B52 bombers are still being built

New planes for new bombs

Former and active US bomber commanders are on the attack course. They have the US Congress in their sights. They want the Air Force to get more attention and, with it, more money. The number of strategic bombers available is, according to General John Michael Loh, once the Air Force's deputy chief of staff, "at its lowest level ever." Although the demand for such aircraft is increasing. Loh points to the Indo-Pacific region, where bombers are the weapon of choice because of their long range and enormous payload capacity.

The Air Force Chief of Staff responsible for planning, Lieutenant General David Nahom, will be more specific. He speaks of "great power competition" and of the need to prepare better for a conflict with China or Russia. North Korea and Iran also play a role in US bomber planning. Nahom's concept: You have to fly the B-2 stealth machines until the successor B-21, which is also difficult to identify for radar, has been delivered and certified for nuclear use. Which, he estimates, will likely take another decade. Until then, you also need the B-1 bombers. Keeping them operational is not that easy because the Air Force has "flown them so hard" in recent years.

With reference to Russian modernization in the strategic area, the US air force command whispers in the ear of arms-loving President Donald Trump that 200 bombers are needed. But a new space command has just been founded, promising the US Navy more effective submarine missiles. In addition, Trump's termination of the INF treaty last year opens up opportunities for the construction of new medium-range nuclear weapons. However, since money does not grow on trees and the corona crisis will lead to serious financial bottlenecks, the US Congress probably wants to weigh up the decision.

In the early 1990s, when the Cold War ended and the US preferred to throw death from the sky in the Gulf region, the US still had more than 400 bombers. According to the currently proposed cuts, there will be 140 - including the constantly modernized B-52 veterans. Which is still a huge danger when you consider that such a B-52 can carry eight so-called free-fall bombs or up to 20 cruise missiles on board. Each of the warheads would exceed the effectiveness of the Hiroshima bomb many times over.

But it's not just about the explosive power. Contrary to the will of a large majority and the will of the Bundestag, the USA is still storing tactical atomic bombs of the B-61 type in Germany. Pilots of the Fighter Bomb Squadron 33 in Büchel are planned and trained as transporters. This is part of the »nuclear participation« with which NATO suggests that it has »something to report« in the targeting and deployment of US weapons of mass destruction. The B-61 exists in large numbers. As of January 1968, around 3,150 were built and around 300 are still in active service in the US armed forces. Of these, 150 are probably stored in Europe, around 20 near Büchel Air Base. Further B-61 are available as reactivatable reserves in the USA.

The military has long been pushing for modernization. Although the delivery planned for this year has been delayed, they are already planning to use B-61-12 bombs. Their explosive power is even easier to dose, they are steerable - in short: they lead to a lower inhibition threshold for use. Which is problematic, especially now that the relationship between NATO and Russia is deteriorating again and there is not even a "red telephone" between the staffs on both sides to avoid errors.

With the bombs, the means of delivery also become "more intelligent". Several NATO countries involved in nuclear participation are procuring F-35 jets from the USA. The type was initially an option for the German Air Force as well. But it was decided to shortlist an update version of the »Eurofighter« and a model from the US manufacturer Boeing. Now it will probably be a mix - because it is also possible to modernize conventional squadrons. The Bundeswehr's obsolete and expensive to maintain “Tornado” fleet is to be replaced by up to 90 additional “Eurofighters” and 45 F-18 jets from 2025 onwards. The advantage of the US model: an earlier version of it is certified for the use of nuclear weapons and is able to keep the way for attacking bombers free through its electronic jamming devices.

nd journalism from the left thrives on the commitment of its readers

In view of the experience of the corona pandemic, we have decided to make our journalism permanently freely accessible on our website and thus make it available to everyone who is interested.

As with our print and epaper editions, every published article contains our work as an author, editor, technician or publisher. It is what makes this journalism possible.

Volunteer now with just a few clicks!