In a bit to counter the threats posed by Russia’s tactical nukes, the U.S. military has launched a new nuclear weapon—W76-2 low-yield submarine-launched missile warhead.

While the nuclear weapon is pegged as a new addition to the U.S. military, it is essentially a refurbished version of the pre-existing W-76 warhead with modifications. The instrument was launched to support Trident II (D-5) missiles and now has updated in the form of nuclear launch codes in the so-called football for President.

The first new U.S. nuclear weapon was produced in February last 2019, after decades. Elucidating the same, the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review said: “Expanding flexible U.S. nuclear options now, to include low-yield options, is important for the preservation of credible deterrence against regional aggression. It will raise the nuclear threshold and help ensure that potential adversaries perceive no possible advantage in limited nuclear escalation, making nuclear employment less likely.”

Reportedly, the review plan made way for modifying existing U.S. warheads on submarine-launched ballistic missiles as part of a $50 million five-year program.

In keeping with how each submarine would only carry a few of these new missiles, a NATO official stated, “The United States regularly consults with allies on its nuclear weapons systems, and has provided updates on its development of low-yield tridents since the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review,” while adding that the low-yield weapon requirement mentioned in the review largely stood to address the notion among potential adversaries like Russia which believes that the employment of low-yield nuclear weapons will give them an undue advantage over U.S., and its allies.

Therefore, the officials maintained that the new weapon was an answer to the potential adversaries—and that the U.S. was sufficiently armed to respond to any threat scenario. Yet, criticisms were directed at the decision. Democratic House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith of Washington termed the decision “misguided and dangerous.”

“The deployment of this warhead does nothing to make Americans safer,” said Adam Smith. “Instead, this destabilizing deployment further increases the potential for miscalculation during a crisis,” he added.

It has been alleged that Russia maintains an impressive stockpile of “tactical” nuclear weapons, that pale in comparison to those possessed by the U.S.

The U.S. currently possesses a series of tactical nuclear B61 "gravity" bombs, but these weapons are seen as much more vulnerable than a submarine-launched weapon. Yet officials reiterate that what’d make a real difference is the ability of a weapon to penetrate targets deep in adversary territory. And that continues to be a challenge as the current aircraft deliverable low yield nuclear weapons are unable to reach.

Speaking to a media outlet on Tuesday, Gen. John Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, maintained that submarines also offer a more rapid response option than aircraft.

“More than defendability, it's timeliness because with a submarine you can respond immediately, with a bomber you have to load the weapon and then you have to fly all the way to wherever the target is,” he said.

assault weapons
Military-style assault rifles are displayed by firearms manufacturer Smith & Wesson at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Chicago, Illinois, October 26, 2015. The Supreme Court recently declined to consider a challenge to a Chicago suburb’s ban on assault weapons REUTERS/Jim Young

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.