Nuclear deterrence critical to national defense

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Nikita Thorpe
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
The Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence, Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein, spoke on a panel about the importance of U.S. nuclear deterrence, and its foundational importance to national defense, at the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference, Sept. 19, 2017.

Weinstein expressed the need to remember the Air Force’s unique capability to strike whatever target needed on the planet to defend the country.

He shared the history of development in the intercontinental ballistic missile program and its blanket of protection through the Atlas, the versions of the Titan and Minuteman, and the Peacekeeper. Weinstein mentioned bombers, emphasizing how standoff capability is critical to Air Force defense and providing the president with multiple missile options.   

“When we talk about the value of the triad we are missing a word that we need to add in the 21st century…the word we need to use is ‘more,’” said Weinstein. “Bombers are more flexible, ICBMs are more responsive and subs are more survivable.”

Weinstein argued each leg of the nuclear triad -- air-breathing bombers, ground-launched ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles -- should be viewed as complementary to one another, with synergistic effects.  

“As Airmen wearing this uniform, nuclear is in our DNA,” said Weinstein. “We should be proud that two legs of the nuclear triad is provided by the United States Air Force.”

According to Weinstein, that “nuclear DNA” includes 75 percent of the nuclear command, control and communications provided by the Air Force, air refueling tankers critical to long-range mobility, space assets providing oversight of ground activities and military communication satellites enabling presidential communication to military forces at all times.

“The value of the deterrent force that we provide, has only increased in value over time, along with what we do to protect this nation and our allies,” said Weinstein.

Citing actions of adversaries, Weinstein stressed the need to provide an adaptable and flexible nuclear deterrent to deter Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.

“I sleep well at night knowing the capability we currently have on the Minuteman III design, which was built in the 1970s, the B-2, B-52 and a cruise missile,” said Weinstein. “But don’t forget that the Russians and the Chinese have modernized their force well before we modernized ours.”

Weinstein also addressed questions about modernization.

“The need to modernize the force is not something we are doing because of abnormal Russian behavior today,” said Weinstein. “We are doing this because of the long-term need to maintain a deterrent capability to defend the nation and to address adversary behavior and adversary beliefs.”