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Nebraska becomes an even more definite nuclear target, with a new generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)

New generation of ICBMs means Nebraska will continue to be ‘nuclear sponge,’ warn nuke skeptics, Omaha World Herald, Steve Liewer-25 Sept 20,  

In the unhappy event that the world’s nuclear powers cut loose with their atomic weapons, Nebraska would become an especially hellish place.

That’s because the Cornhusker State is one of a handful in the West and Midwest whose role in Armageddon is to soak up an unfathomable first strike of Russian bombs.

Under the weird logic of mutually assured destruction, the 450 Minuteman III missile silos containing 400 nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles in Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and western Nebraska are meant to be sitting ducks for any first strike by Russia, or any other potential adversary.

“The specific mission of the ICBMs is to be a nuclear sponge,” said Tom Z. Collina, director of policy for the Ploughshares Fund, a group dedicated to eliminating nuclear weapons. “They’re sitting in their silos. Their only purpose is to be a target.”

Today, the nation is once again at a nuclear crossroads. Tensions between the U.S. and Russia, its biggest nuclear adversary, have simmered to a boil since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine (a U.S. ally) and used proxies to occupy the eastern part of its territory.
Russia has begun modernizing its nuclear arsenal, and China is building one, leaving the U.S. in a rush to catch up because almost every plane, submarine, missile and bomb is 30 to 50 years old.

In addition, the New START arms control agreement, signed by the U.S. and Russia in 2010, expires in February. Negotiations to extend the agreement started late and have not gone far, leading to fears of a renewed nuclear arms race.

“The world has never been as dangerous,” said former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who also represented Nebraska as a U.S. senator.

The modernization of the nuclear arsenal includes construction of the new Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines (replacing the Ohio-class boats), B-21 strategic bombers (replacing the B-1, B-2 and some B-52s), and the new “ground-based strategic deterrent (GBSD),” an ICBM to replace the Minuteman III.

Cost estimates exceed $300 billion. In Congress, the modernization has wide support in both political parties. Just this month, the Pentagon awarded defense contractor Northrop Grumman $13.3 billion to start work on the GBSD, a down payment on a $100 billion project.

Nebraska has an outsize stake in America’s nuclear enterprise. U.S. Strategic Command, which commands the arsenal, is at Offutt Air Force Base, on the east side of the state, and 82 Minuteman III silos are in the state’s far western counties.

The silos are underground and heavily reinforced — sturdy, but not invulnerable to a nuclear strike. They’re spaced far enough apart that it would take an enormous number of bombs to wipe them out.

“I’ve always wondered why the Midwest states don’t raise more of a ruckus,” Collina said. “You’re the states that have a target on your back.”

He and others have raised the possibility of scrapping the ICBM leg of the nuclear triad and doing away with the “nuclear sponge.”

Of course, the basic idea of nuclear deterrence is that the missiles’ presence means that they will never be used.

“ICBMs would only be used in world-ending situations,” said Matt Korda, a researcher with the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project. “If they don’t have any purpose in post-Cold War nuclear strategy, then what is the cost of keeping them?”…………………

Collina and others say the ICBMs have outlived their usefulness. The nuclear sponge, they say, is too dangerous and expensive to maintain. The air- and sea-based legs of the triad offer more than enough firepower to destroy any enemy that would dare to attack the U.S.

“If you remove all the ICBMs, we would be safer than we are today,” Collina said.

He and Korda fear an accidental nuclear war because of the speed with which a president must launch the missiles if sensors detect an incoming strike.  

“The president would have only a couple of minutes to decide before they are destroyed,” Korda said. “The risk of miscalculation is very high.”

“The point of deterrence is if you attack us, we will devastate your country,” Collina said. “That invites the nightmare: that we might start a nuclear war by mistake.”

There were several close calls during the Cold War. But Yeaw said StratCom’s network of sensors — in the air, on land, at sea, even in outer space — is so vast and so much better now that an incoming attack would be unmistakable…………..

September 28, 2020 - Posted by | USA, weapons and war

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