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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


W82 / XM-785

The W82, a weapon program for the 155-millimeter howitzer, was assigned to Livermore, but that program was canceled in the mid-1980s prior to deployment. The W82 had a yield of up to 2 kilotons and weighed 43 kg (95 lb), but included a number of sophisticated additional features within this weight. Since it was capable of being fielded with a "neutron bomb" (enhanced radiation) option, which is intrinsically more complex than a basic nuclear warhead, and was in addition rocket boosted, the actual minimum nuclear package was substantially lighter than the weight of the complete round. Its overall length was 86 cm (34").

The W82 weas to be a battlefield nuclear weapons with an "enhanced radiation" (ER) capability. ER provided a relatively high fraction of the prompt weapon output in the form of neutrons (hence the nickname "neutron bomb"). ER technology began to be developed at Livermore in the early 1960s and entered the stockpile in 1974 with the deployment of the W66 warhead for the Sprint antiballistic missile interceptor.

ER weapons were also developed for NATO forces. They were far more effective than previously deployed battlefield nuclear weapons for blunting a Soviet armored invasion of Western Europe and hence strengthened deterrence. A lethal radiation dose to enemy troops- likely protected in armored vehicles- could be achieved with the much smaller yield of an ER weapon than with a standard nuclear weapon. ER weapons could be employed to strike enemy units much closer to urban areas while avoiding collateral damage to towns and civilians.

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