The Forces

    The Triad continues to be the foundation of America's national strategy of deterrence. The Triad consists of ballistic missile submarines, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and long-range bombers. Each component, or leg, of the Triad provides a different capability and strength, presenting any enemy with three unique threats to oppose.

    Ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) are the most survivable leg of the Triad. This is because of the submarine's ability to disappear in the ocean's depths and its great mobility. The submarine's Trident missiles provide launch capability from around the globe. SSBNs are constantly on patrol, with each patrol area totaling more than one million square miles. Currently there are 18 SSBNs based between Kings Bay, Ga., and Bangor, Wash., each capable of carrying 24 Trident missiles. These units are organized into Task Forces, each with a unique area of responsibility.

    Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) are a cost-effective, continuous alert capable force. ICBMs can provide immediate reaction and place warheads on their intended target within 30 minutes of notification. Currently the ICBM force consists of more than 500 Minuteman III and 50 Peacekeeper missiles. Minuteman III missile bases are located at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, WY;  Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.; and, Minot Air Force Base, ND., with the 50 Peacekeeper missiles based at F.E. Warren Air Force Base.

    The bomber fleet is a visible, flexible and recallable strategic asset. B-52s, the backbone of America's strategic bomber force for more than 30 years, are based at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and Minot Air Force Base, N.D. New to the bomber force is the B-2. This stealthy bomber reached its initial operational capability on April 1, 1997 and significantly enhances our deterrent forces. It took over the role of the B-1B which converted to a conventional bomber. The B-2s are assigned to Whiteman AFB, MO.

To ensure constant communication to forces in times of national emergencies, USStratCom uses various command and control assets. These aircraft can communicate with any leg of the Triad at anytime. Command and control aircraft include the Navy E-6B based at Tinker Air Force Base, OK, as well as the National Airborne Operations Center (E-4B) stationed at Offutt Air Force Base. The upgraded E-6B TACAMO assumed the Looking Glass mission from the venerable Air Force EC-135, which retired from service. In addition to these aircraft, the command has a self-sufficient, ground mobile headquarters that can set up operations anywhere and take over command and control responsibilities. STRATCOM also maintains a complete underground command center as its primary command and control node. This center is part of the National Military Command Center system with the primary NMCC located at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.