Author Topic: Navy May Reduce Nuke Numbers:Move Will Give ICBMs Breathing Room  (Read 196 times)

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A recent report from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists indicated the Navy will begin reducing launch tubes on each of the 14 submarines in its nuclear fleet next year.

The report indicates that based on previous statements from the Navy, the service will begin reducing four launch tubes on each of the 14 Trident submarines, reducing the total number of deployed submarine launched ballistic missiles by 56.

Though there has been no formal announcement by the Navy, the expected reduction could give the current intercontinental ballistic missile force some breathing room.

Especially when coupled with the reductions that will come from eliminating 50 unused Minuteman III silos in the Malmstrom Air Force Base missile field and 51 empty Peacemaker silos assigned to F.E. Warren AFB in Wyoming and Vandenberg AFB in California.

Staff members in Sen. Jon Tester’s office told the Great Falls Tribune last week that the administration and the Department of Defense are expected to release a New START implementation plan in May or June.

Over 10 years, the estimated cost is $24 billion for ICBMs; $82 billion for nuclear submarines; and $40 million for nuclear bombers, as well as $11 billion for other activities, including DOD research related to nuclear forces that the Congressional Budget Office couldn’t directly attribute to one of the legs of the triad.

According to a Congressional Research Service report from July 2013, with the launcher reduction on Trident submarines and the elimination of decommissioned silos, as well as the conversion of nuclear bombers to non-nuclear and the elimination of the last nuclear B-52G just before Christmas, the Air Force could potentially retain all 450 silos with only 400 containing missiles at any given time.

That’s the option Montana’s congressional delegation as well as lawmakers from nuclear states, primarily Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Louisiana and Utah, have been pressing the Department of Defense and the White House for.

Montana congressmen in particular have pushed back against an environmental study of ICBMs they perceive as a backdoor approach by the White House to reduce the ICBM force.

The New START treaty, ratified by the Senate in 2010, limits the United States and Russia to no more than 1,550 deployed warheads; 800 deployed and nondeployed ICBM launchers; submarine-launched ballistic missile launchers and heavy bombers; and to have reduced their deployed ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments to no more than 700.

According to data from the State Department, the U.S. has 809 deployed ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers; Russia has 473. The U.S. has 1,688 warheads on deployed ICBMs, SLBMs and nuclear warheads counted for deployed heavy bombers; Russia has 1,400. The U.S. has 1,015 deployed and nondeployed launchers of ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers; Russia has 894. The deadline to reach those limits is February 2018.

The last B-52G accountable under New START was destroyed just before Christmas by sawing off the plane’s tail, rendering it useless.

A recent CBO report estimated the cost over the next decade of operating, maintaining and modernizing nuclear weapons and the military systems capable of delivering those weapons.

That cost for 2014 is $23.1 billion, and of that $9.7 billion is for the DOD and $8.3 billion for the Department of Energy. Over 10 years, the total cost of all of those activities is estimated at $296 billion.

The estimate includes strategic and tactical weapons, as well as the DOE’s nuclear weapons activities, the laboratories that support those programs, nuclear reactors for ballistic submarines and the $5.1 billion for the command, control, communications and early warning systems needed to safely and effectively operated U.S. nuclear forces.

Of the total estimated cost for the next decade, $156 billion would be for strategic nuclear forces : $132 billion for delivery systems and $25 billion for warheads and nuclear reactors; $7 billion tactical nuclear forces, $56 billion for command, control, communications and early warning systems and $77 billion for DOE nuclear weapons enterprise, though that excludes costs associated with sustainment and modernization activities unique to specific warhead types.

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