The W89 was intended for the the Sea Lance anti-submarine missile and the Short Range Attack Missile-2 (SRAM-2), both of which were canceled in 1991. The W89 program continued a technology demonstration for recycling the "pits" (plutonium triggers) from retired W68 Poseidon warheads. The SRAM A (W-69) warhead had the potential for burn and/or detonation during an aircraft accident or fire. The result is dispersal of plutonium over a wide area. The DOD addressed the primary safety concern by removing the SRAM A from active alert. The long term solution will be achieved by replacing the SRAM A with the SRAM II (W-89), which includes insensitive high explosive and a fire resistant pit.
The Department of Energy (DOE) placed high priority on modernizing or replacing the W69 with a warhead that incorporated all of the modern safety features. A cost tradeoff study performed while the W89 was in Phase 2 development indicated that it was more effective to replace the W69 warhead on SRAM A with the new W89 warhead, rather than use a Stockpile Improvement Program (SIP) to make safety changes in the W69. Congressional appropriation language mandated that the W89 warhead be compatible with the SRAM A missile.
The SRAM II (W89) warhead production programs were slipped as follows due to delivery system slippage:
WARHEAD START PRODUCTION COMPLETE PRODUCTION 1990 W89 1993 1998 1991 1994 1998
The warhead development program for the SRAM II (W89) was compatible with missile development schedules. The FY 1992 budget request included adequate funding to meet schedules for the W89 warhead for SRAM II, approved in the 1991-1996 Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Memorandum. The SRAM II program was cancelled by President George HW Bush in September 1991.
In response to a request from the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Atomic Energy, the Air Force and the Department of Energy had completed a study in June 1991 to determine the feasibility of replacing the W69 warhead on the SRAM A missile with the W89 warhead that was being developed for the SRAM II. The study concluded that, while there were technical risks in using the SRAM A missile due to its age, the W89 warhead baseline design could be incorporated on the SRAM A.
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