U.S. Building First New Nuclear Weapons In Decades

by State Brief

The U.S. is manufacturing its first new nuclear warhead for the first time in decades.

During congressional testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 17, officials from the Department of Energy confirmed the new W93 warhead is being built with $19.8 billion that was requested by the National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA).

The warhead will be designed for submarine launches, Energy officials said during testimony.

“The W93 remains on track for production starting in the mid-2030s,” NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby told the committee.

The Navy’s ballistic missile submarine force is the most survivable leg of the U.S. nuclear triad, according to an Energy Department document detailing the W93 acquisition program.

Currently, the sub force is equipped with two warhead types: the W76 and W88, which comprise roughly two-thirds of the deployed force. “The W93 will reduce current over-reliance on the W76 system and will allow the U.S. to keep pace with future adversary threats,” the document states.

Modernizing America’s nuclear warheads with the W93 will not require nuclear testing, as key components will be based on currently deployed and/or previously tested designs, the Energy Department says.

The W93 will incorporate modern technologies to improve safety, security, and flexibility to address future threats and will be designed for ease of manufacturing, maintenance, and certification, Energy officials said.

Among the new developments will be insensitive high explosives used for triggering, as well as greater range than the W76 and W88 warheads.

The W93 program will be developed along with the United Kingdom, which is also modernizing its nuclear forces.

Production of the new warheads will be done at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, as well as at Pantex, a massive nuclear weapons assembly plant that sits on 18,000 acres and has roughly 650 buildings and more than 4,200 full-time personnel.

The Energy Department is also planning to update five current warheads using funds from a $2.84 billion request.

The U.S. will spend more than $750 billion over the next decade modernizing its nuclear defenses.

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