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Ready-to-fly nuclear bombers could return to Air Force runways for the first time since the Cold War

The U.S. Air Force is poised to return nuclear-equipped B-52 bombers to ready-to-fly positions on runways at the Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, Defense One reports. The planes used to be a fixture on the runways during the Cold War, but have not been on 24-hour alert status since 1991. "The world is a dangerous place and we've got folks that are talking openly about use of nuclear weapons," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein explained to Defense One. "It's no longer a bipolar world where it's just us and the Soviet Union. We've got other players out there who have nuclear capability."

While the order to prepare nuclear-armed planes on the Barksdale runways hasn't been given officially yet, Goldfein said preparations are being made in anticipation of it being issued:

Already, various improvements have been made to prepare Barksdale — home to the 2d Bomb Wing and Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees the service's nuclear forces — to return B-52s to an alert posture. Near the alert pads, an old concrete building — where B-52 crews during the Cold War would sleep, ready to run to their aircraft and take off at a moment's notice — is being renovated.

Inside, beds are being installed for more than 100 crew members, more than enough room for the crews that would man bombers positioned on the nine alert pads outside. There's a recreation room, with a pool table, TVs, and a shuffleboard table. [Defense One]

"This is yet one more step in ensuring that we're prepared," said Goldfein. "I look at it more as not planning for any specific event, but more for the reality of the global situation we find ourselves in and how we ensure we're prepared going forward." Read the full report at Defense One.