Sustaining Nuclear Standoff

The Air Force is investing in sustainment of its current fleet of nuclear standoff missiles, as it solidifies plans for a follow-on system in the 2020s. The current AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM), first fielded in 1982, is slated to remain in the inventory for another decade. “It has been with us for a long time, but it has capability against a wide range of threats,” Brig. Gen. Fred Stoss, Air Force Global Strike Command head of plans and programs, told Air Force Magazine. USAF has approved a service life extension program of some $300 million across the five-year defense plan to extend the ALCM, and AFGSC also runs an “aggressive aging and surveillance program” and yearly flight tests on the ALCM fleet to simulate its “operational profile,” said Stoss. However, Stoss said AFGSC boss Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson is “highly interested” in making sure the Long Range Standoff (LRSO) program moves forward. Wilson said his goal is to have an ALCM replacement by the “mid-2020s.” USAF plans for the LRSO to field as a nuclear-only weapon, Stoss said, but there could be “other options” pursued in the future, such as converting some to conventional weapons. A portion of the ALCM fleet was converted to the conventional AGM-86C/D CALCM, he noted.