Strategic Air Command

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Between 1946 and 1992, the Strategic Air Command of the United States Air Force had the primary responsibility for using nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union, China, and other Cold War targets. While its first commander was GEN George Kenney, the modern command was built from WWII forces by GEN Curtis LeMay, changing the mission from mass raids to nuclear attack. Until 1959, it also developed the target lists and attack plans, until President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent his Science Advisor, George Kistiakowsky, to SAC Headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska.

At first, the SAC generals refused to share nuclear plans with Kistiakowsky, who went back to Washington, and returned with Presidential orders essentially giving the SAC staff the choice of making all information available to Kistiakowsky, his representative, or to retire. The information was provided, and, in the final months of the Eisenhower Administration, Presidential policy started to guide nuclear war planning.

The Air Force monopoly on strategic weapons delivery ended with the Navy's first test of a Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile in 1960. The need for coordinating Air Force and Navy programs, as well as the imposition of White House policy, led to the first Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP-62) issued in 1962. From then on, strategic planning was by a joint staff.

In 1992, a major Air Force reorganization put the bombers under the new Air Combat Command, and SAC was abolished. A new United States Strategic Command was formed, to which the bombers and missiles would be detailed for nuclear war.