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Pentagon Cries Poor, Starts $10 Billion Nuclear Weapon Upgrade

• Noah Shachtman via

The Pentagon is facing its worst cash crunch in more than a decade, with potential cuts of up to a half-trillion dollars over the next decade if Congress doesn’t act soon. Yet the U.S. military still somehow found the money on Tuesday to put a down payment on a $10 billion upgrade of its nuclear weapons in Europe — y’know, just in case there’s another Cold War.

The $178 million, three-year contract with Boeing is for a prototype “tail kit” for the B61 nuclear weapon. The fins and control systems will be similar to the ones on today’s conventional, GPS-guided bombs, potentially making this enhanced version of the B61 the most accurate weapon of mass destruction ever. It’s one part of a bigger package of improvements to the B61 that the Pentagon insists it needs in order to keep this slice of its nuclear arsenal ready for war, if needed. Everything from the spin rocket motors to the electronic neutron generators will be refreshed. Total cost: an estimated $10 billion.

Just about the only thing that won’t change is the weapon’s nuclear “pit,” and who the U.S. military plans on dropping the thing on. “Who’s the target? The Red Army. The Red Army that’s sitting in East Germany, ready to plunge into Europe,” explains. Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear weapons expert at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. “No, I’m serious.”

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