#42 “Cute Little Nukes” Coming to Your Part of the World

Donald Trump instructed then-Defense Secretary James Mattis to devise a nuclear deterrence strategy that would be “appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats.” The upshot was a sub-launched low-yield nuke that could strike Iran or North Korea in just ten or fifteen minutes as opposed to the eleven hours it would take a stealth bomber to deliver a nuclear payload from its home base in Missouri. Who could wait when a mini-holocaust was finally at hand?

The Nuclear Posture Review of February 2018 was produced by the Office Of The Secretary Of Defense. Secretary of Defense James Mattis oversaw the report and published initiative for a new Nuclear Posture. A policy to “enhance deterrence by denying potential adversaries any mistaken confidence that limited nuclear employment can provide a useful advantage over the United States and its allies.”

James Mattis used the Russia-phobia narrative combined with scare tactic to advance the low-yield nuclear weapons into the U.S. military’s toolbox. Mattis’ nuclear solution to the “Russian strategic imperative” was backed up by statements like;

“Russia’s belief that limited nuclear first use, potentially including low-yield weapons”

“Russian statements on this evolving nuclear weapons doctrine appear to lower the threshold for Moscow’s first-use of nuclear weapons”

“Russia demonstrates its perception of the advantage these systems provide through numerous exercises and statements”

“Moscow’s perception that its greater number and variety of non-strategic nuclear systems provide a coercive advantage”

To justify the low-yield initiative, Mattis’ 2018 report went on to say, ‘… the United States will enhance the flexibility and range of its tailored deterrence options. To be clear, this is not intended to, nor does it enable, “nuclear war-fighting.”’ That is reassuring, giving the military more nuclear options to deter a nuclear war is like giving a junkie more drugs to prevent an overdose.

Mattis further justified, “… to include low-yield options, is important for the preservation of credible deterrence against regional aggression. It will raise the nuclear threshold and help ensure that potential adversaries perceive no possible advantage in limited nuclear escalation, making nuclear employment less likely.” So, there you have it, that is why we need those “cute little nukes.”

Today, two years later we have US Navy vessels with those “cute little nukes” on board. The technical name “nuclear-tipped SLBM, submarine-launched ballistic missile” or W76-2.  In a Tuesday statement, undersecretary of defense for policy John Rood confirmed that the Navy has fielded the weapon to “strengthens deterrence and provides the United States a prompt, more survivable low-yield strategic weapon… and demonstrates to potential adversaries that there is no advantage to limited nuclear employment…” Sound familiar?

The deployment of the W76-2, a low-yield variant of the nuclear warhead traditionally used on the Trident missile, was first reported Jan. 29 by the Federation of American Scientists (FSA). The first to move out with the new weapon was the USS Tennessee (SSBN-734), deploying from Kings Bay Submarine Base in Georgia at the end of 2019, FAS reported.

Low-yield means somewhere around five kilotons, or roughly one-third the destructive power of the “Little Boy” nuclear bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima in the final days of World War II, killing tens of thousands of people.

Atomically speaking, this is hardly more than a firecracker. However, nuclear devices dwarf conventional weapons. Take for example the record-setting GBU-43/B MOAB (“Mother of all bombs”) that the US dropped on an ISIS tunnel complex in Afghanistan in 2017. A 2003 test of the MOAB prototype created a mushroom cloud visible from twenty miles away. To put this result in perspective, a low-yield five-kiloton bomb is 500 times greater than the MOAB.

In January 2019, when the low-yield nuclear warheads began rolling off the line the Democrats vowed to block their deployment. Recently Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, from Senate floor, said, “I maintain that this is one weapon that will not add to our national security but would only increase the risk of miscalculation with dire consequences.”

Clearly, at one time the House of Representatives agreed with Sen. Reed because the original version of the 2020 defense bill prohibited deployment of the modified warhead. Strangely enough, that verbiage got lost. 

What happened between January 2019 and today that may have diverted these “honorable” men and women in Congress? Russia-gate, Ukraine-gate and Impeachment come to mind, after all, bipartisan political games can be very distracting. The final 2020 defense budget passed in December with massive Democratic support and by the way it contained a line item allowing the W76-2 program to go forward.

Thank you Congress! You are always looking out for us! WTFU

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