US Air Force reduces land-based nuclear ICBMs to meet 2010 agreement

In compliance with an Obama-era agreement with Russia, the U.S. Air Force is near completion of decreasing its store of active, land-based nuclear missiles.

The cutbacks to the Air Force’s store of Minuteman III nuclear-tipped missiles will lower the U.S. military’s stock of deployed missiles to levels not seen since the 1960s.

Down from 417 in September 2016, the number of Minuteman III missiles stands at 406, with the remaining weapons to be removed from service by April.

Under the provisions of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) former President Obama negotiated with then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April 2010, the U.S. is obligated to reduce its stockpile of Minuteman III missiles from 450 to 400 by 2017.

The agreement is set to expire in 2021.

The pact also places limitations on the number of deployed and non-deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) from silos, submarines and strategic bombers.

The reductions to the ICBM arsenal does not require the weapon itself be destroyed, but simply taken out of service and placed in storage.  Similarly, the missile silo from which the weapon is deployed will remain inactive, but will be maintained and able to reenter service if needed.

The limitations on arms is in contrast to President Trump’s vision for the U.S. nuclear arsenal.  As a candidate in 2016, Mr. Trump assailed Mr. Obama’s agreement with Russia, saying it gave the Russians an unfair advantage.

Later, after taking office, Trump criticized New START as another “bad deal” negotiated by Obama.

In his first conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin in February 2017, Mr. Putin raised the issue of extending the agreement’s life beyond 2021 with the president; however, Trump ended the conversation with the treaty’s future uncertain.

Upon assuming office, Trump directed the Pentagon to conduct a thorough review of U.S. strategic-missile capabilities and has proposed an overhaul of the ICBM force.  According to Mr. Trump’s proposal, a new missile system could cost in excess of $100 billion.

 

[AP] [Photo courtesy Military.com]