U.S. weapons of the future
Picture of a Virginia Class submarine. New Virginia Class subs will be able to carry more cruise missiles and have the ability in the future to strike a target anywhere in the world in an hour.
February 3rd, 2012
02:00 AM ET

U.S. weapons of the future

By CNN National Security Producer Jennifer Rizzo

Behind all the budget numbers and Pentagon strategy talk is a vision of the military's weapons of the future.

The budget documents released by the Pentagon last week provided the first details on what is staying, going, or soon to come to the military's arsenal of weapons. Buried in the pages, with only vague mentions, were glimpses of the next generation of bombers, submarines with super-fast missiles and a floating base for a new way to launch Special Operations Forces.


U.S. currently has 162 bombers in its fleet. They will all stay. In addition, the Pentagon announced continued funding for the next generation Air Force bomber.

The new bomber will be able to fly farther without having to be refueled than the current F-22 and F-35 fighter jets, and will be stealthier, according to aviation analyst Bill Sweetman. Currently, the United States has only 20 stealth bombers, all B-2s.

China has a history of "telling us to get off their lawn, which happens to be the South China Sea," said Sweetman. U.S. aircraft carriers in those waters could be vulnerable to an attack by China's long-range anti-ship ballistic missiles.

"If you have a system that can operate in Chinese air space with impunity, you have an ability to look for those (missile) transporter vehicles," he said.

Development of the bomber is still in its infancy. The new craft will not be available for at least 10 and possibly 15 years, according the Air Force. But there is the possibility that the bomber will be developed with the option of flying it pilotless.

That would make this new aircraft the first bomber drone.

"It basically means that you can have bombers flying around the South China Sea persistently. Rather than having to identify targets and send bombers after them, you can have a permanent airborne presence over the South China Sea," said weapons expert John Pike.

"The whole point of having a new bomber is that it would remain aloft for days at a time," Pike said. "You can do that with a drone but not with a crew."

The Air Force, however said it's too early in the program to make a decision on manned or unmanned.

Strike Capability

Submarines are being "decked out" with more strike power. New Virginia class, nuclear-powered fast attack submarines will be modified to increase the number of cruise missiles they carry. Instead of maxing out at 12 Tomahawk missiles, new Virginia class subs will be able to hold 40, according to the Navy.

They also will be developed to have an undersea conventional prompt-strike option, allowing the submarines to hit a target anywhere in the world within an hour, according to the Navy.

"Modernizing our submarine fleet will also be critical to our efforts to maintain maritime access in these vital regions of the world," Panetta said.

Modernization in this case means speed and distance.

"Cruise missiles are quite slow," Sweetman said. "It could take four hours to go 2,000 miles"

The conventional prompt-strike option gives the ability to strike targets deep inside a large country like China very quickly.

"Speed is important because you are going to use it to destroy their mobile missiles that are fleeting targets on big trucks," Pike said. "If you don't get to them quickly you are going to lose track of them."

But such countries wouldn't be the only places this weapon could be used.

"Suppose you have intelligence that a rogue state is preparing a ballistic missile launch or some military action that you want to pre-empt very quickly," said Sweetman, who mentioned North Korea or Iran as possibilities.

The Pentagon wasn't able to disclose when the submarine prompt-strike capability will be ready on the submarine, but Pike predicts within a decade.

Floating staging base

If setting up shop on land isn't possible, try the open waters instead. The military will be developing a floating forward staging base that will be "dedicated to support missions in places where ground-based access is not an option, such as counter-mine operations" the Pentagon said in the budget documents.

Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial shipping lane for Persian Gulf oil. Mines would be one way for Iran to block the waterway.

The base would provide a physical presence that is not tied to a piece of terrain, according to James "Spider" Marks, a former Army major general.

"You can move it anyplace you want," he said.

And the cost of operation would be lower than using a warship, Marks said.

"It looks like a harmless ship, but in the belly of it you will have an array of capabilities that will allow you to have a very quick and precise strike capability in the form of SEALS, other Special Operations forces, Rangers," he said.

The base would have a smaller capacity than a cargo ship but be larger than an amphibious assault ship, according to Pike.

"They have been drawing pictures of this thing for the better part of the last decade," he said.

The military can't wait, however, for this new base to be developed. The Pentagon is now converting an aging warship into a floating base for use by U.S. commandos operating in the Middle East, according to a senior Defense Department official.

The USS Ponce, an amphibious transport docking ship, will be retrofitted into a staging base for Navy special operations forces.

"The warship will be manned by a combined crew of Navy officers and enlisted sailors and Military Sealift Command government civilian mariners," said a statement from Lt. Commander Mike Kafka at U.S. Fleet Forces.

The deployment will fulfill a long-standing request of the U.S. Central Command, the statement said.

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  20. zackery


    November 13, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Reply
  21. zackery


    November 12, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Reply
    • zackery


      November 12, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Reply
  22. ed

    If it wasn't for our short sighted and tunnel visioned Robert gates, us would not have stopped at 176 F22. Why did he decide to stop it at such low numbers? Lol ummm cause, um cause afghanies don't have radar so why do we need radar evading planes hehe ....idiot. cause freaking China is the real threat you moron. Cause Russia and chins are mass producing weapons and selling them to our enemies you dill. Cause one day we will be told by chins to get the F out of the east China sea......oh wait, that did happen already. Slash one important program after another to make us so weak that we have become the global joke. What you have to understand is having advanced weapons like f22 and stealth bombers, and supersonic missiles is not just to win wars, it's to scare the enemy so that one never takes place. Deterrence. Now, China knows our outdated fighters are no match for their sukhoi, and j-10 and soon the j20. They know our slow missiles are easily picked out and shot with their sams. They know we can only take 40 to 50 f-22 planes to any war if needed. They don't fear us, and we are years away from recovering our dominance like we did in the past. So, they can tell us to get out of their sea and they just did. Good bye Taiwan.

    July 16, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Reply
  23. Ruirong

    I am sad to think that Secretary Gates seems to be confused.. He olsuhd respect China's position because that position is good for her. If China is doing some military actions, it is because she viewed it as her right. The U.S. is thousands of miles away, bordered by the Pacific Ocean. U.S. military presence in the Pacific region will always remain suspect and under surveillance by any country that does not want to become subservient under American rule or influence. Militarily, China does not need the U.S. In fact China finds the U.S.conduct in international affairs as abusive, domineering, and dictatorial. China has a long history of civilization, arts, culture, and military. China will never tolerate the U.S. to behave to her the ugly behavior she doing now to Libya. She cannot even do that to Russia and Iran. It is good that the U.S. has found her counterpart in a real heavyweight division. This reminds her that she is not the boss in the whole world. There are other bosses who she cannot just kick around like little boy Gaddafy! See?

    March 3, 2012 at 9:15 am | Reply
    • JD


      So bullying 3rd countries like the Philippines and Vietnam, constitutes their sovereign right in the south China Sea. Got News for you, if the US Presence in the Pacific was not there. China would probably claim the Philippines, Vietnam, and Formosa. So look in the mirror to see who is the Imperialistic Pig!

      May 9, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Reply
      • Openmotion

        For your information, China isn't bullying the Philippines nor Vietnam. In the first place China already went to spratleys during the 12th century and claimed spratleys. There wasn't even Philippines(Name given during the Spanish coloniozation) during 12th century only people from malaysia, indonesia and the negritos who weren't even considering themselves as Filipinos. So how are you telling that China is bullying Viet and Phil if you Phil and Viet are claiming islands that were claimed many years ago before Philippines ever existed. Its like your claiming something that already belongs to someone else.

        June 14, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
      • JD


        Again, so if China claimed the Spratleys in the 12th century, whats stopping them from claiming the PI , Taiwan, and Vietnam? A verbal promise they won't? Thats a joke! China is the 800 lb gorilla in the far east whose sole purpose is to push their not too hidden agenda on the weaker 3rd world neighbors. So who is supporting you? The Chinese government?

        June 15, 2012 at 1:30 am |
  24. RCDC

    U.S. currently has 162 bombers in its fleet? What happen to1,280 F16 we (US) already have before?

    February 22, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Reply
    • Dg

      You as well as other commentators should brush up on you military knowledge. The F-16 is not a bomber, it can provide close air support to troops on the ground however. But, a dedicated strategic bomber it is not. And yes we have a bunch of the ageing craft.

      February 23, 2012 at 10:01 am | Reply
      • Unknown

        The f 16 might not be the best fighter, but if your versing some of those weaker opponents then those will be considered superior.

        February 29, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  25. 3sieves

    I didnt see any mention of Holographic weapons here.


    February 22, 2012 at 9:33 am | Reply
  26. 4commonsensenow

    Maybe some day the practice of holding the 'pot of boiling water' over the heads of your opponents to ensure your own safety and existence will no longer be necessary. Group Hug

    February 15, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Reply
    • JAY SAYS

      No one listens to the voice of reason. If they did,then they would be smart. which would translate to being smart enough to have figured it out for themselves. What are the idiots to do when the whole village is full full of them. Good luck with your conventional herp de derps there. Biological agents against civilian targets are the culmination of the next large scale confrontation. I'm sure muti-million dollar bombers are going to win against virulent,contagious and lethal microbes. Not like it should matter. People have been murdered for stupid ideals by stupid leaders for our entire history. I told you no one listens to reason. Go figure.

      February 29, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Reply
  27. Anon

    Bunch of war mongering fags....

    February 10, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Reply
    • SignalBattalion2/81

      To each his own.

      February 12, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Reply
  28. Lord Haw Haw is a fag.

    Haha. Lord Haw Haw got mad at MHouston for calling him a geek. Please Lord Haw Haw, get laid so you can stop being a pathetic piece of shit. I can tell you think your a pretty funny guy. If your going to contribute to the conversation please say something at least partly intelligent.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Reply
  29. Ugh

    They REALLY need a report violation option in these comments.

    February 8, 2012 at 2:55 am | Reply
  30. tim braggs


    February 7, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Reply
    • Gets your numbers right!

      We spend a large sum of money on Defense Budget. Roughly 17% of our total budget. But we spend 58% of our total budget giving handouts and benefits to our citizens. We spend our money on waste everyday anyways. Instead of food stamps, why is no one out there fishing and hunting for what they need? Survival of the fittest is gone in America, and instead handouts have been given. We need to spend a lot on military to defend our interests because if we ever get attacked, our people will expect our government to take care of the problem while the T-92s roll down the street. Heaven forbid they act for themselves and solve their own problems.

      February 23, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Reply
  31. will laing

    mhouston is so right ok im along way away in australia blow them up and start makeing your own monitors again bring your jobs back home in america no wonder the rich are getting richer they sent all your jobs away and dont pay enough tax wall st and the fat cats you should go to war with more jobs less spending 15 trillion in debt i saw a documentry how your old job creating ststes are now waste lands do you think the rich are going without tonight

    February 6, 2012 at 1:24 am | Reply
  32. A-Pissin'-on-the-dead-kinda-guy

    The toxic discharges and gasses of Hillary Clinton's foul cunt would be the ultimate weapon to wield. Once we've learned how to harness that power, no one will dare fuck with us.

    February 5, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Reply
    • Ugh

      You pretty much represent the mentality of the to-the-right of Mitt, thanks for unmasking it. You can go back to f-ing your house pets now.

      February 8, 2012 at 2:47 am | Reply
  33. mipolitic

    all this military hardware might does not add up to anything if the voice of pres obama is not respected or observed as resolved . obama will not back up what he says.the outcome at the un over syria was a clear exsample of this. obama started to make deal with the taliban in july of 2011 and world leaders seen this as weakness from obama and things quickly started to turn for the wores.obama has lost respect of world leaders, and putin is pushing obama hollow statements to the sidelines. syria , egypt , iran , afghanistan , pakistan and i bet soon north korea will play bully games and will ignor obamas weak words. getting a few bad guys in a small pocket is not the backbone required to lead with resolve and respect. bush and cheney was wrong , but obama is side lined and tens of thousands will die because of his weakness.

    February 5, 2012 at 10:18 am | Reply
  34. T

    I get drones being able to stay aloft longer than manned aircraft but for shit sake, Pilots are the bread and butter of the Air Force and now it seems like they will be obsolete. My dream has always been to be a Pilot in the Air Force and now that i'm of age and in college i'm not even sure i should join. I guess i'm alone in seeing the value of pilots but I for one would take a pilot in a B-2 over a guy sitting at base with a joystick any day.

    February 4, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Reply
    • HBadger

      As you're not really in a position to make such an observation it's pretty clear why you're of the few that think manned aircraft should not eventually become a thing of the past. It's a cool concept. Being a fighter pilot is a sexy job. However... if a guy can do the same job and for sure be able to go home to his wife and kids at night... why shouldn't he take that over putting his life on the line? Being a soldier I understand sacrifice... every servicemember does. But I also know if there's no reason to put life at risk other than it a cool thing to do.. then doing so is the wrong answer. If you want to serve just to have a sexy job then you're not doing it for the right reasons anyway... not saying that's the case.

      February 5, 2012 at 4:19 am | Reply
      • T

        I never said it was a "sexy" job. And what ever happened to duty and bravery? The reasons someone joins the military in the first place. You really think it's brave to sit in front of a computer? Where is the honor or sacrifice? Sure there is danger in being a pilot but that is part of the job. like i said I understand that drones are useful and can do things pilots can't but to take pilots out of the military is like taking the drums out of a band. You being a soldier should know that the reason wars mean anything is because people stood up and said "I'll put my life on the line to protect our country." When you take the people out of the equation...It's meaningless.

        February 5, 2012 at 5:05 am |
      • moods12

        Bravery and sacrifice are great. However, that does not dictate the need for a manned fighter. A manned fighter needs space in the plane, added weight and life support systems. All of these can be used for payload in an unmanned fighter. And in the unfortunate event of a plane going down, then an entire bunch of seals or special ops forces need to be deployed in harms way to get the downed pilot out. If an unmanned fighter gets the job done, that is the way to go.

        There is always going to be a requirement for manned fighters. In a full blown war, it is not going to be possible to operate from a remote location using joysticks. At least in the medium term future that is going to be the case.

        Eventually, when mother nature strikes back at humanity for all the plundering that we've been doing, this point is moot.

        February 16, 2012 at 5:56 am |
    • Bill

      I wouldn't worry about the AF going to all drones within our generation. We are still relatively far away from creating the fighter version of unmanned aircraft.

      February 15, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Reply
      • ed

        Drones will forever be the tool of a pilot. A pilot will always be in the picture. Imagine a fighter getting into a bvr or even wvr combat, that job requires a man. At least fit the next 50 years. And if we get leaders like Obama and Robert gates, slashing programs after programs, our manned planes will be around for 300 years. We already have unmanned planes, they are called missiles. But to make strategic and tactical decisions, drones are decades away.

        July 16, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  35. jackinbox


    Why would anyone pay $50 for something he can get for $15? Do you suggest to take away this fundamental freedom from American people?

    To all those who imagine a "slave" labor force, I challenge you to go there and button hold one of them.

    Besides, you can't build all this weapon systems to defeat the cheapskates, wall street, free marketeers. A couple of sand bugs gave us enough trouble to bankrupt us already.

    February 4, 2012 at 11:16 am | Reply
  36. Chee

    Make way USA. The Chinese are coming...........lol

    February 3, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Reply
    • Kurtinco

      They only "coming" we have to worry about from China isn't spelled that way.

      February 3, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Reply
    • Pierre, France

      Yeah, prepare your rice in a plate, everybody 's hungry of china's rice. It's said that the more we are, the more we can laugh at together

      February 29, 2012 at 11:50 am | Reply
  37. Zafarrano

    Freedom isn't free.

    February 3, 2012 at 9:45 am | Reply
    • Roy Cohn

      Neither is aggression.

      February 3, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Reply
    • JBUTT


      February 9, 2012 at 11:42 am | Reply
  38. Sayan Majumdar

    I did express my views on Pentagon Next Generation Bomber (NGB) to a United States Air Force (USAF) officer during Aero India 2011, and predicted it may well be an unmanned platform.

    Correct prediction :).


    February 3, 2012 at 8:50 am | Reply
    • Khalil

      Are you suggesting that the epople of China should ignore the humiliation they suffered for over a centually so as not to built a defensive positure in order to protect against further future invasions and humiliations of their homeland. Before and during world two, Jaspan's invasion of China killed 25 million Chinise citizens. Before that, Britain and other powers invaded and colonised parts of China. They also robbed the Chinise Summer Palace of priceless items that went back some four thousand years. I am an American and proud of it, but I have a simple question. If the Chinise epople had invaded the USA, killed 25 million American citizens and then robbed the Smithsonian of all its priceless items, and in response the USA decided to built up its defenses in order to make sure such acts will not permited to happen in the future. Under these kinds conditions, will you have written the same kind of article as the above one, upon which you accuse America of military expansionism. Mr Miks, I don't know if you are American or not, but your articles, like those of the many who write for the Diplomat are Imperial in nature. I have read the Diplomat for many years. From that experience, I have reached the point upon which I understand the central element of the Diplomat's focus. And it is this, that in all of human history empires have fallen and new ones have riesn to take their place. It is under these conditions upon which the Diplomat and other western media have decided that the American empire must be an exception to the rule and endure despite the fast rise of a powerful China. I have news for you Mr. Miks, American decline is for real and on time, all you have do is watch the barbaric debate in Washington about the debt ceiling. Amd please, I don't want to hear the tired Diplomat talk about how the Chinise have tamed central Asia, but are not well loved. The question is, if China is not well loved in central Asia, then how much is America loved in the Muslim world.

      March 3, 2012 at 10:46 am | Reply
    • John

      brakmaster on November 6, 2011 Oh well why not give it a shot, there's ionhntg to lose, so I guess there's everything to win! And cmon who doesn't like sony products!

      March 4, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Reply
  39. sinbad

    The US wants to be able to invade any country at will. This isn't defense it's aggression.

    February 3, 2012 at 8:41 am | Reply
    • RagMcmuffin

      No It's the upper hand like it has always been. Man will always conquer one another for survival... been like that since the beginning of time

      February 4, 2012 at 1:14 am | Reply
      • RichP

        Sinbad is correct. Rag's comment on history is misleading at best. The powerful don't fight for survival, they fight for greed and power.

        February 4, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
      • NIck

        "the strong do what they will, the weak do what they must"

        February 4, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
      • DarkStar

        Rag is right. Peace through Strength... unless you are one of the naive who believes that the concept of passive resistance will work against a determined enemy. I'm sure at some point in that scenario you will be wishing that
        you had given a little more thought into your decision making process.

        February 4, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
      • Ugh

        Another vote for Rag, we need the best whether we are good or bad, and the knee-jerk denouncing is just empty name-calling, drinking the wine of self-righteousness. Some actual examples please. Nazi's? North Korea? Syria? Iran? Sadaam?

        February 8, 2012 at 2:52 am |
      • Fazio

        UMMMM i agree with you both... i do think we should have cutting edge military equipment (idk y this doesnt seem to include personnel equipment such as body armor, our men and women dont even have the best just what dick cheney could make a profit off of... his investment was chosen....shouldve chosen dragon skin or whatever was on futureweapons) but at the same time i believe that we should b spending more on security purposes so 9/11 doesnt happen agian. NYPD doing a good job at tht (proud new yorker) i also think we shouldnt b doin retarded wars like afghanistan or iraq, the CIA couldve tooken care of it in a couple of months. btw didnt we win ww2 even though we didnt have the best shit out.......

        February 13, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  40. michaelfury


    February 3, 2012 at 8:23 am | Reply
  41. mipolitic

    if pres obama release gitmo guest obama will be the only thing cut loose

    February 3, 2012 at 7:25 am | Reply
  42. chicagorich

    While I understand the need to develop specific weapons platforms to maintain the capability to defend ourselves in any scenario, I do not understand the specific talk about China. It is possible that the relationship will change over time to one of conflict, but that should definitely not be the preferred course by either country. So much more can be accomplished by working together, not just with China, a major trading partner, but with all of our allies too. We just have to figure out an equitable course to avoid the tensions that have been developing. Obviously if no such path exists then we have to be prepared to protect our interests, just as China will theirs, but it should be very clear to anyone with a brain that both of our countries would benefit so much more if they can work together.

    February 3, 2012 at 7:12 am | Reply
    • Alfred H

      I agree with ChicagoRich a country like China and other allied countries should work together but not to cause stir ups or conflict at the same time.

      February 3, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Reply
    • Facepalm28

      "If you want peace, prepare for war."

      The question is, which war do you prepare for? Nations prepare their military capabilities based on the most likely, most powerful enemy they could conceivably have to fight. We built our military capabilities to counter the Soviets for 40 years because our main worry was war with them or their surrogates using the Soviet model and equipment (like Iraq in Gulf War 1). Then, we shifted our emphasis to smaller-scale counter-insurgency type missions as the War on Terror became our predominant focus. Now, the military is looking ahead to what the next potential conflict might be, and the country that has the 2nd largest economy and 2nd strongest military in the world makes sense for the country that ranks first in those categories to gear its capabilities towards. If we have the capabilites to deal with China, then presumably we can do the same with anyone else, as we see in the statements that describe a specific military platform as being capable of handling large-scale threats and smaller-scale threats from countries like Iran or N. Korea in the same breath.

      Gearing our military capabilities toward countering China does not mean we intend or expect to go to war with them, it means we want to be prepared to deal with the possibility. Negotiation gets a lot easier when we're in the position of strength, and when it's clear to all concerned that there are limits to how far a potential adversary can push us.

      February 3, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Reply
      • RichP

        "If you want war, prepare for war." It really does work out that way much of the time. WW1 is a great example. The issue whether to prepare for defense, or prepare for offense. The latter can be extremely aggressive, and the capability tempts weak leaders pretending to be strong.

        China is not a military threat to USA, except in the armageddon scenario, in which case it probably makes little difference with all the other nukes out there. Many of these weapons are primarily intended to threaten China's homeland, and none to defend USA. The net result is to make USA less secure, and war more likely.

        Most US generals, admirals, politicians, and paid pundits love war. In their experience it is a great opportunity for personal profit and promotion, with little risk to themselves.

        February 4, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  43. Dave Krieger

    Are the Chinese ready this? Are we creating tensions by this shift of policy aimed at China? Is the Obama administration obtuse?

    February 3, 2012 at 4:31 am | Reply
  44. Jannai

    America is a failed state with huge debt. America's debt will be 24 trillion by 2015.

    February 3, 2012 at 4:17 am | Reply
    • Buzzer

      If you want to use net immigration as an indicator (this is a good one), I guess that with the US's net immigration being higher than all major industrialized countries with the exception of Canada, Australia, and Italy all others must be "failed states" right?

      February 3, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Reply
  45. Roy Cohn

    What a fucking waste of money.

    February 3, 2012 at 2:48 am | Reply
    • MHouston

      If you're a Ron Paul isolationist ANY military spending is a waste of money to you...

      February 3, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Reply
    • jackinbox

      We are paying for the ability to bomb our own industrial base inside China. No iPhone, no keyboard, no monitors, no new underware. Just hope the old ones last forever, but you know where those were made, don't you?

      February 4, 2012 at 2:13 am | Reply
      • MHouston

        If China is "our own industrial base" it's because people like you and your "free market worshipers" moved it there to
        make an inflated profit for Wall Street profiteers and cheapskate Walmart shoppers like you. We had plenty of monitors,
        keyboards, software AND underwear before American corporate greedycats saw a profit in using Chinese slave labor.
        And what's so precious about Apples little IPhone that Steve Jobs had to make it in China? Geeks like him have sold out
        their own country.

        February 4, 2012 at 5:07 am |
      • Lord Haw Haw

        Hey, Houston. Time to start learning Chinese........you sniveling cocksucker.

        February 5, 2012 at 1:16 am |
      • Fazio

        so we should start making our own shit? i agree bring jobs back! tax those who outsource give rebates for those who hire local... youll make ur money back due to income tax and jobs and people feeling better and making money...

        February 13, 2012 at 6:12 pm |

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