, US B-52G w AGM-86B air-launched cruise missiles (A.jpg
In 2007, the USAF announced its intention to retire all of its AGM-129 ACMs, and to reduce the ALCM fleet by more than 500 missiles, leaving 528 nuclear cruise missiles. The ALCM force will be consolidated at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, and all excess cruise missile bodies will be destroyed.
The reductions are in part a result of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty requirement to go below 2,200 deployed nuclear weapons by 2012, with the AGM-129 ACM chosen because it has reliability problems and also higher maintenance costs.
Even with the SLEP, the remaining AGM-86s were to reach their end of service by 2020, leaving the B-52 without a nuclear mission. However, in 2012, the USAF announced plans to extend the useful life of the missiles until at least 2030.
The USAF planned to award a contract for the development of the replacement Long-Range Stand-Off (LRSO) weapon in 2015. Unlike the AGM-86, the LRSO will be carried on multiple aircraft, including the B-52, the B-2 Spirit, and the Northrop Grumman B-21. Like the AGM-86, the LRSO can be armed with either a conventional or nuclear warhead. The LRSO program is to develop a weapon that can penetrate and survive integrated air defense systems and prosecute strategic targets. Both conventional and nuclear versions of the weapon are required to reach initial operational capability (IOC) before the retirement of their respective ALCM versions, around 2030.
The technology development contracts were to be submitted before the end of 2012. In March 2014 a further 3-year delay in the project was announced by the Department of Defense, delaying a contract award until fiscal year 2018. The House Armed Services Committee moved to reject this delay. The delay was caused by financial pressures and an uncertain acquisition plan, and allowed by the long remaining service life left for the AGM-86 and lack of urgent necessity compared to other defense needs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AGM-86_ALCM
- An air-to-air front view of a B-52G Stratofortress aircraft from the 416th bombardment Wing armed with AGM-86B air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs). 1 March 1988