Combat drone launches drone. Spare parts for Minuteman system getting scarce.

The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrates the separation of the ALTIUS-600 small UAS in a test at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground test range, Arizona on March 26, 2021. This test was the first time the weapons bay doors have been opened in flight. (Photo courtesy United States Air Force.)

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.

Continue reading “Combat drone launches drone. Spare parts for Minuteman system getting scarce.”

British nuclear forces in 2011.

NE140004002 by Think Defence is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. Royal Navy Vanguard Class submarine HMS Vigilant returning to HMNB Clyde after her extended deployment.

The United Kingdom relies exclusively on submarine launched ballistic missiles for their nuclear deterrent. They have no land-based missiles (ICBMs) or bomber delivered nuclear weapons.

In 2011 the speculation was they had 225 nuclear warheads. Of these, 160 were operationally available with 65 spares to allow for routine maintenance and processing.

Continue reading “British nuclear forces in 2011.”

England to increase its nuclear weapons stockpile.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (May 9, 2019) An unarmed Trident II D5 missile launches from the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, May 9, 2019. The successful launch certified the readiness of the SSBN crew and the operation performance of the submarine’s strategic weapons
system following completion of its engineered refueling overhaul before
returning to operational availability. (U.S. Navy photo by John Kowalski/Released)

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.

Continue reading “England to increase its nuclear weapons stockpile.”

The horrible effects of nuclear weapons.

Atom Bomb Nuclear Explosion by Burnt Pineapple Productions is in the public domain:  CC0 1.0

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.

 

The Wikipedia article is Effects of nuclear explosions.

The following table is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. The original author is not visible, so I cannot give further attribution.

In short version, that means I can use the information, modify it, adapt it, share it, or distribute it, even commercially if so desired.

The requirement of doing so is that anything created from this data must be shared with others under the same license.

So, the information in this blog post, but only this specific blog post, may be used by anyone under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

 

The frightening effects of nuclear weapons:

Continue reading “The horrible effects of nuclear weapons.”

French nuclear weapon inventory in 2019.

070723-N-6524M-004 by cryogenic666 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Mediterranean Sea (July 23, 2007)– A French Rafale M combat aircraft performs a catapult-assisted launch from the flight deck of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65). The Rafale is the first French aircraft to both launch and recover on an American carrier. U.S Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brandon Morris. Image released by LT Mark C. Jones, PAO CVN 65.

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.

Strategy

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.

Continue reading “French nuclear weapon inventory in 2019.”

Why all these discussions of nuclear weapons, especially now?

LGM-30 Minuteman III
An LGM-30 Minuteman III missile soars in the air after a test launch. (U.S. Air Force photo) No date provided or further attribution attached to photo.

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.

Continue reading “Why all these discussions of nuclear weapons, especially now?”

Inventory and accuracy of Soviet nuclear weapons in 1990.

Untitled photo of Tu-95 Bear under escort by F-15C Eagle by Robert Sullivan is in the public domain (CC0 1.0)

 

In my research on nuclear armaments came across a superb resource: Physics and Nuclear Arms Today (Readings from Physics Today)

(Update 4/2/20: Title of post revised.)

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.

  Continue reading “Inventory and accuracy of Soviet nuclear weapons in 1990.”

Inventory and accuracy of U.S. nuclear weapons in 1990.

USS Ulysses S. Grant (SSBN-631) returning to port on 2/1/91, but exact date is in doubt. Sub was in service from 1964 through 1992. Photo taken by U.S. Government employee in course of assigned duties so it is in the public domain.

Came across a superb resource during my research on nuclear armaments: Physics and Nuclear Arms Today (Readings from Physics Today)

(Update 4/2/20: Title of post revised.)

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.

This post will give info on US weapons. Next post will describe the Soviet inventory. Third post will make some comparisons.  Width limits on web pages mean there will be multiple tables.  Continue reading “Inventory and accuracy of U.S. nuclear weapons in 1990.”

Comments on US and Soviet nuclear arsenals in 1983 – #1

ICBM test contributes to continued deterrence
Second Lt. ___ ___, the 321st SMS deputy missile combat crew commander, and 1st Lt. ___ ___, the 321st SMS missile combat crew commander, simulate key turns of the Minuteman III weapon system during a Simulated Electronic Launch-Minuteman test inside the launch control center at a missile alert facility in the 90th Missile Wing’s missile complex, Neb., April 11, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Ruano) SELM tests use actual equipment in the field to make sure the equipment in an LCC and an LF can work.

Came across a great resource on nuclear armaments as I browsed the web looking for some particular information. The book is Physics and Nuclear Arms Today (Readings from Physics Today)

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.

Likelihood of destroying a hardened missile silo

Continue reading “Comments on US and Soviet nuclear arsenals in 1983 – #1”

Number and alert status of U.S. nuclear weapons in 1980.

Minuteman ICBM, Hill AFB Museum, Utah – Ywmin_1b by Greg Goebel is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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.

Strategic Bombers

I’m fuzzy on number and armament of strategic bombers back in the 1980s. Wikipedia has List of B-52 Units of the United States Air Force.  Going through the list of units active in 1980 I count 17 wings with 29 squadrons.

Continue reading “Number and alert status of U.S. nuclear weapons in 1980.”

Number and alert status of U.S. nuclear weapons in 2020.

A KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, prepares to transfer fuel to a B-2 Spirit from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., off the coast of Spain, June 13, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

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.

Continue reading “Number and alert status of U.S. nuclear weapons in 2020.”

More tidbits on U.S. nuclear forces.

Two B-52H Stratofortress aircraft assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron fly in formation during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1 over the Baltic Sea, Oct. 23, 2019.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

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.

Continue reading “More tidbits on U.S. nuclear forces.”

Inventory of U.S. nuclear weapons

AGM-87 ALCM Cruise missile, Seattle Museum of Flight – Ywalc_3b by Greg Goebel is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists publishes their Nuclear Notebook which provides extensive detail on the nuclear forces of the world’s nuclear powers.

As I read through some of their publications, some of the highlights and details will be mentioned.

Up first is the Nuclear Notebook – United States nuclear forces, 2020. The document is about 16 pages long including four pages of references.

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.

Total inventory

The US inventory of nuclear weapons is estimated by the authors at:

Continue reading “Inventory of U.S. nuclear weapons”

Another post on nuclear weapons; who has how many, history of triad, and upgrade plans.

Capt. ____ , 91st Operations Support Squadron minuteman combat crew commander, and 2nd Lt. ____, 740th Missile Squadron deputy minuteman combat crew commander, review missile alert facility checklists at MAF Delta-01, Max, N.D., Oct. 26, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alyssa M. Akers) (Names deleted by editor)

This will be my last post clearing out old articles on military topics, particularly on nukes. Will have a few more posts on new articles found will writing this series. Articles mentioned here:

  • what countries have how many nukes
  • history of U.S. triad and details of weapon systems over the years
  • upgrade and modernization plans for U.S. inventory

A Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile successfully launches at 1 a.m. Nov. 5 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The missile was configured with a National Nuclear Security Administration test assembly in which a single unarmed re-entry vehicle traveled approximately 4,190 miles to their pre-determined targets near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. (U.S. Air Force photo/Joe Davila)

Utopia, you are standing in it! – 4/12/15 – Who’s Got Nukes

Article provides a graph with data from 2014 of which countries have how many nukes, and when they tested their first one. Source cited is the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Continue reading “Another post on nuclear weapons; who has how many, history of triad, and upgrade plans.”

Revising U.S. nuclear strategy

AGM-86 ALCM cruise missile, Seattle Museum of Flight, Washington – Ywalc_2b by Greg Goebel is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 – This is the only nuclear load currently authorized for the B-52G.

A few articles I bookmarked a while back describe a shift in nuclear strategy by the U.S.

Some discussion if you are interested:

Free Beacon – 2/7/18 – Mattis Defends Plan to Deploy Small-Nuclear Arms

Continue reading “Revising U.S. nuclear strategy”