The U.S. is ruminating about putting nuclear bombers back on a 24-hour alert. Defense One reports the move is being considered by top Pentagon officials over national security concerns.
“This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,” Gen. David Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, said in an interview during his six-day tour of Barksdale and other U.S. Air Force bases that support the nuclear mission. “I look at it more as not planning for any specific event, but more for the reality of the global situation we find ourselves in and how we ensure we’re prepared going forward.”
Goldfein and other senior defense officials stressed that the alert order had not been given, but that preparations were under way in anticipation that it might come. That decision would be made by Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, or Gen. Lori Robinson, the head of U.S. Northern Command. STRATCOM is in charge of the military’s nuclear forces and NORTHCOM is in charge of defending North America.
It’s important to point out the Pentagon is only considering the option. It doesn’t mean this will happen, and it’s completely possible this is something they consider on a regular basis. After all, Great Britain reportedly has a plan in place to attack North Korea, something other countries probably have as well. That’s part of being in the military, making sure there’s a plan for almost everything. It just depends on whether something leaks out or not.
But it’s pretty interesting the Air Force is going on the record and openly talking about the option. It’s not “unnamed sources,” but the Air Force chief of staff saying, “Hey…we’re thinking about it.” Goldfein did admit the strategy may or may not encourage so-called rogue regimes to chill out and back down, noting it depended on, “who, what kind of behavior are we talking about, and whether they’re paying attention to our readiness status.”
The easy guess is North Korea, but other nations could include Iran, Russia, and China.
The big question for me is why? It makes sense to be prepared, but there are ICBMs and cruise missiles which are available to military forces. Perhaps the Pentagon is considering using B-52’s to do some sort of attempted quiet strike against an enemy, like North Korea, and believe the bomber is a better option than the missiles. The military has yet to put the B-52 out to pasture, so this could just be going back to the well because it works. It also could be the Pentagon is confident a B-52 wouldn’t be detected by North Korea’s lone satellite and China or Russia wouldn’t let North Korea know what was going on.
What doesn’t make sense is why the Goldfein would come right out and say, “Yeah this is an option.” Is he trying to send a message to China and Russia or just a message to the entire world that all options are being considered? It also goes against comments by President Donald Trump made during the 2016 campaign about the bombers and their usefulness (the entire, “second-generation B-52” statement). It could be a political move designated to send a message to North Korea, make Kim Jong-un realize the U.S. is taking his threats seriously, and hopefully get him to stop raging against the America. Or it’s Trump just trying to show how “big” his military is.
Of course it could also complete backfire and cause Kim to issue even more threats against the U.S., and attempt to draw the nation, and possibly the world, into war. It’s a curious strategy, but one which is only being considered. At the moment.