Monday, December 21, 2015

Nuclear War in 2030: Wargaming the Unthinkable

It is the year 2030, and the US Air Force is facing a nuclear war.

Eighty-year-old B-52s, armed with the latest standoff weapons, patrol the skies. Shiny new intercontinental ballistic missiles stand at the ready. And the stealthy Long Range Strike-Bomber slips past enemy defenses.

Earlier this month, Air Force Global Strike Command conducted a large-scale nuclear war game at Maxwell Air Force Base, designed to assess whether the Air Force is developing and fielding the right kinds of capabilities to meet future threats. The exercise explored AFGSC’s ability to operate across the full spectrum of a nuclear conflict, from conventional to nuclear strike missions.

“We want to wargame the entirety of our capabilities,” Brig. Gen. Ferdinand Stoss, AFGSC’s director for requirements, plans and programs, told Defense News in an interview here Dec. 9. “We want to see if we are getting the bang for the buck we need.”

The Air Force’s plan to modernize its nuclear force includes building a next-generation bomber — the LRS-B — upgrading the existing fleet of B-1, B-52 and stealthy B-2 bombers, and replacing the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with a Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD).

AFGSC’s war game, conducted Dec. 7 through 10 here at the Air Force Wargaming Institute, was designed to help the Air Force find better ways to use the future force in the battlefield, Stoss explained. AFGSC commander Gen. Robin Rand will evaluate the findings, and decide whether to “elevate” them to top leadership, Stoss said.

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