Economy

Plans for B-52s good for Minot Air Force Base

Plans for B-52s good for Minot Air Force Base

The U.S. Air Force has rolled out plans to phase out the B-1B and B-2 bomber fleets as it makes way for the new B-21 Raider, which is now under development by Northrop Grumman.

The Air Force now has 62 B-1B Lancers, 20 B-2 Spirits, and 76 B-52 Stratofortresses, totaling 158 bombers, according its inventory. Additionally, given that both the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy call out great-power competition broadly and China and Russian Federation specifically as future threats while also recognizing that transnational terrorism will remain as a strategic challenge, we must ask: Does the Air Force's future aircraft inventory make sense?

"The United States now faces a more competitive and risky global security environment than we have seen for generations", Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in an overview of the 2019 fiscal-year request.

Last month about 300 airmen and four B-52 bombers along with support equipment deployed from Minot AFB to Royal Air Force Fairford in England where they took part in training with joint partners, allied nations and other U.S. Air Force units.

Currently, B-52s and personnel with the 69th Bomb Squadron are deployed to the Middle East in the fight against ISIS. Earlier plans called for Global Strike Command to phase in the B-21, which would serve alongside the B-1B, the B-2, and the B-52 for years before gradually replacing them altogether. The Air Force has said the new weapons system should be expected in the mid-2020s.

Colonel John Edwards is the commander of the 28th Bomb Wing based at Ellsworth.

Plans for B-52s good for Minot Air Force Base
Plans for B-52s good for Minot Air Force Base

The B-21, which the Air Force plans to start fielding in the mid-2020s, will eventually become the backbone of the US bomber fleet.

"Modernizing and recapitalizing our bomber force is absolutely central to the recently released National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review", said Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein.

In fact, multiple reports from various analysts reveal that the Air Force will need a minimum of 160 penetrating, long-range strike bombers if the nation decides to execute a sustained campaign against a rival great power.

McCaskill, a senior member of the Senate's Armed Services Committee, said the Air Force's announcement to roll out the B-21 was a "vote of confidence" in Whiteman Air Force Base. Accordingly, the Air Force announced a new vector, providing guidance for the modernization of America's bombers.

But the Air Force has not explained how the first increment of the advanced battle management system will replace the aerial ground system on the E-8C. The B-21 bomber, now in development at Northrop Grumman, is expected to enter service in the mid-2020s. "Our bomber force allows the commander in chief to hold targets at risk anywhere on the globe with unparalleled range and our most diverse payloads". "This is a generational opportunity for West Texas". While originally created to fulfill a nuclear strike role during the Cold War, the Lancer has since evolved into a conventional munitions "bomb truck", serving in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past twenty years in close air support roles.

"Whiteman has always been home to some of the most advanced weapons technology in our country's air defense arsenal, and today's news means it'll stay that way for decades to come", said U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill.

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