The Air Force submitted its proposal to reduce its nuclear-capable bomber fleet to 60 airframes in order to meet the overall ceilings on strategic launchers imposed by the New START agreement with Russia, said Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, on Friday. The service intends to convert “roughly 28” B-52Hs to a conventional-only role—potentially with unique new capabilities not resident in the dual-capable B-52 fleet, he told reporters at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla. In years past, the Air Force modified a handful of B-52s to carry unique weapons—such as the AGM-142 Have Nap electro-optically guided missile. “That was a small fleet located in one squadron,” explained Kowalski. As some B-52s are denuclearized, “there may be some things that give us some other options,” he added. Unlike Have Nap-capable B-52s of the past, the Air Force intends to spread its non-nuclear B-52s evenly throughout the B-52 force, he said. To maintain training continuity, “I don’t have any intent to have just a conventional-only squadron” of B-52s, summed Kowalski.
After a long period in which munitions were almost an afterthought and sacrificed to pay for other priorities, the Air Force needs to focus on them in order to have the right “package” of capabilities for future conflicts, Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. said June 7.