STRATEGIC WEAPONS

NEWS FROM ASC: Global Strike Command to Prepare New Force Development Concept

9/17/2019
By Mandy Mayfield

Photo: Defense Dept.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Air Force Global Strike Command will help modernize the Pentagon’s nuclear command-and-control architecture by creating a new force development concept, according to a senior official.

The Pentagon is concerned that peer adversaries such as China and Russia could put today’s systems at risk with anti-satellite weapons, electronic warfare tools and other capabilities.

“If we are being honest about [great power] competition, we need to take NC2 in a very different direction,” Gen. Timothy Ray, the head of the command, said Sept. 16 at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space, Cyber conference at National Harbor, Maryland. “We are going to write a force development concept that gets us through that.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in June that the service is eyeing bringing commercial satellites into low-Earth orbit for more agile and resilient communications networks. It wants to reap cost savings by leveraging the commercial space industry.

“Whether it's Silicon Valley or commercial space, there are unlimited opportunities ahead right now for us in terms of how we think differently on things like nuclear command-and-control,” he said at a Mitchell institute for Aerospace Studies event.

The military’s existing NC2 systems are aging. The last major upgrade of the architecture took place in the 1980s. These capabilities include air-, land- and space-based sensors and platforms, networks and other technologies that enable the military to detect incoming attacks, report false alarms, securely communicate with senior leaders and command the use of strategic weapons.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that operating and modernizing these systems could cost $77 billion from fiscal years 2019 to 2028.

The Air Force operates two of the three legs of the United States' nuclear triad, to include the bomber force and ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Navy deploys ballistic missile submarines for the strategic deterrence mission.

The Defense Department is pursuing a new stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider, a new submarine, the Columbia-class, and a new ICBM known as the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent.

Ray touted the need to recapitalize the aging force, which includes platforms that were built many decades ago.

"We really have to think about using these [existing] resources as wisely as we can for the next few years until we get ourselves to the next capacity," he said.

As Russia and China continue to develop new capabilities, the United States needs to keep pace, Ray said.

“It’s the cornerstone for everything that happens in the free world,” he said. “Our triad does not live in a vacuum.”

“All of these things have to be thought about in context,” he added. “If any one of [the legs,] old or new, fails, you have to flex to pick up the margin in the remaining ones.”

Topics: Strategic Weapons, Air Force News

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