(Reuters) – The U.S. Defense Department said on Tuesday the Navy had fielded a low-yield, submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead, something the Pentagon believes is needed to deter adversaries like Russia but which critics say lowers the threshold for using nuclear weapons.
The argument for these weapons is that larger nuclear bombs are so catastrophic that they would never be used, meaning they are not an effective deterrent. With less power and destruction, the low-yield option would potentially be more likely to be used, serving as an effective deterrent, military officials have said.
Arms control advocates and some lawmakers have argued that such low-yield weapons reduce the threshold for potentially using nuclear weapons and could make a nuclear conflict more likely. The United States already has air-launched, low-yield nuclear weapons and critics say that should be sufficient.
The Federation of American Scientists said last week that the Navy was scheduled to deploy the low-yield warhead on the USS Tennessee in the Atlantic Ocean.
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