The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the most recent detailed plans for US nuclear forces, which were incorporated in the Obama Administration’s 2017 budget request, would cost $1.2 trillion in 2017 dollars over the 2017–2046 period: more than $800 billion to operate and sustain (that is, incrementally upgrade) nuclear forces and about $400 billion to modernize them.
What Are the 30-Year Costs of Planned Nuclear Forces?
CBO projects that the 2017 plan for nuclear forces would cost a total of $1.2 trillion from 2017 to 2046. Of that amount:
■ $772 billion would be allocated for the operation, sustainment, and modernization of strategic nuclear delivery systems and weapons—the long-range aircraft, missiles, and submarines that launch nuclear weapons; the nuclear weapons they carry; and the nuclear reactors that power the submarines.
■ $25 billion would be allocated for the operation, sustainment, and modernization of tactical nuclear delivery systems—the aircraft capable of delivering nuclear weapons over shorter ranges—and the weapons they carry.
■ $445 billion would be allocated for the complex of laboratories and production facilities that support nuclear weapons activities and the command, control, communications, and early-warning systems that enable the safe and secure operation of nuclear forces.
CBO estimates that planned modernization would cost $399 billion through 2046 and include these programs:
■ A new ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), designated the Columbia class;
■ A new silo-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and refurbished silos and other supporting infrastructure for ICBMs through the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program;
■ A new long-range stealthy bomber, designated the B-21;
■ Refurbishment of the current-generation D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM);
■ A new SLBM to eventually replace the D5;
■ A new air-launched nuclear cruise missile, the LongRange Standoff (LRSO) weapon;
■ A life-extension program (LEP) for the B61 nuclear bomb that would combine several different varieties of that bomb into a single type, the B61-12;
■ A LEP for the B61-12 bomb when it reaches the end of its service life, referred to as the Next B61;
■ LEPs for the SSBN-related W76 and W88 warheads;
■ A LEP to refurbish the W80 warhead that would be used on the LRSO; and
■ A series of LEPs that would produce three interoperable warheads (called IW-1 through IW-3), each of which would be compatible with both ICBMs and SLBMs.
China’s Nuclear Forces
China has a stockpile of approximately 260 nuclear warheads for delivery by nearly 150 land-based ballistic missiles, 48 sea-based ballistic missiles, and bombers. The Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force will probably continue to grow slowly, such that the number of ICBM warheads primarily targeted against the United States may exceed 100 a decade from now. Although there is no sign that the Chinese government has officially diverted from its no-first-use nuclear policy, its modernization program is adding significant new capabilities.
Some are concerned that China would make a breakout to build up to the 2000 or 3000 nuclear weapon level. China seems to be going with minimal deterrence options in nuclear weapons and focusing on modernization of conventional forces and economic development.
Russia’s Nuclear Forces
Russia has a military stockpile of roughly 4,300 nuclear warheads assigned for use by long-range strategic launchers and shorter-range tactical</a< nuclear forces. Of these, roughly 1,950 strategic warheads are deployed on ballistic missiles and at heavy bomber bases, while another 500 strategic warheads are in storage along with some 1,850 nonstrategic warheads.
In Feb 2017, Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu said 90 percent of the Russia’s strategic nuclear forces will be armed with modern weaponry by 2020, according to local media reports. Shoigu also noted that over 60 percent of the Strategic Missiles Forces will be armed with new weapon systems by late 2020.
The Russian military’s modernization efforts include new missile systems, modern ballistic missile submarines, and upgraded strategic bombers such as the Tupolev Tu-160 and Tu-95MS.
Russia’s entire military budget is currently spending about $70 billion per year. The US nuclear modernization and maintenance alone is at $35 billion and planned to expand to $50 billion.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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