Nuclear modernization critical to nation’s defense

Strategic Modernization - ASC17

Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, leads a panel discussion covering strategic modernization during the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 18, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Andy Morataya)

Strategic Modernization - ASC17

Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, Maj. Gen. Anthony Cotton, 20th Air Force commander, retired Maj. Gen. Roger Burg, president of O'Malley Burg Consulting, Carol Erikson of Northrop Grumman and Frank McCall of Boeing, discuss strategic modernization during the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 18, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Andy Morataya)

Strategic Modernization - ASC17

Maj. Gen. Anthony Cotton, 20th Air Force commander, discusses strategic modernization during the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 18, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Andy Morataya)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (AFNS) -- Senior leaders emphasized the need for modernization in the nuclear force at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference, Sept. 18, 2017.

Nuclear deterrence has continued to be the foundation of the nation’s strategic defense since World War II and transformed the focus of warfare from winning to averting future war, panel members said.

“The wings have never been more important than they are today,” said Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command. “The men and women who are performing the intercontinental ballistic missile mission...are what keeps the world from completely spinning off its axis.”

To ensure the U.S. nuclear triad remains robust, flexible, resilient and ready, the Air Force will sustain the ICBM capability by replacing the Minuteman III with the ground-based strategic deterrent, said Rand.

According to panel members, Air Force leaders have foresight and vision to pursue modernization in regards to nuclear deterrence. The new ground-based deterrent provides more efficient operations, maintenance and security by modernizing critical infrastructure and lowering life cycle costs.

Panel members stated the ICBM leg of the triad is the least expensive, but it is not cost effective to sustain. Modernizing will reduce operational and sustainment costs, resulting in a reliable system through 2075.

Although the Minuteman III is an aging weapons system, it will continue to provide a reliable and effective nuclear capability and deterrent for the U.S., its allies and security partners until replaced by the new deterrent system.

“We are actually here talking about how to maintain the credibility on a weapons system that is still very very lethal,” said Maj. Gen. Anthony Cotton, 20th Air Force commander. “As soon as you lose credibility the deterrence factor goes away. Right now I will tell you – we are credible.”

Rand stated the new deterrent is needed to ensure the weapons system remains lethal through reliability, survivability and the will to use it.

“[Ground-based strategic deterrence] has brought the passion back,” said Cotton. “We are putting our money where our mouth is in regards to revitalization and modernization of a very potent weapons system, [making it] an even more lethal weapons system in the future.”