Equipping the B-52 with new, long-range and faster—potentially hypersonic—standoff missiles would create a capability comparable to that of a nuclear submarine, Global Strike Command chief Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson said Thursday. A bomber with cruise missiles that can reach the target in “hours or minutes” represents “a very cost-imposing strategy” on a nuclear adversary and would be a “significant deterrent,” he said at a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event in Arlington, Va. It would also have the same striking power as a boomer sub, he said. The AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile, which now equips the B-52 force, was “supposed to last 10 years,” but is still serving today and will be “another 10 years out.” Wilson plugged for a long-range cruise missile replacement, which, especially if blessed with hypersonic speed, could breathe new life into the B-52, he said. Even without such a weapon, though, Wilson touted the B-52 as “too … versatile” to retire, with the ability to employ more kinds of munitions than any other US platform. Wilson also noted that AFGSC has set up a “standoff missile application center” with the Navy to explore the synergies of various missiles like the Tomahawk, Conventional ALCM, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, and the Miniature Air-Launched Decoy and its jamming variant, the MALD-J. The center seeks to “synchronize and de-conflict” the effects these weapons bring to the joint battle, he said.
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.