U.S. arms sales and dangerous nuclear program documented

U.S. arms sales and dangerous nuclear program documented

TEHRAN- Washington’s arms companies are blamed for fueling conflicts way beyond the country’s borders at the expense of civilians who are dying from bombs made in America.

U.S. arms sales and dangerous nuclear program documented – New research by a prominent arms documenting organization says U.S. weapons companies dominated the global top 100 list of arms manufacturers. The country also maintained its number-one position for the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear warheads.

That is according to a new study released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which has concluded its research for the year 2021.

The arms sales of the 40 U.S. companies in the global Top 100 list totaled $299 billion in 2021. For six consecutive years now, the top five companies in the global list have all been based in the U.S.

But private equity companies are becoming more active in the arms industry, particularly in the U.S. This could affect the transparency of arms sales data, due to less stringent financial reporting requirements compared with public companies.

SIPRI says a recent wave of mergers and acquisitions in the U.S. arms industry continued in 2021. One of the most significant acquisitions was Peraton’s (a company that was awarded a $2.69 billion contract by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) purchase of Perspecta, a government IT specialist, for $7.1 billion

Sales of arms and military services by the 100 largest companies in the arms industry reached $592 billion in 2021, a 1.9 percent increase compared with 2020 in real terms.

The increase marked the seventh consecutive year of rising global arms sales. Despite the massive profits in North America, the U.S. saw a tiny drop in arms sales compared with 2020. The 0.8 percent real-terms decline is widely due to high inflation in the U.S. economy during 2021.

Analysts say that this will sharply increase in the year 2022 and beyond as Washington has shipped tens of billions of dollars’ worth of arms to be used in the Ukraine war. While some of the arms have been sent from pre-existing stocks, Congress has given the go-ahead for those stocks to be replenished again.

This means U.S. arms manufacturers have been paid to rebuild the weapons sent to the warzone.

In 2021 there were 27 Top 100 companies headquartered in Europe. Their combined arms sales increased by 4.2 percent compared with 2020, reaching $123 billion.

“Most of the European companies that specialize in military aerospace reported losses for 2021, which they blamed on supply chain disruptions,” said Lorenzo Scarazzato, a researcher with the SIPRI Military Expenditure and Arms Production Program. “In contrast, European shipbuilders seem to have been less affected by the pandemic fallout and were able to increase their sales in 2021.”

The French manufacturer of military aircraft Dassault Aviation Group bucked the trend in the military aerospace sector. The company’s arms sales saw a sharp 59 percent increase to $6.3 billion in 2021, driven by deliveries of a total of 25 Rafale fighter jets.

The combined arms sales of the four South Korean companies in the Top 100 grew by 3.6 percent compared with 2020, reaching $7.2 billion. This was largely due to a 7.6 percent rise in arms sales by Hanwha Aerospace, to $2.6 billion. Hanwha’s arms sales are expected to grow significantly in the coming years, after it signed a major arms deal with Poland in 2022, following the Ukraine war.

Other notable developments include the five Top 100 companies based in West Asia generated $15.0 billion in arms sales in 2021. This was a 6.5 percent increase compared with 2020, the fastest pace of growth of all regions represented in the Top 100.

This is the first year in which a Taiwanese firm appears in the Top 100. NCSIST (ranked 60th), which specializes in missiles and military electronics, recorded arms sales of $2.0 billion in 2021.

SIPRI defines “Arms Sales” as selling military goods and services to military customers domestically and abroad.

The independent international institute also examined the handful of countries that possess nuclear weapons, which poses the biggest danger to international peace and security.

American nuclear warheads have attracted the most attention as the U.S. has the fastest-developing stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world.

As of January 2022, the U.S. maintained a military stockpile of approximately 3708 nuclear warheads.

Approximately 1744 of these, consisting of about 1644 strategic and roughly 100 non-strategic (tactical) warheads, were deployed on ballistic missiles and bomber bases.

In addition, about 1964 warheads were held in reserve, giving a total inventory of approximately 5428 nuclear warheads. SIPRI has pointed out that these estimates are based on publicly available information regarding the U.S. nuclear arsenal as well as SIPRI own research.

The organization cites its sources as the U.S. Department of Defense, various budget reports and plans, press releases and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act; U.S. Department of Energy, various budget reports and plans; U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and U.S. Department of Energy, personal communications with officials; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, ‘Nuclear notebook’, various issues; and the authors’ estimates.

The most recent data exchange, on 1 September 2021, listed the U.S. deploying 1389 warheads attributed to 665 ballistic missiles and heavy bombers.

Approximately 1644 of U.S. strategic warheads were deployed on land and sea-based ballistic missiles and at bomber bases. The remaining warheads were in central storage.

In addition to these intact warheads, more than 20, 000 plutonium pits were stored at the Pantex Plant, Texas, and some 4000 uranium secondaries were stored at the Y-12 facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

U.S. offensive strategic nuclear forces include heavy bomber aircraft, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and SSBNs.

These forces, together known as the triad, changed little during 2021.

SIPRI estimates that a total of 3508 nuclear warheads were assigned to the triad, of which an estimated 1644 warheads were deployed on ballistic missiles and at heavy bomber bases.

Another concerning matter is the delivery of U.S. nuclear attacks on relatively short notice.

Both the B-2As and B-52Hs bombers are currently undergoing modernization intended to improve their ability to receive and transmit secure nuclear mission data.

The development of the next-generation long-range strike bomber, known as the B-21 Raider, was well underway by the end of 2021 and the first two test aircraft were being constructed.

In July 2021 the U.S. Air Force released its visual rendering of the B-21, indicating a flying-wing design similar to that of the B-2, along with a fact sheet noting that the B-21 warplane would eventually be able to conduct nuclear weapons operations without a crew.

The B-21 will be capable of delivering two types of nuclear weapons: the B61-12 guided nuclear gravity bomb, which was scheduled to begin full-scale production in May 2022 and is also designed to be deliverable from shorter-range non-strategic aircraft, and the long-range standoff weapon (LRSO) ALCM, which is in development.

The B-21 is scheduled to enter service in the mid-2020s. At the end of 2021, six were in production, with the roll-out and the first flight was reported in mid-2022.

The new bomber will replace the B-1B bombers—which are not nuclear capable—at Dyess Air Force Base (AFB) in Texas and Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota. This, along with the reinstatement of nuclear-weapon storage capability at Barksdale AFB in Louisiana, will result in the number of U.S. bomber bases with such capability increasing from two in 2021 to five by the early 2030s.

As of January 2022, the U.S. Air Force operated a fleet of 152 heavy bombers: 45 B-1Bs, 20 B-2As, and 87 B-52Hs.

The B-2A can deliver gravity bombs (B61-7, B61-11, and B83-1) and the B-52H can deliver the AGM-86B/W80-1 nuclear air-launched cruise missile (ALCM).

SIPRI estimates that approximately 788 warheads were assigned to strategic bombers, of which about 300 are deployed at bomber bases and ready for delivery on relatively short notice.

Both the B-2As and B-52Hs are currently undergoing modernization intended to improve their ability to receive and transmit secure nuclear mission data.

The development of the next-generation long-range strike bomber, known as the B-21 Raider, was well underway by the end of 2021 and the first two test aircraft were being constructed.

The B-21 will be capable of delivering two types of nuclear weapons: The B61-12 guided nuclear gravity bomb, which reportedly began full-scale production in May 2022 and is also designed to be deliverable from shorter-range non-strategic aircraft.

This is while the U.S. deployed land-based nuclear missiles as of January 2022, the Pentagon deployed 400 Minuteman III ICBMs in 450 silos across three missile wings, with the 50 empty silos kept in a state of readiness for reloading with stored missiles if necessary.

Each Minuteman III ICBM was armed with either a 335-kiloton W78 or a 300-kt W87 warhead. Missiles carrying the W78 can be uploaded with up to two more warheads for a maximum of three multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs).

ICBMs with the W87 can only be loaded with one warhead. SIPRI estimates that there are 800 warheads assigned to the ICBM force, of which 400 are deployed on the missiles.

The USAF has scheduled its next-generation ICBM, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) weapon system, to begin replacing the Minuteman III in 2028, with full replacement by 2036.

Each GBSD will be able to carry up to two W87 or W87-1 MIRVs for a maximum of 800 nuclear warheads across all GBSDs.

In May 2021 the U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the cost of acquiring and maintaining the ICBMs would total approximately $82 billion over the 10-year period 2021–30, approximately $20 billion more than the CBO had previously estimated for the period 2019–28. The cost is likely to increase further.

The USAF is also modernizing the nuclear warheads that will be used to arm the GBSD. The projected cost of the program for the replacement warhead, known as the W87-1, is between $11.8 billion and $15 billion, but this estimate does not include costs associated with the production of plutonium pits for the warhead.

Meanwhile, sea-based missiles being operated by the U.S. Navy operate a fleet of 14 Ohio-class SSBNs, of which 12 are normally considered to be operational and 2 are typically undergoing refueling and overhaul at any given time.

Eight of the SSBNs are based at Naval Base Kitsap in Washington state and six at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia. Each Ohio-class SSBN can carry up to 20 Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

In 2021 the U.S. Navy conducted several flight tests of the D5LE SLBM, which is equipped with the new Mk6 guidance system. The D5LE will arm Ohio-class SSBNs for the remainder of their service lives (up to 2042) and will be deployed on the United Kingdom’s Trident submarines.

From the end of the cold war, the U.S. relied on the refurbishment of existing warhead types for its nuclear weapons, but since around 2018 it has shifted to an expanded production capacity intended to produce new warheads.

Furthermore, U.S. non-strategic (tactical) nuclear forces include nuclear bombs delivered by several types of short-range fighter-bomber aircraft, as well as potentially a future nuclear-armed SLCM.

The U.S. eliminated all non-strategic naval nuclear weapons after the end of the cold war.

So, the completion of its SLCM-N would therefore mark a significant change in the U.S. Navy’s nuclear weapons strategy.

For a country that has such advanced, dangerous, expensive, and quickly developing nuclear weapons forces, Washington is doing its utmost to prevent other countries from acquiring peaceful nuclear programs for energy or medical purposes.

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