In the course of the nuclear arms race, both the US and the Soviet Union have filled their arsenals with tens of thousands of nuclear warheads and with thousands of vehicles to deliver those warheads. The nuclear weapons now deployed vary in size and design from sub‐kiloton artillery shells to 20‐megaton warheads, and their delivery vehicles include land‐ and sea‐based ballistic missiles as well as long‐range aircraft and the new cruise missiles. Not only have the numbers and types of nuclear weapons grown, so, too, have their capabilities. The newer ballistic missiles are tipped with multiple reentry vehicles. They have longer ranges, greater accuracies, and increasingly sophisticated guidance systems. These weapons are further augmented by ever‐more‐able systems for land, air and sea defense and for command, communication and control. These many dimensions of the US and Soviet nuclear arsenals require that one assess their respective strengths on a multiparameter scale. Even then, any inherently quantitative comparison is incomplete, for it ignores the equally important, qualitative features of the arsenals where, in fact, much of the recent development has occurred.
The nuclear arsenals of the US and USSR
Barbara G. Levi; The nuclear arsenals of the US and USSR. Physics Today 1 March 1983; 36 (3): 43–49. https://doi.org/10.1063/1.2915534
Download citation file:
Purchase an annual subscription for $25. A subscription grants you access to all of Physics Today's current and backfile content.