Retired BUFFs Due for a Snip

One of the questions after the US-Russia New START agreement entered into force earlier this year was what would have to happen to out-of-service B-52Gs so that they would no longer count against the United States’ heavy bomber totals. Currently, 39 B-52Gs count as “deployed” heavy bombers—as do portions of the B-2A and B-52H fleets—under the treaty’s counting rules, according to a State Department fact sheet. Officials with the Air Staff’s nuclear directorate told the Daily Report that a heavy bomber ceases to be subject to the treaty upon “completion of elimination” of its ability to carry nuclear weapons. Multiple options are outlined for doing this in the treaty’s protocol, but the officials said the Air Force plans to cut the tail section from the fuselage of each aircraft “at a location obviously not an assembly joint” so that those 39 B-52Gs are no longer counted. The Air Force intends to get down to a total of no more than 60 deployable nuclear-capable bombers as part of the United States’ moves to meet the New START ceilings on strategic nuclear warheads and delivery systems by February 2018.