The Conversion Equation

The Air Force’s method for converting some of its B-52H bombers so that they are capable of delivering only conventional munitions is working its way through the approval process, said Maj. Gen. William Chambers, assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration. This conversion of some 34 B-52s is part of the drawdown of US nuclear forces by February 2018 associated with the New START agreement with Russia. “We believe that we have a good way of doing it, but that conversion has to be approved by both parties to the treaty,” Chambers told reporters last week at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md. “It is just about through the US process and is going to be presented to the Russians soon.” The United States plans to maintain up to 60 deployable nuclear-capable bombers under its new nuclear force posture. Since all 20 B-2A bombers will remain dual-role platforms, the conventional-only conversions will come among the 74-aircraft B-52 fleet. The Air Force has not divulged any details of the conversion yet. Chambers did say, right now, “we see benefit” in keeping the conventional-only B-52s in both B-52 wings.