The U.S. Air Force is said to be ready to put its nuclear-armed B-52 bombers on 24-hour ready alert for the first time since the end of the Cold War, according to an exclusive Defense One report. While the order has not officially come down from the ...
The U.S. Air Force is said to be ready to put its nuclear-armed B-52 bombers on 24-hour ready alert for the first time since the end of the Cold War, according to an exclusive Defense One report.
While the order has not officially come down from the top, the Air Force is readying for the first 24-hour nuclear readiness status for the first time since 1991.
Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein said during an interview that the measure is more of being ready for a situation, and not planning for any one "specific event."
"This is yet one more step in ensuring that we're prepared," Goldfein told the military-focused news outlet. "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.
"The world is a dangerous place and we've got folks that are talking openly about use of nuclear weapons."
Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have been at a fever pitch in recent months, with President Donald Trump taking verbal shots at the country and its leader Kim Jong Un.
After North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan in late August, Trump said "all options" were on the table when it came to any potential U.S. response. Less than a month later at a United Nations conference, Trump tweeted that he "Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer."
Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said Trump's tweet was a declaration of war" and that the U.S. president gave them "every right" to take countermeasures."
If the order were to come from Gen. John Hyten, U.S. Strategic Command commander, or Gen. Lori Robinson, commander of U.S. Northern Command, several B-52s would be loaded with nuclear weapons and parked at the end of Barksdale Air Force Base's 11,000-foot runway.
The end of the runway features concrete pads that have been empty for the better part of two decades. The area is said to be referred to as the "Christmas tree" due to its angular markings.
Defense One reports improvements to accommodate the B-52 bombers at Barksdale include renovations to the building where its crew would sleep during the Cold War. The location of the concrete building ensures that the B-52 crew is ready to act and operate their aircrafts "at a moment's notice."
At least one of the U.S. military's four E-4B aircrafts is always on 24-hour alert, according to the Air Force. "The Doomsday Plane" is formally known as the National Airborne Operations Center, and is used to provide support to the president, secretary of defense and others.
In August, North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean. The missile was designed to carry a nuclear payload and was likely the longest ever launch for the country. South Korea said at the time that the missile traveled 1,677 miles and reached as high as 341 miles over U.S. ally Japan.
Then in September, North Korea tested its most powerful nuclear weapon in the hydrogen bomb. It was the country's sixth nuclear test in testing the 100-kiloton range bomb. The U.S. responded to this with bombing drills paired with South Korea in what it specifically called a "show of force" in direct response to a North Korea missile launch over Japan.
Earlier in October, the U.S. military joined forces with Japanese and South Korean bombers in yet another show of force to North Korea.
The U.S. Pacific Air Force Command said in a statement that the bombers "sharpened their combat skills" during a joint-mission in the Sea of Japan on Oct. 10. The U.S. says it deployed two B-1B Lancers from the Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota to fly the mission.
"North Korea's actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland, and their destabilizing actions will be met accordingly," Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Air Forces, said in the release.
"This complex mission clearly demonstrates our solidarity with our allies and underscores the broadening cooperation to defend against this common regional threat."
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