BUFFer Zones

The Air Force is going ahead with the plan to maintain 76 B-52s and rotate its Stratofortress units at Minot AFB, N.D., and Barksdale AFB, La., in and out of the nuclear mission. Air Combat Command spokesman Maj. Tom Crosson told the Daily Report April 9 that the USAF leadership decided to implement the Global Deterrence Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) concept, under which USAF will “buy back” 12 B-52s and establish an additional operational squadron at Minot. This will give USAF four B-52 combat operations squadrons—two each at Barksdale and Minot. The four-squadron alignment will allow the nuclear mission to rotate on four month intervals between the two B-52 bases, Crosson said. Each operational squadron will conduct focused nuclear training for six out of every 16 months. Additionally, each squadron will deploy for four out of every 16 months. Based on preliminary modeling, Crosson said ACC expects that the new squadron will require a manpower increase of approximately 1,000. Under the plan, the Air Force will also retain six total B-52 squadrons at Barksdale: two combat squadrons, two flight training squadrons (one of which falls under Air Force Reserve Command), one test squadron, and one weapon school squadron. The service also projects a manpower increase of 300 personnel for Barksdale, Crosson said. Additional details are still being worked out, he added. The North Dakota Congressional delegation applauded the initiative. “We could not be more pleased to hear the Air Force plans to add an additional squadron at Minot and maintain a fleet of 76 B-52 bombers,” write Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), and Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) in a joint statement issued April 8. Louisiana lawmakers also welcomed the news. “With this increase in manpower, the Air Force has once again recognized the important role Barksdale Air Force Base plays in defending our nation,” said Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, (D-La.) in the statement she issued April 8 together with Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.).