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.
For years I’ve been looking for a table that illustrates the horrid effects of nuclear weapons. Have not seen anything that matched what I had in mind.
My poking around for information on this current series of nukes has led me to many places on the good ol’ net. After looking at several articles, I thought to check on Wikipedia. Guess what? Found a reasonable approximation of what I have been wanting.
The lesson from this data for those on active duty is that nuclear safety is imperative.
The lesson for the rest of us is that we and our leaders must strive to make sure nuclear weapons are never used.
For an overview of France’s nuclear weapons consider the document French nuclear forces, 2019 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Their preferred citation is: Hans M. Kristensen & Matt Korda (2019) French nuclear forces, 2019, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 75:1, 51-55, DOI: 10.1080/00963402.2019.1556003.
The bulk of their nuclear inventory is submarine based with a small number of land-based fighters and a smaller number of carrier-based fighters.
France’s defense policy is their nuclear weapons are for “legitimate self-defense.” They have not adopted a no-first-use policy and reserve the right for a limited strike as a “final warning” that they will defend themselves.
SLBMs and SSBNs
France has four Triomphant-class nuclear powered submarines. One of these SSBNs is always on patrol, a second is getting ready to go on patrol, another has returned from patrol, and the final one is in maintenance. Article says each sub patrol is approximately 70 days.
Been wondering why I’m continuing my posts on nuclear weapons? Especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Here are the first few reasons that come to mind:
Life continues. All of us, especially me, need to continue on with our lives. The current pandemic is going to be with us for a short while. There will be an echo in the next flu season. This COVID-19 bug is going to be around for a long time. We need to keep living.
The book has lots of articles from the early 1980s through 1991. I bought the book especially for one specific article in 1983 dealing with US and Soviet nuclear forces. The gold mine in that article was a detailed inventory of strategic weaponry as of 1990. It gives a detailed listing of U.S. and Soviet land, submarine, and air based strategic weapons, including count, yield, equivalent megaton, and circular error probable (CEP). Lots of info I’ve been seeking for a long time.
The previous post gave info on US weapons. This post describes the Soviet inventory. Third post will make some comparisons.
First I’ll give my recap of the info and then do a little analysis. Width limits on web pages mean there will be multiple tables.
The book has articles from the early 1980s through 1991. Lots of good stuff. I bought the book especially for one article from 1983 dealing with US and Soviet nuclear forces. The gold mine in that article was a detailed inventory of strategic weaponry as of 1990. It gives a detailed listing of U.S. and Soviet land, submarine, and air based strategic weapons, including count, yield, equivalent megaton, and circular error probable (CEP). Lots of info I’ve been looking for a long time.
Information in that table is credited to The Military Balance 1989-90. At a price of over $200 for the paperback, don’t think I’ll be buying my own copy.
It has lots of articles from the late 1970s through 1991. Reason I bought the book is for one specific article in 1983 dealing with US and Soviet nuclear forces. A table within that article was updated with a detailed inventory of strategic weaponry as of 1990. Several posts will discuss the 1990 inventory in detail.
Previous post strung together my guesses, assumptions, and speculation to develop a table of how many nuclear weapons are on day-to-day alert and how many additional weapons could be generated to alert in what length of time.
Those guesses are for 2020, well after the U.S. won the Cold War and the Soviet Union, the bad ol’ Evil Empire, collapsed.
What would a comparable estimate look like for the depths of the Cold War? This post combines another string of guesses, assumptions, and speculation to figure out the available of U.S. nuclear weapons in 1980. Why that date? Well, it corresponds to when President Reagan won election, took office the following year, and then took necessary steps to conclusively win the Cold War. It also corresponds to the time frame when I was active duty.
Previous posts have described the count of nuclear weapons in the U.S. inventory and how they are deployed. Future posts will dive into the inventory of other nuclear powers. Plan to have some discussion of the U.S. inventory at various times in the past.
Reading the various articles made me wonder how many weapons are available in what time frame.
(Update 2/28/20: Realized the photos of 1970s and ’80s weapon originally included in this post would be better in a comparable post discussing weapons in 1980. Photos moved. New photos added to this post.)
For example, the Minuteman-III loaded with the Mk12A reentry vehicle can carry 3 warheads but are only loaded with 1. It would take months to reconfigure 200 missiles with another 400 warheads.
Of the 12 Ohio-class subs not in refueling, 8 are usually at sea with 4 of those on-station. The other 4 are hours or days away from their assigned station.
There are guessed 200 ALCMs at Minot and 100 gravity bombs at Whiteman which would take a fair amount of time to load. It would take an even long time to transport the remaining 550 weapons out to Minot and Whiteman.
So, I took a wild guess at how many weapons are available to the president immediately and long it would take to get the remaining inventory on line.
There is an astounding amount of information on U.S. nuclear forces found in Nuclear Notebook – United States nuclear forces, 2020, published by The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Not having dived deep into the nuke world for a long time, I’m amazed how much info is available.
Previous posts have gone into a lot of detail on U.S. nukes. This discussion will cover a few interesting tidbits in no particular order with no particular theme.
New START is the name of the current treaty which limits U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons. It went into effect back in February 2011 and will expire in February 2021 unless it is extended for five years by mutual agreement of the U.S. and Russia. The article is skeptical that it will be extended based on what the articles describes as the “demonstrated disdain” of the current administration for any arms control agreements.
On-site inspections are a feature of this treaty. Article says through the end of 2019 there have been a combined total of 321 on-site inspections.
Want to make one thing clear at the beginning of this discussion. Everything discussed here and the two follow-on posts is based on open source information described in the above cited article. I don’t have any knowledge about any of the information in this article. Even if I did (and I don’t), anything I knew would be completely invisible in this discussion.
The US inventory of nuclear weapons is estimated by the authors at: