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Upgraded Low-Yield Nuclear Warhead Enters Production

Source: Defense News

January 29 2019


The National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA) has launched production of a new, low-yield nuclear warhead, reports Defense News.

Initial production of the upgraded W76-2 warhead has begun at the Pantax Plant in Texas, the NNSA announced on Monday. 

The W76-2 initial operational capability warhead quantity is on track to be delivered to the Navy by the end of fiscal 2019, said an agency spokesman. The spokesman declined to clarify how many warheads make up the IOC batch.

The warhead is a modification of the W76-1 warhead for the Trident II D-5 ballistic missile, which allowed it to be produced quickly after it was ordered in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review.

The W76-2 is believed to have a yield of 5-7 kilotons, well below the estimated 100-kiloton yield of the W76-1, said experts cited by NPR.

The yield may have been reduced by eliminating or disabling the secondary stage of the W76-1, the experts said.

Nonproliferation advocates and some congressional Democrats have expressed concerns about the ability of adversaries to discern low-yield nukes from larger weapons.

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Calif.), has expressed plans to cancel funding for the project. 

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