The new B-52 unit that the Air Force intends to establish at Minot AFB, N.D., will apparently be called the 69th Bomb Squadron. So reported the Minot Daily News Jan. 10, citing a senior Air Force civil engineer who briefed members of the Minot area chamber of commerce on the previous day on the service’s basing plans. That’s the first time we’ve seen the unit designation mentioned publicly; our efforts to confirm the designation yesterday did not bear fruit. But this we know for sure: The Air Force divulged last April its plans to create a fourth operational B-52H squadron so that it would have enough combat-ready B-52s to support combatant commanders around the world with conventional capability and still have enough assets so that individual units could be fenced off for year-long stints to concentrate solely on training for the nuclear mission. The desire then was to beddown the new unit at Minot as part of the 5th Bomb Wing, which already has the 23rd Bomb Squadron. (The 2nd BW at Barksdale AFB, La., is home to the Air Force’s two other operational B-52 squadrons, the 20th BS and 96th BS.) Subsequent to that, the Air Force formally announced in November that Minot was the preferred location for the new bomber unit, pending completion of the environmental impact analysis required by federal law. In the meantime, according to the Minot Daily News, the Air Force expects to dispatch a site activation task force to Minot next month to help the base plan for the new unit, which could bring about 1,000 airmen plus family members to the North Dakota site.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.