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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the chairman of the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, today delivered a speech on the Senate floor highlighting the critical role strategic bombers play in our national security.
Below is the full text of Senator Fischer’s remarks as prepared for delivery.
Mr. President, in the 116th Congress I am once again chairing the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, which oversees our nuclear forces.
Over the coming months I will be coming to the floor to discuss specific components of our nuclear deterrent and their contributions to the defense of this nation.
Today, I rise to speak about the critical role strategic bombers play in our nuclear triad.
The triad is known for its flexibility and resilience, and bombers contribute to this flexibility in important ways.
They are highly visible and can be forward-deployed.
They can be used to signal resolve to our adversaries and commitment to our allies.
This benefit is not theoretical; bombers have been used in exactly this way many times, particularly on the Korean Peninsula.
Bombers are also recallable and, when armed with standoff weapons, can offer the president a variety of tailored response options in a crisis.
As the oldest leg of our nuclear triad, bombers have a long and distinguished history.
In some ways, the story of the strategic bomber begins in the great state of Nebraska.
In the early 1940s, Bellevue, Nebraska was home to the Martin Bomber Plant, which was located on the land that is now Offutt Air Force Base.
The Martin plant, with the help of thousands of Nebraska workers, built and modified Enola Gay and Bockscar.
These two B-29 bombers went on to deliver the “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending World War II and ushering in the nuclear age.
The horrific destruction of these attacks established the deterrent power that has prevented conflict on a global-scale ever since.
As ballistic missile technology evolved, the bomber continued to be the mainstay of our nuclear deterrent forces through the early 1970s.
Although bombers carried the heavy load for many decades, today we no longer rely on them in the same way.
Nuclear-armed bombers have not been on 24-hour ready alert status since the end of the Cold War in 1991, and the responsiveness alert-status bombers provided now resides primarily in our ICBM forces.
The strength provided by the other legs of the triad have allowed us to take our nuclear capable bombers off alert, and use them for conventional missions.
When we send B-52 bombers to Afghanistan to complete a conventional mission, we exercise the triad’s flexibility.
When U.S. B-2 bombers struck targets in Libya, we utilized the triad’s flexibility.
These examples clearly demonstrate that the flexibility of the triad is not an abstract concept, it’s something our forces use every day.
Our current nuclear bomber force consists of 46 B-52 and 20 B-2 aircraft.
While we rely on this highly capable but aging fleet, we also look ahead to the future of the bomber force: the B-21.
As the B-21 development progresses, it is important to remember the lessons learned from the last time we developed a nuclear bomber: the B-2.
As the Cold War ended, nuclear tensions cooled, and the need for an expensive nuclear-capable, stealth bomber seemed to diminish.
Even though the B-2 had already been developed and significant resources spent on research and development, Congress decided to reduce the final order from 132 aircraft to 20.
In so doing, the per-unit cost of the airframe rose to $2 billion.
The Air Force has said it plans to buy at least 100 B-21s, but many in this chamber believe more are likely required to meet the conventional mission the nation expects our Air Force to perform.
The nuclear triad is the bedrock of our national security, and the airborne leg continues to contribute to the strength and resilience of our nuclear forces.
It is our responsibility to ensure this capability is modernized, particularly as the global security environment transitions to one of long-term strategic competition.
Thank you, Mr. President, I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.