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The Nuclear Triad

U.S. Strategic Forces


With the end of the Cold War between the former Soviet Union (FSU) and the United States, the threat of an all-out nuclear attack has diminished. It is unlikely that Russia would undertake a massive first strike against the United States, and both countries have significantly reduced their nuclear forces. Still, the threat of nuclear war and the spread of nuclear weapons remains, evidenced by the nuclear tests of India and Pakistan in 1998. Five other nations admit to having nuclear weapons (their estimated quantity is indicated in parentheses): China (434), France (482), Russia (13,200), the United Kingdom (200) and the United States (15,500). Israel is known to have the capability to deploy nuclear weapons, and still other countries, including Iran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea, are known to have nuclear weapons programs[40].

Nuclear forces continue to play a critical role in the defense of the United States, its allies and friends. They provide credible capabilities to deter a wide range of threats, including weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and large-scale conventional military force. Nuclear capabilities possess unique properties that give the United States options to hold at risk classes of targets important to achieve strategic and political objectives.

According to Joint Publication 1-02, deterrence is understood as “the prevention from action by fear of the consequences. It is a state of mind brought about by the existence of a credible threat of unacceptable counteraction”[41].

The offensive capability of the United States rests on what is known as the Nuclear Triad, comprised of strategic bombers, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). It was devised so if any one of the three “legs” is destroyed by an attack, the other two can still function[42].

The United States maintains B-52, Rockwell B-1B, and Northrop Grumman B-2 bombers capable of being armed with nuclear weapons as part of its strategic force.

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The U.S. land-based ICBM force consists of Minuteman III ICBMs capable of carrying three warheads apiece and 50 Peacekeeper missiles, each deploying 10 warheads[43].

Nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines (SSBNs) armed with long-range SLBMs will assume a greater share of the strategic nuclear deterrence mission if Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty II (START II) is implemented. Under START II, the SLBM force will provide about half of the 3,000 to 3,500 nuclear warheads the United States will be permitted to deploy. SSBNs, which are very hard to detect when at sea, are the most survivable element of the strategic nuclear triad. A significant portion of the SSBN fleet is at sea at any given time, and all submarines not in the shipyard for long-term maintenance can be deployed during a crisis. The U.S. SSBN fleet consists of 19 Ohio-class submarines. No new SSBNs or SLBMs are currently under development[44].

The New Triad[45]

The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) of 2001 concluded that deterrence should not be limited to the threat of retaliation, nor rely exclusively on nuclear forces. The U.S. will need a broader range of capabilities to assure friends and foe alike of its resolve. Nuclear forces, moreover, are unsuited to many of the contingencies for which the U.S. prepares. A mix of capabilities, offensive and defensive, nuclear, and conventional is required.

The application of a capabilities-based approach to U.S. nuclear forces has resulted in a decision to transform the existing triad of U.S strategic nuclear forces into a New Triad composed of a diverse portfolio of offensive and defensive, nuclear, and conventional systems. The New Triad is designed to give the President and the SECDEF a broad array of options to address a wide range of possible contingencies.

There are six underlying elements that support the legs of the New Triad: strike capabilities (nuclear and non-nuclear), defenses (active and passive), infrastructure, planning, command and control, and intelligence.

Strike Capabilities. Non-nuclear strike capabilities include advanced conventional weapons systems, offensive information operations, and Special Operations Forces. Deployed nuclear strike capabilities include the three legs of the existing strategic triad and theater-based, nuclear-capable dual-role aircraft.

Defenses. Active defenses include ballistic missile defense (BMD) and air defense (AD). Passive defenses include measures that reduce vulnerability through mobility, dispersal, redundancy, deception, concealment, and hardening; warn of imminent attack.

Infrastructure. A responsive infrastructure that can augment U.S. military capabilities in a timely manner provides strategic depth to the New Triad.

Planning. Careful planning will be critical to integrate and balance the three elements of the New Triad. Planning for the New Triad must consider multiple goals, a spectrum of adversaries and contingencies, and the many uncertainties of the security environment.

Command and Control. A reliable, survivable, and robust command and control (C2) system will serve as a critical portion of the New Triad.

Intelligence. “Exquisite” intelligence access to an adversary’s secrets without his knowledge is essential to provide insight into the intentions as well as the capabilities of opponents. Such intelligence should enable the United States to tailor its deterrent strategies to the greatest effect.

The United States plans to reduce its operationally deployed nuclear forces over the next decade to 1,700 to 2,200 warheads, while maintaining the flexibility necessary to accommodate changes in the security environment. Reductions are planned through a phased program that eliminates Peacekeeper ICBMs, removes 4 Trident SSBNs from strategic service, and downloads weapons from Trident SLBMs, Minuteman III ICBMs, and B-52H and B-2 bombers.

The existing verification regime established by the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) that entered into force December 5, 1994 will remain in effect. The U.S. Senate did not provide its advice and consent to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). The Administration does not support ratification of the CTBT but continues to support observance of the U.S. testing moratorium.

In sum, the U.S. strategy for its strategic forces will be transformed and adapted to meet the challenges of the decades to come. The risks associated with reductions in deployed nuclear warheads will be offset by the development and fielding of non-nuclear offensive and defensive capabilities and a revitalization of the infrastructure. The new strategy puts aside Cold War practices and planning and represents an important step in defense transformation.


s Answer the questions

1. What is the mission of the US Strategic Forces?

2. Can you explain the meaning of deterrence?

3. Do you agree with the statement that the risk of nuclear proliferation is higher than in the past?

4. Why are the nuclear forces referred to as the triad?

5. What are the components of the New Triad?

6. What is START?

7. Why are SSBNs considered to be the most survivable element of the strategic nuclear triad?

8. Do you think strategic nuclear forces can guarantee peace and security?

9. Are there strategic nuclear forces in Ukraine?


> Read, decipher and translate abbreviations



N O Translate into Ukrainian

To hold at risk classes of targets; theater-based, nuclear-capable dual-role aircraft; undertake a massive first strike (against sb); the threat of a nuclear war; to have nuclear weapons programs; provide credible capabilities; large-scale conventional military force; to achieve strategic and political objectives; existence of a credible threat; offensive capability; to be armed with nuclear weapons; strategic nuclear deterrence mission; nuclear warheads; to be unsuited to many of the contingencies; a capabilities-based approach; a broad array of options; advanced conventional weapons systems; theater-based aircraft; dual-role aircraft; mobility; dispersal; deception; hardening; infrastructure; to provide strategic depth (to sth); a spectrum of adversaries and contingencies; uncertainty; command and control system; survivable; reliable, survivable, and robust command and control system; operationally deployed nuclear forces; a phased program; to meet the challenges of the decades to come; development; revitalization of the infrastructure; a major reduction in the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal; conventional warfare; in a timely manner; nuclear-capable missiles; over the next decade; to be at sea; to be under development; to deter aggression; to enhance SSBN security and survivability; to enter inventory; to maintain nuclear forces of sufficient size and capability; with multiple warheads.


N O Translate into English

Надійна, безвідмовна і безперебійна система військового управління; загроза тотального ядерного удару; значно зменшувати ядерні сили; розповсюдження ядерної зброї; відігравати головну роль в обороні; стримувати широке коло загроз; ядерні можливості; утримання від дій під страхом наслідків; недопустима протидія; три складові ядерної тріади; покладатися виключно на ядерні сили; поєднання бойових можливостей; трансформувати існуючу тріаду у нову; відповідати за широке коло можливих кризових ситуацій; інформаційні операції наступального характеру; літак, що здатний нести ядерну зброю; вразливість; зменшувати вразливість через рухомість; дублювання (надмірність); прихованість; попередження про можливий напад/удар противника; гнучка інфраструктура; ретельне планування; стан безпеки (політ. “клімат безпеки”); безліч мінливостей, що характеризують клімат безпеки; надійний; стійкій; витривалий; непіддатливий; непохитний; безперебійний; застосовувати стратегію стримування з максимальною ефективністю; підтримувати необхідну гнучкість; існуючий режим верифікації; нейтралізувати ризики, пов’язані із скороченням розгорнутих ядерних боєголовок; прийняття на озброєння; надходження (до війська); трансформація системи оборони; обмежена здатність доставки ядерних зарядів на далекі відстані; літак, літальний апарат; дружній, дружелюбний; довготривале технічне обслуговування; підводні човни типу “Огайо”; виконувати завдання щодо нанесення ударів як ядерною, так і звичайною зброєю; бути ратифікованим; становити значні труднощі щодо виявлення; стримувати напад на сша чи їх союзників; набувати чинності;тримати під загрозою; програма розробки ядерної зброї; у період після холодної війни.

ó N O Translate quickly

Ядерні сили; conventional forces; колишній СРСР; nuclear attack/strike; ядерні випробування; to deploy nuclear weapons; ЗМЗ; strategic forces; тримати під загрозою; weapons of mass destruction; стримувати агресію; deterrence; засоби стримування; deterrent strategy; ядерна тріада; bomber; стратегічний бомбардувальник; heavy bomber; бомбардувальник−носій ядерної зброї; conventional bomber; балістична ракета; intercontinental ballistic missile; балістична ракета підводного базування; cruise missile; крилата ракета підводного базування; land-based missile; ракета повітряного базування; sea-based missile; ракета великої дальності; warhead; підводний човен атомний з ракетами балістичними; Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty; “Чотирирічний оборонний огляд”; retaliation; кризові ситуації; strike capabilities; ударні можливості з використанням ядерної зброї; non-nuclear strike capabilities; система (засоби) оборони; active defenses; засоби пасивної оборони; ballistic missile defense; протиповітряна оборона; adversary; система управління військами;Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty; мораторій; testing moratorium; розповсюдження зброї;non-proliferation; Договір про нерозповсюдження ядерної зброї; nuclear forces; звичайні (неядерні) сили; nuclear tests; розгортати ядерну зброю; to hold at risk; зброя масового знищення; SSBN; МБР; to deter aggression; стратегія стримування; nuclear triad; важкий бомбардувальник; ballistic missile; міжконтинентальна балістична ракета; submarine-launched ballistic missile; крилата ракета; air-based missile; ракета наземного базування; submarine-launched cruise missile; Договір зі скорочення наступальних озброєнь; ракета морського базування; nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine; ударні можливості з використанням неядерної зброї; Quadrennial Defense Review; система активної оборони; long-range missile; ППО; contingencies; ПЧАРБ; nuclear strike capabilities; МБР; moratorium; Договір про повну заборону ядерних випробувань; command and control system; оборона проти балістичних ракет; Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

A Build up your vocabulary



1.юр., спорт.захист

defense mechanism – захисний механізм

defense reaction – захисна реакція

in defense of peace – на захист миру

in defense – у захист, у виправдання

in оnе’s defense – у свій захист

it may be said in his defense that ... – щодо його виправдання можна сказати, що ...

to make no defense against accusations – нічого не сказати у свій захист

the case for the defense – захист

the counsel [witnesses] for the defense – захисник обвинувачуваного

the witnesses for the defense – свідки обвинувачуваного

to conduct оnе’s own defense – відмовитися від захисника, узяти на себе захист, захищатися самому

Indian defense – шахм. індійський захист

man-to-man defense – захист “гравець проти гравця”

team defense – командний захист

best defense is offence – напад – кращий захист

to act in self-defense – діяти в порядку самозахисту

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Lesson 9 US Strategic Forces | Контроль за ядерними озброєннями

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