Apparently there has been a massive overhaul in the technology behind codes used to launch nuclear weapons. Changes are significant enough the equipment used to generate codes and manufacture the physical documents have been put on display at the National Cryptologic Museum.
Previous articles explained the U.S. Navy had three different nuclear weapons deployed at sea in 1990. That of course got me curious about the capabilities of those weapons.
One of the articles I cited had an intriguing table listing all of the nuclear weapons carried by the Navy over the last several decades. The table provided the data source in a citation, which led me to the following book: U.S. Nuclear Arsenal / A history of weapons and delivery system since 1945, by Norman Polmar and Robert S. Norris. I splurged and got a copy at a very nice price (better than what is available as of today).
It is an astounding resource. A veritable encyclopedia of the US nuclear arsenal. It covers warheads, reentry vehicles, missiles, helicopters, tactical fighters, and strategic bombers. Astounding.
For the moment I will dive into some information on the weapons deployed with U.S. Navy in 1990, which also probably covers their loadouts for a decade or two earlier. Will have lots more to discuss from the book later.
There were about 1,000 B43 bombs produced. They were in the inventory from 1961 through 1999.
I have been aware of the US defense posture of maintaining a triad for nuclear deterrence since I was in high school. Since way back then I’ve known the Navy had lots of nuclear weapons on SLBMs under the water.
Only recently have I learned there were a massive number of other nukes in the Navy in the tactical size.
Previous two posts have discussed the nuclear warfighting capabilities of U.S. Navy. Did some more poking around and found that there is actually quite a bit of material available online.
Came across one intriguing article, from Greenpeace of all people:
Article goes into great detail on US capabilities (45 pages), Soviet Union (26 pages), England (11 pages), France (6 pages), and China (2 pages).
Articles written in 1990, which is a useful framework for reference for several reasons.
First, that is about a year before the United States decided (as directed by President Bush) to offload all nonstrategic nuclear weapons from U.S. naval ships. Second, that is a few years after I was on active duty so corresponds relatively close to what was going on my experiences. Third, this corresponds closely to the aircraft on the deck of the U.S.S. Midway Museum, so I have decent pictures to go along as illustrations.
I’ll describe a number of interesting tidbits I found in the article.
By the way, since I’m talking about nukes, please know I’ve long since forgotten anything I ever knew so today I don’t know nothin’ about nothin’ except what I read in non-government or declassified public documents. Just so you know.
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.
On a recent tour of the Midway Museum in San Diego I walked past the door to the “special weapons” area. The “special” means nuclear.
I’ve noticed that area on previous times aboard the U.S.S. Midway, but paused to ponder this visit.
This time I wondered:
How many nukes did a US carrier have on board?
What airplanes were equipped to carry nukes?
As an amusing coincidence, I asked one of the docents if he is aware of open source documents which describe the nuclear loads on carriers. He did not know, but we had a delightful conversation.
Turns out this docent had a parallel job to what I did when I was in the U.S. Air Force. He was based on SSBN submarines while he was in the Navy, having keys to launch the Polaris SLBM. Like I said, what a fun coincidence.
Well, that triggered my curiosity, got me doing a little research, and I found some good materials for starters.
One specific tidbit in the second article link below is directly responsive to my curiosity – the article asserts U.S. aircraft carriers typically carried 100 nuclear weapons on board during the Cold War.
Update: Just so you know, every word I say in my discussions of nuclear weapons is based on what I have read in a public, open-source document. I don’t know anything else at all about nukes.
Frequently in a space launch one of the stages in the rocket is so massive that it will not completely burn up when it reenters the atmosphere. The normal, responsible behavior is to have a controlled burn after the payload is launched which will push the rocket stage into a calculated reentry. This allows the rocket owner to pick the place on the planet the residuals will land, say the middle of an ocean far from routine shipping channels.
The irresponsible strategy is skip the reentry burn which means the massive chunks of unburned metal will land on the earth at some random place, say an occupied area or even a major city.
In addition to Amazon, Jeff Bezos also owns a rocket company developing spaceships. It is called Blue Origin. They are developing New Glenn rocket as a lift vehicle. Article says first flight for New Glenn is not expected until fourth quarter of 2022 with likely slippage to 2023.
Big announcement covered in this article is Amazon announcing they will use the Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance for the first nine launches of their satellites.
China is building their own space station. On 4/28/21 they successfully launched the first of three main components.
4/28/21 – Space.com – China launches core module of new space station to orbit – The central component of the space station is called Tianhe, for Harmony of the Heavens. This module is 54 feet long. Two more sections, each of them 47 feet long, will be launched. The basic station will be assembled by the end of 2022.
A Long March 5B heavy-lift rocket launched the space station.
A cargo launch will go to the station next month with three astronauts arriving in June.
This is not the first space station China has put in orbit. The first one, Tiangong-1, back in 2011 had visits from two crews of three astronauts each before it reentered the atmosphere and was burned up.