The nation must start a debate now on whether to maintain all three legs of the nuclear deterrent triad because the Navy will have to spend “several billion dollars over the next five years” preparing to build a replacement for the Ohio class strategic nuclear submarines, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Sept. 30. That debate cannot wait until the Navy must start building the first of the new missile-carrying subs, Mabus told reporters in Washington, D.C. Mabus repeated his warning that if the Navy is forced to bear the total cost of building the new sea-based leg of the triad “it will break something.” Buying one of the new “boomers,” optimistically estimated to cost more than $7 billion each, would consume half the normal shipbuilding budget for at least 12 years, leaving little to buy all the other ships the Navy needs, he said. “The ‘boomers’ are the most survivable leg of the triad,” Mabus said. “This is a national mission. We’ve got to have this debate now.” The Air Force provides the other two legs of the nuclear deterrent force—the land-based Minuteman III ICMBs and the nuclear-capable bombers.
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.