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Gen. Cotton talks strategic deterrence at 2022 AFA Warfare Symposium

  • Published
  • Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs

Gen. Anthony Cotton, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, spoke during the 2022 Air Force Association Warfare Symposium, March 3 in Orlando, Fla., highlighting the command’s role in strategic deterrence.

AFA’s Warfare Symposium is a premiere professional development event for the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force, as well as the aerospace and defense industries that support them.

During the symposium, Cotton served as a panelist for the discussion on Nuclear Deterrence and Global Stability and was joined by Lt. Gen. Thomas A. Bussiere, deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command. Cotton opened discussion by talking through AFGSC’s role aiding U.S. Strategic Command to address a rapidly changing geopolitical environment.  

“The world has changed; that’s an understatement,” Cotton said. “We have shifted our posture within the Command. I’d like to say that we are not necessarily the nuclear deterrent force but actually the strategic deterrent force; the strategic arm, long range strike capabilities both conventional and nuclear that represent the United States Air Force forces presented to U.S. Strategic Command.”

The general went on to stress the importance of the command’s capabilities not only for the United States but for the nation’s allies and partners.

“Air Force Global Strike Command is, I repeat, is, the long-range strike capability of the United States Air Force. We are all of the strategic bombers in the free world. We are all the land based ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) in the free world. I think that we, as Airmen and Guardians, need to take a step back to understand the fact that we are responsible for two legs of the [nuclear] triad, which is fundamentally foundational to national security.”

To keep pace with competitors, growing arsenals and threats, Cotton explained that he believes nuclear modernization is essential to keep the command’s capabilities relevant. AFGSC is currently undergoing some of the largest modernization efforts in decades; overhauling the ICBM fleet with the on-ramp of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent weapon system and building the bomber force of tomorrow by updating the B-52H Stratofortress to compliment the department’s new B-21 bomber.

“Currently, the systems are viable,” Cotton said. “What we want to do is ensure we never reach the expiration dates.”

The Minuteman III is a system that was designed with a 10-year lifespan in the 1960s and is being kept viable by the hard-work of 20th Air Force Airmen across the command, Cotton added.

“If you think about that [the age of the system’s technologies], it is really hard to take what we do with 21st century technology, in an open architecture system, and do basic maintenance and things of that nature to support that weapon system,” he said.  “But like I said, it is all possible because of the incredible Airmen in the northern tier who maintain and secure them each and every day; they are keeping it viable.”

Cotton wrapped up modernization discussion with specifics on the updates the air-based leg of the triad will be receiving in the near future.

“The modernization efforts that are going into the B-52 are incredibly important for strategic deterrence,” Cotton said. “The B-21 is a penetrating, daily flyer that we have to have, and it will be the preponderance of the bomber force as we drive down to a two tail force; it and the B-52. That’s what the United States of America is going to have as a bomber force.”

However, Cotton’s focus is not solely on modernization. He told the audience finding the perfect balance of sustaining today’s force with the force of tomorrow begins with caring for the foundation: Airmen.

“We have to start with a foundation of great Airmen,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of cool stuff over the course of my career, but the one thing that never ceases to amaze me is our people.”

He credits Airmen with the command’s success and his confidence in the future.

“We are the best Air Force in the world, but it’s not because of our great weapons systems; it’s because of our people.”