Washington could put US bombers on permanent nuclear alert again

PARIS, (BM) – US nuclear deterrence is currently based on three components: intercontinental ground-to-ground ballistic missiles of the Minuteman III type, strategic bombers, and 14 Ohio-class nuclear missile launchers [SSBNs]. However, the Pentagon must modernize all in the coming years, which requires heavy investments, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing opex360.

Thus, about the oceanic component, it will count, from 2030, 12 Columbia-class SSBNs, the unit price of which is around 5 billion dollars. Simultaneously, the development and acquisition of the new B-21 Raider bombers will cost the US Air Force around $ 80 billion per 100 units.

Finally, the 450 Minuteman III ballistic missiles – which are 50 years old – will be replaced as part of the GSBD [Ground Based Strategic Deterrent] program. The first contract of $ 13.5 billion has been awarded to Northrop Grumman. in September 2020. But the final bill could reach 100 billion dollars, which makes “cough” in Congress, where some voices believe that it would be possible to do without.

This, the B-2 “Spirit” and the B-52H “Stratofortress” of the US Air Force no longer provide a permanent nuclear alert since the end of the 1990s. That is to say that none of them -they are not currently ready to take off on the order of the head of the White House with a nuclear bomb or missile prepared for use in the hold.

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Also, American nuclear deterrence is not strictly speaking on a “triad” but a “dyad” made up of the Minuteman III missiles and the Ohio-class SSBNs. This is indeed what Admiral Charles Richard, the head of the US Strategic Command, stressed during a parliamentary hearing.

“If you don’t have intercontinental ballistic missiles… you are completely dependent on the submarine component. I told the Secretary of Defense [Lloyd Austin, editor’s note] that, under these conditions, I would ask to put the bombers again on permanent alert,” explained Admiral Richard. At the same time, he was questioned on the future of the GSBD program.

Everything will therefore depend on the fate of the surface-to-surface missiles of American deterrence. In any case, for Admiral Richards, there is no question of modernizing them to keep them in service beyond 2030. When replaced by new devices, the price to pay can be “dissuasive”, while hypersonic weapons are likely to be game-changers.

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