May 30, 2020

US puts air force on nuclear standby: report

With the nuclear threat at its most acute in decades, activists from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) demonstrated last month in Berlin, dressed up as US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un  Britta Pedersen (dpa/AFP/File)

Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen.Goldfein said, ‘this is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared.’

The US Air Force is preparing to place its fleet of B-52 bombers on high-alert for the first time since the end of the Cold War amid a growing nuclear stand-off with North Korea.

According to a report by the Defense One industry website, the “long-dormant” runways of certain US Air Force bases could once again be home to nuclear-loaded B-52s, ready to fly at a moment’s notice.

Barksdale and other US nuclear bases are bracing themselves for the command to be delivered. Preparations include the development of storage hangars for a new nuclear cruise missile alongside a renovation of beds installed for more than 100 service people.

The decision, reportedly still in its preliminary phases, will be made by General John Hyten, the commander of the US Strategic Command or General Lori Robinson, the head of US Northern Command, Stratcom.

Air Force Chief of Staff, General David Goldfein, told Defense One that, “this is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,” further stating that they are “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,” Goldfein continued. “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.”

US aircraft like these B-52 bombers routinely carried fully-primed nuclear weapons during the Cold War
US Air Force/AFP

-Touch and Go Tensions –

The development is the latest in the nuclear stand-off developing between the US and North Korea that has witnessed Pyongyang growing its nuclear arsenal and developing its weapons program.

Tensions soared last month when it conducted its sixth moth powerful nuclear test.

Back in September, the US President used his maiden speech at the United Nations to threaten to “destroy” the nuclear-armed nation if North Korea did not back down, referring to leader Kim Jong-Un as “Rocket Man”.

Meanwhile, Kim has echoed these calls scorning him as “the rabid man in the White House.”

In an interview with Reuters in February, Trump said that he wanted to ensure that the US nuclear arsenal was at the “top of the pack.” The US’s current possession of nuclear warheads earmarked for use in its military stockpile, according to the Federation of American Scientist, is approximately 4,000.

As the escalatory rhetoric continues and the situation reaches touch-and-go, Trump told Fox News, “we are so prepared like you wouldn’t believe…you would be shocked to see how totally prepared we are, if we need to be.”

(Staff with agencies)