Current U.S. and Soviet Strategic Forces and the START Limits
The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between the United States and the Soviet Union will place limits on the number of each nation's strategic nuclear warheads and strategic nuclear delivery vehicles. Specific kinds of delivery vehicles are subject to particular limitations. START will permit:
(1) 1,600 deployed ballistic missiles and heavy bombers for each side;
(2) 6,000 “accountable” warheads on these 1,600 delivery vehicles (bomber-carried weapons are discounted [see items 4 and 5]; sea-launched cruise missiles [SLCMs] are not included in the treaty, although SLCMs are limited in a separate agreement [see item 6]);
(3) no more than 4,900 warheads on ballistic missiles, of which no more that 1,540 may be on heavy ICBMs and no more than 1,100 on mobile ICBMs;
(4) heavy bombers armed with long-range air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) will count at 50 percent of their loading. U.S. bombers may carry no more than 20 long-range ALCMs each, and 150 of these bombers will count as carrying only 10 warheads. Soviet bombers may carry no more that 16 ALCMs each, and 180 of these bombers will count as carrying only
Page 52eight warheads. Any U.S. or Soviet bombers with ALCMs above the 150 and 180 limits will count as actually loaded.
(5) heavy bombers equipped with up to 20 or more gravity bombs and short-range attack missiles will count as carrying one warhead each;
(6) separate “politically binding” agreements will limit sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) with ranges above 600 kilometers to 880 for each side and Soviet Backfire medium bombers to 500.
Under these terms, the total U.S. strategic warheads subject to the treaty will be reduced by 20-25 percent, while Soviet warheads will be reduced by 30-35 percent. The actual reductions will depend on the future force structures the two nations adopt. Soviet heavy missiles will be cut by 50 percent, and Soviet ballistic missile warheads will also be reduced by roughly 50 percent. The United States will reduce its ballistic missile warheads by about 35 percent. However, because bomber-carried weapons are discounted and sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) are not included, the percentage of total strategic warheads reduced will be considerably smaller. Beyond this, if the two countries chose to exercise all the options available under the treaty, strategic arsenals could grow significantly, but the current political climate and the budget constraints on both sides make this very unlikely.
Figure A-1 shows current U.S. and Soviet forces and a projection of what the two forces might look like in the late 1990s after the implementation of START. Given that the range of choice for bomber-carried weapons is quite large, that reaching the outer limits of those choices is highly unlikely, and that both the United States and the Soviet Union face a number of significant procurement and modernization decisions whose outcomes are uncertain, the projections about future U.S. and Soviet forces make assumptions, described below, about the most probable choices based on the best available current knowledge. The U.S. force structure projection is taken from testimony given in March 1991 before the House Armed Services Committee by Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. The Soviet force projection is based on publicly available intelligence estimates of current Soviet forces and trends.
Explanation of the Figure
U.S. ICBM/SLBM Breakdown: START will limit the United States and the Soviet Union to 4,900 ballistic missile warheads. The chart assumes that the United States will have a total of 1,423 ICBM warheads, including 500 warheads on 50 MX missiles and 923 warheads on some combination of Minuteman III (both three-warhead and “downloaded” versions) and Midgetman missiles as the latter are deployed. The balance of the U.S.
Page 53ballistic missile force would consist of 3,456 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) warheads on 18 Trident submarines, each with 24 missiles carrying eight warheads apiece.
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Soviet ICBM/SLBM Breakdown: The chart assumes 154 10-warhead SS-18s, the maximum permitted by START, and 60 silo-based SS-24s. Within the 1,100 sublimit on mobile ICBM warheads, the chart assumes 36 rail-based, 10-warhead SS-24s, and 728 single-warhead SS-25s. The chart also assumes 1,672 warheads on SLBMs deployed on 10 Delta IV submarines, each armed with 16 SS-N-23 missiles carrying four warheads apiece; six
Page 54Typhoon submarines, each with 20 SS-N-20 missiles carrying five warheads apiece (downloaded from 10); and nine Delta III submarines, each armed with 16 SS-N-18 missiles carrying three warheads apiece (downloaded from seven).
Bombers: The table assumes that the United States will deploy 75 B-2s, as the Bush administration has proposed, with 16 bombs and short-range attack missiles (SRAMs) each; 96 B-1Bs with 16 bombs and SRAMs each; and 95 B-52Hs with 20 air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) each. Fifteen operational B-2 bombers have already been authorized through fiscal year 1991. If the United States were to stop deployment at 15 B-2s, the number of its bomber weapons would be about 1,000 less.
For the Soviet Union, the chart assumes 130 Bear-Hs with 10 ALCMs each and 60 Blackjacks with 16 bombs and SRAMs each. The START limits will give the Soviet Union the flexibility to deploy more Blackjack bombers than the 60 assumed in the chart, a number based on recently reported U.S. intelligence estimates.
Bomber loading estimates for both sides are based on aircraft carriage capabilities and operational requirements. Actual operational loadings may differ from the assumptions used here. Both sides will be permitted to exempt 75 existing heavy bombers that have been converted to nonnuclear missions from the limit of 1,600 strategic nuclear delivery vehicles.
SLCMs: Through fiscal year 1991, Congress has appropriated funding for 399 nuclear SLCMs. The Navy currently plans to deploy a total of 637 nuclear SLCMs by the mid-1990s, but this number may be reduced due to budgetary constraints. The Navy also has a new “stealthy” SLCM under development called “Excalibur,” which may be armed with a nuclear warhead.
Reportedly, roughly 100 Soviet long-range SS-N-21 SLCMs have been deployed, while the supersonic SS-NX-24 SLCM may remain in development. The Soviet Union also has 600-800 nuclear-armed antiship SLCMs with a range of 300-600 kilometers. These will not be limited by START, but will be subject to a confidential data exchange.