U.S./NATO sea-based non-strategic nuclear deterrence: paradox or pitfall?
Stanton, Lowell S.
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The present study examines the evolution of nuclear strategy with particular emphasis on the capacity of U.S./NATO sea-based non-strategic nuclear forces. The current trend in NATO towards a certain denuclearization of the Central European states might well place an increased reliance on sea-based theater nuclear weapons to counter Soviet theater nuclear weapons in the Western Soviet Union. The present work analyzes the policy background of the NATO nuclear strategy from a European perspective in light of recent problems as a necessary precondition to an understanding of the more concrete issues of hardware. Although the Navy's nuclear-capable Tomahawk land attack cruise missile (TLAM/N) remains a potent and flexible nuclear strike asset, it is best suited for heavily defended high value fixed targets. Emphasis on offensive mobility in a future conflict will make carrier-based a more decisive platform from which to prosecute and destroy high value mobile targets. However, an analysis of the U.S. Navy's non-strategic nuclear force reveals substantial deficiencies when compared with those of the Soviet Union. A declining U.S. Navy nuclear stockpile of air-deliverable strike weapons in combination with the lack of a long-range nuclear-capable stealth aircraft weakens the credibility of the aircraft carrier battle group as a nuclear deterrent force.
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