How US nuclear force modernization is undermining strategic stability: The burst-height compensating super-fuze | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

GR:  Nuclear war poses a massive threat to life on Earth. In fact, few analysts believe that anyone would survive a nuclear war. The security achieved by mutually assured destruction is madness. However, when madmen control governments nothing and everything is insane.

Members of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists unveil the 2017 time for the “Doomsday Clock” January 26, 2017 in Washington, DC. For the first time in the 70-year history of the Doomsday Clock, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the clock forward 30 seconds to two and a half minutes before midnight, citing “ill-considered” statements by U.S. President Donald Trump on nuclear weapons and climate change, developments in Russia, North Korea, India and Pakistan. From left to right are theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Pickering and retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral David Titley. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Members of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists unveil the 2017 time for the “Doomsday Clock” January 26, 2017 in Washington, DC. For the first time in the 70-year history of the Doomsday Clock, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the clock forward 30 seconds to two and a half minutes before midnight, citing “ill-considered” statements by U.S. President Donald Trump on nuclear weapons and climate change, developments in Russia, North Korea, India and Pakistan. From left to right are theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Pickering and retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral David Titley. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

“The US nuclear forces modernization program has been portrayed to the public as an effort to ensure the reliability and safety of warheads in the US nuclear arsenal, rather than to enhance their military capabilities. In reality, however, that program has implemented revolutionary new technologies that will vastly increase the targeting capability of the US ballistic missile arsenal. This increase in capability is astonishing—boosting the overall killing power of existing US ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three—and it creates exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.

“Because of improvements in the killing power of US submarine-launched ballistic missiles, those submarines now patrol with more than three times the number of warheads needed to destroy the entire fleet of Russian land-based missiles in their silos. US submarine-based missiles can carry multiple warheads, so hundreds of others, now in storage, could be added to the submarine-based missile force, making it all the more lethal.

“The revolutionary increase in the lethality of submarine-borne US nuclear forces comes from a “super-fuze” device that since 2009 has been incorporated into the Navy’s W76-1/Mk4A warhead as part of a decade-long life-extension program. We estimate that all warheads deployed on US ballistic missile submarines now have this fuzing capability. Because the innovations in the super-fuze appear, to the non-technical eye, to be minor, policymakers outside of the US government (and probably inside the government as well) have completely missed its revolutionary impact on military capabilities and its important implications for global security.

“Before the invention of this new fuzing mechanism, even the most accurate ballistic missile warheads might not detonate close enough to targets hardened against nuclear attack to destroy them. But the new super-fuze is designed to destroy fixed targets by detonating above and around a target in a much more effective way. Warheads that would otherwise overfly a target and land too far away will now, because of the new fuzing system, detonate above the target.

FIGURE 1. The deployment of the new MC4700 arming, fuzing, and firing system on the W76-1/Mk4A significantly increases the number of hard target kill-capable warheads on US ballistic missile submarines.

“The result of this fuzing scheme is a significant increase in the probability that a warhead will explode close enough to destroy the target even though the accuracy of the missile-warhead system has itself not improved.

“As a consequence, the US submarine force today is much more capable than it was previously against hardened targets such as Russian ICBM silos. A decade ago, only about 20 percent of US submarine warheads had hard-target kill capability; today they all do. (See Figure 1.)” Hans M. Kristensen, Matthew McKinzie, and Theodore A. Postol (Continue reading:  How US nuclear force modernization is undermining strategic stability: The burst-height compensating super-fuze | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.)

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