Bombers will return to the clock readiness
22 in October, the American edition of Defense One published an article entitled “EXCLUSIVE: US Preparing to Put Nuclear Bombers Back on 24-Hour Alert” (“Exclusive: The US is preparing to return nuclear bombers to round-the-clock readiness”) by Markus Weisgerber. As noted in the subtitle, the planned methods of organizing the duty of the B-52 aircraft have not been used by American aircraft since the Cold War.
According to the publication Defense One, in the very near future, the United States Air Force will return long-range bombers to combat duty with constant readiness for combat operations. Thus, on the long sections near the ends of the runways, for marking up those called “Christmas trees”, planes with special ammunition will reappear, ready to take off as soon as possible and head towards their targets.
On plans to change the order of service of B-52 bombers M. Weisgerberu was told by the Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, General David Goldfein. According to him, such plans are another measure for the army to be ready for a possible war. The general does not consider the planned preparation of the Air Force in the context of specific armed conflicts, but the general deterioration of the international situation calls for certain measures to be taken.
According to Defense One, D. Goldfein and a number of other military leaders argue that there has not yet been an order for changes in the long-range duty duty. However, several structures are already waiting for his appearance. The final decision should be made by the head of the Strategic Command, General John Heithen, and the head of the Northern Command, General Lori Robinson.
According to M. Weisberger, the planned transfer of aircraft to permanent readiness is only one of the answers to the emerging challenges. The situation on the Korean Peninsula is worsening, Washington and Pyongyang exchange aggressive statements. In the meantime, Russia is building up the capacity of its armed forces.
Against the background of these events, D. Goldfein called on the command of the US armed forces to explore new strategies, including the use of nuclear weapons in the field of deterrence. In addition, he does not exclude the possibility of using such weapons in a hypothetical conflict. He recalls: "The world is a dangerous place, and there are already people who are directly talking about the possible use of nuclear weapons." According to the general, now the world is not bipolar, and there are not only the United States and the USSR. There are several other nuclear powers that place special demands on the US military.
As part of his recent speech, D. Goldfein pointed out that pilots need to get rid of the Cold War clichés, in which intercontinental missiles, nuclear bombers and cruise missiles played a special role. He invited the Air Force Global Strike Command to consider several critical issues. It is necessary to establish exactly how a conventional conflict with limited use of nuclear weapons will look like? How should the United States react to such events? How can events develop? Finally, how should deterrence be performed in such conditions?
D. Goldfein was asked about the prospects of the B-52 aircraft in the context of deterrence. Will they be able to solve the problem in the same way as it was several decades ago? The general could not answer unequivocally. In his opinion, the results of the implementation of new plans depend on how exactly the bombers will be used, and moreover, on the conditional adversary’s attention to the status of US aircraft.
M. Weisgerber notes that, despite the absence of an order to transfer the bombers to the new duty regime, some measures are already being taken to prepare for this. Thus, at the Barksdale air base - one of the key strategic aviation facilities - the restoration of the required infrastructure has begun. Next to the runway of this base is the so-called. The Alert Center is a building with space for pilots where they can wait for an order to fly out. Now this object, actually abandoned in the past, is being repaired.
In the rooms of the restored building will be placed residential and domestic premises, capable of providing duty over 100 pilots - in accordance with the capabilities of the airfield in the context of the simultaneous duty of the aircraft. Pilots will have a lounge with a TV, pool table, etc. On the main staircase of the building, hang up the symbols of local squadrons.
Along with the B-52H, other planes will be on duty at the Christmas tree. According to M. Weisgerber, from time to time there will be air command posts E-4B Nightwatch and E-6B Mercury on the runway. In the event of the outbreak of an armed conflict, they will become the jobs of the Minister of Defense and the head of the Strategic Command. One of the tasks of the aircraft will be the issuance of orders to parts of strategic nuclear forces.
No permanent duty, but the infrastructure is updated
The article in the publication Defense One naturally attracted attention. In addition, it was the reason for the appearance of clarifying articles. So, the day after it was published, Breaking Defense released a publication by Colin Clarke on the title “No Nuke Bombers On Call 24 / 7, But Alert Centers Being Upgraded” (“No bombers on permanent duty, but alert centers will be updated”) . As is clear from its name, the previous material from M. Weisgerber was far from fully consistent with the real state of affairs.
At the beginning of his article, C. Clark recalled the essence of the previous publication in Defense One. After reviewing the information from Marcus Weisgerber, the author of the publication Breaking Defense decided to clarify it, and sent a few questions to the US Strategic Command. This structure determines the methods of deploying a nuclear weapon, and it is she, and not the Air Force headquarters, who should decide on the deployment of bomber on duty of one kind or another.
According to Captain Brooke DeWolt, a representative of the head of the Strategic Command, General J. Haiten, who answered C. Clarke, the question of changing the alert status of B-52 aircraft is not currently being considered.
The representative of the Strategic Command noted that plans for the withdrawal of aircraft on permanent duty are not currently available. The issue of such a deployment of technology is also not being considered. At the same time, Captain DeWolt recalled that such issues are within the competence of the US Strategic Command and that it should solve them.
Despite the lack of plans for round-the-clock combat duty of the bombers, the command continues to conduct personnel training. The necessary training is carried out and the necessary equipment is supplied. All this is necessary to ensure combat readiness that meets the requirements of strategic deterrence in the 21st century.
Such a response from the official representative of the leadership of the Strategic Command does not quite agree with D. Goldfein’s comments. However, according to C. Clark, the statements of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force can say that this structure is still preparing to receive the relevant order.
In an interview for Defense One, General D. Goldfein said that putting the aircraft on permanent duty is another step in ensuring the readiness of the air force. In addition, he noted that such plans are not associated with a specific potential adversary, but with a change in the strategic situation in the world. Thus, the order to put the aircraft on alert has not yet arrived, but the prerequisites for its appearance already exist.
However, the only commander authorized to approve such plans, according to his official representative, does not plan to sign a new order. In other words, information about the speedy transfer of bombers to 24-hour readiness is currently not true.
Author Breaking Defense believes that initially история on duty, B-52 contained some hints about the possibility of changing the strategy or the desire of the air force to influence its development. However, in actual fact everything turned out differently. Another fact was added to one fact, and the result was less interesting than it seemed from the very beginning. The same applies to the Barksdale base facilities, which are currently undergoing repairs and modernization.
K. Clark reminds that on this base one of the buildings is actually being renovated. However, the Alert Center is not updated with the aim of ensuring the round-the-clock duty of strategic aviation pilots. This object is used by the crews of various aircraft from the various structures of the Pentagon. Due to the gradual deterioration of the infrastructure in need of repair.
The renovation of the building on the Barksdale base, accompanied by the installation of new equipment, started in August last year. In accordance with the existing contract worth 3,5 million dollars, the contractor will have to restore various internal systems of the facility. The second contract worth 136 thousand dollars, concluded by the Strategic Command, stipulates the purchase of funds for comfortable rest of the pilots, and also affects the exterior of the building.
As we see, in the field of strategic aviation of the United States there is a rather interesting situation. The head of one structure of the Pentagon speaks about the imminent restructuring of the aircraft’s duty system, the purpose of which is to ensure the possibility of take-off at any time of the day with a full load. Soon after, a representative of another structure responsible for the combat use of long-range bombers indicates the absence of such plans and the unwillingness of the Strategic Command to change the existing system.
This situation looks very strange, because it demonstrates some difficulties in the interaction of the two most important organizations involved in ensuring strategic security. Some problems are always present when large structures work together, but in this case they can be a serious cause for concern, and not only for the Pentagon.
Despite all the problems of the US military, recent publications in the foreign press may be grounds for optimism. Marcus Weischerber's article "EXCLUSIVE: US Preparing to Put Nuclear Bombers Back on 24-Hour Alert" immediately attracted the attention of specialists from different countries and caused concern. It would hardly be possible to imagine a different reaction to plans for the return of the round-the-clock continuous duty of strategic bombers. However, the very next day it became known that General David Golfein did not announce the most accurate information. As it turned out, the Strategic Command has no such plans. As for the repair of one of the objects of the Barksdale base, mentioned by M. Weisgerber, it is carried out in a planned manner and is not related to the duty of B-52H aircraft. Permanent combat duty of bombers, however, is not assumed.
And yet there are certain reasons for concern. As General D. Golfein rightly noted, the situation in the world is changing and the United States has to react to this. How exactly Washington and the Pentagon intend to respond to changes in the strategic situation, and how such an answer will affect it is not yet completely clear. At the same time, it is safe to predict a certain deterioration of the situation in some regions.
Article "EXCLUSIVE: US Preparing to Put Nuclear Bombers Back on 24-Hour Alert":
Article "No Nuke Bombers On Call 24 / 7, But Alert Centers Being Upgraded":