According to a new report from Defense One, the U.S. Air Force may be putting nuclear-armed bombers back on 24-hour ready alert. The official alert order has not been given yet, but the U.S. military is preparing for an order at any moment, considering the volatile nuclear-talk relationship our country has recently had with North Korea. This type of status for nuclear bombers has not been put into action since the Cold War ended in 1991.
Barksdale Air Force in Louisiana, which is home to the 2d Bomb Wing and Air Force Global Strike Command that oversees nuclear forces, is already undergoing changes on their base to prepare their B-52s, or nuclear bombers, according to Defense One.
"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 while touring the Barksdale base. “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.”
One of the ways Barksdale is preparing is by renovating an old concrete building where B-52 crews slept during the Cold War into a ready-to-fly zone for the aircraft at any moment. Putting the nuclear bombers back on alert is just one of many precautionary measures the U.S. military is planning to take in the case of nuclear war, according to Defense One
"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.”
Part of the alert-ready protocol will be for two nuclear command planes, the E-4B Nightwatch and the E-6B Mercury, to sit on the B-52 park spaces, which have long been empty, to act as command posts during nuclear war, according to Defense One. Barksdale and other bases with nuclear bombers are also preparing to build facilities to store a new nuclear cruise missile that is currently being developed.
President Donald Trump has used his public speeches and his platform many times to threaten North Korea, with one of his more popular improvised lines of meeting North Korea with to "fire and fury like the world has never seen." Trump also said in a White House news conference in September after meeting the leader of Kuwait that, "Military action would certainly be an option. Is it inevitable, nothing's inevitable. Hopefully, we're not going to have to use it [military action] on North Korea. If we do use it on North Korea, it will be a very sad day for North Korea."
North Korea’s Deputy UN Ambassador said on Oct. 16 that the situation on the Korean peninsula, in reference to their storage of nuclear missles, was “touch and go” and that nuclear war could break out at “any moment.”
While the U.S. military forces have overemphasized the fact that the alert has not yet been put into order, the pre-cautionary measures are still a clue for what could come. Although it is understandable for the military to prepare for the worst as a means of safety, this re-emeregence of nuclear bombers sitting idly on military bases might cause fear among Americans, more so than safety.
“Our job is options,” Goldfein said. “We provide best military advice and options for the commander in chief and the secretary of defense.
The important question is, will more Americans feel reassured by B-52s ready for action, or more afraid?