Research, Technology

Tactical nuclear weapons - what is it and what is its danger

When it comes to nuclear weapons, usuallyimply intercontinental ballistic missiles or powerful aerial bombs. This is an incredibly dangerous weapon that can destroy entire cities with one warhead. Earlier, we have already told what will happen to the world in the event of a war with the use of such weapons. However, in addition to the strategic one, there is also a tactical nuclear weapon. It, as you might guess, is intended for the targeted destruction of the enemy's advanced positions, headquarters, concentration of manpower, etc. However, the line between tactical and strategic weapons is quite blurred. Let's try today to understand in detail what it is, how dangerous it is and whether its use can lead to a third world war?

Tactical nuclear weapons are less powerful than strategic ones.

What is the peculiarity of tactical nuclear weapons

A clear definition of tactical nuclear weapons,that distinguishes it from the strategic one does not exist. In fact, the main difference is the power in TNT equivalent. It ranges from 0.4 kilotons to 10 kilotons. The main concept of such weapons is the minimum size of the ammunition, and at the same time the maximum effect.

It should be understood that tactical nuclear weapons were created at a time whenwhen high-precision weapons did not yet exist, and decades remained before their development. There was only one way to compensate for the error in the accuracy of the weapons of those years - by increasing the power of the charge. But this also led to an increase in the size of the warheads. Therefore, nuclear weapons with a small charge were the best way to solve the tasks. One such projectile could replace dozens of sorties, or many hours of artillery work.

History of tactical nuclear weapons

As you know, the first nuclear weapon wasstrategic, but TNW has a longer history than many might think. As early as 1945, the US military was already planning the possibility of using nuclear weapons to solve tactical problems, such as quickly breaking through an enemy’s fortified defenses. After all, artillery, even the most powerful, is often ineffective.

The first tests of tactical nuclear weapons in the late 40s by the US Army

The Americans were going to use tacticalnuclear weapons during the landings in Japan. However, this operation did not happen, as the war ended earlier. But the development of tactical nuclear weapons continued. Already in 1946, the United States was testing the nuclear weapon "Crossroads", designed to destroy warships.

The first samples of nuclear weapons for usenear the battlefield were developed in the early 1950s. These were tactical atomic bombs, tactical missiles, as well as artillery shells. The main requirement for such a weapon is its compact size, as well as high accuracy, which allowed it to be used safely for its troops. It must be said that in the 1950s, the US military considered tactical nuclear weapons as a way to neutralize Soviet superiority.

In the 1960s, America began to have the mosta large arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons. Thus, parity with any possible adversary was ensured. In the USSR, for obvious reasons, they tried to keep up with the weapons of the United States. Therefore, the first tactical nuclear weapon was created in 1949. However, the first real tests with an explosion of a nuclear charge began only five years later, in 1954.

Practically all nuclear powers currently have tactical nuclear weapons.

Until the late 1950s, the only type of tactical nuclear weapon that the USSR possessed was aerial bombs. However, in 1957, the first tests of torpedoes with a nuclear warhead began.

In the 1960s, the USSR replenished its arsenal with othertypes of tactical nuclear weapons, including artillery shells that fit conventional artillery pieces. Warheads for anti-aircraft and tactical missiles have also been created. Already by the beginning of the 70s, the USSR was the second country in the world in terms of the number of tactical nuclear weapons.

What is the danger of using tactical nuclear weapons

There are currently quite a few typestactical nuclear weapons - aerial bombs, artillery shells, tactical missiles, anti-aircraft missiles and air-to-air missiles, torpedoes, as well as engineering land mines. I must say that in the 1970s, anti-missiles with a nuclear charge were also developed. However, at present they are no longer considered promising.

Aviation nuclear bomb B61-12 (USA)

Although tactical nuclear weaponsis in service with almost all nuclear powers, except for Great Britain, none of the above types of weapons has yet been used in military conflicts. In general, the only case of the use of nuclear weapons in the world is the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nevertheless, the use of tactical missiles with nuclear warheads with a yield of up to 10 kilotons is considered the most likely. Theoretically, the launch of such missiles will not lead to an automatic retaliatory strike by strategic nuclear weapons, but it can help solve many military problems.

For comparison, during the bombing of Hiroshima werea 13 kiloton bomb was used. That is, a tactical missile can carry a warhead of almost the same power. Some tactical missiles are capable of carrying even more powerful warheads. For example, Iskander can deliver a nuclear warhead with a capacity of up to 50 kilotons. Despite the fact that the missile itself is operational-tactical, the powerful warhead is already closer to a strategic weapon.

It follows that the use of even tacticalnuclear weapons can lead to tens or even hundreds of thousands of victims. The affected area can cover tens of square kilometers. Of course, the use of charges of such power will cause an increase in the radiation background with all the ensuing consequences.

The Iskander missile system can deliver nuclear warheads with a yield of up to 50 kilotons

As mentioned above, there are also charges completelylow power, designed for artillery pieces. However, at present they have an alternative - thermobaric (vacuum) weapons. It is not inferior to nuclear charges in its destructive power, but it does not lead to an increase in the radiation background. Also an alternative is high-precision weapons. Therefore, the relevance of such weapons is highly questionable.

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It must be said that tactical nuclear weaponshas another danger - according to some experts, its use may become the transition of a certain psychological barrier. As we said above, since 1945, nuclear weapons have not been used on earth. It was a kind of taboo for all nuclear powers. But its violation may be followed by the use of strategic nuclear weapons, for example, intercontinental ballistic missiles or even hypersonic missiles, against which there is no air defense. Everything you need to know about hypersonic weapons can be found here.