In DepthNUCLEAR WEAPONS

Tweak makes U.S. nukes more precise—and deadlier

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Science  24 Mar 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6331, pp. 1252-1253
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6331.1252

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Summary

A small fix made in the name of "stockpile stewardship" is turning U.S. submarine–launched missiles into more precise weapons. An improved mechanism installed in aging warhead now makes it possible to adjust the height at which they detonate, according to three experts writing in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. This vastly increases the weapons' efficiency, the experts say, creating the impression that submarine-launched weapons could be used in a first strike against Russia's fixed missile silos. About 500 such warheads have been deployed on submarines; more than 1000 updated warheads are in production. The innovation could create "a deeply destabilizing and dangerous strategic nuclear situation," the authors warn.