GarryB wrote:So effectively the US weapons are more like Trabants... they just do a job with maintainence but no upgrades.
There was talk in the US military about lower yield warheads because they were afraid that the Russians might use super low yield nukes and then they would have to respond with much more powerful weapons... which is silly because the Russians only reduce warheads when accuracy improvements make smaller warheads just as effective on point targets.
The Soviet Granat SS-N-21 cruise missile had a CEP of about 250m so there was no value in putting a 400kg HE warhead on it, but with the improvements in guidance and the addition of terminal guidance you don't need a huge nuclear warhead any more a more moderately sized lighter model could be used to get more range from the cruise missile.
I rather suspect the US military was suggesting smaller nukes to make them seem more usable and potentially usable in certain roles where conventional weapons are less effective like blowing up a bio lab... you need heat so a thermobaric warhead or a nuke to destroy the bacteria as well as the facility, and of course the old faithful bunker busters... deep penetration into the ground means lots of metal and strong structure which leaves very little room for explosive... in WWI a heavy artillery round was more effective because if it buried itself within 20m of a trenchline even if it didn't land in the trench the underground explosion with a large HE charge made trenches and tunnels and underground rooms collapse.
A soil penetrating nuke would create a sort of earthquake that collapsed all sorts of underground tunnels and bunkers... if you could justify using nukes in a conventional war agaisnt a country like Iran or Afghanistan who like underground bases...
Garry the problem behind those US measures (employing strategic capable platforms as carrier of low/very-low yield nuclear warheads) is the product of a new technological and an (old) numerical imbalance in Not-Strategic-Nuclear Forces
As said in this segment there existed since the Cold War an huge imbalance both in numerical terms (about 6800 warheads at the peack for the US against over 25000 for the СССР) and heterogeneity of carrying platforms between the two sides ,both a product of a substantial and historical technological backlog suffered by american specialists in this particular field.USA
,in those times, attempted to address this issue capitalising at maximum the geographical advantage offered by placement and dispersing of those few, less effcient not strategic nuclear warheads and theirs less survivable carrying platforms in the territory of vassal NATO nations
in close proximity of the possibile first echelon CCCP forces in Europe.
The situation since the '90 years changed utterly for both sides toward a further and substantial reduction of the number of the "tactical" nuclear weapons ,but if possible the imbalance continued to grow; this situation anyhow do not bothered US planners given the particular situation of conventional superiority enjoyed by NATO over the Federation at the time of the collapse of CCCP and expansion eastward of western military alliance.
The product of this particular situation was that the already less efficient and survivable tactical nuclear means and carrying platforms of the US became 500 B-61 gravity bombs of which 160-180 present in foreign soil.
As anyone can easily understand the notion of not-strategic nuclear deterrence entrusted to....gravity bombs...... in an era where opposing air defense systems are prepared and capable to defeat attacks with several hundreds if not thousands of stand-off missiles among very-intensive use of jamming and air delivered decoys, appear totally anachronistic
; even more in a similar situation an entire air offenisve group consisting of several aircraft squadrons armed with B-61 nuclear gravity bombs, even within a mix group of UAVs and air decoys, could be easily defeated at several hundreds km of distance, with a percentage very near to 100%, by even only a single C-400 or C-300В4 launcher with nuclear warheads or also a single squadron of МиГ-31БМ armed with nuclear tipped Р-37M
This situation was utterly worsened not only by the systemic renovation of Federation's conventional Forces by also the latests domestic achievements in delivery platforms of completely new kind : Х-32, "Кинжал" all "Циркон"
(leaving outside already mass produced Исканде́р and "Оникс") all distinguish themselves as perfect, almost impossible to defeat, delivery platforms for modern not-strategic nuclear strikes
that hardly could be named in the same sentence with......B-61 gravity bombs.