Offutt Air Force Base
© Reuters / U.S. Air Force/ Delanie Stafford
Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska
The U.S. Strategic Command, in charge of waging nuclear war, has a new command and control facility in Omaha that will bear the name of a famous warfighting Air Force general.

The top-secret Nuclear Command and Control Facility at Offutt Air Force Base will be named after the late Gen. Curtis LeMay and is one of the most secure buildings in the world, hardened against electromagnetic pulse attacks and wired with high-technology fiber optic communications lines.

The 900,000 square-foot facility is in the final stages of construction and will replace an aging 1950s-era command center 250 yards down the road.

"The building is designed not just as an office building but as a weapons system," said Mike Kolster, chief of military construction for Strategic Command. "Without command and control, the other weapons systems are useless. They have to have direction from somewhere."

Kolster said in an interview in Omaha that the Air Force has agreed to allow the transfer of name of the old building, Gen. Curtis E. LeMay Headquarters Building, to the new facility, located about 250 yards away.

LeMay's name will be added during a ribbon-cutting ceremony sometime in October.

LeMay, who died in 1990, was a cigar-smoking advocate for air power who led the U.S. bombing campaign against Japan in World War II. Later he was chief of staff of the Air Force and commander of the Strategic Air Command, in charge of nuclear bombers and missiles.

The four-star general had four nicknames during his career: Bombs Away LeMay, Old Iron Pants, The Demon, and The Big Cigar.

In the 1968 presidential election campaign, he ran for vice president on an independent ticket with pro-segregation Democrat Gov. George Wallace.

The blunt-spoken LeMay once said: "I'll tell you what war is about. You've got to kill people, and when you've killed enough they stop fighting."

Comment: LeMay was quite the charmer. Some more quotes from him:
"There are no innocent civilians. It is their government and you are fighting a people ... so it doesn't bother me so much to be killing the so-called innocent bystanders"
Asked about the morality of the Pacific bombing campaign LeMay once admitted that he "would have been tried as a war criminal" had the United States lost the war, but insisted that "killing Japanese didn't bother me much at the time."

The new building project began in 2008 and construction began in 2012 and was completed in October.

The facility cost $617 million to build and another $650 million to outfit with advanced information technology and communications systems.

Unlike the old building, the new facility is designed with both security and functionality in mind.

Kolster said the building contains thousands of miles of fiber optic cables and utilizes new, classified computer and communications gear.

Like the old headquarters, the new facility has a deep underground operations center, where nuclear war would be waged.

"This building is the heart of deterrence," Kolster said, noting that it is designed to permit the use of data from the operations center anywhere in the building.

Current U.S. nuclear forces include 14 ballistic missile submarines; 400 Minuteman III ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles; and 46 nuclear-capable B-52 and 20 nuclear-capable B-2 stealth strategic bombers.

Those weapons must be in constant communication with Strategic Command Commander Gen. John Hyten, the military leader who would implement various nuclear war plans when directed by the president.

The command has been revitalized under the Trump administration, which for the first time in years acknowledged the growing nuclear threats from both China and Russia, and the need to upgrade American strategic forces.

All current strategic weapons and delivery systems are very old and nearing the end of their lives. They will be replaced over the next 20 years with new Columbia-class missile submarines, new B-21 Raider bombers, and a new land-based missile currently called the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates government will spend $494 billion between 2019 and 2028 on modernizing the nuclear force.