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STRATCOM Head Says Navy Subs Could Carry New Low Yield Nuclear Missiles

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Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said the Navy intends to equip its submarines with the future low-yield nuclear missiles replacing large weapons that adversaries could easily detect, USNI News reported Thursday.

“We’ll actually remove big weapons from the submarines and put small ones in,” Hyten told the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee. “We think that smaller yield actually gives us a better chance to deter our primary adversary.”

The plan comes amid growing concern across the Department of Defense and Congress that the U.S. is lagging behind Russia, China and other nations in developing nuclear weapons. DoD has yet to secure approval from lawmakers to start building its own low-yield nuclear weapons.

“There is a concern that we might not retaliate, because if all of our weapons are such a large size, that we would be deterred because we’d be seen as escalating to their escalate,” said Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio.

If confirmed, the program would fall within the limits set by the New START nuclear arms treaty signed by the U.S. and the Russian Federation in 2010. The agreement provides both governments a specific number of nuclear warheads that each nation can only deploy. 

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