Military Review

The present and future of the US nuclear forces

In early October, the US State Department published information on the quantitative aspects of the strategic nuclear forces of Russia and the United States. Such information is published in accordance with the START-3 treaty and is intended to inform the general public about the progress of the reduction of nuclear weapons and their carriers. A close examination of the American nuclear potential in the light of the available information can draw some conclusions. Data in open sources say that in terms of its quantity, US nuclear weapons are ahead of Russian ones. In this case, there may be some problems in quality terms. Therefore, Washington has special programs designed to eliminate existing problems.

Trident I, the first launch of 18 January 1977 at Cape Canaveral

According to the State Department, 809 carriers of nuclear weapons from 1015 available. In combat condition are 1688 warheads. For comparison, in Russia there are 473 carriers on duty from 894 available, which carry 1400 warheads. In accordance with the effective START-3 agreement, by 2018, both countries should reduce their nuclear forces to the following indicators: 800 carriers of nuclear weapons should be in service, 700 of which can be deployed at one time, and the total number of nuclear warheads ready for use cannot be must exceed 1550 units.

As can be seen from the available information, over the coming years, the United States will have to write off and dispose of a sufficiently large number of nuclear charges, airplanes and missiles. Moreover, such a reduction should hit hard on the means of delivery: before 2018, the United States will be forced to decommission about 20% of existing carriers of nuclear weapons. Reducing the number of nuclear weapons, in turn, will go on a smaller scale.

In recent years, information on the actual state of US nuclear forces has regularly appeared. Different sources provide information in a way that is beneficial for them, criticizing or praising the situation. However, in some cases, the observed state of the US nuclear triad, at least, raises questions. According to available information, over the past 15-20 years, the United States has not produced a single nuclear warhead, which may have an impact on the capabilities of missiles and bombers, since such products may lose their qualities during long-term storage. It should also be remembered that after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the US military and the designers did not pay enough attention to the development of new carriers of nuclear weapons. Moreover, the construction of the main US strategic bombers Boeing B-52 Stratofortress was completed half a century ago, and the newest Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit aircraft were built with a series of 21 units (one aircraft was lost during operation). Thus, it is possible to draw conclusions about the need to re-equip the US nuclear forces.

It should be noted that the American leadership understood this long ago and, in 2001, launched the project on the reorganization of nuclear forces. According to the plans of that time, the nuclear triad became part of the new structure, which also included conventional weapons suitable for strategic tasks, appropriate communications and control equipment, etc. The main goal of such transformations was to ensure maximum flexibility in the use of strategic offensive forces. In other words, nuclear weapons were included in the system, the task of which is not only strategic deterrence, but also the solution of certain tasks in conflict situations.

At the time of the transformation, the strategic nuclear forces of the United States had a sufficiently large number of warheads and their carriers. In accordance with the START-1 agreement in force at that time, the United States was armed with 1238 carriers and almost 6000 nuclear charges. The current START-3 agreement has a much more rigid framework. Thus, the allowable number of deployed warheads is about four times less than that allowed by the START-1 agreement. In this regard, over the past 12 years, the American command had to decide how and by what component of the nuclear triad to reduce.

Taking advantage of its right to independently resolve quantitative and qualitative questions of the state of nuclear forces, the United States has already determined what its nuclear shield will look like by 2018. According to reports, the main delivery vehicle will remain ballistic missiles located in silo launchers. By the indicated deadline, the United States intends to leave on duty 400 products of the LGM-30G Minuteman-III model. 12 Ohio strategic submarines will carry 240 UGM-133A Trident-II missiles. It is supposed to reduce their ammunition from 24 missiles to 20. Finally, as part of aviation parts of the nuclear triad will remain 44 B-52H bombers and 16 B-2. As a result, 700 carriers will be deployed simultaneously.

To achieve the allowed threshold for the total number of carriers, it is supposed to keep 20 mine launchers in working condition, but without missiles, and to close the remaining 30 mines. In addition, two Ohio and 36 submarines will remain in reserve. As a result, the total number of carriers of strategic nuclear weapons will be 795-800 units.

Available information suggests that the United States is already ready to fulfill its obligations under the START-3 agreement, at least in relation to the number of nuclear warheads and their carriers. Regarding the strategy of application, the United States military leadership is currently preparing relevant documents and proposals. In the near future, US targets will remain to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and terrorism with their use. In addition, by strengthening the deterrence system for potential adversaries, the United States intends to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in protecting the country. At the same time, it is required, reducing the number of delivery vehicles and warheads, to ensure the safe operation of existing systems.

Issues relating to the capabilities of equipment and weapons are supposed to be solved in several stages with the help of a number of new projects. So, at present, based on the existing nuclear bombs of the B61 family, a new B61-12 ammunition is being developed. The guided bomb will have adjustable power from 0,3 to 45 kt, due to the use of the existing warhead from the B61-4 bomb. Also in the new ammunition is supposed to apply some technical solutions from the project JDAM guided bomb. As a result, the United States will receive a new low-power nuclear weapon with high accuracy characteristics. The release of the B61-12 bombs will tentatively begin in 2019.

B61 family of nuclear bombs

In the future, the United States plans to extend the service life of combat units under the LEP program. At present, it is assumed that during the course of this project, six types of warheads will be upgraded, two for each component of the nuclear triad. No details on LEP are available. Probably one of the reasons for this is the fact that the main work on the project will be started only in the next decade.

US plans for promising nuclear weapons carriers are vague and not completely clear. At present, only a few of them can be talked about with confidence. For example, the existing B-52 and B-2 aircraft should be replaced by the NGB strategic bomber (Next-Generation Bomber - “Next-Generation Bomber”). It is expected that these aircraft will begin to arrive in parts of the US Air Force in the late twenties. The characteristics of a promising aircraft have not yet been named, as work continues to determine its appearance. This phase of the project should be completed in the coming years. From the previously published information, it follows that the NGB bomber will be similar in its characteristics to the B-2 currently used, but the developer is required to minimize the price of the finished machine.

Boeing B-52 Stratofortress and B-2

At about the same time as the NGB bomber, a new long-range LRSO cruise missile should be added to the American Army. This ammunition should replace the AGM-86В ALCM and AGM-129А ACM missiles. Since last December, several companies have been developing their versions of the preliminary project. In the near future, the Pentagon will review the submitted projects and select a company that will receive a contract to create a full-fledged LRSO rocket project.

In the future, the naval component of the nuclear triad should receive new submarines built by the Ohio Replacement Submarine program. Previously, this project was designated as SSBN (X). The full-scale development of this project will begin in a few years, but for now, naval and shipbuilding specialists are working on the look of a promising submarine with ballistic missiles. It is assumed that each of the new boats will have characteristics at the level of existing Ohio-type submarines, but their operation will become cheaper. Ammunition of new submarines is planned to be reduced to 16 missiles. Information about the development of new American ballistic missiles for submarines is not available, from which it can be concluded about the arming of promising technology. At a minimum, during the first years of service, Ohio Replacement submarines will carry and use Trident-II missiles.

Trident-II rocket launch

It is clear that the United States understands the consequences of the steps taken two decades ago and caused by the disappearance of the main enemy. On the whole, a satisfactory state of strategic nuclear forces remains to this day, but some of their features, primarily of a technical nature, do not allow making positive predictions even for the near future. Because of this, the United States needs to simultaneously address two issues. The first of these is associated with the re-equipment of the nuclear triad. To address this issue, new projects of airplanes, submarines and missiles of various purposes are being created, which in the future will have to replace existing equipment and weapons.

The second question facing the US command concerns the quantitative and, as a result, organizational features of the nuclear forces. Over the past 10-12 years, the United States has almost quadrupled the number of deployed nuclear weapons. Without any additional measures, such a reduction could adversely affect the capabilities of the American nuclear triad. In recent years, some steps have been taken to reorganize the strategic forces, which, allegedly, has helped to preserve their potential. In the future, based on the requirements of the SVN-3 agreement and possible new agreements of this kind, the United States will have to carry out regular reorganizations to meet the new requirements.

As we see, official Washington sees the existing problems and has a plan for solving them. It should be noted that some items of this plan will be carried out only in a few years, which is why, in general, everything looks like a comprehensive program designed for the near and distant future. How effective will be the planned program of action - time will tell.

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  1. rrrd
    rrrd 16 October 2013 09: 10 New
    As can be seen from the available information, over the coming years, the United States will have to write off and dispose of a sufficiently large number of nuclear charges, airplanes and missiles. Moreover, such a reduction should hit hard on the means of delivery: before 2018, the United States will be forced to decommission about 20% of existing carriers of nuclear weapons. Reducing the number of nuclear weapons, in turn, will go on a smaller scale.

    USA. do not go to the fortuneteller again. and ours will be destroyed.
    1. bistrov.
      bistrov. 16 October 2013 09: 43 New
      Quote: rrrd
      USA. do not go to the fortuneteller again. and ours will be destroyed.

      You read the article carefully: - both sides can have 800 carriers, of which 700 are deployed, 100 are in reserve. Only 100 media can be reserved. Pay attention to the number of deployed carriers in the USA and Russia, Russia has the right to expand about 230 carriers, while the United States is obliged to destroy about 2018 carriers by 200. Obviously, this is due to the structure of the strategic nuclear forces: -Russia has more silo launchers, but the United States has submarines (14) and strategic bombers (159).
      1. Varnaga
        Varnaga 16 October 2013 12: 29 New
        a few questions:
        The release of B61-12 bombs will tentatively begin in 2019.

        What capacities are planned to be produced? EMNP even the LEP program due to the lack of proper capacities is spread over time:
        Then, as I think it is clear to many, the time comes for the same actions for W88, W80-1.
        2. On the issue of capacities, what about the actual funeral (in connection with sequestration) of the CMRR-NF complex? Which and launch (according to Obama's decision in February 2013) was planned no earlier than 2026 (this, by the way, correlates well with the pictures above). Alternative solutions (and, in fact, a vague, virtually unreasonable plan, voiced in MacMillan's statements) of this problem, many experts are in great doubt.
        3. Actually, what personnel will be involved in this? After all, the task
        the task of attracting and retaining competent personnel in the field of military atom in the long term ~ for 15 years is one of the main vulnerabilities. The average age is ~ 48 years + the prospects for retirement in the next five-year period are approximately 1000 (from 7600) employees. And this, again, we do not affect forecasts for a reduction in employees as part of measures to implement the sequestration plan.
        4. What about Obama's proposals to reduce arsenals to 1000 deployed shells? Does this fit into the framework of the trends indicated above + against the backdrop of a deficit of uranium, which is actually coupled with the collapse of an already imperfect enrichment production?
        For me, it’s quite so.
        1. Ascetic
          Ascetic 16 October 2013 14: 16 New
          Quote: Varnaga
          EMNP even the LEP program due to the lack of proper capacities is spread over time:

          Current LEP plans include the following:
          W76-1 LEP
          Extend the life of a ballistic missile submarine (SLBM) of the W76 warhead for another 30 years by replacing various components.
          Full power no later than the end of the financial year (FG) 2021
          W88 Alt 370
          Replacing weapons, fuses, and incineration systems in the W88 SLBM warhead.
          the first unit of production no later than December 31, 2018
          B61-12 power line
          Consolidate multiple B61 modules and replace obsolete components.
          Complete the first production unit no later than at the end of 2019
          W78 / W88-1 LEP
          78mod. for the Air Force 88-mod.for the Navy
          Complete the first production unit no later than at the end of 2023
          Production capacity.
          Pantex factory - dismantling and assembling warheads and bombs
          National Security Complex Y-12 manufactures, assembles and disassembles some key components.
          The Kansas City plant produces key non-nuclear components. The laboratories of Los Alamos, Livermore and Sandia National Laboratories are also involved. Nevada, as always, experimental support. Savannah River - gaseous tritium.
          So they have capacities. There is a program, so about financing, it was decided to finance in stages and in an economical mode. (Clickable)
      2. Army1
        Army1 16 October 2013 17: 10 New
        No one will ever know how many charges they and we have. We, too, are not really loshki.
    2. Army1
      Army1 16 October 2013 17: 36 New
      Don't worry about the United States. You need to think about yourself and improve your armed forces. And that is, clever people who think that since we have a nuclear club, we can brandish it, defending our interests in Syria. These comments just infuriate me, not just here, but they express something like the following: "Let them be afraid we have nuclear weapons, but we have them." This is possible if we are attacked. But in order to defend our interests somewhere far away, we need a larger number of warships, combat aircraft and high-precision weapons, but this is if we want to be a GREAT POWER, if not, then no. Teeth must be shown in any case, but this is only limited to this, if we want results, then we must have the above in a larger volume, and aircraft carriers and other crap that have states and weapons against this crap. But unfortunately it comes down to economic opportunities.
  2. rrrd
    rrrd 16 October 2013 09: 50 New
    I read it carefully. it's sarcasm. BUT the United States will not "work" when at a loss. all the more to maintain balance. besides, plus they have a lot of high-precision non-nuclear toys, just like a children's world in a store. and about not yet clear. but I think they will do it in this direction.
  3. bistrov.
    bistrov. 16 October 2013 09: 56 New
    My opinion is being done wrong that the strategic arms limitation treaty does not take into account the strategic nuclear forces of France and Great Britain, which are connected with the United States and in case of conflict will participate with their strategic nuclear forces on the side of the United States.
  4. rrrd
    rrrd 16 October 2013 10: 00 New

    and it is correctly noticed. and God forbid that 230+) carriers still appear.
  5. cobalt
    cobalt 16 October 2013 10: 37 New
    The approach of the US leadership to the reduction of nuclear weapons is defined in the resolution of the US Senate "On advice and consent of the Senate to ratify the new START treaty." In particular, this concept defines the withdrawal of nuclear-armed Tomahawk cruise missiles (about 300 units) from the Navy. At the same time, fighters - carriers of nuclear weapons F-16, incl. in the air forces of NATO countries in Europe and the service life of the B-61 bombs is extended with the possibility of using them with the F-35. 450 strategic missiles Minuteman-3, + missiles on 14 submarines "Ohio" (336 missiles), + 800 nuclear B-61 bombs, 200 of which are deployed at 6 air bases in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and Turkey. The carriers of these bombs can be F-15, F-16 and Tornado from the air forces of these countries, while the United States refuses to withdraw nuclear bombs from the territory of these countries to its own, even after a number of governments of these countries have put forward such demands. Currently, work is underway to prepare infrastructure facilities for the basing of aircraft - carriers of nuclear weapons at the Zokniai airbase in Lithuania, Lillewaard in Latvia and Emari in Estonia. So the Cold War is not over, but is entering a new round, only weapons are being brought to us right under our noses.
    1. bistrov.
      bistrov. 16 October 2013 12: 27 New
      Quote: cobalt
      So the Cold War is not over, but is entering a new round, only weapons are being brought to us right under our nose.

      In all likelihood, Russia will have to withdraw from the agreement on the elimination of medium-range missiles, on the basis of which the USSR also eliminated them, in exchange for the liquidation of the American Pershing-2, which hung with a Damocles sword over the European part of the USSR, due to the fast time of their arrival and the practically absence a radical means of dealing with them. Now the US is again trying to beat Russia, which will have to take appropriate measures. You are right, the arms race is entering a new round.
      1. Ascetic
        Ascetic 16 October 2013 14: 45 New
        Quote: bistrov.
        In all likelihood, Russia will have to withdraw from the agreement on the elimination of medium-range missiles, on the basis of which the USSR also eliminated them, in exchange for the elimination of the American Pershing-2,

        "Rubezh" will be adopted, it is not included under the concept of MRBM (from 1000 to 5500 km). Recently tested a new BB for her capable of maneuvering in yaw and pitch. True, the press wrote that they launched the 15Zh58 rocket from Kap-Yar to Sary-Shagan, but in my memory, this particular rocket from the Topol RK was never launched along this route, only from Plesetsk to Kamchatka. He himself took part in two launches (once we went to Plesetsk, the second time directly from the BSP of the positional area).
        Sary-Shagan missile defense site so the purpose of the launch is clear.
        1. Nitup
          Nitup 16 October 2013 16: 52 New
          Quote: Ascetic
          "Rubezh" will be adopted for service, it is not included under the concept of MRBM

          And why then did S. Ivanov say that we cannot endlessly abide by the terms of the INF Treaty? Such statements are simply not made.
          1. Ascetic
            Ascetic 16 October 2013 18: 55 New
            Quote: Nitup
            And why then did S. Ivanov say that we cannot endlessly abide by the terms of the INF Treaty? Such statements are simply not made.

            First of all, he meant the threats of third countries to Russia, for the USA there are practically no threats from the infantry infantry regiment. I already wrote that almost all countries armed with the infantry reconnaissance regiment can reach the territory of Russia. But they cannot threaten the same states. and Russia itself, which complies with the US INF Treaty, is deprived of such an opportunity.
            These countries PRC, India, Pakistan, Israel, DPRK, Iran, Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia. In addition to them, about ten countries, not including Russia and the United States, have the technological capabilities to create such weapons, and a number of them already have launch vehicles for launching spacecraft into space or are working on the creation of such missiles. These states are capable, after the adoption by their leaders of a political decision, in a short time to create ballistic missiles that are the subject of the INF Treaty.
            BRMD Dongfeng-15.
            Single-stage solid rocket with range up to 600 km. Adopted in 1995. In appearance it resembles the American BRMD Pershing-1A. Equipped with a conventional or nuclear warhead. The nuclear warhead is monoblock, with a variable nuclear charge power from 50 to 350 ct. The missile is transported on a mobile launcher based on a wheeled chassis of high cross-country ability. It can shell border areas of the Far East.
            Dongfeng-4 BRDS Two-stage liquid rocket with range up to 5200 km. It is equipped with a monoblock nuclear warhead with a capacity of 2000 kt. Stationary basing method: (shaft or table)
            Dongfeng-21 BRDS Two-stage solid rocket with range up to 2000 km.(21A to 3800) It is equipped with a monoblock nuclear warhead with a capacity of 350 kt.
            Dongfeng 25 and 31 have a range of about 4000km
            Poses a threat to us Agni 3range up to 3500 km. It is assumed that it will be equipped with a thermonuclear charge of 100 kt)
            two-stage Gauri-2 BRDS (range 2000–2300 km). The Shahin-2 ballistic missile system, the Shahin-2 rocket will have a range of up to 2400 km and will be installed on a mobile launcher.
            For us, Jerekhon-3 is a threat with a range of up to 4000 km.
            All available missiles BRSD and BRMD pose a threat to Primorye.
            Shehab-3 and Shehab-4 with a maximum range of the latest modifications up to 5000km.
            Countries capable of creating medium- and shorter-range ground-based missile systems
            France within a year after making a decision,Japan It has all the technologies even for the creation of ICBMs, as well as the Kagoshima training grounds (southern tip of Kyushu Island) and Tanegashima (Tanegashima Island, 70 km south of Kyushu Island). Both centers have a full-fledged polygon base. UK- when Seoul makes a political decision to create a missile system with a range of 500 km or more. No special efforts will be required to overcome technical difficulties.Turkey It can serve as a base for deploying such missiles. They also have their own single-stage BRMD project of the Joker with a range of up to 200 km.
            1. Ascetic
              Ascetic 16 October 2013 19: 07 New
              Now relations between Russia and China are of good neighborly character, but A country's national security policy cannot be built up only taking into account the intentions of other countries, but the main thing is to take into account their military capabilities.
              Russia can counteract this threat only with the ability to carry out full-fledged regional deterrence. But in conditions when the ban imposed by the INF Treaty on the possession of medium- and shorter-range ground-based missile systems applies only to Russia and the USA, Russia is not in a position to maintain the necessary balance of military capabilities with China in the Far East.
              Moscow sees a way out of the situation either in INF Treaty Denunciations with the subsequent resumption of production and the deployment of ground-based missile systems of medium and shorter range, or globalization of the Treaty. In the latter case, all countries, both with medium and shorter range missiles, and those capable of creating them in the future, which will take upon themselves obligations, first of all, to eliminate existing ballistic and cruise missiles of medium and shorter range of ground-based should join the INF Treaty and secondly, not to produce such missiles in the future.
              Eight states that already have an IRBM and an IRBM will certainly not join the INF Treaty: China, India, Pakistan, Israel, Iran, Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia. Thus, the statement of the United States and Russia on giving global character to the INF Treaty is neither today nor in the foreseeable future, it has no chance of practical implementation. Therefore, we will have to go along the path of denunciation of the Treaty or its adaptation, taking into account Russia's need to have medium and short-range ground-based missile systems. That is, to agree with the Americans on the permission of a certain number of MRBMs in strictly defined areas ... On which they also do not want to go yet. Of course, it is possible to redistribute combat missions between ICBMs by increasing the number of those that do not fall under treaty restrictions, but here you need to take into account the scope of START III. And therefore, in this context, "Rubekh" is still the most optimal replacement for the MRBM, because it can most likely choose a trajectory not only of a ballistic nature and fly to a distance of 3 km to 3000 km (here he simply indicated an approximate alignment in numbers) Russia may not be left with other options how to denounce the treaty, taking into account all the above circumstances.
  6. AVV
    AVV 16 October 2013 15: 23 New
    After the new year, the United States will scratch a pumpkin, where to get fuel for their nuclear power plants, and for this they will need their own nuclear warheads for processing, which will have to be put under the knife! Since in December Russia stops supplying diluted uranium to the USA under the HEU-KNOW agreement. buy TVEL from Russia at a commercial price or put your nuclear weapons into processing !!! We are waiting for good news from behind the hill !!!
  7. voliador
    voliador 16 October 2013 19: 47 New
    Do scrappers start saving money? Not too late?
  8. I think so
    I think so 17 October 2013 20: 07 New
    The picture of the state of strategic nuclear forces of the USA that is rather optimistic for Russia does not correspond to reality. And all the actions of the US administration are aimed exclusively at PREPARING a decisive strike against Russia. In these actions will be:
    1. Proposals to Russia on even greater "joint" nuclear disarmament.
    2. Masking your real nuclear potential.
    3. Disinformation of the Russian public with similar articles.
    4. Approaching the borders of Russia of all the components of strategic nuclear forces, with the aim of ensuring a disarming first strike.
    5. Encourage internal saboteurs (such as Solomonov from MIT and generals from the Ministry of Defense) to replace Soviet nuclear missiles with "more modern" such as Bulava.