As mentioned in the previous post, during a recent tour of the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, my curiosity awoke regarding how many nuclear weapons an aircraft carrier had onboard. On of several related questions is how many nukes the Navy had.
Previous discussion described two articles exploring the question.
Immediate answer to my first question is the article asserts a U.S. aircraft carrier typically had 100 nuclear weapons on board during the Cold War.
Deeper answer is the articles pointing to declassified information about the number of nuclear weapons Navy had at sea for the years 1961 through 1991.
The information is broken out only to the extent of weapons assigned in the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Mediterranean. There is no detail on type of weapons.
Here is the article having the discussion which pointed me to the second link, which a table of the data.
- 1/8/16 – Robert S. Norris & Hans M. Kristensen (2016) Declassified: US nuclear weapons at sea during the Cold War, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 72:1, 58-61, DOI: 10.1080/00963402.2016.1124664 – alternate link here.
- Undated – Nuclear Weapons Afloat
Because it is of interest to me and because it may be of interest to other, the data is below.
Many observations are possible from the data.
One in particular is the early deployment of nukes to sea. On 9/30/55, there were 129 nukes on U.S. Navy ships.
The first deployment of a U.S. nuclear SSBN was the U.S.S. George Washington in December 1959 with first patrol in November 1960. Armed with 16 Polaris missiles, those warheads would presumably have first been counted in the 1961 data below.
All this to wonder about the composition of the 1,124 weapons at sea as of 9/30/59 and 1,516 as of 9/30/60 since none of those were on SSBNs.
Nuclear weapons afloat with the U.S. Navy, by region and in total, as of the end of each fiscal year: