The state of our nuclear deterrence arsenal has been in the news a great deal lately.
Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gave a statement on the Nuclear Enterprise Review earlier this month. He stated, “Our nuclear deterrent plays a critical role in ensuring U.S. national security, and it’s DOD’s highest priority mission. No other capability we have is more important. Our nuclear triad deters nuclear attack on the United States and our allies and our partners. It prevents potential adversaries from trying to escalate their way out of failed conventional aggression. And it provides the means for effective response should deterrence fail.”
The major problem is that all of our nuclear weapons, delivery systems and associated hardware was designed and built 30 years ago. Although there are weapon systems in the current American arsenal that are older, such as the B-52 bomber or Los Angeles-class submarines, they have all undergone design improvements and continued testing and improvement.
“It seems like common sense to me if you’re trying to keep an aging machine alive that’s well past its design life, then you’re treading on thin ice,” said Rep Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), member and chairman-elect of the House Armed Services Committee to the LA Times. “Not to mention, we’re spending more and more to keep these things going.”
The United States has been downsizing its nuclear warheads and delivery systems since the end of the Cold War and the current number of warheads is slightly over 4,000. This is down from the estimated 23,000 in 1991. The Russian nuclear arsenal has been downsized by roughly the same percentage, as well.
The “nuclear club” is a very exclusive group of nations. The U.S., Russia, China, England, France, India, Pakistan (and perhaps a few others) belong to it. Of course there are countries who want to be members. Iran has been building a nuclear program for years and Iraq was very interested in becoming a nuclear power before they were stopped. Not all of these countries are our allies. Most of them have agendas that deviate radically from our own.
The decision on whether to update and maintain our current store of nukes or begin developing and deploying a new generation of nuclear weapons is here. The design life of our nuclear arsenal has passed and, although, we have kept the B-52s in the air for 60 years (some of the planes are being flown by the grandsons of the original pilots) can we do the same with our nukes?
It has been over 30 years since I was involved with the development and deployment of the TLAM/N (Tomahawk Land Attack Missile, Nuclear). The land-attack, nuclear-armed Tomahawk cruise missile was developed in the early 1980s to supplement our warships with a nuclear capability designed to give the Soviets pause before they began lobbing tactical nukes at American or NATO targets.
Even then, the development of a nuclear delivery vehicle, let alone the design of the device that it would carry, was a challenge for everyone involved. Thirty years have passed. Thirty years with little emphasis on design and deployment upgrades. It would almost be like we are starting from scratch.
The facilities where the weapons were designed, tested and built are rotting away. Infrastructure support is non-existent and the cost of design to deployment will run in the billions, if not trillions, of dollars. Military funding is being slashed and the armed forces are having to cut corners to keep their current missions from being grounded.
Deterrence works. It has worked since the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. There has not been a conflict on the scale of either of the world wars in the almost 70 years since, and nuclear deterrence is the reason. There have been close calls, incidents and brinkmanship, but the scope of war has diminished. For every Cuban Missile Crisis or Berlin Blockade we have avoided a Battle of the Bulge or Battle of Midway. The cost of deterrence has been in dollars, not human lives.
That is always a good trade.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.