The U.S. must modernize its nuclear force to remain on-par with near-peer adversaries Russia and China, a top Air Force general said Friday.
Lt. Gen. Stephen "Seve" Wilson, the deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said the U.S. has no choice but to modernize and update its nuclear force if it wants to continue deterring other nations.
"They're modernizing their forces," he said. "Just last week [Russia] had another successful hypersonic glide vehicle test."
"Speed matters. Speed complicates anything," Wilson said, adding that he could see a role for similar technology as part of a U.S. deterrence plan. "Our adversaries are doing that because it complicates any kind of defense. As technology moves forward, I think that technology will become important. As adversaries build up capability, they do it to defeat our missile defenses. We're going to pursue that same type of technology."
The Pentagon stopped thinking about nuclear deterrence more than 20 years ago said Lt. Gen. Stephen "Seve" Wilson. The U.S. needs a credible, ready and resilient nuclear force.
Photo Credit: Air Force
"Our B-2s and our B-52s are the most flexible leg of our triad. They also provide a really significant conventional capability," he said. "Yet look at the B-52, it's over 60 years old. And our younger B-2 is over 25 years old. So I'm really heartened and pleased to see the progress we're making on a new bomber, the B-21. … What bombers bring in payload, range, mass, precision and persistence are unique capabilities."
The general also noted that Navy's Ohio-class nuclear submarines will be more than 40 years old by the time of their planned retirement.
"Salt water, metallurgy, physics happens. We need to replace those subs," he said.
"In February of 2014, I was addressing the AFA group in Orlando," he said. "I didn't talk about Ukraine, I didn't talk about Crimea, I didn't talk about ISIS, I didn't talk about Boko Haram, I didn't talk about new islands in the South China Seas … I didn't talk about Sony cyber attacks, I didn't talk about OPM data breaches … I didn't talk about North Korean nuclear tests … I didn't talk about Ebola virus or Zika … I didn't talk about Paris attacks, I didn't talk about Brussels attacks … I didn't talk about any of the enormous refugee crises or migration challenges going across Europe and the Middle East."
"I didn't talk about any of those because at the time none of that existed," Wilson said.