The excerpt below is from an opinion article written by Dr. Peter Pry for The Hill, which originally appeared on April 12, 2019. The original article in its entirety can be read here.
Add two more legs to our nuclear triad, or we’ll lose the next war
The strategic Nuclear Triad of bombers, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and ballistic missile submarines for decades has deterred World War III, and remains indispensable.
But today, Triad survivability is doubtful. The Triad should become a strategic “pentagon,” including active and passive defenses to ensure Triad and societal survivability, about which more later.
Each Triad leg has unique characteristics contributing to deterrence. For example:
- Bombers, unlike launched missiles, can be recalled and their nuclear mission canceled.
- ICBMs, the most responsive leg of the Triad, can be re-targeted most quickly, launched most quickly and arrive on target fastest.
- Submarines are the most survivable leg of the Triad, ensuring a U.S. retaliatory capability, even if bombers and ICBMs are destroyed.
Collectively, the three legs make a deterrent even greater than the sum of their parts, because of the complexity of coordinating a successful attack on all three simultaneously, and enabling U.S. responses to a broad range of scenarios.
But here’s why Triad survivability is ever more questionable:
The number of U.S. strategic bomber bases has been reduced from 45 during the Cold War to just three, and bombers no longer are maintained on alert, making them sitting ducks even for North Korea.
The number of U.S. ICBMs has been reduced from 1,054 during the Cold War to 450, which Russia, and soon China, could destroy with a single warhead targeted against each missile silo for a kill probability over 90 percent.
The number of U.S. ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) has been reduced from 35-45 during the Cold War to 14 today, falling to 12 Columbia SSBNs in the future. Since only one-third of SSBNs usually are on patrol, and up to two-thirds often at port, eight of the 12 planned Columbias could be destroyed in port, leaving only four surviving at sea in a surprise attack.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry was chief of staff of the Congressional EMP Commission. He served on the staff of the House Armed Services Committee and at the CIA. He is the author of “EMP Manhattan Project: Organizing For Survival Against An Electromagnetic Pulse Catastrophe.”
Read the original article in its entirety here