The United States Air Force has not had nuclear-armed bombers on 24-hour ready alert since the Cold War ended in 1991, but according to an exclusive report by Defense One, preparations are underway in anticipation that the order will be given to go to full alert.
If the order is given, Lousiana’s Barksdale Air Force Base might once again find itself hosting nuclear-armed B-52 bombers, ready to take off on missions at any time, but top defense officials emphasized that no order had yet been announced.
“This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in an interview with 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.”
Defense One reported that putting the B-52s back on alert is one of many decisions facing the Air Force “as the U.S. military responds to a changing geopolitical environment that includes North Korea’s rapidly advancing nuclear arsenal, President Trump’s confrontational approach to Pyongyang and Russia’s increasingly potent and active armed forces.”
“The world is a dangerous place, and we’ve got folks that are talking openly about use of nuclear weapons,” Goldfein said. “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. It’s never been more important to make sure that we get this mission right.”
Goldfein was asked if placing B-52s back on alert would help prevent escalations toward warfare, and he said that the effectiveness of sucha measure was dependent on a variety of factors.
“Really it depends on who, what kind of behavior are we talking about and whether they’re paying attention to our readiness status,” he said.