UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

W82 / XM-785

Enhanced Radiation [ER] weapons were 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.

That 155-mm and 8-inch howitzers were dual capable artillery, able to deliver either conventional or nuclear projectiles, is an important "given" also forgotton by many individuals above armed service level. NATO units generally had four to five times as many 155-mm as 8-inch tubes in their force structures (direct support versus general support ratio). Therefore, the existence of large numbers of 155-mm tubes helped assure the survival of a substantial short range nuclear capability in the event of a Warsaw Pact attack. A widely dispersed 155-mm nuclear capability prevented the enemy from simply focusing his attack on the less numerous 8-inch artillery. NATO countries were looking forward to the development of a modernized 155-mm nuclear projectile for the FH70-SP70 howitzers they were developing. This capability will upgrade their 155-mm systems and help make up for the deficiency in 8-inch tubes in their sectors. If the AFAPs were not replaced, the nuclear capability of the howitzers in NATO will erode in time as the existing warheads age and were retired.

The W82, a battlefield nuclear weapon program for the 155-millimeter howitzer, was assigned to Livermore, but that program was canceled 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").

Short-range nuclear forces provided visible evidence of NATO's commitment to a forward defense of its territory. In the event of a Warsaw Pact attack, the possibility of these weapons' use would inhibit the Pact from massing its ground forces to break through NATO's conventional defenses. If conventional defenses proved inadequate to stem the aggression, short-range nuclear forces could aid in maintaining a cohesive forward defense. Their widespread deployment enhanced their survivability and contributed materially to the overall effectiveness of NATO's forces.

Modernization programs for the short-range forces center on the replacement of a significant portion of the 30-year-old W33 (8-inch) and 23-year-old W48 (155mm) nuclear artillery projectiles by the early 1990s. The W33 will be replaced by the W79, and the W48 by the W82. These extended-range projectiles -- enhanced for safety, security, and reliability -- would significantly improve short-range nuclear forces. DoD was also evaluating product improvements to ensure the safety and reiiability of those W48s and W33s that would remain in the inventory.

The FY 1987 budget continued development of the W82. All DoD funds required for the W79 program had already been appropriated. Consistent with congressional direction, all W82s, and those W79 rounds produced from FY 1985 on, will not be of the enhanced radiation type.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

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