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America may be overspending on unnecessary nuclear weapons – the nuclear triad now obsolete?

Does America Still Need the Nuclear Triad? The U.S. can deliver nuclear weapons from air, land, and sea. That could change. Jan 24, 2019   Popular Mechanics, By Kyle Mizokami

“……..Because the U.S. can launch nukes from the air, land, or sea, it would be practically impossible for another country to knock out America’s offensive capabilities and prevent the counterstrike.

The U.S. is currently working on replacing all three legs of the triad: bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and submarine-launched missiles. It’s an overhaul that will cost hundreds of billions of dollars, and no doubt overshoot the Pentagon’s price estimates when all is said and done. But before we spend all that money, one must look around and ask the question: Is this still the best way? In the 21st century, does America really need three ways to launch nukes?………

During the Cold War, each arm of the triad justified its existence by doing something better than the other two. Strategic heavy bombers such as today’s B-2 Spirit and the longstanding B-52H Stratofortress could carry many nuclear bombs and strike multiple geographically distinct targets ……..

Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) loft nuclear warheads into space on ballistic trajectories. They are buried by the hundreds in underground concrete silos scattered across America……

The third arm of the triad was nuclear-powered submarines carrying their own nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles……

But as the second decade of the 21st century draws to a close, the nuclear triad is showing its age. The B-2 Spirit bomber was introduced in the 1990s, while the B-52H has been flying since the early 1960s and may keep working for decades to come. The Minuteman III ICBM was first deployed in the early 1970s. The U.S. Navy’s Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines date to the 1980s and 1990s.

After decades of pushing back plans to replace all three arms, the U.S. is now faced with a situation where it needs to replace all three at once. The new B-21 Raider bomber, which will replace the B-2 bomber, will cost an estimated $97 billion dollars. The new ICBM, Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), will cost around $100 billion. Finally, new ballistic missile submarines will cost $128 billion.

That adds up to a serious bill. The cost is about the equivalent of running the entire U.S. Armed Forces for five months. And the price tag could rise substantially if any of the programs run into expensive technical problems. If history is any guide, then at least one of them will.

Could the U.S. thrive in 21st century without a nuclear triad? To see a possible way forward, just look at the emerging colossus of China. The world’s most populous nation is building more aircraft carriers, more amphibious ships, and more modern combat aircraft than ever before. What China is not doing is significantly expanding its nuclear arsenal.

China has approximately 280 nuclear weapons, a number we can deduce from the amount of fissile material it has produced. That total represents about one sixth the number of deployed U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons. China’s nukes are spread between land-based ballistic missiles and submarine-launched missiles. It has no air-delivered nuclear weapons for its modest bomber force. In other words, China has a diad.

China is a “no first use” country, meaning it has vowed to never use nuclear weapons first. It also bother with advanced nuclear technologies such as anti-ballistic missile systems or placing multiple warheads on a single missile. Why not? China’s entire nuclear philosophy boils down to this: The country may very well be destroyed by a surprise nuclear attack, but enough Chinese nuclear weapons will survive to make the attack simply not worth it.

Essentially, China’s nuclear doctrine is assured destruction, but stripped of unnecessary complexities. China doesn’t lose any sleep over Russia or America’s overwhelming advantage in nuclear arms. As long as China can hit back and nuke at least a handful of American (or Russian) cities, the balance of terror remains.

Does China’s nuclear posture work? Even a strike against tiny North Korea runs the risk of a nuclear counterstrike by China, and the loss of just one American city would be a catastrophe.

……. it’s hard to ignore the stripped-down logic of the Chinese model, which says the only credibility necessary is the ability to strike back after an attack—the rest is just overthinking the issue.

If that’s truly the case, then what use is a triad? Could the U.S. get rid of one or two arms of the triad, spending that money elsewhere in the defense budget to enhance conventional capabilities?

………Could the U.S. cut ICBMs and rely on a force of submarines and bombers, or submarines alone? These are important questions the American people need to ask before spending $300 billion replicating the weapons of the Cold War. Perhaps the U.S. should stick with the nuclear triad—but at the very least, America needs a national conversation about what nuclear security means and how to achieve it. https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/a25983826/us-nuclear-triad/

 

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January 24, 2019 - Posted by | USA, weapons and war

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