The Air Force is working to recover from a period when the US neglected its nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3) systems, Gen. Robin Rand said Wednesday. “This is something that I think the nation let atrophy a little bit,” the Air Force Global Strike Command boss told the audience at an AFA Mitchell Institute event in Washington, D.C. He said, “President Obama re-emphasized its importance” and the Air Force is building on that momentum “to try to strengthen this very critical piece that we have to provide for the President and our senior leaders.” The main challenge is updating system architectures, which Gen. John Hyten, chief of US Strategic Command, recently called “robust, resilient, and ancient.” Rand also acknowledged the challenge, saying, “We’re having to work really hard to make sure that we’re modernizing where we need to and we’re sustaining where we need.” He pointed to the Air Force’s recent launch of a Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications Center at Barksdale AFB, La., which he said is helping to streamline NC3 modernization. The NC3 Center “strings us all together with the Nuclear Weapons Center [at Kirtland AFB, N.M.], with Hanscom [AFB, Mass.], and then we work very closely with our Navy counterparts,” Rand said.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.