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Continuing peace from a position of strength: AFGSC commander outlines modernization efforts, assures full operational capability

  • Published
  • By Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs
  • Air Force Global Strike Command

Gen. Thomas Bussiere, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, addressed the numerous modernization efforts underway to enhance strategic deterrence during the Air and Space Forces’ Association’s Air, Space and Cyberspace Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, Sept. 12-13.

Building on comments offered by the Secretary of the Air Force on Sep. 11 regarding the continued need for consistent investment in the face of two nuclear powers as strategic competitors, Bussiere described why there is a need for the development of nine recapitalization projects.  

“There is not a person on the planet that would not hope for one day, we could free the world from violence and weapons,” he said. “But I would offer to you to find an example in history where that has happened from a position of weakness. You have to negotiate from a position of strength.”

Air Force Global Strike Command assets represent two thirds of the U.S. nuclear triad, serving as the linchpin for the nation’s strategic deterrence, which offers unique considerations when developing new weapons systems.

With most modernization projects, one weapon system will off-ramp and cease operations before another weapon system is implemented.  However, one of the unique aspects of modernization under the Global Strike umbrella is that every weapon system must continue to operate until its replacement is successfully online.

“We also have to maintain full operational capability, and we are recapitalizing everything in our portfolio,” said Bussiere. “There’s no slack. We can’t take a knee.”

As part of the updates on where various recapitalization efforts currently stand, Bussiere offered insight to the testing process of the B-21 Raider and its Pratt and Whitney engines.

“The B-21 is progressing through its ground testing phase,” he explained. “We are in the process of doing the engine runs for the B-21 at the Northrop Gruman facilities in Palmdale, California, and they’re going very well. We are looking forward to the first flight this year.”

Additionally, the LGM-35A Sentinel received its own panel due to its importance as the bedrock of nuclear deterrence. As “the largest works project ever taken in fifty years since Eisenhower’s interstate program,” Bussiere clarified some of the features to expect in the weapon system.

“It will provide more modularity for maintainers,” he said. “Not unlike the B-21 development, the maintenance and sustainment challenges that we currently handle with the Minuteman III will be minimized and optimized in the Sentinel weapon system from day one."

“As the world has matured and become more complicated, we have added range and accuracy requirements into the weapon system so that we can hold at risk those things the nation has decided we need to hold at risk,” Bussiere added.

The first land acquisition for this project was finalized in Cheyenne, Wyoming, last month.

Though time did not allow for updates on all modernization programs during AFA, within the last few months, two other recapitalization projects progressed in significant ways.  


MH-139A Grey Wolf

In August, Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, pilots and flight engineers attended the first Type 1 training. For pilots, the course focused on ground academics and procedural trainer to include full-motion aircraft simulators. Flight engineers worked on ground training before moving to a full-motion video trainer and simulator then ended with hoist and hook training.


B-52J Stratofortress

A test team from the Global Power Bombers Combined Test Force recently began research into human factors integration as part of the B-52 Stratofortress Commercial Engine Replacement Program, on Edwards Air Force Base, California. Flight instrumentation on the B-52 will be updated to coincide with new engines during the CERP. The new instrumentation will include new digital gauges paired with updated engines that provide flight crews with vital information during flight.


While modernization was the focus of the conference, there was one other message the AFGSC commander had to the Airmen in the crowds: “thank you.”

“Thank you to our Airmen— officer, enlisted and civilian— that perform this mission every day for our nation, allies and partners. It is the most important mission in our nation,” concluded Bussiere at the end of the last panel of AFA.

“It is the highest honor of any commander to serve in any command, but I’ll tell you right now - I’m exactly where I want to be.”