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The U. S. Navy is developing a new series of tactical nuclear weapons.* owever, the current efforts follow two ecades of decline of TacNucs in the fleet as l^e Navy has significantly reduced its lumber of nuclear weapons, cut back the number of warships with nuclear capabil- 1 >es, and seen its inventory of remaining WeaP°ns become outdated.
. this time, four TacNuc weapons are !" var*°us stages of development for the S. Navy:
( Standard SM-2(N) missile, a surface- °-air weapon that can be carried in cruis- j-rs and destroyers: The SM-2 is to reP ace the Terrier-BTN (Beam-riding Ter- Nuclear), the only nuclear jju ace-to-air missile now in the fleet. e Navy’s other antiaircraft missile with nuclear warhead, the Talos, was phased bUt °f service in 1980. But there has also een a significant reduction in the num- ships carrying the Terrier-BTN, ^ those that still have the system suffer uintenance problems because of the age n complexity of the missile, which en- rifed service in February 1962. The Ter- IS outdated in other respects as well. taisubmarine warfare stand-off thea^on (ASWSOW), a replacement for e submarine rocket (SubRoc), which is *Th
C|earWeapons are generally known as tactical nude^ WeaP°ns (TacNucs) with the terms theater nu- f0rces ^aP°ns (TNWs) and nonstrategic nuclear s (NSNFs) currently being in vogue.
fired from torpedo tubes in the Permit (SSN-594) and later classes of attack submarines: The submarine-launched
ASWSOW should become available about 1990, more than 25 years after the SubRoc became operational. The Sub- Roc’s age has already necessitated “regraining” of several hundred motors and replacement of some other components, while the weapon’s range—publicly estimated at 25-30 nautical miles—is far short of the detection ranges of the AN/BQQ-2 and -5 sonars in modern attack submarines. Range of the ASWSOW will probably be on the order of 60 miles—i.e., out to the second sonar convergence zone.
► Tomahawk land-attack missile or T- LAM(N), a strike weapon that will be carried by surface ships in armored box launchers (ABLs) or vertical launch systems (VLSs), as well as in submarines, fired from torpedo tubes and, in the later Los Angeles (SSN-688)-class submarines, in vertical launch tubes. While the ASWSOW and Standard SM-2(N) will replace outdated and limited-capability weapons, the Tomahawk T-LAM (N) provides the fleet with the capability to strike targets ashore with tactical/theater nuclear weapons other than with carrier aircraft. The ability to strike “tactical” targets ashore with nuclear weapons from surface ships and submarines previously existed with the Regulus cruise missile, in service from 1954 to 1965, and 16- inch (405-mm.) projectiles for the Iowa (BB-61)-class battleships, which were available from 1956 to 1961. Although both the Regulus and nuclear 16-inch projectiles have been phased out of U. S. service, the Soviets have retained similar nuclear systems, the SS-N-3 “Shaddock” cruise missile, and apparently the six-inch (152-mm.) nuclear projectiles, the latter being fired from the Sverdlov- class light cruisers.
U. S. Navy Tactical Nuclear Weapons
SubRoc ^ePth bomb B«mb
A-6E Intruder, A-7E Corsair
Cruisers, Destroyers, Frigates
P-3 Orion, S-3 Viking, SH-3 Sea King
A-6E Intruder, A-7E Corsair
Battleships, Cruisers, Destroyers,
feedings / July 1933
The T-LAM(N) can be carried in cruisers, destroyers, and the reactivated Iowa-class battleships, as well as submarines. The ship-launched nuclear version of Tomahawk is scheduled to enter service in 1984. Apparently the delays encountered with the Tomahawk antiship missile (T-ASM) and conventional land- attack version have not affected the nuclear “bird.” The nuclear T-LAM uses much of the same missile technology as other Tomahawk variants, including the controversial ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) planned for deployment in European NATO countries. (The Navy’s T-LAM, however, uses a different nuclear warhead than the GLCM. The Air Force’s air-launched cruise missile [ALCM], whose production was cut back in February in favor of a stealth weapon, had the same W80-series warhead as used in the nuclear T-LAM.) Thus the T-LAM(N) “buys in” on large-scale
thorities and analysts have consid limited understanding of tactical ai
technical TacNuc considerations m U. S. Navy. However, urged on by major study chaired by James Wade, n°^.
several efforts are under way to iinpr°V1' the U. S. Navy’s TacNuc offensive an
cepts; increase shipboard chemical-b'0 logical-radiological (CBR) defense;
missile programs. Its warhead has been officially estimated at about 200 kilotons.
► Vertical launch antisubmarine rocket (ASROC), or VLA, a weapon in the feasibility study stage intended to replace the outdated and limited-capability ASROC. This weapon would probably have a nuclear capability as well as carrying a conventional torpedo. However, the VLA’s future is not clear, in part because of the lack of clarity concerning future surface ship programs and the lack of enthusiasm for the current ASROC weapon.
The ASROC is carried in cruisers, destroyers, and frigates. This weapon can deliver a nuclear warhead or Mk-46 torpedo, but has a relatively short range of about six miles. This is also an old weapon, introduced in 1961. Beyond these limitations, many ASROC-armed ships—three Albany (CG-10)-class cruisers, seven Forrest Sherman (DD-931)- class destroyers, and more than a dozen FRAM destroyers—have been dropped from the fleet. In addition, the Navy’s largest class of modem combatants, the Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG-7) frigates, does not carry ASROC.
In some respects the need for a surface ship ASW weapon is less critical than the submarine weapon because the former can deliver conventional torpedoes to distant targets by helicopter. (However, SH-60B Seahawk/LAMPS III helicopters are not configured to deliver nuclear weapons, thus denying that capability to the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, as well as to other surface ships should ASROC be retired without a replacement. The SH-3 Sea King, however, can carry the B57 nuclear depth bomb,-which is discussed later.) The surface ship situation is further complicated because the planned Arleigh Burke (DDG-51)-class and the later ships of the Ticonderoga (CG-47)-class will have vertical launch systems (VLSs), thus an ASROC replacement should be compatible with VLS and earlier launchers.
The remaining type of TacNuc weapon in U. S. Navy service is the aircraft bomb. Several nuclear bombs are available for naval aircraft: the B43, which entered service in 1961 and has several configurations with a maximum explosive force of about one megaton; the B57, available since 1963, in depth bomb configurations up to about ten kilotons; and the B61, which came into service in 1968 and has yields up to some 350 kilotons. (There are several configurations of these bombs with differing yields, and some later nuclear weapons have variable yields. The Air Force uses the B57 in a standard bomb configuration.)
The A-7E Corsair and the A-6E Intruder carrier-based attack aircraft can carry the B43 and B61 bombs. The S-3A Viking ASW aircraft, also carrier based, has fittings for two B57 depth bombs in its internal weapons bay; the land-based P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft can carry as many as three B57 depth bombs internally; and, the SH-3 helicopters can also deliver B57.
Several other TacNucs have been retired from the fleet during the last decade. The Mk-45 antisubmarine torpedo (ASTOR), which was carried by both attack and strategic missile submarines, was retired in 1977. This weapon was replaced by the conventional Mk-48 torpedo. Also, the Lulu aerial depth bomb (W34 warhead) was phased out of service in 1971, while the nuclear Walleye air- to-surface weapon (W72 warhead) was retired in 1979. Thus, the Navy has retired several nuclear weapons as well as nuclear weapons-capable ships without replacement.
In addition, several recent proposals for new nuclear weapons have not progressed far, among them a nuclear air- to-air Phoenix missile and a nuclear antiship Harpoon. The earlier Condor air-to- surface missile, which would have had a nuclear warhead, was cancelled.
Nuclear weapons appear to provide two major offensive advantages over conventional weapons in war at sea. First, whereas multiple hits with high-explosive weapons would probably be required to sink a cruiser or aircraft carrier, a single nuclear weapon, even of small size, would suffice. Second, a defense against nuclear weapons would require a 100% effectiveness, since a single missile or “leaker” could destroy the target.
In the antiair warfare role, the nuclear-armed defensive missile could deter concentrated air attacks against U. S. ships—i.e., nuclear bursts might force attacking bombers to separate to greater distances, reducing the concentration of their missiles and thus enabling conventional defending systems to have a greater effectiveness. In antisubmarine operations, a nuclear weapon could compensate for not having a target submarine’s exact location, a defensive submarine countermeasures against conventional weapons, submarine “hardening” (i.e., double-hull construction), or the limited effectiveness of conventional ASW weapons. This will be especially relevant against high-speed and deep-diving submarines, which may give the antisubmarine warfare unit only a “single shot” before the enemy submarine is beyond attack range, or has herself launched an attack.
Another consideration is the potential use of high-altitude bursts of nuclear weapons to create electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) effects that would severely degrade electronic systems of ships and aircraft over large ocean areas. Underwater nuclear bursts could similarly degrade sonar effectiveness, creating a condition known as “blue out” over some acoustic frequencies.
Finally, being able to use TacNucs would ease magazine constraints in sur face warships and, especially, subma rines. One TacNuc has the firepower many conventional weapons.
There are thus several tactical advantages to the employment of nuclear weapons at sea. Of course, there are also mill" tary and political reasons for a military commander not to employ TacNucs. > contrast to the current U. S. nava TacNuc situation, the Soviet Navy has increased the types and probably the numbers of nuclear weapons in service during the past decade. Soviet exercises and professional writings continue 0 stress the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons at sea. (In addition, to stressing the offensive aspects of nuclear war a sea, modern Soviet warships as small as missile craft of the “Osa” class are con figured to operate in a nuclear environ ment with survivability features that are not in U. S. surface combatants.)
The decline in Navy tactical nuclca weapons is matched by what many au
the Office of the Under Secretary Defense (Research & Engineering), a the subsequent 1982 summer study ot t Navy Research Advisory Committee’ defensive capabilities. These studies gen erally have urged the Navy to: increa Navy-wide awareness of Soviet nucl capabilities and doctrine; conduct m° realistic fleet exercises which place mo emphasis on TacNuc employment^ con
develop more realistic career prog for naval officers specializing in nuc weapon fields.
While an intensive nuclear deba ^ rages over the issues of a nuclear weap ons freeze, deployment of the MX strat® gic missile, and the Pershing and GL<- theater weapons in Europe, the Navy making an effort to reverse the rece trend in the aging and reduction of itstaC tical nuclear weapons capability.
Proceedings / July