Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday that he does not anticipate the nation moving to a smaller sized B-52H bomber fleet as a consequence of the START follow-on agreement with Russia. “I do not foresee a reduction in B-52 force structure if there is an adjustment to nuclear tasking,” as part of the forthcoming arms control agreement, he said in response to questions from Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). Thune said he was concerned over comments made in February by Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen indicating that bomber force reductions were under consideration. But in the event of a lower nuclear requirement for the BUFF fleet, Schwartz said the aircraft would still be needed in current numbers for their conventional taskings. The Air Force has 76 B-52s today, along with 66 B-1Bs and 20 B-2A bombers.
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.