iD magazine



The U.S. Air Force has three options for deploying nuclear weapons against an enemy: interconti­nental ballistic missiles launched from an undergroun­d silo, missiles fired from a submarine, and weapons carried by a bomber. With the B-21 scheduled to enter service in 2025, the Air Force has announced its intention to retire the B-1B and B-2 and sustain a fleet of 100 B-21s and 76 B-52s. The old bombers are still useful as a threatenin­g gesture: In the event of tension with world powers such as China or Russia they would fly close to enemy airspace, where they’d be both visible and unpredicta­ble. As General David Petraeus once wrote: “Bombers can be called back after launching or retargeted in flight in a way that missiles cannot.” Because once a nuclear missile has been launched, widespread destructio­n is assured within 30 minutes.

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