The BUFF as a Boomer

Equipping the B-52 with new, long-range and faster—potentially hypersonic—standoff missiles would create a capability comparable to that of a nuclear submarine, Global Strike Command chief Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson said Thursday. A bomber with cruise missiles that can reach the target in “hours or minutes” represents “a very cost-imposing strategy” on a nuclear adversary and would be a “significant deterrent,” he said at a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event in Arlington, Va. It would also have the same striking power as a boomer sub, he said. The AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile, which now equips the B-52 force, was “supposed to last 10 years,” but is still serving today and will be “another 10 years out.” Wilson plugged for a long-range cruise missile replacement, which, especially if blessed with hypersonic speed, could breathe new life into the B-52, he said. Even without such a weapon, though, Wilson touted the B-52 as “too … versatile” to retire, with the ability to employ more kinds of munitions than any other US platform. Wilson also noted that AFGSC has set up a “standoff missile application center” with the Navy to explore the synergies of various missiles like the Tomahawk, Conventional ALCM, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, and the Miniature Air-Launched Decoy and its jamming variant, the MALD-J. The center seeks to “synchronize and de-conflict” the effects these weapons bring to the joint battle, he said.