Trump's Nuke Numbers Spotlight U.S. Warhead Dip

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is not known for sticking to the script or facts, but he did get one fact right during last night’s debate when he said Russia possesses 1,800 nuclear warheads compared to America’s dwindling arsenal, with the U.S. unilaterally reducing its number of deployed nuclear warheads to 88% of the allowable number under its treaty with Moscow.

A tally released by the State Department on Oct. 1 shows that Russia has 1,796 deployed nuclear warheads carried by 508 strategic bombers, missiles and submarines compared to America’s 1,367 warheads armed on 681 platforms, a disparity of 429 warheads by the counting rules of the so-called New START treaty between Washington and Moscow. That is number of warheads each side has ready to launch tonight if the most terrible of all conflicts were to break out – a nuclear war between superpowers.

Under the terms of the treaty agreed in 2010, both sides must limit their nuclear arsenals to 700 deployed nuclear launchers and a total of 1,550 warheads by February 2018, with another 100 inactive launchers permissible as a residual capability. Since the first count by the State Department in June 2011, America has winnowed down its number of active warheads by 24% from 1,800 to 1,367 while Russia’s number has increased by 17%.

The two sides briefly reached parity in Sept. 2014, but data shows Moscow’s inventory rising ever since, with Washington dipping below the allowable New START level for the first time in Sept. 2015. It has continued to decrease as the Navy has eliminated nuclear-capable launch tubes from its Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines and as the Air Force narrows the number of warheads per Minuteman III ICBM to just one each.

Although the U.S. is still about one decade away from fielding its Columbia-class replacement for the Ohio and introducing its first new intercontinental ballistic missile in 40 years, the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, Russia has been busy introducing Borei-class boomers and silo-based and road-mobile RS-24 Yars missiles with multiple independently targetable reentry-vehicles (MIRVs). Its latest missile variant, the RS-26 Yars-M, was due to be activated this year, and meanwhile Moscow is developing the heavy-class, liquid-fielded RS-28 Sarmat ICBM capable of carrying 10 or more warheads each for fielding at the turn of the decade. America's Minuteman III ICBM, by comparison, is numerous but outdated, having entered service in 1970 with no replacement expected until the mid-2020s.

Both sides are developing next generation bombers, namely the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider and Tupolev PAK DA, with fielding expected around 2025. Russia also plans to re-start production of the supersonic Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack as an interim measure. A counting misnomer that benefits both sides means that each bomber counts as one nuclear warhead, even though America’s nuclear-capable Northrop B-2 and Boeing B-52 and Russia’s Tupolev Tu-95 and Tu-160 are capable of carrying multiple air-launched cruise missiles and dozens of freefall bombs. 

Both sides still possess enough weapons each to deter the other and do irreparable harm to the planet if ever used. But Trump's comment highlights the significant disparity between the nuclear counts of the U.S. and Russia, and the U.S. government could have reason to worry if the warhead gap widens leading up to the New START deadline. Hans Kristensen of the Federation of Nuclear Scientists writes that Russia’s numbers “are probably a temporary anomaly” caused by delivery of additional Borei-class SSBNs, with the third such vessel joining the operational fleet in September. He notes the warhead disparity is greater now than at any time since New START began in 2011, but it is likely a temporary rise ahead of the retirement of older systems over the next few years. “Russian compliance with the treaty by 2018 is not in doubt, and both countries continue to reduce their deployed and non-deployed strategic launchers,” Kristensen notes.

It is not just the quantity that counts, but also reliability and capability. “Russia is new in terms of nuclear,” Trump remarked during the second presidential debate with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton on Oct. 9. “We are old, we’re tired, we’re exhausted in terms of nuclear.”

Long-time nuclear policy analyst Peter Huessy backs an across-the-board modernization of America’s nuclear triad, as sought by retiring U.S. Strategic Command chief Admiral Cecil Haney. “Failure to modernize our conventional and nuclear deterrent in a timely manner has been correctly characterized as the procurement holiday we undertook at the end of the Cold War,” Huessy says. “This impacts our nuclear triad in particular. The current nuclear modernization investment of just 4% of an already significantly reduced defense budget over the past decade remains critical and it needs to be increased proportionate to the deterrent requirements of our nuclear strategy.”

None of these warhead numbers include both sides' considerable inventory of non-strategic tactical nuclear weapons and those marked for dismantlement. They also do not reflect the true number of nuclear warheads each nation is capable of deploying should the treaty ever be scrapped or violated. Relations between Washington and Russia have deteriorated markedly since New START was endorsed, and the U.S. is now filing complaints against Russia’s apparent violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, which halted the use of ground-launched nuclear cruise missiles with a range greater than 270 nm (500 km).

If the if the balloon goes up, the Pentagon could quickly arm its Minuteman IIIs with more than one warhead, despite them carrying just one today. Russia’s rockets all carry multiple warheads, which could be an issue in 2018 when it must reduce its numbers. The U.S. decommissioned its last 10-warhead Peacekeeper missile in 2005 and is working its way down to 400 on-alert Minuteman IIIs along with 54 spare silos with missiles removed. By 2018, the Defense Department’s says its New START-compliant inventory will include 400 deployed ICBMs plus 54, 240 submarine-launched missiles and 60 heavy bombers plus six extra in non-deployed standby.

Discuss this Blog Entry 74

on Oct 20, 2016

Does being "One a River in Egypt" describe anything here?

WOE
on Oct 21, 2016

This comment is from a former post, but, applicable:

This is like, Getting BURNED, with your own NUKES ! Seems to me, we already went down that road, but cancelled the program in favor of the Start II treaty that was never even ratified. Inexcusable waste of tax payers money. No wonder we are $20 trillion in debt! The really sick thing about this is that Russia now has in production the equivalent of our MX peacekeepers. While ours, with their Silos were destroyed, or re-purposed for civilian use.

(Last updated 10 October 1997: USA WEAPONS)
The cost of procuring a Peacekeeper missile (the "flyaway" cost) was only about $20 million (FY 82). The total cost of the program was approximately $20 billion however, at a pro-rated cost of $400 million per operational missile, or $40 million per deployed warhead. A total of 114 Peacekeepr missiles were produced (due to the need for test missiles and spares).

LGM-118 Peacekeeper
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
The LGM-118 Peacekeeper, also known as the MX missile (for Missile-eXperimental), was a land-based ICBM deployed by the United States starting in 1986. The Peacekeeper was a MIRV missile that could carry up to 10 re-entry vehicles, each armed with a 300-kiloton W87 warhead in a Mk.21 reentry vehicle (RV). A total of 50 missiles were deployed starting in 1986, after a long and contentious development program that traced its roots into the 1960s.
Under the START II treaty, which never entered into force, the missiles were to be removed from the US nuclear arsenal in 2005, leaving the LGM-30 Minuteman as the only type of land-based ICBM in the arsenal. Despite the demise of the START II treaty, the last of the LGM-118A Peacekeeper ICBMs was decommissioned on September 19, 2005. Current plans are to move some of the W87 warheads from the decommissioned Peacekeepers to the Minuteman III.
The private launch firm Orbital Sciences Corporation has developed the Minotaur IV, a four-stage civilian expendable launch system using old Peacekeeper components.

on Oct 21, 2016

The MX was aptly named; the Peacekeeper.
In an unstable world, what sane person would eliminate such a force?

on Oct 21, 2016

The author of the Galactic history "Dead Worlds of Antiquity," observed that the ancient recovered text "Doctor Strangelove," had written that the two sides had acquired sufficient weapons to destroy the world 17 times; "though why the would want to do it more than once eludes us."

The comparison of the numbers of nuclear warheads possessed by Russia and the US is like a coven of 13 year old boys comparing the size of their penises. A comparison which appeals only to the inexperienced or insecure.

Oh my! Horrors!, Visions of blue haired old ladies of both sexes running around with their hair on fire!

THEY can destroy us 2.1666 times while we may only destroy them 1.9999 times!

"“Russia is new in terms of nuclear,” Trump remarked during the second presidential debate with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton on Oct. 9. “We are old, we’re tired, we’re exhausted in terms of nuclear.”

English/Freudian translation: See how big our hands are? Let me show you how big I can make our hands!

on Oct 21, 2016

Dribble

on Oct 21, 2016

Drivel, Zack.
Don't try and use words that you cannot spell. Just shows everyone your lack of intelligence.

on Oct 21, 2016

You should have written: "Don't try to use words ..."

on Oct 21, 2016

I am mystified, When is the USA going to go to war with Russia, or Russia going to go to war with the USA. The USA seems to be unable to define itself except by its "enemies", an interesting political philosophy.

on Oct 21, 2016

Its called planning your defense policy based on your potential enemies.

on Oct 21, 2016

Can't we all just get along? RK

on Oct 21, 2016

I could ask another question: Is the problems were solved with Clinton's + Obama's years?
Not at all!!!!
Syria + Libya + Iraq + other parties!!!

on Oct 21, 2016

Its called deterrence through strength. Proof... what's USSR doing now? Running all over O'butthead.

on Oct 21, 2016

An anti-ballistic missile system would render the question moot.
But the Democrats say that it would be "destabilizing".

on Oct 21, 2016

Only an ABM system that could provide 100% accuracy would render the question moot. Even a 1% miss rate would render most of our society a wasteland. But you better believe that the defense contractors want to keep trying, and keep that gravy train humming.

on Oct 21, 2016

It would only take 100 nuclear weapons to decimate the entire global population yet we need more than ten times that number?

on Oct 21, 2016

Actually there more than 15 000 of those world wide the 2 ones poking each others 6K and the crumbs for the rest of the deterrents!

on Oct 21, 2016

Where did you get that from? You mean 1/10th of the world's population wwould be killed by setting off 100 nukes? I doubt it. Who ssaid so?

on Oct 21, 2016

Where did you get that from? You mean 1/10th of the world's population wwould be killed by setting off 100 nukes? I doubt it. Who ssaid so?

on Oct 21, 2016

Where did you get that from? You mean 1/10th of the world's population wwould be killed by setting off 100 nukes? I doubt it. Who ssaid so?

on Oct 21, 2016

Where did you get that from? You mean 1/10th of the world's population would be killed by setting off 100 nukes? I doubt it. Who ssaid so?

on Oct 21, 2016

Where did you get that from? You mean 1/10th of the world's population would be killed by setting off 100 nukes? I doubt it. Who ssaid so?

on Oct 21, 2016

Between 1945 and 1992 the US set off 1054 warheads, mostly underground, but 219 in the atmosphere. Then you can add in the 1099 test explosions(a mix of atmospheric and underground) by the Russians, Chinese, French, Israeli, Indian, Pakistani and North Korean and I guess we all died decades ago. Even though 100 bombs could kill a lot of people, It would take a lot more than 100 to decimate humans.

on Oct 21, 2016

"I am mystified, When is the USA going to go to war with Russia, or Russia going to go to war with the USA."
- WJLAviator@aol.com

We are not going to war with them or they with us.

All that crap posted at Pravda, Tass and Sputnik about nuclear war if Hillary's elected will vanish as soon as the US election is over whether Putin's preferred candidate wins or not.

Not only is Putin a dictator, he is not particularly subtle in his propaganda.

on Oct 21, 2016

Ptuin is as dictator as Ms Clinton is a democrat!!!

on Oct 21, 2016

Well said - comrade aalexandre

on Oct 21, 2016

"An anti-ballistic missile system would render the question moot."
- Rowboat71

The 40′ GP Standard Shipping Containers is still readily available.

I once, just from curiosity, enquired from a famous parcel delivery service known for its on time, on target morning deliveries, what it would cost to ship a parcel with the size and weight of a W-54 to a certain address in a city on the Potomac.

It was quite reasonable as delivery systems go.

Could a foreign power manage a flawless time on target attack against the US via common carrier?

I doubt it. But there is the well proven nap of the earth cruise missile and manned aircraft and no one has yet devised a missile defense system with the capability to achieve invulnerability.

The omnipotent and invincible defense system?

Save it for Ralphie and his trusty Red Ryder BB gun.

Take that Black Bart!

on Oct 21, 2016

So we're down 429 against the Ruskies out of a couple of thousand - big deal.

Wouldn't those last couple of hundred just be bouncing, or more to the point roasting, the rubble anyway?

on Oct 21, 2016

Public debt of Russia is 15%, US debt per GDP 104% .15% vs 104% do the maths!
So I would prefer having a 5K rubbles than a 500$ witch is less than a sheet of paper toilet!

on Oct 21, 2016

LOL. US GDP is about 10 times that of Russia and per capita GDP is about 4 times that of Russia.

Russia's debt-to-GDP ratio is so low because it is a poor, corrupt and badly run country. Investors therefore don't trust it.

on Oct 22, 2016

The single state of California has a higher GDP than Russia, and there is yet another large difference: California enjoys a large surplus, while Russia has a large negative cash flow. The country has burned through most or all of one of its reserves and as the economy struggles, the government imposes ever more stringent controls on all aspects of society, to the point of order the families of foreign-based diplomats be returned to Russian soil. For these reasons, Russia's increasingly antagonistic stance toward the west in general and the United States in particular is worrisome, if only because Putin will keep pushing until Obama or Clinton pushes back. That is the point that I fear.

on Oct 21, 2016

LOL. US GDP is about 10 times that of Russia and per capita GDP is about 4 times that of Russia.

Russia's debt-to-GDP ratio is so low because it is a poor, corrupt and badly run country. Investors therefore don't trust it.

on Oct 21, 2016

LOL. US GDP is about 10 times that of Russia and per capita GDP is about 4 times that of Russia.

Russia's debt-to-GDP ratio is so low because it is a poor, corrupt and badly run country. Investors therefore don't trust it.

on Oct 21, 2016

That fact ,that Russia today has less than half the population of the US, with an economy 25% that of the US, is precisely why Putin agreed to the bomb cuts in the first place! Otherwise he wouldn't. He's no "great humanitarian" like our pres. Obama. But he's still smarter. He says he has the right to have a bit more because the arsenals of Britain and France are not counted and they too target mainly Russia. So he has an argument. But Obama is placing the US in danger from third parties like Iran and North Korea when they fully flesh out their arsenals in 20 years. They won't have any hesitation to hit our largest cities once they have the missiles and bombs big enough and sufficient numbers to do so, while our own arsenal continues to shrink in size and numbers.

on Oct 21, 2016

" it is a poor" How many people in the US are on food stamps?
"corrupt and badly run country" It would be wise not to criticize because the US have corruption and are barely run because the debt roof under Obama's presidency had to be risen 3 or 4 times!
"LOL. US GDP is about 10 times that of Russia and per capita GDP is about 4 times that of Russia." Why because the Fed is counterfeiting money by printing paper money witch has no value at all!! Call me moron but Ron Paul is saying exactly the same!!!!

on Oct 21, 2016

The Ruskie Ranter shows he has no idea what GDP is.
No surprises here.

on Oct 23, 2016

wellL

on Oct 21, 2016

Is there any, repeat, ANY, subject about which liberals have not deliberately LIED to the American people ???

No, there is not, and this one is no different.

on Oct 21, 2016

Putin is not a Dictator, He was elected by the Russian people in an election. If you want dictators go to Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States in other words the West's allies in the Middle East. We may not like him but he is honest and actually says what he believes in. Still we can console ourselves with our success in our foreign policy achievements over the years, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

on Oct 21, 2016

Well well said, but you are joining the Black Sheep Squadron!!!

on Oct 22, 2016

Can anyone, individual or publication, say or write anything that could be seen to be a challenge to Putin? As I recall, they tend to get assassinated, or they lose their company, wealth and freedom. Donald Trump represents to America what Putin, Erdogin, Muderte and assorted others have represented to their host societies - the erosion of democracy.

on Oct 21, 2016

Wow, only the liberals lie. Stop watching Fox news.

on Oct 21, 2016

Actually, what is happening increases rather than decreases the chance of nuclear wars, not necessarily between US and Russia but between others such as Pakistan-INdia, Israel-Iran, and/or North Korea and Japan and South Korea.
Yes, we have both decreased the numbers of nukes from the tens of thousands that existed back in the '60s and '70s to roughly 1500. And the ones we are developing now are borne by missiles that are far more precise with smaller warheads in order to precisely hit military targets and avoid destroying each other's major cities and population centers. Now, this would appear to be a good thing, not hitting cities and only targeting strategic military and industrial targets. But in fact, what has kept nukes from being used since the end of WWII until now is M.A.D or precisely the fear of our cities, and their cities ,being wiped off the face of the map. With fewer and more precise and tactical nukes, this actually lowers the fear of being wiped out and enhances the chances of using them in the first place.Obama is either very naive or complicit . The idea that few, smaller, and more precisely targeted nukes will reduce the chance of war, is naive and dumb, IMHO.

on Oct 21, 2016

"But Obama is placing the US in danger from third parties like Iran and North Korea when they fully flesh out their arsenals in 20 years."

Oh no! There is a mouse in the cellar and in twenty years it may be a rat!

"The horror! The horror!
- Colonel Walter E. Kurtz

on Oct 21, 2016

"With fewer and more precise and tactical nukes, this actually lowers the fear of being wiped out and enhances the chances of using them in the first place."
- jgarbuz@netzero.com

I see, being able to start an annihilating nuclear war is more likely simply because the respective parties may more precisely annihilate each other?

You are still utterly destroyed. Big difference.

"The idea that few, smaller, and more precisely targeted nukes will reduce the chance of war, is naive and dumb, IMHO."
jgarbuz@netzero.com

You seem to have no grasp of a simple fact. A huge kaboom far away is not more likely to kill you as dead as large kaboom right on to of you.

"Obama is either very naive or complicit ."

I see, that is the real complaint isn't it?

Sorry, too bad that muslin black guy from Kenya was president.

on Oct 24, 2016

>"You seem to have no grasp of a simple fact. A huge kaboom far away is not more likely to kill you as dead as large kaboom right on to of you..."<

Can you explain your logic in that sentence, because I can't find it. Is that Obamalogic?

>Sorry, too bad that muslin black guy from Kenya was president.<

I kick myself twice a day for having voted for him TWICE!

Dolomite (not verified)
on Oct 21, 2016

That is not very nice if you Mark, to refer to our leader as muslim black guy from Kenya. Where is your civility o'l body?

on Oct 21, 2016

so which country is going to reduce the planed to cinders better?

on Oct 21, 2016

C'mon, AvWeek; just endorse Hillary already and stop subjecting us to these poorly reasoned, poorly written ("If the if the balloon goes up" ?) and largely polemical pieces.

on Oct 21, 2016

We have more than enough warheads - let's not go back to the cold war years just yet.

on Oct 21, 2016

"Putin is not a Dictator, He was elected by the Russian people in an election"
- WJLAviator@aol.com

Full Definition of dictator:
1 a : a person granted absolute emergency power; especially : one appointed by the senate of ancient Rome
b : one holding complete autocratic control
c : one ruling absolutely and often oppressively
2 : one that dictates

It is entirely possible to be both elected and a dictator.

The key is that: one hold complete autocratic control or be one ruling absolutely and often oppressively, one that dictates.

Putin exhibits those characteristics.

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