Cotton was nominated to lead the Air Force nuclear operation at a crucial time


President Joe Biden has named Lt. Gen. Anthony Cotton as the next in command of Air Force Global Strike Command, the Air Force Times has learned.

If the Senate approves, the career rocket and space officer would be promoted to four-star general, according to Global Strike. He also became the first black to lead the organization responsible for the service’s nuclear operations and the only black currently to lead a major command of the Air Force.

Cotton has been number 2 in Global Strike, headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, as of October 2019. He joined the Reserve Officers Training Corps in 1986 and recently served as Head of Air University, Commander of the 20th Air Force ICBM, Assistant Director of the National Reconnaissance Office, and Chief of the Former 45th Air Force Station, Florida.

He is next in line to replace General Timothy Ray, a bomber pilot who took the top spot in August 2018. The four-star star will retire this summer after four decades in uniform.

“His retirement ceremony will be on July 1st, but depending on how long the verification process for Lt.

Senators first noticed Ray’s imminent retirement at a hearing of the Senate’s Strategic Armed Forces subcommittee in May.

“I tried [retiring] after 40 years of coaching and about a year, my wife said, ‘You either get a job or we are getting a divorce,’ ”Senator Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, Ray said at a hearing in May. “So prepare for it.”

Cotton is about to acquire amid significant changes in the Air Force’s aging nuclear inventory. The service is buying its first new land-based and airborne nuclear missiles in decades, refurbishing the B61 bomb, retiring the B-1B Lancer bomber fleet while planning to do the same for the B-2 Spirit bombers, and preparing for it who have favourited B-52 Stratofortress bombers have been flying for 100 years, trying to overhaul the systems that allow top American officials to command these weapons and aircraft, among other things.

The USAF is also beginning construction of a new, multi-billion dollar stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider, due to fly for the first time next year. A new missile security helicopter, the MH-139 Gray Wolf, will also replace the Vietnam War-era Hueys.

The Air Force Global Strike Command includes more than 33,700 personnel in 11 active wings in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserves around the world.

Cotton would also be in command at a time of introspection about racial justice in America and the military. Talking about his experience as an officer in the Black Air Force last summer, he noted the importance of finding new ways to reach out to Airmen from different backgrounds to ensure they are properly involved and looked after.

“I’m cautiously optimistic we’ll come after that … not necessarily just from a Department of the Air Force perspective,” he said. “The time has come for our nation to really dive into this and prosecute it once and for all.”

Rachel Cohen joined the Air Force Times as a senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has been published in Air Force Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), The Washington Post, and others.

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