The US Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) has started converting a portion of the B-52H bomber fleet from nuclear to conventional only capability aircraft.
Being conducted under the new strategic arms reduction treaty (New START), AFGSC has already completed the conversion of the first of 30 operational aircraft from across the command at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.
The process is aimed at preserving the full conventional capabilities of the B-52.
307th Bomb Wing commander colonel Bruce Cox said: "We were honoured to accept the challenge of modifying the first of 30 B-52Hs, in compliance with this historic treaty.
"Leveraging the unrivalled experience of the 307th Bomb Wing citizen Airmen maintainers, we quickly bridged the gap between engineering design and operational execution."
As part of this development, the US Air Force (USAF) will also convert 12 non-operational B-52H aircraft, which are currently maintained in storage at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group in Tucson, Arizona.
The conversion process is expected to be completed by early 2017.
New START requires the US and Russian Federation not to have more than 1,550 deployed warheads.
It includes 800 deployed and non-deployed intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers and nuclear capable heavy bombers, and 700 deployed ICBMs, SLBMs and nuclear capable heavy bombers.
Powered by eight Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-3 turbofan engines, the B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range, subsonic, strategic bomber designed to carry and fire both nuclear and conventional munitions for deterrence missions.
The aircraft entered service with the USAF in 1955, and is also operated by the US Navy for anti-surface and submarine warfare operations.
Meanwhile, AFGSC also commenced the transition of 50 Minuteman III launch facilities across the command to an operational non-deployed status this May.
Image: A B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the Air Force Reserve Command’s 307th Bomb Wing. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo / Master Sgt. Dachelle Melville.