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.
The U.S. Air Force is working to develop drone fighters. Most recent test flight had the drone launch another drone.
All the original manufacturers for every component of the Minuteman ICBM system are either gone or the assembly lines have long since been shut down. That means USAF is using its own production facility to create the myriad of necessary spare parts.
4/6/21 – New Atlas – Valkyrie combat drone launches another drone during test flight– Imagine a drone fighter that accompanies a cutting-edge manned fighter such as an F-35. The escorting drone could carry a heavy load of bombs to multiply the strike power of a fighter. It could carry an assortment of air-to-air missiles to defend against other planes or air-to-ground missiles to strike radar or other defense assets.
In a significant policy shift, England is planning to expand its nuclear weapon stockpile. The current guess from outsiders is they have 190 nuclear weapons. The previously announced goal was to draw down the inventory to 180 or less by the mid-2020s.
Instead they will build up to a stockpile of not more than 260.
Jumbo jet that opened up international travel to the masses reaching end of production run
Background on why B-52 has been around for 50 years and will still be in service after other heavy bombers have long since retired
New F-35C deploying to the fleet
9/8/20 – Wall Street Journal – The Jumbo Jet Was the Pinnacle of Air Luxury – Now It’s Days Are Numbered – Boeing will shut its 747 production line in 2022 when the last of the already ordered freighters is completed. Airbus will close its A380 super jumbo line in 2021 when the last dozen planes are finished. The double-decker A380 was designed as the peer-to-peer competitor to the 747.
Article has lots of fun stats on both planes. I will provide some of the fun detail:
The 747 was the revolutionary jumbo jet. It opened up international travel to the masses. It was a major part of the rapid expansion in air travel.
The 747 debuted in 1969. The A380 in 2000 with first commercial flight in 2007.
Over 50 years there have been 1,556 747s produced. Forecast for the A380 had been 1,200 planes but only 242 have been delivered.
Every four years each B-52 goes through a massive maintenance routine which takes 40,000 hours of labor and replaces about 3,000 parts. This extensive maintenance along with major upgrades means the B-52 fleet is likely to stay in use until the year 2050.