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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Tactical Nuclear Weapons

Tactical oparations are the conduct of battles and engagements within the context of campaigns and major operations. They are the domain of corps and smaller units. Tactical pianning centers on preparation for battles and engaements. It begins with the assignment of a mission, or with the commander's recognition of a requirement.

Tactical Nuclear Weapons are nuclear weapons, such as artillery shells, bombs and short-range missiles, for use in localized, battlefield operations. Non-strategic or tactical nuclear weapons refer to nuclear weapons designed to be used on a battlefield in military situations. This is opposed to strategic nuclear weapons, which are designed to be used against enemy cities, factories, and other larger-area targets to damage the enemy’s ability to wage war.

A commander may set guidance after he has performed an analysis of his nuclear-capable and conventional attack assets so that he effectively covers the targets in his area while conservatively using his nuclear-capable attack assets. The "rule of thumb" in nuclear employment is to use the fewest number of the smallest attack system firing nuclear weapons of the smallest yield that will accomplish the effects desired in the target area. The Eisenhower administration adopted a military strategy of nuclear response for all but the most minor aggressions. The declared objective of this policy was to reduce costs and manpower requirements. This policy, strongly backed by the then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Admiral Radford, had been approved in the fall of 1953 as NSC 162./2, and late in 1954 this policy was extended by a decision to make nuclear weapons available to NATO forces in compensation for the failure to achieve conventional force goals. In 1956, the NATO Strategic Concept, MC 14/2, was adopted which directed the Supreme Conunander, in the defense of Europe. to defend as far £orward as possible and to count on the use of tactical nuclear weapons from the onset. As a result, the ground forces were vigorously reorganizing to implement the atomic doctrine.

In September 1957 Secretary Dulles' FOREIGN AFFAIRS article suggested development of tactical atomic weapons may reduce Western dependence on all-out nuclear retaliatory power to deter limited Communist aggression, introducing the massive-retaliation doctrine. NATO's 1957 Capabilities Plan held that NATO forces could conduct an effective defense with TNF if (a) these weapons were available to the troops from the outset and (b) the troops were reorganized, redeployed, and repostured to survive and fight effectively in a nuclear environment. These provisos were never implemented, perhaps because of the many pressures against such a fundamental conceptual change.

The Pentomic division the mid- to late-1950s was when the Army was most serious about integrating TNF in its plans and organizational structure. The context included Eisenhower's "New Look" strategy and intense interservice rivalry for nuclear roles. The Pentomic divisions were to be small, highly mobile, and dual-capable, with a nuclear emphasis. Each Pentomic division included five infantry battle groups, an armor battalion, a cavalry squadron, artillery, and a transportation battalion. The nuclear assets included the 8- inch howitzer and the Honest John missile.

Although the Pentomic divisions were designed to be dual-capable, they were assessed to be unsuitable for either conventional or nuclear combat. Conventional assets had been cut sharply, and the feasibility of the nuclear mission was unclear. Perhaps the problems of the nuclear battlefield were too hard to solve. Perhaps the wrong solution was adopted. Perhaps the solution that was adopted was premature, in that suitable target acquisition technologies were not available at that time; the Air Force Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) and the Army Guardrail airborne communications detector may in the future provide the requisite target acquisition data. Perhaps the concept suffered from weak implementation, but there is little evidence for that. Perhaps the goals were overly ambitious, in that they amounted to having high confidence about prevailing on the battlefield in either an offensive or defensive posture, whether few or many nuclear weapons were used, and regardless of which side used them first.

The rationale for acquring, maintaining, and possessing the capability to employ tactical nuclear weapons had always been the capability of the threat (Warsaw Pact) to overwhelm NATO forces by virtue of sheer numbers of conventional combat vehicles, artillery, and aircraft. NATO conducted the only two major nuclear exercises, the biennial WINTEX, and the annual Able Archer. Both of these are very high level CPXs, and do not involve lower echelons (corps, division) to any great extent.

The Federal Republic of Germany and many other countries vigorously opposed modernization of nuclear weapons, because if they are used in a NATO war, they will be used on their soil. NATO adopted its Follow-On Forces Attack (FOFA) concept as part of its program to counter a growing Warsaw Pact conventional threat, and thus to avoid either an early resort to nuclear weapons or even a collapse so rapid as to preclude escalation to nuclear weapons.

By the end of the Cold War U.S. Army commanders were only marginally proficient in planning for and employing tactical nuclear weapons. The reason ws simply a lack of education, training, practice, and emphasis on that part of the overall combat mission. Exercises normally ended immediately after general release, therefore the units, headquarters, and staffs never practiced executing nuclear weapons packages. Many times nuclear weapons were not even considered in the planning process because it's too hard and commanders knew they won't do anything with them anyway. Major exercises (which constituted both informal training and education, and evaluation of proficiency), at Division, Corps, and Theater level included almost no nuclear play. The exercises usually end with the release of nuclear weapons, and on occasion, the firing of a nuclear weapon, either of which was the traditional signal that the exercise was over and everyone can go home.

Under the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives that George H. W. Bush announced on September 27, 1991. The United States announced it would withdraw to the United States all ground-launched short-range nuclear weapons deployed overseas and destroy them along with existing U.S. stockpiles of the same weapons. It would also cease deployment of tactical nuclear weapons on surface ships, attack submarines, and land based naval aircraft. The United States and Russia did not conclude a treaty on this matter, but on January 29, 1992, Boris Yeltsin issued a resolution "On Russia's policy in the field of arms limitation and reduction".

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has sought to limit and secure shorter-range, non-strategic nuclear weapons (also known as ‘‘tactical’’ or ‘‘theater’’ nuclear weapons). These weapons threaten to blur the distinction in decisionmakers’ minds between conventional and nuclear war, even though the actual use of "nonstrategic" nuclear weapons in war should be expected to produce physical effects—and international political consequences—much closer to those of "strategic" nuclear systems than to any conventional weapon. By virtue of their small size, mobility, and potential for widely dispersed deployment, numerous concerns have also been expressed about the possibility that non-strategic weapons could be stolen and used by a terrorist group.

When President Obama signed the New START Treaty on April 8, 2010, he said that the United States would like to negotiate further reductions in three categories of nuclear arms: in deployed strategic nuclear weapons, in non-deployed strategic nuclear weapons (for example, held in storage facilities) and in non strategic nuclear weapons, the so-called tactical nuclear weapons, which are the ones that concern Europe. The President made it very clear that we want to tackle all three categories in the next arms reduction negotiations with Russia.

On 22 April 2015, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the United States is in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by placing tactical nuclear weapons in five NATO member states and allowing citizens of those countries to service and develop skills related to the use of tactical nuclear weapons systems. Lavrov noted that the practice is a serious risk for the NPT.

NATO countries currently have only 280 tactical nuclear munitions on European theater. These are 200 B61 bombs with a total capacity of 18 megatons are in the US. They are deployed in six airbases in Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Turkey. Another 60 nuclear bombs are in France. The US has 300 more tactical B61 aerial bombs on its own territor.

By 2018 Russia, according to the most conservative estimates, had about five thousand units of TNWs of different classes - from warheads for Iskander to torpedo, aircraft and artillery.

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Page last modified: 30-09-2018 17:50:40 ZULU