WASHINGTON: President Trump is going ahead with a massive overhaul of the US nuclear arsenal worth nearly $1 trillion that analysts and critics warned will trigger a new arms race with
world powers China and Russia.
The US Air Force recently announced more than $2.5 billion programme
that includes $1.8 billion for initial development of stealthy nuclear cruise missile and $700 million as part of a programme to replace the 40-year-old Minuteman missiles, the New York Times reported.
The programme was originally conceived during the administration of
previous President Barack Obama that included remaking of the nuclear arsenal and upgrading the bombers, submarines and missiles that deliver nuclear weapons . At the time the overhaul programme estimated to cost
about $1 trillion.
There were expectations of cuts in the programme if the Democratic
presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had won the election. That did not happen and now Republican President Trump has shown all intent to spend "vast amounts" on overhauling nuclear arsenals.
During a recent standoff with North Korea that has since seemed to
have eased, President Trump even indicated that the United States could
even use nuclear weapons in a first strike, something that most of the
past presidents had ruled out.
Trump is moving ahead with the Obama-designed programme on the
nuclear overhaul even before a review of the American nuclear strategy
which the NYT report said was due at the end of the year.
Critics have warned that embarking on nuclear programme on such a
huge scale risk triggering a nuclear arms race by inducing Russia and
China to speed up their own nuclear programme. "We're at a dead end for
arms control," the NYT report said quoting Gary Samore, who was a top nuclear adviser to Obama.
For instance, William J. Perry, a former defence secretary, observed that the new weapons would be so accurate and stealthy that they would
be destabilizing and would force Russia and China and accelerate their
own programmes, the report said.
Some arms control experts have suggested eliminating the ground force, one leg of the country's "nuclear triad" that includes submarine-launched, bomber-launched and ground-launched nuclear bombs.
But, speaking before the Senate during a hearing in June, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis indicated that the new Trump administration would
keep all three legs of the deterrent.
"The contracts, and Mr Mattis's hints about the ultimate nuclear strategy, suggest that Mr. Obama's agreement in 2010 to spend $80 billion
to "modernize" the nuclear arsenal - the price he paid for getting the Senate to ratify the New Start arms control agreement with Russia -
will have paved the way for expansions of the nuclear arsenal under
Mr Trump," the NYT report said.
The contract the Air Force issued last week to Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Missile Systems for the advanced nuclear-tipped missile marks
the beginning of a 12-year effort to replace old missiles with the new
ones that will be delivered by a yet-undeveloped nuclear bomber.
The plan is to produce 1,000 missiles which are stealthier and more precise and to place revitalized nuclear warheads on half of them. The
total programme is estimated to cost $25 billion.
According to the report, the other contracts the Pentagon announced
last week for replacement for the 400 Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles will cost $677 million. "The cost of replacing the Minuteman missiles and remaking the command-and-control system is estimated at
roughly $100 billion," the report said.