- US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers are no longer approved to carry nuclear gravity bombs, according to the latest Air Force strategic bomber guidance document.
- As nuclear expert Hans Kristensen first noticed and The Drive first reported, the update notes the “removal of B61-7 and B83-1 from B-52H approved weapons configuration.”
- US Air Force Global Strike Command told Insider that B-52 crews no longer train to employ these nuclear gravity bombs.
- There have long been concerns that the B-52 lacks the capability to penetrate modern air defenses to deliver a nuclear strike with gravity bombs.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The B-52 bomber, a critical component of the US strategic bomber fleet, is no longer approved to carry nuclear gravity bombs.
The latest update to the US Air Force “Safety Rules for US Strategic Bomber Aircraft” instructional guidance identifies the “removal of B61-7 and B83-1 from B-52H approved weapons configuration” as a change to the previous version.
—Hans Kristensen (@nukestrat) January 13, 2020
The B61 is the main thermonuclear gravity bomb in the US arsenal, and the B83 is the US nuclear gravity bomb with the largest explosive yield. Only the stealthy flying wing B-2A Spirit will carry these weapons.
“The B-52 remains an instrument of national security and a universally recognized symbol of American airpower, able to deliver the widest variety of stand-off and direct-attack nuclear and conventional weapons for the Nation,” Global Strike Command told Insider in a statement Thursday.
The command further explained that “as the nature of modern warfare has changed, so have our tactics and weapons,” adding that “as a natural progression in the development of the airframe, B-52 crews do not currently train to employ the B83 and B61.”
The B-52H, the latest variant of the 1950s bomber, carries AGB-86B air-launched cruise missiles, which are expected to eventually be replaced by the Long-Range Stand Off (LRSO) weapon.
Gen. John Hyten, current Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former head of US Strategic Command, said in 2017 that without LRSO, “you don’t have the B-52 as a viable platform” — a statement reflecting the need for stand-off capabilities.
While the B-52 has been receiving a number of upgrades to keep it flying until at least 2050, the long-range bomber remains vulnerable to modern strategic air defenses. Unable to conduct penetrating strikes, stand-off is necessary to keep the bomber in the fight.
Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, first noted nearly two years ago that the B-52H was likely no longer carrying nuclear gravity bombs.
Real Life. Real News. Real Voices
Help us tell more of the stories that matterBecome a founding member
He found that the National Nuclear Security Administration had stopped listing the B-52H as a combat platform capable of delivering nuclear gravity bombs. He further reported that US Strategic Command had not been assigning nuclear gravity bombs to B-52s since at least 2010.
Subscribe to the newsletter news
We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe