US Upgrades Nuclear Weapons for Delivery to Europe

October 30th, 2022 - by Tyler Durden / ZeroHedge & Zackary Keck / National Interest

An unarmed B61-12 bomb (USAF file image)

US Accelerates Delivery of Upgraded
Nuclear Weapons To Jittery European Allies

Tyler Durden / ZeroHedge

(October 28, 2022) — On the same day that Russia hailed completion of its ‘successful’ annual nuclear drills, Politico published a bombshell report describing that the US has accelerated plans to maintain upgraded nuclear weapons in Europe.

Specifically, US defense officials informed NATO allies earlier this month that Europe will host a B61-12 air-dropped gravity bomb, to be transferred by December. Politico reported Wednesday that a classified cable it has seen confirmed this.

The upgraded bomb was expected to arrive in Europe next spring, but the timeline was accelerated amid Russia’s growing nuclear rhetoric surrounding the war in Ukraine. President Biden recently raised eyebrows in saying nuclear “armageddon” is a real possibility for the first time since the close of the Cold War.

On an official level the Pentagon is disputing that its planned nuclear upgrade for NATO’s Europe arsenal is in any way connected to events in Ukraine, however, Politico cites the following sources:

Two people familiar with the issue of the upcoming shipment to Europe confirmed the accelerated timeframe reported in the diplomatic cable. They asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The cable, which has not previously been made public and was written to be distributed throughout the Pentagon and State Department to give policymakers a rundown of what was discussed among defense ministers at the NATO meeting, clearly indicates that allies are jittery.

The document says that during the meetings, 15 NATO allies raised concerns that the alliance “must not give in to Putin’s nuclear blackmail.”

F-15E Strike Eagle jet dropping inert B61-3/4 nuclear bomb

The cable is further quoted by Politico as follows: “Given the rising volume and scale of Russia’s nuclear rhetoric, a subset of allies requested continued consultations at NATO to ensure continued readiness and consistent messaging.”

Some analysts cited in the report say the White House is fundamentally sending a message of reassurance to NATO at a moment European countries are feeling “vulnerable”, and that the intent is not to escalate nuclear tensions with Moscow:

My guess is it is aimed more towards NATO than Russia,” said Tom Collina, director of policy at the Ploughshares Fund, a disarmament group. “There are [older] B61s already there. The Russians know that. They work just fine. The new ones will be newer, but it’s not really that much of a difference. But it may be a way to assure the allies when they are feeling particularly threatened by Russia.”

The upgraded B61-12 is designed to allow the bomb to be carried by a fuller array of US and allied bombers and fighter jets, while older versions had more limited delivery options. The upgraded version is also said to be more accurate.

Why the B-61-12 Bomb Is the Most Dangerous
Nuclear Weapon in America’s Arsenal

Zackary Keck / National Interest

A combination of accuracy and low-yield make the B61-12 the most usable nuclear bomb in America’s arsenal. This makes using nuclear weapons thinkable for the first time since the 1940s. The B61-12 only encourages this trend further. Note: I have added current numbers and comments to the following article. — Steven Starr

(October 9, 2018) — The United States maintains an extensive nuclear arsenal.  [The current US nuclear arsenal includes about The US nuclear arsenal remained roughly unchanged in the last year, with the Defense Department maintaining an estimated stockpile of approximately 3,708 warheads.

Of these, only about 1,744 warheads are deployed, while approximately 1,964 are held in reserve. Additionally, approximately 1,720 retired warheads are awaiting dismantlement, giving a total inventory of approximately 5,428 nuclear warheads.

Of the approximately 1,744 warheads that are deployed, 400 are on land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, roughly 944 are on submarine-launched ballistic missiles, 300 are at bomber bases in the United States, and 100 B-61 tactical nuclear bombs are at European bases.]

According to the Federation of Atomic Scientists, America also maintains a plethora of delivery options for its nuclear bombs. As part of its nuclear triad, it maintains some 94 nuclear-capable bombers (B-2s and B-52s), 400 Minuteman III ICBMs and 12 Ohio-class ballistic-missile nuclear submarines. The latter are equipped with modern Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which are drastic improvements over their land-based competitors.

Indeed, as Keir Lieber and Daryl Press have noted, “In 1985, a single US ICBM warhead had less than a 60 percent chance of destroying a typical silo… Today, a multiple-warhead attack on a single silo using a Trident II missile would have a roughly 99 percent chance of destroying it.”

Yet the most dangerous nuclear bomb in America’s arsenal may be the new B61-12.

Much has been written about the B61-12, most of which has focused on its enormous cost. And for good reason — it is the most expensive nuclear bomb project ever.

In terms of sheer destructive capability, the B61-12 is nowhere near America’s most dangerous nuclear weapon. Indeed, the bomb has a maximum yield of just 50-kilotons, the equivalent of 50,000 tons of TNT. By contrast, the B83 nuclear bomb has a maximum yield of 1.2 megatons (1,200 kilotons).

What makes the B61-12 bomb the most dangerous nuclear weapon in America’s arsenal is its usability. This usability derives from a combination of its accuracy and low-yield.

In terms of the former, the B61-12 is America’s first nuclear-guided bomb, As Hans Kristensen of FAS notes, “We do not have a nuclear-guided bomb in our arsenal today…. It [the B61-12] is a new weapon.”

Indeed, according to Kristensen, existing US nuclear bombs have circular error probabilities (CEP) of between 110-170 meters. The B61-12’s CEP is just 30 meters. [Circular Error Probability, or CEP, describes the accuracy of the bomb; the B61-12 will hit within 90 feet of its target.]

The B61-12 also has a low-yield. As noted above, the bomb has a maximum yield of 50 kilotons. However, this yield can be lowered as needed for any particular mission. In fact, the bomb’s explosive force can be selected electronically through a dial-a-yield system. [Minimum yield is 0.3 kilotons or 300 tons of TNT; this makes it about 27 times more powerful than the largest conventional bomb in the US arsenal, which has 11 tons ot TNT explosive power.]

This combination of accuracy and low-yield make the B61-12 the most usable nuclear bomb in America’s arsenal. That’s because accuracy is the most important determinate of a nuclear weapon’s lethality (Yield of warhead^2/3/ CEP^2).

As one scholar explains: “Making a weapon twice as accurate has the same effect on lethality as making the warhead eight times as powerful. Phrased another way, making the missile twice as precise would only require one-eighth the explosive power to maintain the same lethality.” Furthermore, radiological fallout operates according to Newton’s inverse square law.

In practical terms, all this means that the more accurate the bomb, the lower the yield that is needed to destroy any specific target. A lower-yield and more accurate bomb can therefore be used without having to fear the mass, indiscriminate killing of civilians through explosive force or radioactive fallout. [Not exactly true; there just isn’t  as much fallout.]

Lieber and Press have documented this nicely. Indeed, using a Pentagon computer model, they estimated that a US counterforce strike against China’s ICBM silos using high-yield weapons detonated at ground blast would still kill anywhere between 3-4 million people. Using low-yield weapons and airbursts, this figure drops to as little as 700 fatalities!

[Lieber and Press also published “The Rise of US Nuclear Primacy”, an article that claims the US could destroy all of Russia’s nuclear weapons with a US nuclear first strike — which is bullshit, however, this is what US necocons accept as “true”, as it was published by the US Council on Foreign Relations. That is one more reason we are in such a dangerous situation now, because of this kind of pro-nuclear propaganda.]

This makes using nuclear weapons thinkable for the first time since the 1940s. The B61-12 only encourages this trend further.

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