The U.S. Air Force is reorganizing its three existing heavy bombers and the future long-range strike bomber (LRS-B), under a single command.
In an announcement on April 20, the service said it will transfer conventional B-1B bombers from the responsibility of the Air Combat Command (ACC) to join nuclear-capable B-2 and B-52H bombers, as well as the LRS-B, under the direction of the Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC), based at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. The move becomes effective on October 1.
“This realignment places all three Air Forces bombers under one command and brings the LRS-B program with it,” said Deborah Lee James, Air Force secretary. “Consolidating all of our Air Force assets in this critical mission area under a single command will help provide a unified voice to maintain the high standards necessary in stewardship of our nation’s bomber forces.”
B-1Bs are based with the 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess AFB, Texas, and the 28th Bomber Wing at Ellsworth AFB, S.D. Those units will continue to serve as the host wings and provide installation support and services to other units at the bases, the Air Force said. The realignment affects 63 total aircraft and 7,000 people.
“We expect the transfer to be imperceptible to the majority of airmen at Dyess and Ellsworth, as they will continue to work for the same supervisors and units,” said Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, AFGSC commander. “The impacts of the realignment will become noticeable over time as crosstalk among maintainers and aviators increases across all three platforms.”
The Air Force plans to elevate the AFGSC commander from a three-star to a four-star general. Wilson was recently nominated to serve as vice commander of the U.S. Strategic Command. Gen. Robin Rand, currently commander of the Air Education and Training Command, will assume the AFGSC post.
The AFGSC started operating in August 2009 to manage the service’s nuclear-capable assets, including Northrop Grumman B-2s and Boeing B-52s the ACC formerly operated. The Air Force has an inventory of 20 B-2s and 58 B-52s, plus 18 B-52s operated by the Air Force Reserve. It plans to acquire 80 to 100 nuclear-capable LRS-B aircraft beginning in the mid-2020s.
Northrop Grumman and the team of Boeing and Lockheed Martin are contending for the LRS-B contract award, which the Air Force now expects to make in the summer.