they add a unique capability to even our most modern systems.
No student of the Gulf war can doubt how the combination of cruise missiles and manned aircraft can overwhelm an enemy's air defenses.
And finally, Desert Storm should have made the importance of control of the air crystal clear to all. Air superiority -- air superiority enabled the allied forces, air and surface, to operate with an effectiveness that amazed the world and, thank God, to operate with allied casualties as low as possible.
Today's generation of fighters drove the Iraqi Air Force from the skies. The F - 22 that we see here, the prototype of the next air superiority fighter, combined Stealth and maneuverability in a way that ensures the American forces in the next century will be able to count on control of the air.
Stealth has really brought a revolution to air power. It is a leap in technology that comes from American genius and ingenuity. It works, and it's needed. And it's an edge that can help guarantee our security in the ever more complex world that we will face in the future. And it's an edge that I want to give our country, and an edge that America's fighting men and women deserve to have should they ever be called on again.
I'll fight for Stealth, and I will fight for the B - 2. And I appeal to the leaders here today and to others in the Congress to step up to the challenge and give it full support and full funding this year.
And I want to thank you again, everybody from the Senate that took the time to come out here today. And for those that are committed, let me tell you, please let us know what we can do because this is priority, not simply to the administration but, in my view, to the country.
Thank you all very much for taking the time to join us.
Note: The President spoke at 2:58 p.m. in Hangar 3 at the base. In his remarks, he referred to Gen. Merrill A. McPeak, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff; Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney; Robert Dole, Senate minority leader; Secretary of the Air Force Donald B. Rice; Sam Nunn, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee; and Senator John W. Warner. Prior to his remarks, the President participated in a briefing and toured strategic and tactical fighter aircraft at the base. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.