"The U.S. Air Force is preparing for nuclear armed B-52 bombers to be
put back on 24-hour alert for the first time in 25 years as tensions
rise between North Korea and President Donald Trump.
"'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,' General David Goldfein, Air Force chief of
staff, told Defense One in an interview Sunday.
the order to have the bombers on alert hasn’t been given by the heads
of U.S. Strategic Command or U.S. Northern Command, Gen. Goldfein—a
member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—said that in the current political
climate the Air Force anticipates that it might come. 'This is yet one
more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,' he said of the preparations.
"The last time the bombers were on 24-hour alert was during the Cold
War. About 40 strategic bombers armed with nuclear weapons were ready to
take off at a moment’s notice from the president from 11 Strategic Air
Command bases around the world. The alert was ended in 1991 by the then
President George H.W. Bush after the end of the Cold War.
prospect of returning to 24-hour alert worried former diplomats. 'Very
hard to understand what would justify returning to costly practice of
keeping B-52s on alert, a practice abandoned by GHW Bush in 1991,' wrote Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and foreign service diplomat in Moscow on Twitter.
"'Something's brewing & it makes me queasy,' wrote
Adam Blickstein, a former public affairs strategic planner for the
Secretary of Defense, online, noting that last Friday President Trump
signed an executive order so the Air Force could bring 1,000 pilots out of retirement.
"On Sunday a spokeswoman for the Air Force said there are no plans to 'recall retired pilots to address the pilot shortage.'
the summer President Trump threatened military action and 'fire and
fury like the world has never seen' against North Korea after a series
of tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) by Pyongyang. The
regime has also conducted underground nuclear weapons tests.
early October Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told the Senate Armed
Services Committee that while the U.S. needed to 'ensure we have
military options,' that Trump told him and Secretary of State Rex
Tillerson to pursue diplomatic efforts.
"Yet during an interview
with the Fox Business Network broadcast Sunday Trump said 'you would be
shocked to see how totally prepared we are' for military action against
Pyongyang. 'Would it be nice not to do that? The answer is yes. Will
that happen? Who knows, who knows,' he said.
"'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.'"