The US Department of Defense concluded that it needs to develop a new sea-launched nuclear cruise missile (SLCM).
According to the statement it is necessary to deter Russia.
This was also underlined by a paper released by the US Department of State on July 23rd. [pdf]
The paper concludes that it wasn’t right for the Obama administration to abandon development of a SLCM.
“Accordingly, as noted in the National Defense Strategy, U.S. prioritization has also had to evolve with the times. Whereas the Obama Administration had, as noted, downplayed great-power strategic threats in order to focus upon nuclear terrorism and nonproliferation –and had, inter alia, eliminated TLAM-N on this basis–developments in the PRC and Russia have driven the Trump Administration once again to the conclusion that “inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.” As the attached DOD paper makes clear, our renewed pursuit of a nuclear-armed SLCM grows out of the duty that every U.S. Administration has, as a steward of the safety and security of the American people, to preserve deterrence in light of prevailing threats. As the security environment has deteriorated, the United States must approach its nuclear posture differently than it did when it believed the world was becoming a steadily safer place.”
The United States retired its last nuclear sea-launched cruise missile in 2010 — one of only two remaining U.S. theater or tactical (“non-strategic”) nuclear weapons.
Russia, however, hasn’t. It continued its “comprehensive program” to modernize and expand its low-yield theater and tactical nuclear weapons.
The need to develop a new nuclear-capable SLCM is needed because of one disturbing fact: “Russian strategy actually contemplates the use of these nuclear capabilities in conflict.”
Russia, however, according to the State Department, is wrong in thinking that using a low-yield nuclear weapon could provide it with a “coercive advantage.”
“Russia may have pursued this strategy because the United States, unlike Russia, retired most of its non-strategic nuclear systems. Russia may believe it can use theater or tactical weapons, the paper says, because the United States could not effectively respond and might be reluctant to escalate further by responding with strategic nuclear weapons.”
As such the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review needs an update since it is simply outdated now.
“A nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile would address alarming developments in the forces and doctrine of nuclear competitors, the posture review says, adding that Russia and China both are investing significant sums to improve and expand their nuclear forces with no clear indication as to where that expansion will stop.”
According to the US, there are entirely credible concerns that Russia’s approach to a regional conflict (not global) could include using low-yield nuclear weapon first.
“This approach may be premised on Russia’s belief that its expanding anti-access/area denial networks will be able to neutralize the airborne nuclear deterrent forces of the United States and NATO,” the 2018 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review concluded. “In the future, it is possible that China could adopt a similar doctrine. Developing and fielding (sea-launched cruise missile-nuclear) signal the leaders of nuclear competitors in a concrete way that the United States has the capability and will to maintain operationally effective nuclear options to deter regional aggression.”
As such, developing a new nuclear-ready SLCM could help put any concerns to sleep.
Since if the US would have such a capability, any adversary (Russia) would “think twice” before employing their own.
Without requiring nuclear testing or violating any treaty, the SLCM “will lower the risks of nuclear conflict, bolster the confidence of allies and restore a degree of balance in non-strategic nuclear weapons that could create conditions more conducive to addressing this category of forces through arms control,” the posture review said.
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