This may sound like a big deal, sadly it really isn’t.
When I served in the Air Force, it was mostly on Strategic Air Command (SAC) bases. I always saw planes both B-52s and KC-135 Tankers on 24/7 alert. Crews lived for a week at a time in what we called the Alert Facility. When the base klaxon sounded they would run to their planes. They didn’t know if it was a test or real until they decoded a radio message from the Wing Command Post.
Back then the Air Force had many bases with B-52s, 2 with FB-111s and others with just KC-135s. These were bases like Griffiss AFB, Grissom AFB, Lockburn AFB, Wright-Patterson AFB, Dyes AFB, Pease AFB, Plattsburg AFB, Minot AFB, Grand Forks AFB, Whiteman AFB, Altus AFB, Barksdale AFB, March AFB, Ellsworth AFB, Wurtsmith AFB, Kinchloe AFB, K. I. Sawyer AFB, and many more. Earlier, SAC had B-47s Stratojets and B-58 Hustlers on alert. For more than a decade, SAC maintained an airborne force of nuclear armed bombers holding at a Fail Safe point 24/7/12. This was all very normal in the Cold War with a hundred plus planes on various bases on alert. They were fully fueled and loaded with nuclear bombs.
With the end of the Cold War, President Bush (41) ended this. We have sent most of the B-52s to Davis Monthan to be scrapped. The FB-111s are gone. All we have left are the B-52Hs at Barksdale and Minot AFBs. We have the B-2s at Whiteman. That is ALL we have for nuclear capable long range bombers.
You ask, we also have the B-1s. Well, we have them, but the electronics to arm nuclear bombs have been removed. It would take some time to restore the B-1s to be nuclear capable.
To match our cold war stance, we would have to put every B-52 and B-2 on alert. That would also mean no flight training for the crews. It would also leave only the B-1 to support our conventional needs in the War on Terror.
Granted, the B-52 can carry 20 nuclear weapons between the bomb bay and wings. I think the B-2 carries a few less all internally. Between all that gives us the potential to destroy over 1,500 targets. Of course, between North Korea and Iran, I doubt there are a fraction of that many targets at worst. One plane with a full load should be able to destroy most of the worthwhile targets in each nation.
It seems smart to me to put some of both the B-52 and B-2 back on alert. Especially North Korea needs to know that any nuclear attack will be answered. This answer will be devastating to North Korea.
The advantage with the manned bomber is they can be very easily recalled to base if it turns out the planned mission is no longer needed. Our ICBMs both land and submarine based are not recallable. Once launched, they are committed all the way. There is no recall or destruct code.
This is far from secret, how do you recall the bombers? You have two ways. One, you can send a recall message at any time. The other is by not communicating with the bomber.
The initial alert message is only for launching. The nuclear bombs are not armed. During the Cold War, there were at least two Fail Safe points on route to the target. The crew had to receive and validate a message to continue past the Fail Safe point. If no valid message was received, the crew would turn back and head to back to recover. These messages in part were the codes to arm the nuclear weapons on the plane. Without these codes, the bombs were not armed. They couldn’t and shouldn’t explode if dropped or launched. This was to give command authorities very positive control on our nuclear weapons. We gave this plan decades ago to the USSR so they could have the same command and control we had.
Back in the 60s, Hollywood had two movies that mostly got the Fail Safe part right. The movies were Doctor Strangelove and Fail Safe. So this has been known for more than a half century.
So if President Trump does order a few of our bombers back on alert, you know that even if launched, he had the authority to terminate the mission prior to attacking the target. The crews train for both eventualities. While it is sad we have to use this option, I think it would be smart for President Trump to do this. This way President Trump would have a recallable nuclear option ready to go. I pray he never has to use it!!!!