In the United States, a massive modernization of the W76 nuclear warheads, which are equipped with submarine-launched ballistic missiles, has begun. According to the National Nuclear Safety Agency (NNSA), the production of the latest version of the W76-2 warhead is being conducted at the Pantax plant in Texas.
The W76-2 nuclear warheads are equipped with Trident 2 three-stage solid-fuel ballistic missiles (BR), which are in service with the US Navy and are placed on American submarines. Currently, the United States has a program to upgrade the W76 type combat units from version 0 to version 1 and 2. DevelopmentW76-2 was conducted since 2018, its power is 6.5 kilotons, which is half as much as the bomb “Little Boy” (“Kid”), exploded in Hiroshima, Japan. For comparison: the power of the ” W76 ” parent warhead is 100 kilotons, W76-1-90 kilotons. The reduction was achieved by removing the second stage.
According to the US military, such a low-power thermonuclear weapon will limit the affected areas and significantly reduce civilian casualties. In total, 2 thousand W76 units must pass through the modernization program. At the same time, proponents of non-proliferation of weapons oppose even these low-power warheads, so the modernization program is still in question.
The next major milestone in the nuclear weapons program should be the modernization of existing aircraft bombs to the B61-12 variant. It is planned that within the framework of this program, the first production facility will be launched in the 2022 fiscal year, and production will be completed by 2024. The NNSA estimates that the program will cost between $ 7.3 billion and $ 9.5 billion.
In general, estimates of the cost of nuclear rearmament for the United States have increased significantly over the past year, as the government prepares to develop and maintain up to nine new nuclear weapons systems over the next 25 years. In this regard, NNSA has to deal with a wide range of issues: from the modernization of aging infrastructure to increasing the production of plutonium quarries and ensuring the safety of facilities.