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Air Force’s arsenal of land-based nukes to shrink as planned

FILE – Jan. 9, 2014, file photo shows a mockup of a Minuteman 3 nuclear missile used for training by missile maintenance crews at F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. The air force is quietly shrinking the allocated power of a long-range nuclear missiles as part of a remnant government-Obama plan to comply with an arms control treaty with Russia, The Associated Press has learned. The plan is the procedure despite President Donald Trump’s argument that the deal has Moscow an unfair advantage in strategic nuclear firepower. (AP Photo/Robert Burns, File)

(Associated Press)

WASHINGTON – The air force is quietly shrinking the deployed strength of the land-based nuclear missiles as part of a remnant government-Obama plan to comply with an arms control treaty with Russia. The reductions are nearing completion despite President Donald Trump’s argument that the treaty gives Moscow an unfair advantage in nuclear firepower.

The reduction of 400 missiles from 450 is the first for the intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, strength in ten years — when the arsenal fell from 500 such weapons. The air force says that the last cut in the Minuteman 3 missiles will be completed in April, allowing the deployed ICBM arsenal in the smallest size since the start of the 1960s.

In 2014, President Barack Obama announced that the planned ICBM reduction in size of the total nuclear force, including bombers and nuclear submarines, to the New START agreement between the US and Russia ended in 2010. Both countries must be in compliance with the treaty limits by February 2018.

The shrinking of the ICBM force in battle, at least rhetorically, to Trump the belief that the US has fallen behind Russia in nuclear muscle. In December, he tweeted that the U.S. should be “a important strengthening and expansion of the nuclear capacity from time to time the world comes to its senses with regard to nuclear weapons.” He has criticized New START as a bad deal.

It is unclear how Trump wants to make a nuclear expansion, which critics call unnecessary and a possible attack on the financial resources that are needed for the non-nuclear powers. A long-term plan to replace and modernize the current nuclear power is already underway and will ultimately cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

March 14, the air force had 406 Minuteman missiles in launch-ready silos, Maj. Daniel Dubois, an air force spokesman said Friday. In September the number was 417. Dubois said that the number will be reduced to 400 in April. Also as part of the treaty compliance process, the air force, which in January finished converting 41 B-52H bombers to non-nuclear status.

Michaela Dodge, a defense policy analyst at the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, says that the US should get the New START.

“There must be a way to reverse this decline,” she said, referring to the 50 Minuteman missiles pulled out of their silos. “As long as Russia continues to grow and the number of warheads under New START, we need to do.”

Russian nuclear warheads have exceeded the treaty limit of 1,550, and the united states is under the limit. But next February, nor is the expected above.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said that Moscow would honor the New START bet.

“It is important for the United States to stay on schedule,” he said, with the argument that such efforts “will ensure that Russia does the same.”

Based on military calculations, Obama declared in 2013 that the united states could safely reduce its nuclear force by a third from New START levels. But negotiations to do never took place. They seem even unlikelier after the Russian military actions in Ukraine and Kremlin rhetoric that AMERICAN officials have considered reckless and dangerous. However, Trump suggestions of interest in a grand bargain with Russia, including nuclear reductions, could provide an avenue for fresh talks.

After taking office, He ordered a review of nuclear forces, a Pentagon-led process is likely to be a year or more. One of the most important questions: whether to continue with Obama’s weapons modernization plan and a possible cancellation of a New START. A part of the modernisation of the plan calls for a new generation ICBM force, which can cost more than $100 billion.

Sticking with a New START would not necessarily limit the U.S. for a long time. It expires in February 2021, unless both parties agree on an extension. In addition to the general warhead limit, the treaty allows each side to a maximum of 700 deployed launchers, including missile silos. Russia and the United States can determine for themselves how their totals are divided among the three weapons categories: icbms, submarines and bombers.

The 50 underground silos in the Minuteman missiles be removed will be kept “warm”, which means that is able to be active again. The missiles are stored. Those decisions came after the members of the Congress of the ICBM base states — North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana — pushed for no elimination of the silos.

The remaining 400 deployed icbms would be the least since 1962, according to a history of the force written by Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists.

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