The Facts

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THE NUCLEAR ARMS RACE[image, unknown] The Facts

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The Nuclear Arsenals
A layman's guide to the stockpiles of nuclear missiles and their warheads.

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Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. Land-based nuclear missiles capable of reaching the USSR from the US orviceversa.

Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile. Nuclear missiles based in Europe, having a shorter range than ICBMs.

Kiloton. A measure of explosive power; one kiloton is the equivalent of 1000 tons of TNT. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was l2KT and killed 200,000 people.

Multiple Independently Target-table Re-entry Vehicle. A MIRVed missile carries more than one warhead, each war-head aimed at a separate target.

Manoeuvrable Alternatively-Targettable Re-entry Vehicle. Like MIRV but each warhead can dodge and change targets to evade defence systems.

Megaton. A measure of explosive power the equivalent of one million tons of TNT.

Heavily reinforced underground chamber where ICBMs are secure from anything but a direct hit.

Short-Range Attack Missiles launched from aircraft to travel a further 100 miles.

Strategic theatre and tactical weapons. Strategic weapons are those which are intercontinental, theatre weapons are used in a continental war, whilst a tactical weapon is relatively small (up to 50 kilotons) and can be fired from howitzers and used on the battlefield.

Thermo-nuclear. Hydrogen bombs not atomic bombs. H bombs are 1000 times more powerful.

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[image, unknown] UNITED STATES

The US has three main kinds of delivery system: the land-based ICBM, the long-range bombers, and the SLBM. New developments of all three delivery systems are underway. With approximately 50 per cent more strategic warheads than the USSR, the US's warheads collectively have less explosive power than the Soviet's. However, the US is well ahead of the USSR in weapon technology, particularly in accuracy and reliability.

[image, unknown] INTERCONTINENTAL BALLISTIC MISSILES (ICBMs)[image, unknown]

MINUTEMAN Mark II. There are 450 Minuteman Mark Its which have a range of 7,000 miles. They carry a single thermonuclear warhead of two megatons.

MINUTEMAN Mark III. There are 550 Mark II Is with a range of 8,000 miles, and three 350 KT warheads in a MIRVed system. Their accuracy and increased explosive power makes them capable of destroying Soviet ICBMs in their silos.

TITAN Mark II. This is the largest US ICBM. Until September 1980 54Titan Its were deployed, but one exploded in its silo in Arkansas, (the warhead remained undetonated). There are now 53. M-X (Missile-Experimental) 200 of this new ICBM will be deployed by 1985. Each missile is on underground tracks which move it to one of the 23 silos from which it can be fired. This decreases the chances of a first-strike Soviet attack. The USSR would have to commit 9,200 warheads (two per silo) to be sure of destroying the 200 missiles. Each M-X missile is likely to have a MIRVed reentry system containing 10 warheads each rated at 350 KT.

[image, unknown] SUBMARINE-LAUNCHED BALLISTIC MISSILES (SLBMs)[image, unknown]

POLARIS. Introduced in 1960, each Polaris has a maximum range of 2,875 miles. They are launched from fairly near the enemy coast as they have a shorter range than ICBMs. 40 Polaris-carrying submarines were built by the US and four by Britain, Most Polaris missiles carry three warheads, each of 200 KT, on a MRV system. By 1980 only 10 US Polaris submarines still in service.

POSEIDON. Bigger than the Polaris. Poseidon missiles are more accurate and carry larger warheads. Each missile carries 10 thermonuclear warheads in a MIRVed system, each warhead rated at 50 KT. The US currently has 28 submarines fitted with Poseidon.

TRIDENT. By mid 1980 three submarines had been fitted with Trident. With a greater range than the Poseidon (4,600 miles), the warhead consists of eight 100 KT bombs in a MIRVed system. The US is developing a heavier submarine for the Trident, with eight on order.

TRIDENT II. This will be more accurate than other SLBMs, with a range of 6,000 miles and carrying 14 MIRVed warheads or a MARV system.

[image, unknown] STRATEGIC BOMBERS[image, unknown]

BOEING B-52 STRATO FORTRESS. Eightengined long-range jet bomber, first operational in 1955, designed initially to deliver 'free-fall' nuclear bombs. This involved overflying targets, with consequent vulnerability to anti-aircraft defences. Recently the Short Range Attack Missile (SRAM) has been developed to carry a 200 KT warhead with a range of 100 miles. 1,250 SRAM are deployed, 20 fitted to each B-52.

Ageing B-52s have been given a new lease of life by the air-launched Cruise missile. These have a range of 1,500 miles, 20 of them to a bomber, which can now fire the missiles outside Soviet airspace. 3,418 ALCMs have been ordered, deployment will begin in 1981.

FB 111A. There are several versions of the F-111 swing-wing jet,the 111 A is the main medium-range bomber, the US deploying 65. Each carries 6 SRAMs. 165 other F-111s are based in Europe (mainly Britain).

[image, unknown] THEATRE / TACTICAL WEAPONS[image, unknown]

The US has a wide variety of smaller nuclear weapons, they include: TOMAHAWK GROUND-LAUNCHED CRUISE MISSILES. Designed to fly for up to 1,500 miles at lowaltitudes, evading radar detection. Guidance by a terrain-coutour matching system with an on-board computer comparing the terrain with a map in its memory. Cruise missiles are mainly ground-based, but can also be launched from aircraft, ships, and torpedo tubes. Each missile has a 240 KT warhead. In the early 1980s 464 are to be deployed in Europe, including 160 in Britain. PERSHING. This is a mobile tactical nuclear missile with a 400 KT warhead and a range of 460 miles. The new Pershing 2 will have a range of 1,000 miles, 96 to be deployed in West Germany.

[image, unknown] USSR

The USSR has concentrated on ICBMs and SLBMs, not long-range bombers. Soviet missiles are less sophisticated hen their American counterparts; hey are larger and heavier. Their warheads are up to three times the size of the Americans, but there are less if them (so they are easier to knock out with a first-strike) and they are ass accurate. Recently the USSR has leveloped MIRVed warheads.

[image, unknown] INTERCONTINENTAL BALLISTIC MISSILES (ICBMs)[image, unknown]

SS-11 (Sago). This fairly old missile till forms the bulk of the Soviet CBM inventory, 580 are deployed. With a range of 6,500 miles, the SS-11 an carry a one or two MT warhead r three smaller MRV warheads. Being replaced by the SS-19.

SS-17. More accurate than earlier oviet ICBMs, it has a range of 6,200 tiles. If deployed with a single large MT warhead it can destroy a US linuteman silo. However, most SS-17s eve a MIRVed warhead with four 00 KT warheads.

SS-18. The largest current Soviet ;BM with three types of reentry ahicle. One a MIRVed system of light 2 MT warheads, another a larger ngle warhead with great accuracy and to third a less accurate but massive warhead estimated up to 50 MT. 308 S-18s were deployed in mid-1980.

SS-19. Currently replacing the SS-11. 300 SS-19s have been put into service so far, having either single 5 MT warheads or MIRVed system of six 550 KT warheads.

[image, unknown] SUBMARINE-LAUNCHED BALLISTIC MISSILES (SLBMs)[image, unknown]

As with the ICBMs, the USSR has more SLBMs then the US.

SS-N-6 (Sawfly). 470 Sawflys are deployed, most mounted in 29 Yankee class submarines, each taking 16 missiles. Sawflys either carry a single 1-2 MT warhead or a MIRVed system of three warheads in the KT range.

SS-N-8. About 300 of these missiles are deployed in 33 Delta class submarines. It has a much longer range than the Sawf ly, 4,800 to 5,700 miles, which is longer than any American SLBM, except the Trident II. The SS-N-8 carries a single 1 or 2 MT warhead.

SS-N-18. Successor to the SS-N-8 it has a similar range but carries a MIRVed warhead system with three 1 or 2 MT warheads. 160 are in operation.

Other SLBMs: A variety of submarine-launched Cruise missiles are deployed; many of the 660-odd such missiles have nuclear warheads.

[image, unknown] STRATEGIC BOMBERS[image, unknown]

The USSR only has the elderly Bear and Bison. Both may have long-range standoff missiles similar to the US SRAM.

TUPOLEV Tu-95 (Bear). This turboprop bomber can carry an air-to-surface missile with an independent range of 400 miles. 113 of these aircraft are still in service.

MYASISHCHEV M-0 (Bison). A contemporary of the 852, the Bison can carry a small bomb load of five tons for 7,000 miles. 43 are still deployed, with free-fall nuclear bombs.


The USSR has missiles with ranges of 2,000-3,000 miles intended for targets in China and Western Europe. The most important is:

SS-20. This is a mobile missile carried on a tracked launch vehicle with a range of 3,400 miles. First deployed in 1977, there are now 160 in service. The SS-20 has a MIRVed system with three 600 KT warheads.

[image, unknown] UNITED KINGDOM

Britain has a strategic nuclear force of Polaris-carrying submarines. The numbers of nuclear-capable aircraft will be expanded in the next five years, and the UK will acquire the Trident missile system in 1990.

[image, unknown] SUBMARINE-LAUNCHED BALLISTIC MISSILES (SLBMs) [image, unknown]

POLARIS. The first deployment of these missi les was in 1962. Each missile is fitted with three 200 KT warheads in a MRV system. Being replaced by the new Chevaline warhead developed at Aldermaston during the 1970s at an estimated cost of 52,400 million. The Chevaline warhead can counter anti-missile defences.

TRIDENT. In 1980 the government decided to replace its Polaris fleet with four Trident submarines. They will come into service in the 1990s. Missiles carried will probably be Trident II, with a 6,000 mile range and carrying 8 to 14 warheads at 14 KT.

[image, unknown] STRATEGIC BOMBERS[image, unknown]

PANAVIA TORNADO. This is the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft developed by the Anglo-German-Italian combine. The RAF will have 220 of the nuclear strike bomber version to replace the present Buccaneer and Vulcan bombers. Tornados carry an air-launched Cruise missile.

[image, unknown] CHINA

China has a stock of several hundred A bombs and H bombs, strike aircraft and 90 TU-16 (Badger) medium-range bombers. They carry three tons of weapons and have a range of 4,000 miles, being able to deliver nuclear weapons over most of the USSR. A long-range ICBM, the CSS-X-4 with a range of 7,500 miles and carrying a 5-10 MT warhead, is believed to be in production. A Chinese SLBM is also being developed.

ISRAEL and SOUTH AFRICA are believed by some observers to have nuclear weapons.

Sources: A Guide to Nuclear Weapons by Paul Rogers, Centre for Peace Studies, Univ. of Bradford. World Military and Social Expenditures 1980 by Ruth Leger Slvard The Unesco Courier.

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