WASHINGTON, DC — The Pentagon is installing low-yield nuclear warheads on some of its submarines.
The independent monitor Federation of American Scientists (FSA) says the first small nuke was placed on the USS Tennessee in the final weeks of last year.
In his latest Strategic Security Blog, Hans Kristensen with the FSA says the recently deployed submarine with the new W76-2 low-yield Trident warhead. It is “likely that the new low-yield weapon is intended to facilitate first-use of nuclear weapons against North Korea or Iran.”
He writes, “We estimate that one or two of the 20 missiles on the USS Tennessee and subsequent subs will be armed with the W76-2, either singly or carrying multiple warheads. Each W76-2 is estimated to have an explosive yield of about five kilotons. The remaining 18 missiles on each submarine like the Tennessee carry either the 90-kiloton W76-1 or the 455-kiloton W88. Each missile can carry up to eight warheads under current loading configurations.”
The step matches Russia, which has developed its own small nuclear missiles.Some analysts fear the fact these nuclear devices do not cause as much damage means world leaders may be more likely to use them.
The Pentagon has not confirmed the existence of the small nukes.