Former Defense Chief, NonProliferation Experts Warn: Stop the New Nuclear Capable Long Range Stand Off Weapon


Runs 12/11/15 through 12/18/15

(THEME UP AND UNDER) This is the CCNS News Update, an overview of the latest nuclear safety issues, brought to you every week by Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety. Here is this week’s top headline:

  • Former Defense Chief, NonProliferation Experts Warn: Stop the New Nuclear Capable Long Range Stand Off Weapon

Two former Defense Department leaders, William J. Perry and Andy Weber, recently wrote a piece in the Washington Post requesting that President Obama stop the development of the proposed long range stand off (LRSO) nuclear capable weapon. The Pentagon requested that this weapon be developed to replace an existing air-launched cruise missile.

Perry and Weber wrote that cruise missiles are “inherently destabilizing” because “they can be launched without warning and come in both nuclear and conventional variants.” Cruise missiles increase the risk of accident nuclear war. Canceling this dangerous weapon could be a significant first step towards a worldwide ban on all cruise missiles.

The Air Force plans to purchase over 1,000 of the LRSOs. It currently has a stockpile of about 575 nuclear capable air-launched cruise missiles. The development of the LRSO would increase U.S. nuclear air-launched cruise missile capacity by nearly 200 percent.

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, has been charged with refurbishing the nuclear explosive package and developing detonators for the new weapon. Sandia Laboratory, also in Livermore, is responsible for the construction of some nonnuclear parts and for systems integration. Sandia says this program “will develop the next generation of weapon scientists and engineers and give them hands on experience in a system development and integration program.”

The nuclear warhead, called the W80-4, will be a modified version of an older warhead, the W80. The W80-4 budget for fiscal year 2015 is $9 million. The 2016 request is $195 million. Future funding requests are expected to increase to $312 million in 2017 and $407 million in 2018.

The Federation of American Scientists estimates the full development of this nuclear cruise missile, including the W80-4 warhead, to be as high as $20 billion.

It is still possible that Congress will pass a budget, but, at least for now, the W80-4 warhead development has been slowed down.

Under the New START treaty, which reduces Russian and U.S. forward deployed strategic nuclear arsenal to 1,550 nuclear warheads by 2018, each bomber plane counts as only one warhead, despite the fact that bombers can carry multiple nuclear weapons.

Marylia Kelley, Executive Director of Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment, based in Livermore, said, “Now is the critical time when the President is still finalizing his Fiscal Year 2017 budget. Please call your senators and ask them to send a letter directly to the President asking him to cancel any funding request for a Long Range Stand Off warhead and cruise missile. Then call Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Ranking Member on the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, with the same message.”



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