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U.S. Lowers Nuclear Deployments Under Treaty

A U.S. Minuteman 3 ICBM lifts off in a test launch. The nation's launch-ready nuclear arsenal fell by 53 warheads and 10 delivery vehicles between September and March, according to information made public by the State Department on Friday (U.S. Air Force photo). A U.S. Minuteman 3 ICBM lifts off in a test launch. The nation's launch-ready nuclear arsenal fell by 53 warheads and 10 delivery vehicles between September and March, according to information made public by the State Department on Friday (U.S. Air Force photo).

The United States as of March 1 held 1,737 strategic nuclear warheads fielded on 812 active ICBMs, submarines-based missiles and bombers, a cut of 53 deployed bombs and 10 launch-ready delivery vehicles since last September, the U.S. State Department indicated in data released on Friday (see GSN, May 22).

The U.S.-Russian New START treaty would require Washington to remove by 2018 an additional 289 delivery vehicles from its active arsenal, the Federation of American Scientists said. The pact, which entered into force in February 2011, requires the sides to each reduce deployment of strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550, down from a cap of 2,200 mandated by this year under an older treaty. It also limits the number of fielded warhead delivery platforms to 700, with an additional 100 strategic systems permitted in reserve. The treaty calls for the nations to regularly share quantities, siting and schematics of armament equipment and sites.

Eliminating four of the 24 missile launchers on each U.S. ballistic missile submarine would account for 56 of the planned delivery-vehicle cuts; removing the atomic delivery ability from B-52-G bombers and from roughly 50 percent of B-52H aircraft would provide approximately 80 more; and potentially eliminating 50 land-based strategic missiles and demolishing 100 ICBM launch facilities would also count toward the requirement, according to the FAS analysis.

The nation's ballistic missile submarines apparently held between 1,112 and 1,165 nuclear  warheads, leaving roughly one-third of the armaments tallied under the pact on ICBMs and aircraft, the analysis states. The vessels contained 241 Trident 2 D-5 ballistic missiles; the total included eight fewer weapons than the quantity declared in September, but the change represented a routine variation as opposed to an actual cut, the organization said.

The United States between September and March increased its count of fielded Minuteman 3 ICBMs by one, for a total of 449 weapons. Holding and sustainment installations in Utah hosted a notable land-based missile cache encompassing 58 Peacekeeper ICBMs awaiting disassembly.

The treaty information reports a total of 122 fielded B-2 and B-52 nuclear bombers -- a cut of three since September -- but the number includes 36 aircraft actually in storage at an air base not designated as a deployment site under the pact, the Federation of American Scientists said. The inventory in truth includes deployed 86 B-2A and B-52H bombers, as well as 61 aircraft in reserve, according to the analysis.

“There are no B-52Gs at Minot AFB, N.D.," despite the data's indication to the contrary, Air Force Global Strike Command has indicated. "In accordance with accounting requirements, we have them assigned to Minot and as visiting Davis-Monthan [Air Force Base]" in Arizona.

The country holds almost 5,000 nuclear warheads on delivery platforms and in storage, as well as thousands of additional bombs slated for disassembly, the analysis notes (Federation of American Scientists release, June 1).

NTI Analysis

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