Top nuclear commander says he will push to put bombers back on alert if US gets rid of its ICBMs


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  flynavy1  •  2 months ago  •  17 comments

By: (Ryan Pickrell) 23 hrs ago (MSN)

Top nuclear commander says he will push to put bombers back on alert if US gets rid of its ICBMs
The STRATCOM commander says he needs a modern nuclear force because he cannot deter "leftovers of the Cold War" forever.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

The head of STRATCOM said he would put bombers on alert if the ICBM leg of the triad goes away.

  • His comments come as some in Congress question the need for nuclear modernization spending.
  • The STRATCOM commander says he needs a modern ICBM force, not "leftovers of the Cold War."
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

America's top nuclear commander told lawmakers Tuesday that he would push to put US nuclear-capable bombers on alert if the military lost its intercontinental ballistic missiles.

As some lawmakers question the need to invest in nuclear modernization programs like the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, a replacement for the aging Minuteman III ICBM force, the head of US Strategic Command is arguing in favor of moving forward with the modernization plans and against cutting the ICBM force.

STRATCOM commander Adm. Charles Richard has argued previously that a failure to modernize and replace what the US has now is essentially disarmament in the face of a growing threat. Russia has its own nuclear triad, and China is developing a functional triad.

Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Richard said that if the ICBM leg of the US nuclear triad were to be abandoned, then the bomber force would have to take its place as an always-ready nuclear deterrent.

"What is not often recognized is that we don't have a triad day-to-day," Richard said. "The bombers are not available to us. We chose to take them off alert as a type of peace dividend after the Cold War. Day-to-day, what you have is basically a dyad."

The three legs of the US nuclear triad are the silo-based ICBMs, ballistic-missile submarines, and bombers, all of which are overseen by STRATCOM. All are options, but only the submarines and the ICBMs are ready to go at a moment's notice.

Richard argued that the "basic design criteria in the triad is that you cannot allow a failure of any one leg of the triad to prevent you from being able to do everything the president has ordered you to do."

"If you don't have intercontinental ballistic missiles, we can't meet that criteria," the admiral said, adding, "You are completely dependent on the submarine leg, and I've already told the secretary of defense that under those conditions I would request to re-alert the bombers."

Richard stressed Tuesday that without funding for programs like the GBSD - the research and development of which is expected to cost more than $85 billion, with a total life-cycle cost in the hundreds of billions - the US runs the risk of its ICBMs eventually "not working at all." He said that he simply "cannot deter with the leftovers of the Cold War forever."

Putting the strategic bomber force back on alert, meaning loaded and ready for an immediate nuclear strike should the order come, would be a return to practices that were common decades ago during the Cold War.

The idea of putting bombers back on alert has come up before, though not in the context of a potential loss of a leg of the nuclear triad.

In 2017, Defense One reported that the Air Force was preparing to put the nuclear bombers back on 24-hour alert. That change, however, was never actually made.


jrDiscussion - desc
Professor Expert
1  seeder  FLYNAVY1    2 months ago

Wow...!   Talk about backwards thinking.

Now for some forward thinking...

  • Eliminate all ground based missiles.   They are targeted multiple times.  That is just that many fewer missiles over our cities.
  • Grow the submarine based missile fleet.  They can be hidden, are hard to find, thus hard destroy.   That's where you grow an modernize.
  • Keep the B-52s nuke capable, but don't arm them, nor put them on alert.  Keeping them armed and flying just makes the probability that a nuke mishap over the US more likely.  Besides, the BUFFs in many cases are piloted by the grandsons of those who first flew them.  Keep the hours down.

Whomever this head of STRATCOM is, he/she needs to be put out to pasture.

Commander > U.S. Strategic Command > Bio Article View (

Admiral Charles "Chas" A. Richard

Senior Guide
1.1  XXJefferson51  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @1    2 months ago

I don’t support eliminating ground based ICBM’s unless it’s part of a deal where China and Russia do likewise.  I do support ridding the whole world of them.  
I totally agree with emphasis on more silent submarines that carry such weapons and nuclear cruise missiles. 
I love the old B-52 and that grandchildren are flying the same plane their grandfather piloted. It will likely be the first aircraft to be in service at least by type for 100 years. That said, only the B-1, B-2, and future B-21 should rotate on around the clock armed alert duty. 

Masters Quiet
1.2  Ronin2  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @1    2 months ago

I will admit that I am not familiar enough with the subject; but I do have a few questions.

Adding subs that can fire nuclear missiles would be great and probably the most effective; but there are issues.

  1. It takes roughly 134 crew to operate a sub that size. (I pulled from multiple web sites- hopefully my numbers are not that far off).  How many subs would it take to replace the our ground based missiles? Not to mention how many new nuclear missiles would it take to fill those subs and replace those ground based that are lost? 
  2. The Navy is already short of crew members to staff their vessels now. Where are these new crews going to come from? 
  3. What will the overall cost be to transfer from land based nuclear missiles to sub based? I think one of the major reasons that they want to do away with the land based nuclear missiles is the cost to maintain and replace them. Will Congress approve money to build enough subs (Estimated 3.02 billion dollars per sub Ohio Class; would they have to come up with a more modern sub?) and new missiles to keep us strategically viable? 

Professor Expert
1.2.1  seeder  FLYNAVY1  replied to  Ronin2 @1.2    2 months ago

All good points Ronin, and your numbers are pretty valid.

  • The replacements for the Ohio's is the Columbia class.  Much of what was learned in the Virginia class fast attack replace
  • The Trident D5 Has been in the fleet since the early 1990s.  Very reliable, solid fuel, with multiple buss arrangement for up to 8x 450Kt MIRVs at max throw weight to a range of 4700Nmi.  The range increases with the the reduction of MIRVs.   With fuel replacement the D5 look to have a reported serviceable life to 2050.
  • I can't say what it would cost to rehab/refurbish the land based silos....  I just like the fact that there are fewer targets for our advisories to want to take out on our soil.  If I had to guess, the cost between the silo and subs would be about a wash.
  • Manpower..... that is the nut that needs to be cracked, for all the services.  How do you get the money to attract those that we need into the military, and all at the time when each of the branches is facing really dire equipment replacement?  Two endless wars, reduction on spending for replacement and maintenance of existing systems, and the beyond stupid funding for programs like the F35 and the Littoral Combat Ships has us short of shipyards and competitive aerospace contractors.

  I do know.... Keep the BUFFs in nuke capable condition for air launched cruse missile delivery, but don't put them on alert status.

Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
1.3  Trout Giggles  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @1    2 months ago

I take it you don't think we need a "triad"?

Professor Expert
1.3.1  seeder  FLYNAVY1  replied to  Trout Giggles @1.3    2 months ago

No I don't.  The function of the land based missiles is covered by the subs at probably equal cost.

More secure, less vulnerable, mobile, less detectable...  

Keep the bombers with cruise missiles, but lets draw down the number of potential targets through the center of the US.

Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
1.3.2  Trout Giggles  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @1.3.1    2 months ago

Makes sense to me

Mark in Wyoming
Professor Silent
2  Mark in Wyoming     2 months ago

Interesting read for this SACumsized old cold warrior.....

Professor Expert
2.1  seeder  FLYNAVY1  replied to  Mark in Wyoming @2    2 months ago

Sounds like you spent a fair amount of your childhood underground.... Do tell.

Titan II base by chance?

Mark in Wyoming
Professor Silent
2.1.1  Mark in Wyoming   replied to  FLYNAVY1 @2.1    2 months ago

Nope , bomber fleet, FB 111s to be exact, 509th, none finer than a 509er

 missile crews and bomber fleets are 2 different animals IMHO. 

With missiles , its a one and done once their ordinace is on the way , they get the choice to hunker down and hope they make it through a strike or they can get the hell out of dodge and hope they put enough distance between them and the target.

 bomber fleets ? they launch their alert AC , be it first strike or retaliatory , and then they have however many number of AC sitting on the parking ramp to try and get uploaded  and launched  as fast as possible, all knowing inbound is coming in .

 we all knew that the chances of AC coming back to be reloaded was slim to none and slim left town.

Professor Expert
2.1.2  seeder  FLYNAVY1  replied to  Mark in Wyoming @2.1.1    2 months ago

Pease AFB, or Guam?  

Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
2.1.3  Trout Giggles  replied to  Mark in Wyoming @2.1.1    2 months ago

What did you do in the Air Force?

Mark in Wyoming
Professor Silent
2.1.4  Mark in Wyoming   replied to  FLYNAVY1 @2.1.2    2 months ago

not old enough for hiroshima or nagasaki, when i was in , Guam was a BUFF base  , pease afb though if one went one place , it wasnt long before they showed up at the other , or loring , or plattsburg

Mark in Wyoming
Professor Silent
2.1.5  Mark in Wyoming   replied to  Trout Giggles @2.1.3    2 months ago

security police , while there was still a LE /SP split  i was cross trained to do both.

Professor Expert
2.1.6  seeder  FLYNAVY1  replied to  Mark in Wyoming @2.1.4    2 months ago

BUFFs are still at Guam along with occasional visits by the B1s..... Nephew is Navy EOD there right now..... training to match.

Mark in Wyoming
Professor Silent
2.1.7  Mark in Wyoming   replied to  FLYNAVY1 @2.1.6    2 months ago

I doubt they will ever close Anderson , that and the story of "screaming charlie" is a WW2 legend .

Mark in Wyoming
Professor Silent
3  Mark in Wyoming     2 months ago

just read all the Bones are grounded ....


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