Friday, September 29, 2023

US Should Retain B83 Bomb

Copyright 2023 by Michael H. Maggelet

  The B83 strategic bomb, first deployed to FB-111 bases in mid 1984 (and later to SAC B-52's), was derived from the B77 thermonuclear bomb. I worked on the first mod of the B83, and since it was a newly deployed modern weapon, there wasn't much maintenance to perform internally. There were several retrofits accomplished just as I arrived at my new base, and the B83 was a welcome arrival compared to the B43 bomb which had been in the stockpile since 1960.

  I won't go into the technical details regarding the B83, only to say that it was quite easy to maintain compared to the labor intensive B43, and made our operations much easier since it contained insensitive high explosive (and it was more versatile for strike aircraft). [1]

  Statements by detractors that the B83 has "too high a yield" are laughable, since the bomb has selectable yields for a variety of targets. [2]

  Given the Russian, Chinese, and North Korean emphasis on building command posts and other high value targets in mountains and in heavily reinforced underground complexes, the US only has a limited number of weapons to destroy these targets. In addition, the B61-11 bomb has an earth penetrating capability. These weapons can only be delivered by the B-2, since nuclear gravity bombs were recently removed from B-52H's.

  While some portion of the ICBM and SLBM force can attack and possibly neutralize some underground facilities, the use of low yield SLBM warheads and air launched cruise missiles cannot be successfully used to destroy deeply buried underground complexes with surface bursts. 

1. "Nuclear Weapon Characteristics Handbook" by Sandia National Laboratories, September 1990. Declassified/sanitized from "Secret/Restricted Data", p. 77. 

2. Low yield option discussed by General C. Robert Kehler during the "Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces of the Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, 113th Congress, 1st Session, October 29, 2013".                  

B83 load shapes maintained by the author and other 463X0 personnel at Plattsburgh AFB, NY in the mid '80's (photo  

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