Hoeven Continues to Push for Nuclear Force Improvement, B-52 Modernization

Senator Meets with Top Air Force Commander Overseeing B-52 Fleet

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today said he is working with Air Force officials to authorize and fund a number of initiatives to improve the nation’s nuclear fleet, weapons systems and facilities. The senator today met with Major General Scott A. Vander Hamm, Commander of the Eighth Air Force based at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., as part of his efforts to modernize the nation’s B-52 fleet and to get a briefing on the Nuclear Force Improvement Program (NFIP).

Vander Hamm is responsible for maintaining the B-52 and B-2 fleets and oversees the nuclear deterrence operations of the two aircraft. The NFIP will focus on the nation’s B-52 fleet, as well as the intercontinental ballistic missile force. At Minot Air Force Base, which is home to both a missile wing and a B-52 bomber wing, improvements mean modernizing alert facilities, expanding and improving B-52 hangers and upgrading weapons storage areas.

“We’re working with the Air Force on initiatives to implement the necessary upgrades to the B-52 bomber, its weapons systems and base infrastructure to ensure we continue to have a modern, effective fleet,” Hoeven said.

Hoeven is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the Military Construction Subcommittee. He has worked to secure necessary funding for upgrades to the B-52 fleet that will extend the aircrafts’ working life for another 30 years. These include the following:

• B-52 Communications Upgrade: Implementing CONECT communications technology, which will put new software, radios and computer servers on board the bombers. Old control panels and manually operated instruments will be replaced with digital, more modern equipment. Hoeven worked to appropriate $96 million for CONECT in Fiscal Year 2014. The request for FY 2015 is $104.4 million. The upgrade will be made through 2018. Some of the fleet aircraft are already at facilities in Turner Air Force Base in Oklahoma undergoing the upgrades.

• B-52 Weapons System Update: Installing technical equipment that will allow the B-52 to carry the latest smart weapons in its internal weapons bay, which will improve fuel efficiency. Hoeven worked to get $4.4 million appropriated in FY 2014. The request for FY 2015 is $8.7 million. The program is expected to begin developmental testing in FY 2015 and enter initial production in FY 2016. Full fleet installation would occur over the following few years.

• New Air Launched Cruise Missile Development: Developing a new air launched cruise missile (ALCM) that will preserve the B-52’s capability to launch missiles from a distance, out of the range of enemy air defenses.

• B-52 Radar Replacement Program: The existing B-52 radar system has been in use since the 1960s. The Air Force is studying requirements for a new system, and the Senator Hoeven requested funding in FY 2015 to accelerate the radar replacement process.

• B-52 Infrastructure Upgrade: The runway at the Minot Air Force Base has been in use for 50 years, and its renovation is on schedule for completion. As the $67 million, three-phase runway work is underway, some of the base’s B-52s are temporarily located at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. Minot’s other B-52s have been deployed to Guam to maintain a quick response force and a military presence in Asia. The entire fleet is scheduled to return to Minot in October, when the runway project will be completed. The new runways are expected to provide service for another 50 years.

The Air Force launched NFIP earlier this year to strengthen the Air Force’s nuclear mission. Hoeven also met last month with Lieutenant General Stephen Wilson, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command. Following the meeting, the senator announced that he expects more than 1,000 personnel to be added to Global Strike, including at the Minot Air Force Base.