“It’s a new step to make sure we’re prepared,” said Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein, “it’s a must-have mission. In an interview with the US newspaper Defense One , he revealed that preparations were already under way for the B-52 bombers to be on permanent alert. Capable of carrying nuclear charges, they will always be ready to take off in a matter of minutes. These aircraft had not been put in a state of permanent operational capability since 1991.
The order could be given by General John Hyten, commander of the United States Strategic Command or by General Lori Robinson, commander of United States Northern Command and the North American Air Force, according to Defense One , which does not give precise date.
The decision was made against the backdrop of “the rapid development of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal,” according to David Goldfein and other senior US military officials quoted by the newspaper, which in turn ‘do not hesitate to emphasize President Trump’s hawkish approach to Pyongyang.’ The rise in Russian military potential is also cited.
“The world is a dangerous place, there are people today who talk openly about the use of nuclear weapons,” says the US Armed Forces Chief of Staff. “It has never been so important to ensure this mission,” he adds. Having visited US air bases to support the new B-52 mission, he urged troops to look for “new ways” to use nuclear weapons for both deterrence and combat. He noted, however, that he was not sure that the B-52’s permanent warning would help deter potential US adversaries. “It depends on who you talk to,” he told Defense One .
The giant B-52 Stratofortress bomber has been the American firepower for more than 60 years. Designed by Boeing in 1951, it can carry up to 32 tons of air-to-ground munitions, including 20 cruise missiles and possibly nuclear weapons. He is also able to cover 14,000 kilometers without refueling. According to December 2015 data, the United States maintains 58 aircraft in active service and another 18 in reserve.