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AFGSC Commander discusses current mission, future with Hudson Institute

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Shelby Thurman
  • Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs

Gen. Thomas A. Bussiere, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, spoke with Rebecca Heinrichs, senior fellow and director of the Keystone Defense Initiative with the Hudson Institute, during an in-person interview that was broadcast via livestream May 4 at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C.


Bussiere discussed AFGSC’s current mission and priorities, the command’s role in support of the president and U.S. Strategic Command, and future technologies and platforms in development that AFGSC will be incorporating to continue to accomplish its mission of deterrence and assurance to allies. 


“Our mission is the underpinning of every geographic combatant command’s operational plans, and the underlying assumption is that strategic deterrence – and within that, nuclear deterrence –will hold,” Bussiere said.


“This has been going on for decades,” he said. “Our silent service is the foundational defense for our nation.”


Referring to past and present Airmen who have and continue to deliver the strategic deterrence that has provided stability for more than 70 years, Bussiere said, “I want to thank them for what they do every day.”

He also noted that AFGSC Airmen continue to stand ready and deliver a credible deterrent for the homeland, its allies and partners around the globe.


“They are the stewards of this mission of responsibility to provide our nation's bedrock defense, day in and day out, as the air component for U.S. Strategic Command,” Bussiere said.


“A new era of strategic competition is the foremost driver for the command’s efforts to modernize and diversify its nuclear forces,” he said, noting that “the world was a different place when the New START formed.”


After decades of strategic stability, the nature of the threat has changed with China and Russia as peer threats and a change in the landscape of arms control, with Russia suspending its compliance with New START and the U.S. having no treaty at all with China.


The general added that the requirement to stay modern and advanced is why AFGSC has a new generation of tools in development:


  • the LGM-35A Sentinel, which is the successor to the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile
  • the new B-21 Raider bomber
  • a host of upgrades to the B-52 Stratofortress to bring the H-model to the J-model
  • the MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopter, slated to replace the venerable UH-1 Huey
  • the Survivable Airborne Operations Center, which will replace the aging E-4B Nightwatch.


Bussiere also provided updates on the nation’s bomber fleet.


“We are on a steep path to reinvigorate the bomber leg,” he said, adding that this includes the B-21 Raider as a “highly technologically advanced, penetrating weapon system designed with an open architecture which provides the capability of upgrading that weapon system over time as new technologies come in to play.”


The Air Force is currently scheduled to purchase at least 100 B-21s “to provide the foundational element of our bomber fleet as we roll out the B-21 fleet and upgrade the B-52 (Stratofortress),” he said.


“April 15 was the 71st anniversary of the first flight of the B-52,” Bussiere said. “It’s pretty astounding to think that we’re going to be flying that airplane for the next 30 years.”


He said the B-52 will receive new engines, new radar and new avionics with the intent to have a bomber fleet comprised of newly designated B-52Js alongside the B-21s.


“What we are designing and developing now is light years ahead of where we were back in the ‘70s and ‘80s,” Bussiere said.


The members of AFGSC inherently contend with issues of global concern daily. Striker Airmen are on-alert every hour of the day, always executing the mission of providing strategic deterrence capabilities through the leveraging of its ICBMs, bomber aircraft and other platforms. 


The three legs of the nuclear and long-range strike triad, together, provide credible deterrence, Bussiere said, noting the ICBMs  are the most responsive and stabilizing force, while the sea leg provides the ability to survive and the bomber leg delivers conventional as well as nuclear capabilities while providing the president a flexible, recallable, standoff or penetrating capability.


Bussiere added that these capabilities are “a phenomenal tool for the National Command Authority to demonstrate to allies and potential adversaries the capabilities the U.S. has to hold targets at risk.”


“As everyone goes home and sleeps well at night, please know that you do that because of our Airmen who are sitting out in the missile fields, our Airmen who are fearless defenders, our bomber crews and the support folks who go around the globe with our Bomber Task Forces,” Bussiere said.


Editor’s note: The Hudson Institute is a nonprofit organization that focuses on research that promotes American leadership for a secure, free and prosperous future. Founded by strategist Herman Kahn in 1961, they work with key policymakers and global leaders in both government and business through interdisciplinary studies in defense, international relations, economics, energy, technology, culture and law.