Jeffrey LewisSTRATCOM Still Hearts MIRVs

Remember when I blogged, back in January 2006, that “the Bush Administration now plans to keep multiple nuclear warheads on some of our ICBMs …”?

Turns out — in another bit of good reporting that I recently missed — Elaine Grossman reports that STRATCOM will keep three warheads on 25 Minuteman III ICBMs:

“In [fiscal] 2011, there will be no systems with two warheads,” Masao Doi, an Air Force Space Command spokesman, said Oct. 24 by e-mail. “The remaining 450 systems will be configured with one or three warheads.”

Noting that “specific numbers are classified,” Doi would not say how many missiles would carry three warheads.

However, simple math dictates that the 50 available warheads provide 25 pairs that could be added to 25 of the remaining single-warhead missiles in the ICBM fleet to make 25 three-warhead platforms.

Using new and previously available data, an independent nuclear weapons analyst last week speculated that the three-warhead missiles would reside at either Minot Air Force Base, N.D., or Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

As I’ve argued before, maintaining an augmentation capability “to increase the number of operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads above the limits of the Moscow Treaty” including uploading warheads to the MM III force “in a developing crisis” seems kind of destabilizing to me.

Comments

  1. Neil (History)

    Jeff,

    Your referenced posting from Jan 06 no longer has the zipped files of the various draft doctrine documents. Do you still have them? Thanks

  2. anon (History)

    The simple arithmetic cited in the article assumes that the total number of warheads deployed on MMIII will be 500. I’m not sure this is a good assumption. If MIRVing continues, then the warhead total does not have to equal the 500 missiles that would have existed in a pre-2007 force. It could be higher.

    Also, the Space Command spokesman who says that no missiles will carry 2 warheads is saying something different than General Deppe, who was chief of 20th Air Force and is now the Vice Commander at Space Command. He has said the Minuteman III missiles will carry 1, 2, or 3 warheads, and I heard him repeat that comment as recently as a few months ago.

    My math tells me something other than Elaine’s math tells her. Only classified information can tell you the real answer.

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