Responding to press reports on a new RAND survey showing lagging morale among airmen in the ICBM community, Air Force Acting Secretary Eric Fanning said the service has actually been making a great deal of progress in its nuclear operations in the last few years. Fanning, speaking on Nov. 22 at AFA’s Pacific Air & Space Symposium in Los Angeles, said RAND itself had put caveats on the report, noting that the sample size was small and RAND’s researchers wanted to do a deeper look at the ICBM corps. Further, taken alongside other more comprehensive looks into the Air Force’s missile force, there is evidence of improvement, said Fanning. “Perception is lagging reality, I think, in this case,” he said. The long-term question has to do with the maintenance of the triad. Fanning noted that it will be a “very expensive bill” to recapitalize and modernize the triad in coming years. However, the Air Force is committed to supporting and modernizing both its ICBM and nuclear-capable bomber forces, he said.
More than 100 B-21s will be needed if the nation is to avoid creating a high demand/low capacity capability, panelists said on a Hudson Institute webinar. The B-21's flexibility, stealth, range and payload will be in high demand for a wide range of missions, both traditional and new.