Strategic nuclear weapon
A strategic nuclear weapon refers to a nuclear weapon which is designed to be used on targets as part of a strategic plan, such as nuclear missile bases, military command centers, factories, and heavily populated areas such as cities and towns.
They are in contrast to tactical nuclear weapons, which are designed for use in battle, as part of an attack with conventional weapon forces. Strategic nuclear weapons generally have significantly larger yields, starting from 100 kilotons up to destructive yields in the low megaton range. However, yields can overlap, and many weapons such as the B61 nuclear bomb are used in both tactical and strategic roles. Indeed, the strategic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki utilized weapons of between 10 and 20 kilotons, though this was because the "Little Boy" and "Fat Man" bombs were the most destructive (and indeed only) nuclear weapons available at the time.
A feature of strategic nuclear weapons, especially in the transcontinental nature of the US-USSR cold war with continent spanning superpower enemies that are oceans apart, is the greater range of their delivery apparatus (e.g. ICBMs), giving them the ability to threaten the enemy's command and control structure and national infrastructure, even though they are based many thousands of miles away in friendly territory. Intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads are the primary strategic nuclear weapons, while short-range missiles are tactical. In addition, while tactical weapons are designed to meet battlefield objectives, the main purpose of strategic weapons is in the deterrence role, under the theory of mutually assured destruction. In the case of two small bordering nations, a strategic weapon could have a quite short range and still be designed or intended for strategic targeting.
After the Cold War, the tactical nuclear weapon stockpiles of NATO and Russia were greatly reduced. Highly accurate strategic missiles like the Trident II can also be used in substrategic, tactical strikes.
Strategic nuclear weapons
- Mark 14 nuclear bomb
- Mark 15 nuclear bomb
- Mark 16 nuclear bomb
- Mark 17 nuclear bomb
- Mark 21 nuclear bomb
- Mark 24 nuclear bomb
- B41 nuclear bomb
- B53 nuclear bomb
Strategic/tactical nuclear weapons
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