World War 3 B-52 Nuclear Bombers on High Alert
The world is a dangerous place and we’ve got folks that are talking openly about use of nuclear weapons,” Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein told US military website Defense One. “It’s no longer a bipolar world where it’s just us and the Soviet Union. We’ve got other players out there who have nuclear capability. It’s never been more important to make sure that we get this mission right.”
World War 3 Ready
Goldfein said that the order to return the B-52 bombers to high-readiness has not yet been issued, but showed journalists the ongoing construction work at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.
Nine alert pads branching off from an 11,000-foot runway are being renovated, along with a nearby building that will house more than 100 crew members assigned to the B-52 bombers, which have been in service since the 1950s.
Despite their age, Goldfein believes that the bombers could play a role in a modern conflict – certain to be different from the mutually assured destruction of the Cold War.
“I’ve challenged Air Force Global Strike Command to help lead the dialog, help with this discussion about ‘What does conventional conflict look like with a nuclear element?’ and ‘Do we respond as a global force if that were to occur?’ and ‘What are the options?’ ‘How do we think about it — how do we think about deterrence in that environment?’”
The final authority to place the bombers outside rests with either the head of the US Strategic Command, STRATCOM, which oversees the country’s nuclear arsenals, or the head of US Northern Command, NORTHCOM, responsible for defending the US in case of war.
Our job is options,” Goldfein said. “We provide best military advice and options for the commander in chief and the secretary of defense. Should the STRATCOM commander require or the NORTHCOM commander require us to be on a higher state of readiness to defend the homeland, then we have to have a place to put those forces.”
Additionally, Goldfein said that Barksdale and other US bases are building storage facilities for new intercontinental ballistic missiles. In August, the White House issued an order to develop a replacement for the Minuteman III, the only land-based nuclear missile still in use by the US Army, which was introduced in 1970, and has since been superseded by several generations of strategic weapons developed by Russia, China, and other nuclear states. The US Air Force is also conducting operational tests of a new modification of its plane-delivered nuclear gravity bomb, with the B61-12 expected to enter service by 2020.
Asked whether these measures were likely to be an effective deterrent against North Korea, which has backed up its stated intention to become a nuclear state with a series of successful tests, or other volatile actors, Goldfein seemed less sure.
“It depends on who, what kind of behavior are we talking about, and whether they’re paying attention to our readiness status,” he said.
World War 3 Gravity Bomb Ready
As the world’s attention was on the first combat use of the conventional “Mother Of All Bombs,” the US National Nuclear Security Administration announced the successful field test of the modernized gravity nuclear bomb in Nevada.
The NNSA and the US Air Force completed the first qualification flight test of the B61-12 gravity nuclear bomb on March 14 at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada, the agency announced on Thursday.
The test was intended to evaluate the weapon’s “non-nuclear functions” and the capability of the F-16 fighter to successfully deploy the bomb. An F-16 fighter from Nellis Air Force Base dropped the “non-nuclear test assembly,” the NNSA said in a statement.
“The successful test provides critical qualification data to validate that the baseline design meets military requirements,” said Brigadier General Michael Lutton, NNSA’s principal assistant deputy administrator for military application. The NNSA is part of the Department of Energy, which is charged with managing US nuclear weapons.
The B61-12 is a modernized version of the B61 gravity bomb, the mainstay of the Air Force’s nuclear arsenal and one of the legs of the so-called nuclear triad, along with the intercontinental ballistic missiles deployed from either ground-based silos or oceangoing submarines.
President Donald Trump has endorsed an ambitious – and expensive – plan to modernize the US nuclear triad, begun under his predecessor. The B61-12 is intended to consolidate and replace all the B61 variants currently in service.
Three successful development flight tests of the B61-12 were conducted in 2015. The March test was the first in a series scheduled to span the next three years, with the final design review due in September 2018 and the first production unit scheduled for completion by March 2020.
“In order to placate his critics, in the media and in politics, Trump has given a blank check to his generals. So they are having a grand time right now, and they are testing all the weapons they’ve been wanting to test, but not been able to,” said Brian Becker, director of the anti-war ANSWER coalition, to RT.
On Thursday, the US attracted the world’s attention by dropping a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), also known as “Mother Of All Bombs,” on Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) positions in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. It was the first combat use of the weapon, the largest conventional bomb in the US arsenal.