United States Nuclear Forces

American strategic delivery systems are divided into a triad, or three different modes of delivering nuclear weapons to the other side's targets.

The nuclear triad consists of long-range bombers, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). This division of delivery systems provides the foundation of deterrence by assuring that each side has a second-strike capability if attacked. Under START II, all operational MX missiles, which are housed at F. E. Warren AFB in Wyoming, are to be deactivated by 2007. Also to comply with START II, the Navy will have to reduce the number of warheads on each missile or retire additional subs--or both. Under the current timetable, SLBMs will be allowed to carry no more than 2,160 warheads by the end of 2004, and no more than 1,750 by the end of 2007.

ICBMs
Name Launchers Warhead x yield
(kilotons)
Total
warheads
Total
megatons
Minuteman III: 500 1,500 404
Mk-12 (200) 3 W62 x 170 (MIRV) (600) (102)
Mk-12A (300) 3 W78 x 335 (MIRV) (900) (302)
MX/Peacekeeper 50 10 W87 x 300 (MIRV) 500 150
Total 550 2,000 554

SLBMs
Name Launchers/
SSBNs
Warhead x yield
(kilotons)
Total
warheads
Total
megatons
Trident I C-4 192/8 8 W76 x 100 (MIRV) 1,536 154
Trident II D-5 240/10 1,920 336
Mk-4 8 W76 x 100 (MIRV) (1,536) (154)
Mk-5 8 W88 x 475 (MIRV) (384) (182)
Total 432/18 3,456 490

Bombers
Name Launchers Warhead x yield
(kilotons)
Total
warheads
Total
megatons
B-2 Spirit 16 ALCM/W80-1 x 5-150 400 60
    B61-7/-11, B83 bombs 950 700
B-52H Stratofortress 56 ACM/W80-1 x 5-150 400 60
Total 72 1,750 820

Grand Total 1,074   ~7,200 ~1,850

US TACTICAL NUCLEAR DELIVERY VEHICLES

Virtually every military fighter, or attack airplane can deliver nuclear bombs. Such short-range air-delivered nuclear weapons, operated by the US Air Force, have not been curtailed by any treaty or unilateral initiative. Land-based and sea-based tactical nukes, as they are called, have been removed by treaty mandate or unilateral initiatives. Some have been destroyed and others stockpiled. Deployed tactical nuclear weapons are now restricted to various modifications to the B-61 gravity, or free-fall, bomb. US aircraft capable of delivering this weapon are the A-4, A-6, A-7, AV-8B, F-4, F-15, F-16, F-18, F-111, and presumably the F-117 stealth fighter. NATO aircraft so capable are the F-4, F-100, F-104, and the Tornado.

Information compiled by Robert S. Norris and William M. Arkin of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Inquiries should be directed to:

NRDC, 1200 New York Avenue, N.W., Suite 400, Washington, D.C., 20005 (v) 202-289-6868.

Source: Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and NRDC

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