Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Robert Burns / Associated Press & Brendan McGarry / DOD Buzz – 2016-07-31 01:00:42
Air Force Seeks Proposals for Over $60 Billion in New Nukes
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(July 29, 2016) — The US Air Force has issued a press release today seeking proposals from military contractors to provide the next generation of nuclear weapons, including both ICBMs and air-launched nuclear cruise missiles, a pair of contracts that will cost well in excess of $60 billion.
Indeed, the Air Force estimate was that the new ICBMs alone would cost $62.3 billion, more than even most major countries spend on their entire military in a given year. The replacement for the AGM-86B cruise missiles did not come with an estimate, but is also expected to be substantial.
This comes amid growing debate about the “modernization” scheme, with one group of senators, including Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine (D-VA) demanding more or less unlimited spending, while a second group argues that the program needs to be dramatically scaled back, both because it is too expensive and because it is not in keeping with US talk of arms reduction.
Official estimates of the final costs of these schemes have also been called dramatic underestimates by several NGOs, with some studies suggesting that all told, the three-prong system is going to cost in excess of $1 trillion and take 30 years to complete.
Air Force Seeks New Land-based and Air-launched Nukes
Robert Burns, National Security Writer / Associated Press
WASHINGTON (July 29, 2016) — Advancing what could become a near-total rebuild of the US nuclear weapons arsenal, the Air Force on Friday solicited industry proposals to build a new fleet of land-based nuclear missiles as well as replacements for its air-launched nuclear cruise missile force.
The two projects are part of a broader modernization of the nuclear arsenal expected to cost hundreds of billions of dollars over 30 years. The plans have broad support in Congress, although some, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have questioned the need to replace all three “legs” of the nuclear triad — the submarines, long-range bombers and land-based missiles that were developed by the Pentagon during a Cold War arms race with the Soviet Union.
The Air Force operates two of the three legs the nuclear arsenal — the bombers and the Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, that are ready for launching on short notice from underground silos in five states.
On Friday the Air Force asked that industry contractors submit proposals for a new-generation ICBM, and said it plans to award the first contracts next summer. It would replace the existing fleet of about 450 deployed Minuteman 3 ICBMs, starting in 2027. The estimated cost is $62.3 billion, according to Leah Bryant, spokeswoman for the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center.
An Air Force press release quoted Gen. Robin Rand, who heads Air Force Global Strike Command, as saying the Minuteman 3, which was first deployed in 1970, will have “a difficult time surviving” air defenses foreseen for 2030 and beyond.
The Air Force also requested contractor proposals for a new-generation nuclear cruise missile to replace the existing AGM-86B cruise missile, which was fielded in the early 1980s. It provided no cost estimate for the replacement missile.
Critics of buying a new nuclear cruise missile include a former secretary of defense, William Perry, who has called on President Barack Obama to scrap the project.
The Navy wants to build new nuclear-missile submarines to replace its aging fleet of Ohio-class subs, and the Air Force is planning a new fleet of nuclear-capable long-range bombers to replace the B-52.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said the broad rebuild of the nuclear arsenal is financially unsustainable.
“The Air Force could save billions by refurbishing and extending the life of the existing Minuteman 3 well beyond 2030 rather than building a completely new and more deadly missile,” he said, adding: “The Air Force does not need a costly new and more capable nuclear-armed cruise missile, especially if the new long-range penetrating bomber is truly penetrating. We are seeing a return to the days of nuclear excess and overkill.”
US Lawmakers Duel Over Plans to Upgrade Nuclear Arsenal
Brendan McGarry / DOD Buzz
WASHINGTON (July 22, 2016) — In competing letters this month to the Obama administration, US lawmakers dueled over plans to upgrade the military’s nuclear arsenal.
On Wednesday, a group of 10 Democratic senators urged President Barack Obama to restrain spending on nuclear weapons by “scaling back excessive nuclear modernization plans, adopting a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, and canceling launch-on-warning plans.”
The July 20 letter cites independent studies that estimate upgrading and sustaining the nuclear arsenal may cost $1 trillion over three decades.
It was signed by Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer of California, Al Franken of Minnesota, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
The current US nuclear arsenal stands at less than 1,600 warheads, according to a March report from the Congressional Research Service.
That includes about 440 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs); some 336 Trident II (D-5) submarine-launched ballistic missiles carried in 14 Trident submarines (each carries 24 missiles); hundreds of B61 bombs for B-2 Spirit bombers and F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters; and hundreds of AGM-86B air-launched cruise missiles for B-52 Stratofortress bombers, according to CRS.
In the letter, the Democratic senators urged the cancellation of the Air Force’s plans to develop a new nuclear cruise missile, the Long Range Standoff Weapon, as a replacement to the AGM-86B beginning around 2030. The program would cost $20 billion and “provide an unnecessary capability that would increase the risk of nuclear war,” they wrote.
Military leaders want the weapon in part to give Air Force bombers a better “standoff capability,” thus extending their effective range, especially as potential adversaries such as China and Russia develop more sophisticated air defenses.
The Defense Department has proposed spending $8.5 billion on missile defense programs in fiscal 2017, which begins Oct. 1, an 6.5 percent decrease from the current year, according to Pentagon budget documents.
The letter came a week after a bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats wrote to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in favor of nuclear modernization.
“The three legs of the nuclear triad combine to form a very effective deterrent,” they said in the July 12 correspondence. “The three legs — land-based missiles, bombers and nuclear submarines — are aging and must be modernized to ensure this interlocking triad continues its decades-long record of protecting the nation.”
It was signed by John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota; Steve Daines, a Republican from Montana; Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana; Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah; Joe Donnelly, a Democrat from Indiana; Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota; Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida; Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia; David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana; Martin Heinrich, a Democrat from New Mexico; John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming; Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia; Deb Fischer, a Republican from Nebraska; and Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island.
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