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.

In 2005, the retirement of the MX Peacekeeper ICBM was completed. Also, the Navy decommissioned the Trident I C4 missile, after 26 years of service. The navy completed the first phase of downloading the warheads from all Trident II missiles in 2005 to keep pace with 2002 Moscow Treaty or Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) goals.

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)
Total 550 1,500 404

SLBMs

Name Launchers/
SSBNs
Warhead x yield
(kilotons)
Total
warheads
Total
megatons
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 1,920 336

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   ~5,170 ~1,560

 

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 Hans M. Kristensen 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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