Hoeven to Air Force Secretary: Keep Nuclear Modernization on Schedule

Senator Working to Secure Funding to Support Upgrading Helicopters, B-52s, ICBMs and Nuclear Cruise Missile

WASHINGTON – At a hearing of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee this week, Senator John Hoeven secured a commitment from Acting U.S. Air Force Secretary John P. Roth and U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Brown to keep nuclear modernization efforts on schedule. That includes new helicopters for nuclear bases, as well as B-52 modernizations and upgrades to the nuclear missiles.

The senator outlined the important role of Minot Air Force Base as the nation’s only dual nuclear mission and highlighted the importance of supporting the following priorities in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022:

  • MH-139 Grey Wolf helicopter: The Air Force to secure FAA certification and continue procurement of the Grey Wolf helicopter, which will replace the Huey at nuclear bases.
  • Long Range Stand Off (LRSO) Missile: The $224 million increase in the budget request for the LRSO Weapon, which will replace the aging Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) that flies on the B-52.
  • B-52 Modernizations: The $233 million increase in the budget request for B-52 modernization, including developing a new engine, replacing the radar and upgrading the communications systems.
  • Ground Based Strategic Deterrent: Ensuring that GBSD remains on time and on budget. The GBSD will replace the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

“We’ve made good progress in updating our forces, and that work needs to continue to ensure that the U.S. maintains a credible deterrent and stays ahead of the capabilities of our adversaries,” said Hoeven. “We reviewed the Administration’s budget request with Air Force leaders, and outlined the importance of our nuclear forces. That includes advancing the Grey Wolf Helicopter replacement program and ensuring the Air Force works through FAA certification, as well as ensuring that we provide the necessary resources to update our B-52s, cruise missiles and ICBMS, and keep these vital programs on budget and on schedule.”

Earlier this year, Hoeven reviewed operations at Minot Air Force Base with General Brown; General Timothy Ray, Commander of Air Force Global Strike Command; and a bipartisan group of senators from the Armed Services and Senate Defense Appropriations Committees. The senator also recently made the case for nuclear modernization to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks. Additionally, Hoeven is pressing the administration to conduct a Nuclear Posture Review, which would include military assessment of the value of our nuclear deterrent in the face of challenges like China, Russia and North Korea. 

From his position on the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, Hoeven worked to secure more than $2.3 billion to keep nuclear modernization efforts on schedule in FY 2021. This includes: 

  • Long Range Stand Off Missile: $385.4 million for the LRSO missile to replace the aging ALCM carried on the B-52.
  • Ground Based Strategic Deterrent: $1.45 billion for the GBSD to replace the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
  • Minuteman III Sustainment and Modernization: $590 million for maintenance, sustainment and continued incremental upgrades for the Minuteman III ICBM.
  • B-52: $512 million for modifications and upgrades to the B-52, including the new engine program.
  • UH-1N Replacement: $194 million to purchase the first 8 MH-139 Grey Wolf helicopters to replace the Hueys.