The U.S. bomber force serves as a visible, flexible, and recallable national strategic asset. The active U.S. inventory of B-52s, which are located at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and Minot AFB in North Dakota, has been the backbone of the strategic bomber force for more than 50 years.


The B-2 “Stealth Bomber” entered the bomber force in 1997, enhancing U.S. deterrent forces with its deep penetration capability. The B-2 is a multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. The B-2 force is located at Whiteman AFB in Missouri.


The B-52 “Stratofortress” is a heavy, long-range bomber that can perform a variety of missions. It is capable of flying at subsonic speeds at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet, and it can carry precision-guided conventional ordnance in addition to nuclear weapons. The B-52 is the only aircraft that can carry both gravity bombs and cruise missiles.

Strengthening Security

The United States has 76 B-52 bombers and 18 B-2 bombers certified to deliver nuclear weapons. The 2010 NPR determined that the Air Force will retain nuclear-capable bombers, but it will convert some B-52s to a conventional-only role. The rationale behind retaining nuclear-capable (and dual-capable) bombers is twofold:

  1. This capability provides a rapid and effective hedge against technical challenges that might affect another leg of the triad and offsets the risks of geopolitical uncertainties;
  2. Nuclear-capable bombers are important to maintain extended deterrence against potential attacks on U.S. allies and partners.
  3. The ability to forward deploy heavy bombers signals U.S. resolve and commitment in a crisis and enhances the reassurance of U.S. allies and partners, strengthening regional security architectures.