The U.S. Nuclear Arsenal

A History of Weapons and Delivery Systems since 1945
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Published:July 1, 2009
By Norman Polmar (Author), Robert S. Norris (Author)

The atomic bomb ended the war against Japan in 1945 and became the centerpiece of U.S. and Soviet military strategy for the next 45 years. In the late 1940s the debate over whether the atomic bomb was the ultimate arbitrator of international differences led to the infamous carrier-versus-B-36 controversy in American defense policy; American school children in the 1950s practiced "duck and cover" as we feared an atomic attack against American cities; and billions were spent to develop and procure vast fleets of B-36, B-47, and B-52 nuclear bombers, that led to a still-alive legacy that is seen in the current B-1 and the B-2 stealth bomber controversies.

At the battlefield level the U.S. Army developed the 280-mm atomic cannon, atomic demolitions, and the infamous Davy Crockett atomic "grenade" launcher--the last intended to give battalion commanders their own nuclear arsenal. Similarly, the U.S. Navy entered the atomic world to obtain a carrier-based nuclear strike capability, to compete with the U.S. Air Force. Subsequently, a vast variety of naval weapons were developed, from the ASTOR nuclear torpedo to 16-inch nuclear projectiles for the four Iowa-class battleships. And, within the United States air-defense fighters carried aloft nuclear missiles and rockets, while nuclear-armed surface-to-air missiles ringed major U.S. cities and military bases. The U.S. nuclear arsenal peaked at some 31,500 warheads in the mid-1960s.

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Product Details
  • Subject: Weapons
  • Hardback : 296 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (July 1, 2009)
  • ISBN-10: 1557506817
  • ISBN-13: 9781557506818
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 X 10.875 in
  • Shipping Weight: 0 lb

Norman Polmar is an analyst, author, and consultant, specializing in naval, aviation, and technology subjects.  He has directed studies related to the Soviet/Russian navies for various government organizations, and has been a consultant or advisor on related issues to three U.S. Senators,  the Speaker of the House, the Deputy Counselor to the President, and three Secretaries of the Navy. He has visited the Soviet Union/Russia several times as a guest of the  Navy commander-in-chief, the submarine design bureaus, and the Institute of U.S. Studies. 

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Customer Reviews

1 Review
Average Customer Reviews
4.00 Stars
Much More than a Reference Book
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
By: James Bryant, Captain USN (Retired)

This is more than a well written and researched reference book, but also an examination by experts of the evolution of nuclear weapons policy. When you absolutely need to know everything about how, why and where a US nuclear warhead and its delivery system was developed this is the book you must have. You are spared the technical details, like nuclear physics, but you get a basic understanding of how the warhead reached the target, avoided countermeasures, and the expected damage. Some examples of these fascinating details follow. The rapid development of nuclear weapons delivery technology is presented from its beginnings with the German World War II V-1 (Buzz Bomb) and V-2 rocket designs. The US Army produced an operational German V-1 cruise missile a month after they were used to attack England in June 1944. The design was copied and put into production, but this stockpile was not needed after Japan surrendered. This allowed these “jet bombs” to be used as test platforms for the development of nuclear and conventionally armed cruise missiles including the submarine launched Regulus, the land launched Snark and the Tomahawk. The first Intercontinental Missile was the strategic cruise missile Snark (Snark is a Lewis Carroll fictional creature from the 1876 book, that survives in modern usage as “snarky”). The 10-year troubled, test program led to so many Snark crashes near Cape Canaveral, FL that these waters became known as “Snark infested.” The only operational Snark Wing was retired in June 1961 just one year after the first missile went on alert. Sometimes these programs went to the extreme, even bizarre. In 1955 the Secretary of Defense directed that Jupiter-S liquid fueled Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles be designed for seaborne launch. The submarine version was proposed to carry three missiles in the middle section where the sail would help accommodate the 50 foot long missiles. The plan to fit these large, liquid-fueled missiles in a submarine that had to surface to launch them only seems bizarre (interesting drawing on page 184). This plan is exactly what the Soviets used in their GOLF and HOTEL class ballistic missile submarines (see Cold War Submarines by Norman Polmar and Kenneth Moore). The Pluto Supersonic Low-Altitude Missile (SLAM) does achieve the bizarre status with its nuclear ramjet engine. This “unmanned bomber” was supposed to cruise at Mach 3 speeds at tree top levels over the Soviet Union while tossing out hydrogen bombs. The program was cancelled in 1964 after spending 320 million dollars because of radiation issues involving the nuclear-powered ramjet. After commanding Guardfish (SSN 612) at the end of the Cold War.

Captain Bryant was a Deputy Commander of Submarine Squadron 11 before being assigned to the Political-Military Division of the Navy Staff.



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