(Adds new force structure announced, details, reaction)
By David Alexander
WASHINGTON, April 8 The United States will scale
back its nuclear bombers, submarine launchers and ballistic
missiles in the first cuts to its leftover cold war nuclear
arsenal since ratifying a landmark treaty with Russia in 2011,
officials said on Tuesday.
Under the treaty, known as New Start, the U.S. military will
disable four missile launch tubes on each of the 14 U.S. nuclear
submarines, convert 30 B-52 nuclear bombers to conventional use
and empty 50 intercontinental ballistic missile silos, senior
administration officials said.
The Pentagon, however, will not retire a missile squadron as
some lawmakers had expected.
The treaty caps deployed strategic nuclear warheads, those
meant to travel long distances, in Russia and the United States
at 1,550 each by 2018, down from the previous ceiling of 2,200.
It also resumes inspections of U.S. and Russian nuclear-weapons
facilities that ended in 2009 when the original Start lapsed.
The New START treaty, agreed in 2010 and ratified in 2011,
also calls for each side to reduce its total number of nuclear
weapons delivery systems to no more than 800, with only 700
deployed at any given time.
The United States has 886 deployed and non-deployed delivery
systems, officials said, comprising 454 Minuteman III
intercontinental ballistic missiles, 336 Trident II
submarine-launched ballistic missiles and 96 B-2 and B-52
To eliminate the 86 excess launchers and reach the total 800
deployed and non-deployed systems, the Pentagon will alter four
launch tubes on each of the 14 Trident submarines to render them
unusable, eliminating 56 delivery systems. It also will convert
30 B-52 bombers to conventional use, the officials said.
To ensure the number of total deployed launchers is no more
than 700, the Defense Department will have two Trident ballistic
missile submarines in overhaul at any given time, which would
mean their 40 missiles no longer be deployed.
It would maintain six nuclear bombers in non-deployed
status, including three test aircraft.
The Air Force has four missile silos for testing that would
be considered non-deployed, the officials said. In addition it
would remove the missiles from 50 launchers at the three U.S.
nuclear bases: F.E. Warren in southeast Wyoming, Minot in North
Dakota and Malmstrom in Montana, the officials said.
While some lawmakers had voiced concern an entire ballistic
missile squadron would be eliminated under the treaty, officials
said spreading the cuts over three bases made that unnecessary.
Critics said the Pentagon could make deeper cuts.
"The administration's plan for adjusting the force to meet
New START goals is modest in the extreme and still leaves the
U.S. with far more strategic nuclear weapons than the president
and the Pentagon say they need for deterrence purposes," said
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control
Association, an antiproliferation group.
The cost of implementing the changes is expected to be about
$300 million, with most of the expense being for inactivating
the nuclear submarine missile tubes.
U.S. weapons makers are keeping a close eye on plans to
modernize the platforms that carry nuclear arms, an effort
analysts say will cost $355 billion in coming decades.
Boeing Co has teamed with Lockheed Martin Corp
to compete against Northrop Grumman Corp to
build a new bomber to carry nuclear weapons. General Dynamics
Corp is leading early design work on a new submarine to
replace the Ohio-class submarines that carry nuclear weapons.
(Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Jason Szep,
Andrew Hay, Paul Simao and Eric Walsh)