WASHINGTON – In addition to the strategic nuclear submarine USS Tennessee, the US Navy currently has a USS Alaska submarine, which is also equipped with one or two ballistic missiles with new nuclear warheads W76-2, learned BulgarianMilitary.com, citing data from the Federation of US Scientists.
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The USS Alaska nuclear submarine returned from combat patrols at its Kings Bay base in Georgia in early October, according to the US Navy.
She reportedly patrolled the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean. In late June, the submarine demanded the recovery of supplies in Gibraltar.
The Ohio-class USS Tennessee and USS Alaska submarines, stationed at Kings Bay on the American Atlantic coast, are equipped with 20 Trident II D5 ICBMs. They carry W76-1 [100 kilotons] and W88 [475 kilotons] nuclear warheads. One or two missiles have W76-2 warheads with a yield of 5-8 kilotons, which is about a third of the power of the American atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
A small number of such warheads [according to some sources, about 20 units] were produced in 2019 at the Pantax facility in Texas. The USS Tennessee was the first to be equipped with them.
The W76-2 low-yield warheads were manufactured during the Donald Trump administration to counter what she said could be Russia’s plans to use the first tactical nuclear weapons.
The Pentagon argues for the need to deploy low-income (tactical) nuclear weapons with the fact that they “will hold Russia more effectively” and will not allow it to “use its great potential for tactical nuclear weapons.”
Deciding to deploy low-income warheads on submarines, the Trump administration said the weapons would make a full-scale nuclear war less likely by providing the United States with a more flexible deterrent. According to Washington, this would presumably prevent the enemy, especially Russia, from using tactical weapons in the hope that the United States will not use its powerful strategic nuclear weapons in response to a limited nuclear attack.
The US Nuclear Strategy, adopted in 2018, notes that the availability of low-yield nuclear weapons “will ensure that potential adversaries cannot take advantage of the limited nuclear escalation, making the use of nuclear weapons less likely.”
US President Joe Biden, meanwhile, has repeatedly said in the past that building and deploying low-yield nuclear warheads is a “bad idea.” Experts note that if a ballistic missile is launched with such nuclear warheads, the enemy will not be able to determine what charge it carries, and will be forced to respond using all strategic nuclear forces.
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