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How many nuclear weapons do we need?

Two military professors have written an interesting piece in the NY Times. They have come up with a plausible answer to the question “how many nuclear weapons do we need to assure our national security”. They come up with a number, 311, and provide evidence that this number would be more than sufficient. After all, as they point out, in 1965 the Secretary of Defense argued that around 20 megatons of nuclear explosive power would be enough to destroy more than one-quarter of the population and two-thirds of the industrial capacity of the (then) Soviet Union. And 311 of our current nuclear weapons is equal to 1,900 megatons, or enough to wipe out 5 times the population of the former Soviet Union.

What ironic about this is that recently, the Pentagon told the public (for the first time ever) that we have 5,113 nuclear weapons. In other words, we have 4,802 more such weapons than we could ever possibly use. Even the recent (historic) treaty, signed by Obama and the Russian president, only gets us down to 1,550 weapons, which is still almost 5 times as many as we need.



  1. Blue Girl wrote:

    This is in my wheelhouse just a little – my husband was not just a nuke guy, he deactivated the Titans at two of the three bases where they were installed during his USAF career. That one was the Mayor of Missile Town, the big whammer-jammer that carried a ten-megaton payload and while not a MRV (Multiple Reentry Vehicle) it had two options – air burst to kill people or ground burst to destroy infrastructure.

    They have been gone since the late eighties. Hell, I used to ride my bike AROUND the plane graveyard at Davis Monthan outside Tucson on a daily basis. I watched the as Airmen in 1983 took the wings off the B 52s and laid them on the ground for the Soviet satellites to take photos of.

    We have steadily been decreasing out arsenal over the last 25+ years. Like getting into a war, it is easy to go there – build them and put them in the ground….getting out of that morass is a hell of a lot harder.

    Don’t get me wrong – if I had a magic wand I would wave that fucker and eliminate them all. But the damned things never work. I wave and enchant and cast spells – and then my granddaughter comes into the room and takes her toys back.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 8:22 am | Permalink
  2. 🙂 at BlueGirl. I didn’t expect to be smiling, with a laugh, reading anything on this topic. Good ending!

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Permalink