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U.S. Needs New Nukes Now, DOD Officials Say

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The U.S. needs to upgrade its nuclear capability now, DOD officials told Congress recently. And while those efforts are already underway, it'll take continued funding from lawmakers to ensure the U.S. can maintain its nuclear edge.

The U.S. nuclear deterrence capability relies on the "nuclear triad," which includes ground-based nuclear weapons that launch from silos; sea-based nuclear weapons that launch from submarines; and air-based nuclear weapons that are dropped from aircraft.

An infographic shows the Nuclear Triad.
Nuclear Triad
Nuclear Triad
Photo By: DOD graphic
VIRIN: 190501-D-ZZ999-700

Here's what the U.S. is doing to keep its nuclear edge sharp:

For ground-based deterrence, the U.S. is developing the "Ground Based Strategic Deterrent," which is expected to replace about 400 existing Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Minuteman III has been around since 1970.
At sea, the U.S. is looking to replace about 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines with the Columbia-class submarine. Development of that sub is underway now, and the first is expected to begin construction in 2021.
In the air, the U.S. uses B-52H Stratofortress and B-2A Spirit bomber aircraft to deliver nuclear payloads. Eventually, it expects to replace those with the now-under-development B-21 Raider aircraft. The nuclear capability of the AGM-86B air-launched cruise missiles is also expected to be replaced by the Long Range Standoff weapon by the early 2030s.

Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, discussed U.S. efforts to upgrade its nuclear triad yesterday during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Click to learn more about the work to upgrade the triad.


Read More: Importance of the Nuclear Strategy
A missile fires out of the ocean at a diagonal trajectory, causing smoke to waft up from the blue water.
Missile Might
An unarmed Trident II D5 missile launches from the ballistic missile submarine USS Nebraska in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California, March 26, 2018, as part of a Navy Strategic Systems Programs test. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Ronald Gutridge
Photo By: PO1 Ronald Gutridge
VIRIN: 180326-N-UK333-012C
Experience: America's Nuclear Triad
A curving beam of light illuminates a dark blue sky as a rocket launches.
Rocket Launch
An Atlas V rocket carrying a Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellite for an Air Force mission lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Jan. 19, 2018.
Photo By: United Launch Alliance
VIRIN: 180119-F-ZZ999-102C

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