U.S. deploys 'more survivable' submarine-launched low-yield nuclear weapon

U.S. deploys 'more survivable' submarine-launched low-yield nuclear weapon”

The U.S. Navy announced it has put into operation a low-yield, nuclear ballistic missile aboard a submarine as it seeks to deter adversaries like Russian Federation.

In confirming the missile deployment, the Pentagon's top policy official asserted that the weapon makes Americans safer by making nuclear war less likely.

The deployment of a low-yield nuclear capability stems from the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, which called for additional nuclear response options as a deterrent against Russian Federation attempting to use its own low-yield nuclear weapon in a limited first-use scenario.

The W76-2 has an estimated explosive yield of five kilotons, compared to the 455-kiloton and 90-kiloton yields of nuclear warheads already deployed on United States submarines, according to William Arkin and Hans Kristensen, writing on the Federation of American Scientists website.

"This supplemental capability strengthens deterrence and provides the United States a prompt, more survivable low-yield strategic weapon", Mr John Rood, the under secretary of defense for policy, said in a statement.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Wednesday that the new missile's deployment is an indication the United States views a low-intensity nuclear conflict as a feasible option.

"This reflects the fact that the United States is actually lowering the nuclear threshold and that they are conceding the possibility of them waging a limited nuclear war and winning this war".

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Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the deployment of the W76-2 warhead in the name of strengthening deterrence had caused Russia great concern over US nuclear strategy, Russian news agencies reported.

"The U.S. Navy has fielded the W76-2 low-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) warhead", Rood said in a statement. The Russian government long has criticized the Pentagon's plans to develop low-yield nuclear weapons, arguing that a limited nuclear conflict would inevitably escalate into a full-blown nuclear war.

The deployment came after the USA withdrawal past year from a Cold War-era arms control pact, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which had aimed to lower the risks of nuclear conflict by banning ground-launched, nuclear-capable ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.

The yield, or destructive power, of the W76-2 is classified.

Last February the administration said it expected to have the new version ready for use by late 2019. And while W76-2's strength is classified, experts say it likely has around one-third the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

The W76-2 has been fitted on top of an undisclosed number of Trident ballistic missiles carried aboard the Navy's Ohio-class submarines.

It is the only remaining treaty limiting the number of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons.

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