Note: For AFNWC FAQs related to COVID-19, see our Coronavirus page.
Why are we creating new nuclear weapons after the Cold War is over?
Deterrence remains a cornerstone of national security policy in the 21st century, and a fundamental role of United States’ nuclear weapons is to deter attack on the United States and its allies. The Air Force is not creating new nuclear weapons; instead, we are replacing aging delivery systems that currently carry nuclear weapons and modernizing the associated systems used to launch the missiles. The United States has substantially reduced its nuclear arsenal since the end of the Cold War and, as a matter of policy, seeks the lowest number of nuclear forces consistent with our national security strategy. This stance is fully consistent with our strong opposition to the global proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Deployed nuclear weapons have been reduced significantly in recent years. Why is there a requirement for additional investment?
The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review confirmed nuclear weapons remain a critical contributor in deterring evolving adversarial threats to the national security of the U.S. and our allies. The United States’ ability to maintain a robust, flexible, tailorable and responsive nuclear deterrent ready to meet current and changing global threats is a key and requires investment. The fact that the total number of deployed nuclear weapons has been reduced makes it increasingly important the remaining operational deployed inventory be modernized to ensure it continues to provide a safe, secure and effective deterrent.
Will the Air Force's nuclear modernization programs result in new nuclear warhead development? In resumed testing?
The programs will be compatible with current nuclear warheads. Proposed modifications by the Department of Energy will improve the safety, security, and reliability of the warhead. However, the modernization of the weapon systems will not require nuclear testing.
Why do we need the new Long Range Stand-off Weapon when we have penetrating bombers and the B61 gravity bombs?
The United States requires the range and ability of LRSO to penetrate heavily defended airspace to meet strategic deterrence objectives and extended deterrence commitments. A credible stand-off nuclear capability provides the President proportional response options and the ability to hold adversary targets at risk even as potential adversaries enhance their anti-access/area denial strategies and capabilities. As the replacement for the aging Air Launched Cruise Missile, LRSO will be a reliable, cost-effective weapon for the delivery platforms; it retains penetrating and survivable capabilities in advanced Integrated Air Defense Systems and GPS-denied environments from significant stand-off ranges, enables simultaneous targeting of multiple targets, and lowers risk to aircrew/aircraft by reducing target overflight requirements. The combination of LRSO and a penetrating bomber imposes on our adversaries the need for their own defense investments, which enhances overall strategic deterrence and stability.