To : Abolitionists everywhere

From: Bruce Hall at Greenpeace

Date: February 11, 1998

Re : More on the earth-penetrator

Here's a story from today's Albuquergue Journal that confirms the

delivery of B61-11 earth penetrating weapons to the U.S. Air Force.

Please distribute this information and yesterday's materials.

For those of you interested in NATO expansion, it's worth

remembering that the U.S. still stations somewhere between 480 and

520 B61-7 nuclear bombs spread across seven NATO countries. They

are: Germany, U.K., Turkey, Italy, Greece, Netherlands, and

Belgium. You can find out more about this forward deployment of

nuclear weapons by consulting the NOV/DEC 95 Bulletin of Atomic

Scientists, or by contacting Greenpeace for a copy of the report:

"The Forgotten Bombs." I also believe that the fine folks at the

British American Security Information Council are doing updated

work on this topic.



February 11, 1997


By Ian Hoffman

Journal Staff Writer

Nuclear weapons scientists in New Mexico and elsewhere have

finished two years' work on the latest bomb in the US nuclear

arsenal, a weapon designed to embed itself above hardened

underground bunkers and demolish them.

The 12-foot bomb, called a deep-earth penetrator, reignites

debate over what constitutes a "new" nuclear weapon - a pointed

issue, as U.S. policy since 1992 has forbidden development of new


It is the first new or redesigned weapon to join the arsenal

since 1989.

"The continued 'upgrading' of the arsenal undercuts both arms-

control and disarmament efforts. You can't have your bombs and get

rid of them, too," argues anti-proliferation activist Greg Mello,

head of the Santa Fe-based Los Alamos Study Group.

Sandia National Laboratories shipped 10 dummy versions of the

modified B61 to the U.S. Air Force last month as training devices,

plus nine sets of customized bomb-handling gear.

Weapons plants in Kansas City, Mo. and Oak Ridge, Tennessee,

have begun delivering the first retrofitting kits so Air Force

engineers can start changing a classified number of B61-7s into the

new B61-11s.

Mello's group and Greenpeace noted the deployment of the bomb

in a news release Monday that suggested the Defense Department is

contemplating its use against Third World Nations such as Libya.

The bomb is supposed to replace the B53, a 1960s-vintage bomb

with a yield estimated by private defense experts to be equivalent

to 9 million tons of TNT.

The B53s age - it is the oldest weapon in the arsenal - and

its use of an older, less fire-resistant conventional explosive

have made it potentially unsafe, according to weapons designers.

Schedules for phasing the B53 out of the stockpile remain


Weapons designers maintain the 11th modification of the B61 is

merely that - a re-engineering to make sure the bomb still explodes

as intended after being dropped from a plane to slam into the earth

at the speed of a 45-caliber bullet.

"This is not a new weapon. It's a modification of an existing

weapon to assure its survival...that allows the weapon to shallowly

impact the ground and then detonate," said Roger Hagengruber, vice

president for national security programs at Sandia.

Hagengruber, who heads the lab's nuclear weapons program, said

the modifications mostly amount to a hardened and slightly more

pointed nose cone and the use of a concentric flare, or spoiler-

like device, in the bomb's rear, rather than fins.

"It's sort of like putting a new fender on your car. And

instead of Fiberglass, you put a metal fender on and maybe a nose

out front," he said.

Even weapons designers struggle with the definition of a new

weapon, but seem to agree it must meet one of two criteria. The

weapon represents a wholly new military capability or employs

substantially new technology in its nuclear package.

The nuclear package of the B61-11 remains unchanged and,

designers argue, the B61-11 merely assumes the same role as the

retiring B53.

Each B61 is thought to permit selection from four or five

blast yields - a feature one expert terms "dial-a-yield" - from

just 300 tons of TNT equivalent to 340 kilotons, or 20 times the

explosive power of the Hiroshima bomb.

The smaller yields concern Mello and other activists whose

cause is aided by abhorrence among the public and policymakers for

the use of massively destructive weapons.

Defense theorists have mulled battlefield use of such

"mininukes" or "micronukes" to contain damage and radioactive

fallout, the key self deterrence to the use of nuclear weapons.

"Subkiloton weapons could be very effective for both deterring

and defending in future world-wide contingency operations," wrote

two analysts with Los Alamos National Laboratory in late 1991.

LANL scientists designed and tested the original B61 in the

1980s and so had to certify that the changes and the stresses of

earth penetration would not impair the bomb's performance.

A joint team from Sandia and Los Alamos observed drop tests of

mock B61-11s in February 1996 in Alaska and again in November in


Arms control activists are unconvinced and are troubled by the

Defense Department's rush to bring the B61-11 online, especially

given renewed U.S. pressure on the Russian government for

ratification of the START II arms reduction treaty.

William M. Arkin, a private nuclear weapons consultant and

columnist for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, says the

project suggests the weapons labs' thirst for new work still has a

role in driving the arms race.

More worrisome, he insists, is that the Clinton administration

yielded to demands from the Air Force's Strategic Command for a

nuclear weapon to take out deeply dug command bunkers of the sort

favored by the former Soviet Union.

"That DOD and DOE and the White House can accept that kind of

obsolete Cold War thinking is more disturbing to me," he said. "It

just symbolizes that the game isn't over in the minds of the

government, that the administration isn't really into ending the

arms race."