Pentagon Wants Its Nukes In Europe More ‘Usable’
The United States has approximately 180 B61 nuclear bombs lying in wait in Europe. As “dumb” bombs, they’re relatively useless, but the Pentagon is about to spend $8 billion to turn a stockpile of obsolete weapons into something a little more “usable.”
In 2010, the Obama administration’s Nuclear Posture Review stressed that the United States, in the interest of non-proliferation, would not develop any new nuclear weapons. Stockpiles already in place – like the B61s held in six bases across continental Europe – can remain, but not increased.
Which is why the development of the B61-12 is entering into an uncomfortable gray area. While not technically a new weapon, the Pentagon is administering significant upgrades to those B61s. With a new tail kit and adjustable yield, the US military is turning its aging hoard of “dumb” nukes into precision-guided models.
The exorbitant cost to taxpayers is certainly one point of criticism– at $8 billion, the B61-12 is often referred to as the most expensive nuclear bomb ever made – but the escalated potential for conflict is another.
“If I can drive down the yield, drive down, therefore, the likelihood of fallout, etc, does that make it more usable in the eyes of some – some president or national security decision-making process?” former head of US Strategic Command General James Cartwright told PBS.
“And the answer is, it likely could be more usable.”
Knowing that it has access to a “usable” nuclear weapon could alter the way the Pentagon think sabout nuclear war. The B61-12’s “Dial-a-yield’ technology means that any bomb could have its explosive force adjusted. With a max of 50,000 tons of TNT equivalent and a minimum of 300 tons, the military could customize its desired effect.
A weapon that has been historically considered too dangerous to use could instead be viewed as a legitimate consideration in warfare.