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The Risks of Nuclear Modernization

The Risks of Nuclear Modernization, by Starté Butone November 12, 2021

The US military establishment seems set to start a new Cold War with China, Russia, and every other country it can paint as an enemy. As with the first Cold War, it will not be complete without an arms race. This is exactly what is happening right now with various programs being implemented by the US government. Currently, the US has not produced any new nuclear warheads since 1991, and the assembly lines at the Pantex plant (where almost all US nuclear weapons are assembled) have laid dormant for decades. This may soon change, however. Congress and the President have already approved research for the new B-21 bomber and Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, a new ICBM to replace the Minuteman III, as well as building new tactical nuclear warheads, the W93 and W76-2, a small number of which have already been created.

In addition, more components of nuclear modernization are included in this year’s National “Defense” Authorization Act (NDAA). These include the Columbia class of ballistic missile submarines to replace the Ohio class and the Long-Range Standoff (LRSO) air-launch cruise missile (ALCM). The modernization plan also includes upgrading existing W87-0 warheads (yield of 300 Kilotons of TNT) to their W87-1 variant (yield 475 KT), among other things.

There are 6 designs of nuclear weapons currently deployed in the US nuclear arsenal. These include the W76 (SLBM warhead, mostly 76-1 variant, yield 90 KT), W78 (ICBM warhead, yield 475 KT), W80 (ALCM warhead, yield 5-150 KT), B83 (Strategic bomber weapon, yield 1.2 MT), W87 (ICBM warhead, yield 300 KT), and W88 (SLBM warhead, yield 475 KT). W93 (in development, unknown yield and type) and most W76-2 (SLBM warhead, yield 5-7 KT) have not yet been deployed to delivery devices. The W76-2 is also created by re-purposing other W76s, thus not requiring new warheads to be manufactured. W76s make up the majority of the 1750 deployed nuclear weapons currently in the US arsenal. Up to 12 of them (limited to 8 by treaty) can be placed on Trident II Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), of which there are 240 assigned to carry nuclear warheads………………………

  the human costs of such weapons being produced make any financial costs infinitesimal by comparison. ICBMs are a particularly high risk, as they are not equipped with self-destruct systems (unlike virtually every other weapons system in the US military), due to them increasing rocket weight, thus decreasing payloads. This causes an accidental launch of these weapons to be irreversible. However, nuclear planners in the early Cold War period saw hundreds of millions of unintentional deaths as an acceptable risk for increasing missile payloads. This has not changed in the last 65 years, as educational and media coverage have desensitized the public to such existential threats.

November 13, 2021 - Posted by | USA, weapons and war

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