Here is the plan for keeping 76 B-52H's combat ready. I cut and pasted this from Air Force Times.
In order to stand up a fifth B-52H squadron this year, Air Combat Command is reorganizing the Stratofortress community — trading missions among existing B-52H units, reducing the number of B-52Hs in each squadron and getting all 76 authorized bombers combat-ready, ACC
The Air Force decided to create a new B-52H squadron after Defense Secretary Robert Gates directed the service to put more emphasis on its nuclear strike role, following the embarrassing discovery that a B-52H had carried six nuclear-armed cruise missiles across the U.S. without anyone realizing the missiles were loaded with real warheads.
Air Force leaders decided the only way to boost B-52H nuclear training while meeting ongoing deployment demands was to increase the size of the B-52H force, said Lt. Col. Grey Morgan, acting B-52 weapons team chief at ACC
The squadron, which will be stood up later this year at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., likely will start with three or four planes and achieve initial operational capability in late 2009. Many of the start-up details are being worked out, added Morgan, who flies as a B-52H radar navigator.
Air Combat Command is overseeing the transition even though the Air Force plans for B-52H and B-2 Spirit bombers to eventually come under the new Global Strike Command once it is up and running sometime this year.
To staff the squadron, the Air Force already is steering airmen to the existing B-52H squadron at Minot with the goal of later transferring airmen to the new unit.
The four existing squadrons — the 23rd Bomb Squadron at Minot and three squadrons at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. — will feel side effects of the reorganization.
The Air Force Reserve’s 93rd Bomb Squadron becomes a training unit, said Col. Edmund Walker, commander of the squadron’s parent wing. The active-duty training unit, the 11th Bomb Squadron, continues its training mission as an associate unit with the 93rd.
Some Reserve aircrew members are already are flying training sorties, Walker added.
As part of the reorganization, Barksdale’s 11th Bomb Squadron will convert from a training squadron to an operational squadron. The schoolhouse role moves down the Barksdale flight line to the Air Force Reserve.
While the Reserve training unit will own its jets, the instructors will be a mix of reserve and active-duty airmen and reservists, Grey said. Some Reserve aircrew members are already are earning qualifications to fly as formal training unit instructors.
Trimming squadron size
The operational squadrons are shrinking to allow the Air Force to add the squadron while staying within the limit of 76 combat-ready bombers, said Tim Finch, a retired chief master sergeant who is helping ACC
oversee the management of the B-52H fleet. Today, each operational squadron has 12 primary jets, two backup aircraft and about 17 five-member aircrews. The reorganization cuts primary planes to 11 and aircrews to about 15.
The training squadron is set to have 16 primary aircraft, twice its current number, Walker said.
Getting the entire fleet combat-ready will be a challenge.
For several years, the Air Force and Congress disagreed over how many B-52H aircraft the service needed. The Air Force asked for the dollars to man crew and maintain 44 to 56 aircraft; while Congress wanted up to all 96 bombers kept flyable.
The Air Force and Congress reached a compromise in early 2008, when Congress set the number of aircraft at 76 and allowed the Air Force to retire the remaining bombers.
To reach 76 planes, the Air Force must inspect and upgrade 20 planes to give them the same capabilities as the jets already flying combat missions, Finch said.
The 20 jets have been kept in flying condition but have not gone through the same inspection and upgrade regimen as the bombers flown daily, Finch said. Those 20 jets had to get in line with operational bombers already due for depot visits and upgrades, he said. Maintenance rules call for each B-52 to go through depot inspections every four years.
While the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center has increased the number of B-52Hs it can handle annually from 11 to 18, there is still a backlog, Finch said.
As the bombers leave the depot, some will be sent to Minot to equip the new squadron.