The Pentagon have begun activating 180 of their dormant B61 nukes stationed in Europe, in readiness for a potential nuclear war with Russia.
The $8 billion stockpile of B61-12 bombs, often said to be the most expensive type of nuclear bomb ever created, are being made “more useable” with an added new tail kid and adjustable yield so they can be precision-guided by the US army.
Knowing that it has access to a “usable” nuclear weapon could alter the way the Pentagon thinks about nuclear war. The B61-12’s “Dial-a-yield’ technology means that any bomb could have its explosive force adjusted. With a max of 50,000 tons of TNT equivalent and a minimum of 300 tons, the military could customize its desired effect.
A weapon that has been historically considered too dangerous to use could instead be viewed as a legitimate consideration in warfare.
“Without a doubt. Improved accuracy and lower yield is a desired military capability. Without a question,” former US Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz said during a 2014 conference.
While US officials continue to debate semantic arguments about the definition of the word “new,” the upgrades to the nuclear stockpile will doubtlessly be seen as an alarming move by regional actors, especially given that the Pentagon’s new F-35 fighter jets can be outfitted with the new B61s.
“If the Russians put out a guided nuclear bomb on a stealthy fighter that could sneak through air defenses, would that add to the perception here that they were lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons?” said nuclear weapons expert Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists, according to Mother Jones.