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B-52s, B-21s and GBSDs: The Costs and Importance of Deterrence Modernization

Deterrence is happening, but it's happening with legacy equipment, according to thought leaders - here's what modernization will cost

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President - Center for Military Modernization

Hello and welcome to warrior Maven, the Center for military modernization very significant conversation today in light of the nuclear threat posed by Putin and the Russian military. Sure enough, the forces were not only put on alert, but there have been even more recent threats, of course, along with the use of hypersonic weapons for the first time ever, here to talk about this as a very gifted expert, Mr. Peter Huessy. He is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, a Non-Resident Fellow at the Atlantic Council, and also has his own consultancy GeoStrategic Analysis, Mr. Huessy, thank you so much for your expertise.

Peter Huessy, Senior Warrior Maven Nuclear Weapons Analyst

Thank you, Kris, for inviting me. It's an honor to talk with you today.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President - Center for Military Modernization

Sure enough, for many years, there's been this ongoing debate about the need to modernize sustain the Minuteman III's and of course, introduce the GBSD new ICBM, and sure enough, that kind of discussion has rapidly taken on even newer urgency, and that's not to say it wasn't previously urgent as well. 

And so is there a bit of a gap or an impasse here in the sense that GBSD is projected to be ready end of the 2020s 28, 29, the Columbia class is expected to have its first patrols, I want to say as early as late as 2031 or so and the B-21 is moving along, it's about to take flight, and will may potentially be ready in just the next couple of years. 

And then I have to think of the B 61 Mod 12, which takes all these otherwise disparate variants of the air drop nuclear bomb puts them into one you have Earth penetrating, you have bunker buster, you have different kinds of area detonations to create a lower yield effect. The idea of variable yield is also very significant, gaining a lot of traction within Air Force that gave the idea of giving pilots and commanders options. 

So with all that being said, sure enough, Admiral Richard made the point, yes, I'm achieving deterrence, but it's happening with 60s, 70s, and 80s equipment, we have got to really double down on this acceleration of modernization. 

Peter Huessy, Senior Warrior Maven Nuclear Weapons Analyst

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Yeah, we don't have any room to spare. We're up against basically, we have to go. And I must say this, all the commanders that I've spoken with, say our systems are on time, on budget, and under under cost. 

And the thing about GBSD, which is remarkable. If it works the way I think it's going to work, we'll save close to two thirds the operations costs, but you're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars a year. 

And remember, the numbers you hear about that's going to last for 55 years, the subs are going to last I think for at least 70 years. 

And given the fact that B-52 is going to be 100 years old when it's all said and done in his final chapter in that plains history, I wouldn't be surprised the B21 lasts certainly half a century or more depends on how you can add technology to it. 

But we're getting basically for not 1.2 trillion that's not the cost, the cost is between 400 and $450 billion over 30 years for the new systems, that's over 55 years, at a minimum. 

So when you do that math, you're talking about, oh, we're doing about what $9 billion a year, we spend 11 and a half billion dollars a year going to the movies. 

Sure, okay. I'm talking about getting the car and driving the movies. I'm not talking about watching them to TV. So when you look at the cost of doing this is relatively it's between three and 4% of the nuclear capability added to the three to 4% of operations and maintenance, so it's a relatively modest amount of money looks big when you stretch it out for 40 years as some of the armed controllers do. 

But it's eminently affordable given the literally trillions of dollars we have spent on COVID, and we spent, I think the war on poverty since 1966 means tested poverty programs according the Mercator center, we have spent $27 trillion dollars


Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President - Center for Military Modernization