For the first time in decades, the old-but-still formidable U.S. fleet of B-52 high-altitude long-range strategic bombers have reportedly been ordered prepared to return to their Cold War mission of carrying nuclear weapons in preparation for a conflict with North Korea.
Defense One, a national security website, published an exclusive story on Sunday saying that Barksdale Airforce Base in Louisianna has been ordered to prepare the enormous planes to return to 24-hour ready alert status. The bombers flew such missions until 1991 when the Soviet Union fell and the Cold War ended.
“This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,” Gen. David Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, 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.”
“The world is a dangerous place and we’ve got folks that are talking openly about use of nuclear weapons,” he added. “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 and other senior defense officials stressed that the alert order had not been given but that preparation was underway in anticipation that it might come. Preparations are already underway at the airbase, home to the 2d Bomb Wing and Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees the service’s nuclear forces. An existing structure is being modified into new barracks for more than one hundred personnel. Barksdale and other bases with nuclear bombers are preparing to build storage facilities for a new nuclear cruise missile that is under development.
This seems to reflect the attitude of the White House. US President Donald Trump said Sunday that his administration was “prepared for anything” in connection with North Korea. “We are so prepared like you wouldn’t believe,” he told Fox News. “You would be shocked to see how totally prepared we are, if we need to be.”