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.
ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL (north)
February 11, 1997
CRITICS CHALLENGE N-BOMB ADDITION
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
"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
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
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