Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Command officials dedicated to bomber mission

ORLANDO, Fla. (AFNS) -- Air Force Global Strike Command's top officer emphasized his command's dedication to the bomber mission during the Air Force Association's Air Warfare Symposium and Technology Exposition Feb. 19 here.

"Let me state right up front," said Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz, the AFGSC commander. "Global Strike Command (Airmen are) absolutely committed to providing robust and relentless advocacy for current and future bomber capabilities; in the conventional, as well as in the nuclear realm."

Bombers have always been at the "heart and soul" of the Air Force since its very beginnings, General Klotz said.

"The ability to hold at risk or strike any target anywhere in the world" is one of the 12 Air Force core functions," he said.

He acknowledged that the B-52 Stratofortress and the B-2 Spirit bombers, which came under his responsibility Feb. 1, were "aging aircraft."

"As such, our bomber force faces significant challenges in terms of sustainment of current capabilities and the modernization of the existing platforms to exploit their full potential in the joint fight," the general said.

He emphasized that nuclear-capable bombers remain a vitally important component of the "triad" of nuclear forces -- intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles being the other two legs of the triad -- that serve to deter attacks against the United States, as well as its allies and partners. And he underscored the bombers' powerful non-nuclear, or "conventional," capabilities.

General Klotz addressed the issue of how nuclear and conventional operations will coexist in Air Force Global Strike Command.

"I'm often asked how we will be able to balance emphasis on both the nuclear and conventional missions of the bombers and airmen assigned to Global Strike Command," the general said. "The simple fact is that this is not a new challenge."

Bombers played a significant conventional role in conflicts from World War II through current actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, General Klotz said.

The bomber's "role was not limited strictly to the nuclear mission, even during the most intense periods of the Cold War," the general said.

The general also updated the audience on the "methodical, step-by-step" stand-up of the Air Force's new major command, noting the assumption of the ICBM mission Dec. 1, the command's assumption of long-range, nuclear-capable B-2 and B-52 bombers Feb. 1, and the plan to attain 'full operational capability' by the end of the summer.

Officials reactivated the 69th Bomb Squadron at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., in September. The 69th BS became the second operational B-52 squadron at Minot AFB, "thus mirroring Barksdale (AFB)," which has two operational B-52 squadrons, the general said.

"This move will help balance the workload between nuclear deterrence and conventional missions, not only at Minot (AFB), but across the entire B-52 force," he said.

The new people and jets have already begun to arrive in a phased deployment that will be complete by this spring, he said. The action will ultimately bring 10 additional B-52s and more than 800 people to Minot AFB.