BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. – The Air Force Global Strike Command Commander, Gen. Tim Ray, participated in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing May 12, focused on the budget posture for nuclear forces.
“Transitions are difficult, but we have a unique opportunity to partner with Congress, the combatant commanders, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense to advance affordable, innovative solutions supporting the long-range precision strike mission,” Ray said during his opening statement to the committee.
Throughout the hearing, Ray was asked questions regarding modernization of the bomber fleet to the Ground-based Strategic Deterrent to the Minuteman III. Ray explained that a service life extension program, SLEP, for Minuteman III is more expensive and less efficient than a system replacement, while providing no additional capabilities to close operational gaps both now and in the future.
“It’s a 38 billion dollar difference, with GBSD being the less expensive and more effective option,” Ray said in response to a question from Nebraska’s senior Senator Debra Fischer regarding the cost of extending the service life of the Minuteman III.
Ray explained how going to the GBSD will result in two-thirds reduction in missile exposure. Because the new GBSD’s modular design will allow access to a specific part, maintenance times and required manpower are expected to be drastically reduced, while overall security and safety will be enhanced. Furthermore, the overall system advancements will greatly reduce the amount and frequency of convoys needed to replace nuclear components on the missiles.
Ray also explained attributes of the B-21 that makes it an ideal bomber for the future.
“The B-21 is on-time, it is incredibly successful,” Ray said in response to being asked whether the B-21 is on-time and on-target. “Between the GBSD and the B-21, these feature all the attributes you’d want to have featured in a modern weapon system; digital engineering, modularity in their design, open mission systems and mature technology. The digital engineering on both of those will give us an unprecedented degree of capability.”
In light of the expressed concerns for the United States modernizing long-range strike capabilities, several Senators were also interested in the hearing participant’s thoughts regarding the rapid modernization and weapon development in other nations.
“With a good arms control agreement that is verifiable and enforceable, you have access or ability to see where the Russians are going. We have no such agreement with the Chinese,” Ray said in response to questions from Senator Thomas Cotton.
Questions on importance of the nuclear triad in strategic competition were asked to both Ray and the Director of Navy Strategic Systems Programs, Vice Admiral Johnny Wolfe. Both were in agreement that all three legs play a role in deterring strategic competitors. The responsiveness of the ICBM, the flexibility of the bomber aircraft and the stealth capability of the Navy’s nuclear submarines are all part of the nuclear triad.
“Having a range of options allows us to give the national leaders a tailored approach to a problem,” Ray said in response to the importance of the nuclear triad. “The fewer resources you have, the more challenging that becomes.”
General Tim Ray commands 33,700 Airmen and civilians responsible for the nation’s three intercontinental ballistic missile wings, the Air Force’s entire bomber force, to include B-52, B-1 and B-2 wings, the Long Range Strike Bomber program, Air Force Nuclear Command, Control and Communications (NC3) systems, and operational and maintenance support to organizations within the nuclear enterprise. The full hearing video can be accessed here: https://www.defense.gov/Watch/Video/videoid/794561/