Counting the Phantom Bomber fleet

Counting the Phantom Bomber fleet

Keeping count of the U.S. Air Force’s nuclear capable bombers under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia is a tricky business. The treaty stipulates the number of nuclear capable bombers, submarine launched ballistic missiles and inter-continental ballistic missiles the U.S. military keeps in a deployed and non-deployed status.

This goes for bombers that are not even fit to fly. There is a whole set of phantom bombers that are listed under the New START Treaty even though they are left to rot at the boneyard at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

The U.S. Air Force has started the process of either retiring or converting the phantom bomber to meet limits set in the treaty by 2018. The U.S. Air Force does not pay extra for these bombers to be counted under the treaty. There is not additional maintenance that is provided to them, said said Air Force Col. Norman Worthen is the Division Chief for Nuclear Planning, Policy, and Strategy.

Quite the contrary. The Air Force actually is saving money by not disassembling these bombers to take away their nuclear capability. Bombers are defined as nuclear capable simply by the capability of deploying a nuclear weapon.

In a post titled “Phantom bombers weigh down military budget” that appeared on DoDBuzz on Dec. 27, I incorrectly wrote that the Air Force unnecessarily spends additional money to keep these bombers listed as nuclear capable.

The bill will eventually come due as the U.S. Air Force will have to reduce its number of nuclear capable bombers by 2018 in line with the treaty requirements. However, for now, the costs are the same whether the bombers are nuclear capable or not, Worthen said.

New START, signed by U.S. and Russian leaders in 2010, states that each country must reduce its number of deployed and non-deployed strategic delivery vehicle fleet to 800 by 2018. Each country must also only have 700 deployed strategic delivery vehicles to 700 by 2018.

To coincide with the New START limits, the U.S. Air Force plans to reduce its nuclear capable bomber fleet to 60. Upon it’s signing in 2010, the Air Force was left to either retire or convert 145 bombers that were considered nuclear capable under the old START by 2018.

Air Force leaders have thus far made significant progress by reducing the number of bombers it needs to either retire or convert to 37: 24 B-52 Gs and 13 B-52 Hs. A large chunk of the 145 bombers were converted when the B-1 fleet was converted to a non-nuclear role.

Worthen said the Air Force is continuing to work toward the goal of 60 bombers. He expects it to be completed ahead of the 2018 deadline.

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A little curious myself how one can prove to our counterparts (and them to us) that aircraft are nuclear capable or not and can’t be converted in secret on short notice?

We keep our B-2s in hangars and those are likely to stay nuclear. Maybe a few B-52s will retain nuclear capability, but how does one tell a nukecapable one from a conventional one?

Nice Do-Over. Much more factual and informative than the original.

Thank you. First effort was not my best.

A visual on-site inspection. Standard treaty verification provisions. Used to have to be ready for CFE verification inspections when I was stationed in Italy. Had to be ready to allow access to anything as big as a broom closet on up. Also, had numerous times we had to shut down live-fire training to allow CFE over-flight inspections. Was also informed that we might be required to open up bunkers, we used for storage, as part of nuclear weapons inspection. SETAF used the old WSA Longare (Site-Pluto) for a number of things.


Its so decayed i’d say maybe 40% at most of their ICBM’s might launch. Their long range bombers would be raped by AEGIS cruisers and destroyers, etc.

We are the only ones not benefitting. This is retarded.

You are welcome to launch at Russia and then we can confirm “its so decayed i’d say maybe 40% at most of their ICBM’s might launch. Their long range bombers would be raped by AEGIS cruisers and destroyers, etc.”


I agree, NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE RUSSIANS. Only common sense will prevail, here. Never, Never give up your advantage, to the enemy. And who knows, who are our enemies, today.

Think to save money retire most B-1s keep the B-52 and B-2 fleets in readiness. Some way the USAF must keep alot of funds for ICBMs since they are the most expensive maintain. Ore better yet end START treaty since the bad buys will ignore it and have more nukes than us anyway.

Fourty percent of several thousand is still a very very dead America. Or if we discover that the Perimeter/Dead Hand system will just fire on pre-programmed targets, all of the NATO nations might go down with us.

When you see a vicious-looking dog on the other side of a Beware of Dog fence with blood on the ground, chances are it’s a vicious dog.

For nuclear strike, we should probably put most of the B-2s into storage, but keep a fraction ready to go if nuclear delivery is required. B-52s and B-1s can do our conventional bombing, and the submarines and missile siloes will keep the peace far better than aircraft ever could.

He is also assuming that cruisers and destroyers will be in place to launch at the bombers. Pretty much an impossibility in a surprise attack. They would go over the North Pole.

Rip off wings. Take picture. Post on Facebook.

We already cut ‘em into pieces at Davis Monathan to prove we don’t have N number of bombers, but that doesn’t prove that any given bomber is nuclear only or conventional only. Only on-site inspections will do that.

Under Hagel and Obama we don’t need nukes.….can we just sing “Give Peace a Chance”. Right, that’s what we need, the Russians or Chinese have other goals!!!

Do we HAVE to let the monitors even know how long it would take to make those mothballed BUFFS airworthy again ? Would the Russians do the same with their old Bears and other long range bomber fleets ?

Didn’t know B-52G’s still existed…

Dont trust the RUSSIAN and ask the germans what they think of the RUSSIAN’s and remember what OBAMA told that russian, wait till i get my second term and I’ll get back with you, he wants to destroy our country, impeach him now.

If it can carry a bomb or missile, it can be nuclear capable. In the 1970s, it was proven that a cargo aircraft, the C-5A Galaxy, while in flight, could open the back, drogue chutes would pull out a Minuteman II ICBM, and once it leveled vertically, the engines ignite and it was on it’s way. Nukes are not all that big anymore. I am glad that they specified “bombers”, even though that cpuld possible also apply to dual role fighters. Of course, all the nuclear powers in our category likely will be using whatever loopholes they can find, just as we would (at least prior to this administration.

It’s high time for the SALT Treadies to be disgarded. The US under Hagel and Obama will have an Infantry Force about the size of the LAPD, wholy incapbale of waging any sort of sustained ground warfare. Nukes and other sofisticated high tech weapontry will be the mainstay against the much larger forces we are likely to engae in a major conflict. I do believe that there is a prevailing ignorance about the country’s present leadership, in so far as maintaining an adequate Defense of CONUS is concerned. Negociating and singing “Give Peace a Chance,’ is not enough..

Actually, the ICBM leg is the cheapest leg of the nuclear triad: it costs only $1.1 bn per year to maintain, whereas the bomber leg — much smaller — costs $2.5 bn per year to maintain.

They do, but only in the boneyard at D-M AFB. The USAF retired them many years ago.

Actually, Russia has a much more modern ICBM fleet. America’s sole current ICBM type, the Minuteman III, began entering service in 1969. The youngest MM-III was deployed in 1976. A year earlier, the Russians began deploying their first SS-18 Satan (R-36M) ICBMs.

Since then, they have deployed several entirely new ICBM classes: the SS-19 Stilletto beginning in 1978, the SS-25 Sickle in 1988, the SS-27 Stalin in 1997, and the SS-29 (RS-24 Yars) in 2010. It is the US, not Russia, that has an obsolete ICBM fleet.

Usually we are the only ones who have to play by the rules. As far as our Intelligence ???, has been working for us lately.

Are you NUTS? Put our only survivable and useful bombers into storage and keep only a fraction of them ready to go? B-2s are our only survivable bombers. B-52s and B-1s cannot survive in any airspace that is defended by even so much as a legacy SA-3/4/5/6 Soviet air defense system, let alone a modern Russian or Chinese one such as the S-300, S-400, and HQ-9. Besides, a handful of bombers are insufficient for nuclear deterrence.

Anyone who is still betting on nuking them with aircraft is insane. I love the idea of flying into Russian airspace at < Mach 1 and eventually delivering some bombs, but when it comes to second-strike, RVs will get there firstest with the mostest. If anything, most of the nuclear exchanges will be done before the B-2s arrive over Moscow, and that assumes there is anything left to bomb.

I think keeping most of them close to home and near their nukes is better than overseas basing with constant flying-we will likely lose another in an inevitable accident: another billion down the drain and 5% of the entire fleet lost in a runway accident.

The only strategy where B-2’s make sense is first strike, when you load them up and sneak them in, then time your ICBM salvoes to just after the B-2 decapitation strike. Do you need the entire B-2 fleet in Guam and Europe for that? If you can quietly expand your B-2 force somewhere and then launch it all at once without attracting notice, then…

Correct. They also have some interesting short range missiles (Iskandar, for example) and are talking a big game about counter-NMD nuclear weapons systems. We haven’t gotten that far yet.

Agreed. Much better. :) Keep up the good work.

compared to subs yes not to aircraft.

bump your head much?

Folks …

These stinking Left-Wing dirt bags (Obama and his minions) will gut the defense budget for any and every welfare, hand-out, free air-conditioner, free cell phone, food stamp, suck off the government tit program they can think of. How do think Obama got re-elected? He bought every vote that could be bought.

Inspection teams ours and theirs check the other guy to be sure everything is as it should be. We did this while I was in the Air Force and was in the Ground Launched Cruise Missile field ans was stationed at Comiso AS Italy.

Damn our education system has failed us — and your comments prove it.

Congress determines the budget.

Try wrapping your head around facts, rather than wrapping foil around your head.

If you think the President does not have an influence on the Defense Budget — THINK AGAIN.

If you read my post carefully …

I said OBAMA’S MINIONS — that’s Congress: Take the foil off YOUR HEAD — MORON.


I would say it’s time for our Military to stop this before its to late

Dan, are you saying you think the US armed forces should overthrow our elected, civilian leadership? I really hope I’m misunderstanding you because that’s treason.

These Beltway thinkers are not taking into account the obvious exchange rates. Russia,China,and India can produce product at a fraction of the cost of the U.S. Logic tells us we must derive affect from the least common denominator. That is certainly not the U.S. dollar.

Got to be one of the dumest papers we have ever signed . The way Putin is running Russia today We’ll be lucky if were not fighting China ‚Russia and North Korea all at once . Let me no how Nuc disarmment talks are going then . I say keep what we got keep them scarred !_


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