Two units recently successfully tested the bomber force’s ability to configure, load, fly, and deliver an unarmed version of the AGM-86B nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missile, according to a release. Air Force Global Strike Command’s 2nd Bomb Wing and Air Combat Command’s 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron conducted the extensive exercise, known as the Nuclear Weapon Systems Evaluation Program. “Exercises, weapons tests, and operations are an important part of validating that our deterrence force is safe, secure, effective, and credible, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Brig. Gen. Andrew Gebara, US Strategic Command deputy director for nuclear operations, said in the release. Lt. Col. Joseph McKenna, deputy commander of the 2nd Operations Group, said the evaluations provide an assessment and instill confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the nuclear deterrent. “Credibility is the cornerstone of deterrence,” he said. The AGM-86B is designed to be launched from outside a combat area, protecting aircrews from enemy fire while allowing accurate strike capabilities.
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.