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Deadline: why US nuclear bombs will be late

The deployment of mass production of American B61-12 type free-fall nuclear bombs and the modernization of warheads for a ballistic missile. Deadline: why US nuclear bombs will be late

Deadline: why US nuclear bombs will be late

The deployment of mass production of American B61-12 type free-fall nuclear bombs and the modernization of warheads for ballistic missile submarines of the Trident II D5 type are facing new delays. What caused them and what it threatens to turn around, Gazeta.Ru understood.

The deployment in the United States of mass production of the B61 Mod. 12 may face an 18-month delay, a prospective warhead for ballistic missile submarines (SLBMs) ​​of the Trident II D5 type W88 will be put on stream in a shorter time, a senior representative of the National Nuclear Safety Administration said. About this writes Defense News.

Life Cycle Extension Program B61 Mod. 12 also includes replacing older versions of this munition of type B61-3, -4, -7, and -10, and upgrading the W88 warhead to version 370 (W88 Alteration 370) is intended to replace W88 warheads for ballistic missile submarines of the Navy USA type Trident II D5. These are two of the five major nuclear weapons modernization programs implemented by the agency.
It was previously reported that both special ammunition should be put into mass production in 2020, according to information circulated by Charles Verdun, deputy head of the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) for defense programs.
The NNSA is currently working with the U.S. Department of Defense to minimize delays, but the U.S. Congress has informed both agencies that the ammunition availability deadline should be “at about the same time,” Charles Verdon said at the Defense News conference in 2019.
Issue related to mass production delays of the B61 Mod. 12 and W88 Alteration 370, arose due to the components used in both types of these nuclear weapons.
The W88 ALT 370 is an updated SLBM warhead with a new fuse. According to NNSA estimates, the program will cost from $ 2.4 to $ 3.1 billion, the amount of $ 2.6 billion is considered more likely.
B61 Mod. 12 - a promising tactical thermonuclear bomb with the properties of precision weapons. It represents a deep modernization of the nuclear weapons developed in the 1960s.
It was assumed that both ammunition would be ready for combat use for at least 20-30 years, and tests (the so-called "heavy stress tests") should confirm these indicators. However, a number of components (specifically, Defense News does not indicate) did not reach the required level of reliability, and it was decided to replace them now in order to avoid a possible risk in terms of the reliability of the combat use of nuclear weapons in the future.
However, Charles Verdon said the 18-month delay for the B61 Mod. 12 may decrease in the future, as the agency receives more and more information on procurement and integration of necessary components into the composition of these munitions.
Kingston Reif, Director of Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy at the Arms Control Association, said
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this delay in the release of nuclear weapons will lead to an increase in program costs by $ 7.6 million.
The delay could also be due to the ability of the NNSA to carry out several other planned programs to extend the ammunition life cycle on time and on budget, he added.
“The delay in ammunition demonstrates both the sheer volume of work already underway on the overloaded NNSA platform and the significant challenges facing further efforts to modernize the US nuclear arsenal,” Reif said.
The fate of another U.S. nuclear weapons modernization program, known as W76-2 low-power ammunition for submarine ballistic missiles, is expected to be decided in accordance with the National Defense Appropriations Act.
However, US lawmakers have a number of disagreements on nuclear issues. For example, the US Congress intends to limit funding for the W76-2 deployment program, while the minimum requirements for the implementation of this program by the US Department of Defense are estimated at $ 19.6 million, and the Department of Energy - at $ 10 million.
Last week, however, Robert Sauer, Under Secretary of Defense’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy, outlined support for the W76-2 program from both current US leaders and former Barack Obama administration officials, predicting a “deal” between House bills and the US Senate.
W76-2, as previously reported by Website refers to the warheads of ballistic missiles of submarines with reduced power. At the beginning of 2018, the Donald Trump administration formulated requirements for it in the Nuclear Policy Review. And almost immediately began the deployment of production W76-2.
Currently, Trident D5 SLBMs are equipped with three types of warheads W76 / Mk-4 with a capacity of 100 kt, W76-1 / Mk-4A with a capacity of 100 kt and W88 / Mk-5 - 455 kt. The latter is the most deadly in the US arsenal of nuclear weapons. The launch mass of Trident II D5 SLBMs is 130 thousand pounds, and the rocket speed is 20 thousand feet per second. Each rocket costs $ 30 million.
Earlier, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis told the U.S. Congress that low-power nuclear warheads such as the W76-2 and B61 Mod. 12 are designed for more diverse applications and more effective deterrence of potential adversaries in the face of the high threat of a military outbreak.
In one of the developments of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), it is indicated that low-power nuclear munitions are 20 kilotons or less. In the arsenals of the United States, according to American scientists, there are at least 1000 nuclear weapons that can be converted into low-power warheads.
Last year, the U.S. military conducted the first test of the B61 Mod. 12 using strategic low-visibility strategic bombers B-2 Spirit.
The United States plans to deploy air bombs at military bases in Germany, Italy, Turkey, Belgium and the Netherlands.
For example, the promising strategic bomber V-21 "Raider" will be equipped with weapons of a similar purpose. It is possible that he will receive a new nuclear bomb type B61 Mod. 12, possessing the qualities of precision weapons. The same bomb can also be hung on a promising 5th generation fighter of the F-35 type.
“I believe that the US plans to modernize its nuclear arsenal should be taken seriously and, quite possibly, creatively reviewed some domestic programs,” the former First Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces , Chairman of the Committee’s Expert Council , told for the defense of the State Duma, Lieutenant General Alexander Burutin .
At the same time, in the opinion of the military leader, one should avoid the possible involvement of Russia in any kind of arms race and additional budgetary allocations for defense.
“However, among other things, there is a real danger of the resumption of nuclear tests,” the general added then.
According to Burton, amid large-scale modernization of nuclear warheads, the Americans objectively face the problem of conducting their full-scale tests. Modelling (even on existing supercomputers) will not give an answer to the question of their guaranteed reliability in case of application.

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