US Congress Set to Fund New Low-Yield Nuclear Warhead

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Written by Arkady Savitsky; Originally appeared on strategic-culture.org

There had been a long fight with fiery speeches, long-winded discussions presenting opposing views, publications and statements in support of “resolute steps” on the one hand as well as the calls for carefully weighing pros and cons on the other. Finally, the concept of “racing headlong into the unknown” has prevailed. On May 23, the US House of Representatives turned down a measure that would limit the fiscal 2019 funding for the new 6.5 kt W76-2 low-yield (LY) or “flexible” nuclear warhead. The ordnance is to be installed on Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), which normally carry 100 kt W76 warheads. The nuclear weapon (NW) is to be developed in accordance with the provisions of Nuclear Posture Review (NPR).

US Congress Set to Fund New Low-Yield Nuclear Warhead

Before the vote, 32 former top security officials opposed the idea of low-yield nuclear warhead in a letter sent to the members of Congress. The appeal failed to influence the outcome of the vote in the House. With the funding approved, the W76-2 could be in service during the current presidential term.

The proponents, including General John Hyten, the head of US Strategic Command, believe that incorporating a “more usable” submarine-launched warhead into the defense posture would deter Russia from using LY nukes, decreasing the likelihood of the nuclear war. The tit-for-tat philosophy boils down to the idea that if a battlefield NW is used in Europe, the US won’t have to stay idle or respond with a powerful strategic strike. The W76-2 will provide the opportunity to calibrate responses on the escalation ladder with low-yield nukes, preventing an all-out nuclear conflict. This way the deterrence gap will be plugged. It’s all premised on the notion that NW could be used in a limited way in Europe with the continental USA not threatened. Basing at sea allows avoiding diplomatic problems related to deploying American nukes on other states’ territories. But a launch will reveal the position of the submarine to make it vulnerable to attack.

The new flexible warhead dangerously lowers the nuclear threshold. Any commander-in-chief would feel less restrained from using LY ordnance in a crisis. The temptation might be too strong to resist. Actually, the very idea that a limited nuclear war is possible appears to be erroneous as there is no way to draw the line and prevent escalation.

If Russia sees a US strategic nuclear missile flying into its direction, it will have no choice left but launch an on warning response. It has no reason to assume the best-case scenario. There is no way to know if it’s low-yield weapons or eight powerful thermonuclear warheads launched as part of a wider foray.

Evidently, the very idea of mixing low-yield and powerful strategic weapons on the same missile atop the same platform is very damaging and provocative. Instead of de-escalation, the low yield concept will trigger a nuclear exchange.

Russia (the Soviet Union) and the US have concluded 9 major arms control agreements during the recent 50 years. The W76-2 is destabilizing enough to make all the arms control long standing efforts go down the drain.

Now, a few words about the need to fill the deterrence gap. The US is going through an upgrade of its nuclear arsenal. The 2019 draft defense budget allocates funds for all the nuclear weapons programs, including the development of new nuclear-tipped long-range cruise missile to strike land targets. When in service, it’ll become an addition to strategic forces. The US has aircraft-based cruise missiles and gravity bombs. The military is upgrading B61 air-to-ground munitions to the B61-12 version, which is a guided weapon. 180 of them will be deployed by 2021 to carry out the same missions as long range strike systems. This is an essentially new system to strike with high accuracy (under 100 feet) at great distances.

But no, that’s not enough. The proponents say the B61-12-capable aircraft are not fast and stealth enough and their range is limited. The list of “shortcomings” can go on, leading to the conclusion that more and more nuclear weapons are needed. Nothing is ever redundant. The concept of limited nuclear war is back again, the constrains on the use of nukes are loosened and the circumstances in which nukes could be used are broadened. This is a very dangerous turn of events, being watched by Moscow very attentively.

The bill is going to Senate this month. This is the last hurdle. Over 20 NGOs have sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, which contains arguments against the new weapon. Hopefully, the issue would be given serious consideration and “cool heads” will carry the day. It’s not too late to stop the dangerous sliding down to an unfettered nuclear arms race.

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  • Sinbad2

    It will cost $50 billion, take 20 years, and won’t work, it’s the American way.

    • Smaug

      I would ask you how you know this but everyone knows you don’t, our fellow American.

    • Wise Gandalf

      They will work. American way saved your country before japans.

  • Smaug

    This new Russia/NATO conflict is officially a small cold war.
    BTW, the argument against these deliberately underpowered nukes is that it might be to tempting to use them as opposed to say an H-bomb. The argument for them is that they add to deterance since they aren’t the as messy and can realistically be used on a battlefield.

    • John Whitehot

      all nuclear weapons are H-bombs.

      • Smaug

        Do you ever think before you speak?

        • John Whitehot

          yes.

          it’s not me that seems to be thinking that there are a-bombs (or who knows) in todays nuclear arsenals

          • Smaug

            You’re a grown person, I shouldn’t have to explain nukes to you.

  • potcracker2588

    just proves me right all along….and they will get there….a one world government under jewish satanic leadership…..sick satanic fucks..period

  • Barba_Papa

    The US has always been obsessed with the idea of limited nuclear war, at least as far back as the 1980’s, because I remember it also being used back then. They had this magical idea that if WWIII broke out in Europe it could be waged conventionally, or at least with only a limited nuclear exchange. And the idea of gradual escalation seems to have been around since the Vietnam war, as Johnson and McNamara were obsessed with that approach in waging that war.

    If memory serves me right though post Cold War opening of former Soviet archives unearthed Soviet warplans where they would basically saturate NATO bases with both nuclear and chemical weapons from the start. Why fight a war with one arm tied behind your back? In a way very similar to how modern day Russia has stated that it will resort to use of nuclear weapons in case of anyone invading Russian soil.

    I reckon the American obsession with gradual escalation/limited nuclear war makes sense though. If logically your massive conventional army stands to get nuked into oblivion from the start, why invest in one? So in order to justify all that expenditure you have to come up with something that would explain away nuclear annihilation so Congress keeps on voting for the big pay checks.

    • Wise Gandalf

      These weapons are not against Russia. But Good for low level nuclear countries like Chuna, Pakistan, India. Such Little warheads are useful to destroy bunkers, maybe tank divisions, dams.

      • chris chuba

        I was thinking along the same lines but I believe the real target are as a first strike weapon against countries like Iran and N. Korea to take out, in some cases, mythical nuclear weapons facilities.

        • Wise Gandalf

          Exactly! And such hidouts as was the cave system for Bin Ladin in Afghanistan.

  • Jesus

    Russia needs to bring into production the naval version of the S500, to have the ability to intercept these Trident missiles with low kiloton warheads and render this concept useless. US is scrapping the bottom of the barrel to make up for its deficiencies in its armed forces and weapon arsenal, in view of latest Russian weapon developments.
    This is designated to limit destruction to Europe and leave US unscathed in case of a neocon psychopath conceived adventure that will end up badly.

    • John Whitehot

      “This is designated to limit destruction to Europe and leave US unscathed in case of a neocon psychopath conceived adventure that will end up badly”

      yeah, but the concept itself of the US not getting nuked after they use nukes of any yield it’s drawn by another psychopath.

      • Jesus

        Such neocon psychopaths think that Russia will not have the resolve for escalating the nuclear exchange.

  • John Whitehot

    “the W76-2 will provide the opportunity to calibrate responses on the escalation ladder with low-yield nukes, preventing an all-out nuclear conflict”

    every single day the americans amaze me with their naivety, or bad faith.

    more granularity over the yield of tactical nuclear weapons? adding one level of escalation? It would make sense only if the potential adversary already had “low yield” nukes in its arsenal. And even in that case, the relevancy of this argument is close to zero.

    idk who in the world will ever believe that if the US deploys a “low yield” nuclear weapon the answer to it would not be nuclear.

  • TiredOfBsToo

    And meanwhile, while the Congress always seems to find unlimited monies for pursuit of it’s suicidal mission towards an all out species ending nuclear war on the planet, it can’t seem to find any monies to fund it’s infrastructure or it’s people, instead, opting to take money and food off of the tables from those who can least afford it for the benefit of it’s military industrial complex. How low can the US plunge? Well with allies and collusion with the likes of Saudi Arabia and Israel, there apparently isn’t a low low-enough to which it will not stoop!!!