In a move reminiscent of the Cold War era, the U.S. Air force has been preparing to place nuclear-armed bombers on a 24-hour ready alert should they receive an order to do so, according to The New York Times.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein commented on the preparations last week during his six-day tour of the Air Force bases that support the nuclear mission.
“This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,” Goldfein told Defense One. “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.”
No alert order has been given, according to Goldfein and other senior defense officials, but preparations are underway to ensure that the Air Force is in a state of readiness should the word be given.
“The world is a dangerous place and we’ve got folks that are talking openly about use of nuclear weapons,” he said.
Goldfein stressed that the proliferation of nuclear weapons has changed the global military landscape.
“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,” he said. “It’s never been more important to make sure that we get this mission right.”
The decision to place U.S. nuclear-armed bombers on a 24-hour ready alert would be made by Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees the military’s nuclear forces, or Gen. Lori Robinson, head of U.S. Northern Command, which is responsible for defending North America.
As the Air Force positions itself to possibly confront threats posed by the development of nuclear weapons by North Korea and other global challenges, Goldfein has tasked his force to devise novel ways to use intercontinental ballistic missiles, bombers and nuclear cruise missiles in combat, CNN reported.
Goldfein said he has asked the 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?’”
Goldfein also noted that the strike command is considering ways to utilize nuclear weapons as a deterrent.
“How do we think about it?” Goldfein asked. “How do we think about deterrence in that environment?”
When asked if placing nuclear-armed bombers on a 24-hour ready alert would be a sufficient deterrent, Goldfein said that would depend on several variables.
“Really it depends on who, what kind of behavior are we talking about,” he said, “and whether they’re paying attention to our readiness status.”
Image and Content: Western Journalism