The Commander of US Strategic Command, Admiral Charles A Richard told a Senate panel that the nuclear triad of intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and strategic bombers, as well as the nuclear command and control system, are at the core of US defence strategy. Modernisation of the triad is essential for maintaining strategic deterrence. Thus over the decades, the return on investment in the nuclear triad has been enormous, the Admiral said, noting that submarines designed to last 30 years, have been in service for 42 years. Admiral Richard said, the submarines are reaching the end of their service. Columbia-class submarines will replace the Ohio-class submarines. The 400 silobased Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles were also designed with a certain lifespan, but the US Air Force was able to extend it. It will need to be replaced by the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, another type of ICBM, which is planned for full operational capability in 2036. In addition, Richard said, the aging B-52 bombers will remain in service for an additional 30 years, albeit with more upgrades. The other strategic bomber, the B-2, is the only long-range stealth bomber in the world. It will eventually be replaced by the B-21, he said. The initial operational capability of the B-21 is expected to be attained by the end of this decade i.e. in 2030.
Air Force General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Commander of North American Aerospace Defence Command and US Northern Command said that the nation has to invest in defensive and offensive hypersonic weapons and research because China and Russia are doing so.