US to introduce two new nuclear weapons

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jua
Joined: March 17th, 2005, 3:54 am

February 7th, 2018, 2:23 am #21

The W80 is in use on AGM-86 as far as I know; presumably those remain in inventory as is at least until LRSO occurs, if it occurs.  I was speaking specifically about the W-80s removed from BGM-109s in the 90's.

I didn't realize W-80 was related to B-61, but in any case it's a two stage weapon so removing the fusion stage shouldn't be super complicated. But that's still a fundamental change to the warhead. Keep in mind all of this would effectively have to be done with zero live nuclear testing given the current testing ban. Throwing one together and just touching it off under Nevada would probably be a lot easier for validation purposes but no longer is politically feasible. I assume any new physics package has to be painstakingly tested at the component level and very heavily computer modeled to substitute for the reliability of a live nuclear test. The B-61 Mod 12 is also horrifically expensive even though as far as known, its just an upgrade to make a mod 11 have less bang and be GPS guided. I believe that project actually got shelved with the budget cuts when congress couldn't agree on a compromise a couple years ago.
Cheers,
Josh

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Joined: May 10th, 2013, 7:34 pm

February 7th, 2018, 6:56 pm #22

Again thanks for the background jua, I readily admit that there's all sorts of complicated minutia that relatively lay people like myself aren't always aware of.
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Joined: June 10th, 2012, 10:31 pm

February 7th, 2018, 8:35 pm #23

Hark wrote: I wonder if this goal has been met consistently by the UK.  We read from time to time that the USN having paid off some of its flat tops cannot consistently meet the commitments the government's foreign policy objectives generate.  Is the same thing true with the British SSBNs?
Yes it has, there is always at least one Trident boat at sea, often two.  IIRC France built five to guarantee two at sea at all times.

SRJ.
The Seaslug website: www.littlewars.org.uk/Seaslug/seaslug03.html
The Malacia papers: www.littlewars.org.uk/malacia.html
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Joined: November 11th, 2014, 11:51 pm

February 8th, 2018, 2:35 am #24

The problem with these "me too" devices is they might lower the threshold to MAD and Russian and US doctrine and political aims are different enough that copy cat weapons are destabilizing. Low yeld weapons are more dangerous than the big ones that nobody sane would think to use first.

I also fear that at one point these weapons will hit the test ban, computer simulated systems have often showed unexpected behavior in real life use, and that would be a big step back.
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Joined: January 14th, 2013, 4:04 pm

February 8th, 2018, 3:19 am #25

I think the US fear is that if North Korea was to detonate a small Hiroshima sized nuke on an American city such as Honolulu, the US may not wish to reply with one of its standard sized large kiloton weapons because scale of the US response would seem outlandishly oversized.  Kim may think he can take a free shot.  The US by creating a family of smaller weapons is betting that he may be deterred from taking that shot.  The goal is still deterrence.  AS General Mattis said this morning, there is no such thing as a tactical nuclear weapon.
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Joined: October 1st, 2017, 5:39 pm

February 10th, 2018, 3:28 pm #26

My question is how are the yield levels of nuclear weapons 'adjusted'. Does the warhead need to be removed and replaced or is there some way to dial down he yield?

I ask because if the warhead has enough fissionable material for a high yield blast what happens to the unused part if the yield is dialed down? Would it not be dispersed as radioactive waste? It seems like a larger blast might be preferable to increased long term radiation some of which might disperse to friendly areas.
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Joined: March 16th, 2017, 8:22 pm

February 10th, 2018, 9:31 pm #27

There at least used to be dial a yield nukes.  I don't know if they're still in inventory.  Same with small nukes.  Anyone remember Davy Crockett?
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jua
Joined: March 17th, 2005, 3:54 am

February 11th, 2018, 11:24 pm #28

B-61 and B-83 have selectable yields. The full yield is the entire process going to completion. I'm assuming lower yields are achieved by deliberately retarding the secondary fusion explosion, neglecting to inject the tritium booster to the fissile primary, miss time the explosive lens, and other processes to removed the maximum efficiency of the physics package.
Cheers,
Josh

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Joined: August 11th, 2015, 4:45 pm

March 26th, 2018, 2:16 am #29

I mean... we have a pretty good spread as it is.  Fission Nukes as small as 6" around, and as light as ~50 pounds.  Thermonukes not much bigger (though much heavier).   IIRC reliability of the really small ones were kind of iffy.
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jua
Joined: March 17th, 2005, 3:54 am

March 26th, 2018, 5:51 am #30

Burncycle wrote: I mean... we have a pretty good spread as it is.  Fission Nukes as small as 6" around, and as light as ~50 pounds.  Thermonukes not much bigger (though much heavier).   IIRC reliability of the really small ones were kind of iffy.
The 6" I don't think entered service and it and the demo charge are far out of their service life now. The intent of the new nukes is to have smaller yields that can be delivered faster with less risk. Currently the only truly small yield weapons are free fall B-61 tac mods (3?4?11?). Those require the the a/c to overfly to the target and drop an unguided weapon. The Russians have a Mach 10 missile that can deliver a tactical nuke with precision to Berlin from Kalingrad. Which in and of itself wouldn't be super worrying from a strategic standpoint, except the Russians seem to have the disturbing idea of 'nuclear deescalation': that using a tac nuke will simply make NATO back down, because they are afraid of a major strategic exchange. So these new weapons are an attempt to reassert ability in the tit for tat 'tactical' nuclear regime to close that potential deterrence loop hole, since the Russians seem unconvinced that NATO would response in nuclear fashion to a very limited first use.
Cheers,
Josh

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