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US to upgrade more Trident warheads


The Bush administration have increased the number of Trident warheads which will be upgraded and made more accurate.  The proportion to be modernised has risen from 25 % to 63 %.  The new plan is to upgrade around 2,000 Trident warheads.  Britain has a similar programme to upgrade the current Trident warheads at Aldermaston.

Hans Kristinsen of the Federation of American Scientists has obtained a document from the National Nuclear Security Administration which shows that the US have increased the proportion of W76 Trident warheads which they will upgrade to the new W76-1 specification.  Their earlier plan was to upgrade 25 % of the stockpile.  Now they are planning to carry out the modification on 63 % of their arsenal of W76 warheads. 

Scottish CND discovered that Aldermaston is about to upgrade British warheads in the same way.   This was reported by the  Guardian on 14 March, the day of the House of Commons vote on the future of British nuclear weapons. 

This is not just a case of replacing like with like.  The W76-1 programme will make Trident more accurate.  Currently nuclear planners allocate two or three W76 warheads to each hardened target that they wish to destroy.  With the increase in accuracy fewer warheads can destroy the same number of targets.  This offsets the reduction in deployed warhead numbers.  In Britain's case it will increase the number of hardened targets than can be destroyed by the current deployed force of 144 warheads.

In both Britain and America the upgrade projects may be curtailed if programmes to build new warheads are successful.



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