US Nuclear Arsenal Needs Replacement, Not Update: STRATCOM Chief

January 7, 2021 Updated: January 7, 2021

Adm. Charles Richard, the Chief of the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM), said on Tuesday that a planned modernization program for the U.S. nuclear arsenal would compel a re-examination of the nuclear strategy.

The Admiral’s comments were made after reports said a Biden administration may cut a $1.2 trillion nuclear-modernization plan.

“Basically, it’s going to drive you to have to reexamine your strategy,” Richard said in a virtual discussion. “If there’s a change in the capabilities that the commander of STRATCOM has available, I’m obligated to go back and then report what I can and can’t do relative to the tasks that I have been given.”

Adm. Richard believes that the Minuteman III should be replaced instead of updated, referring to the intercontinental ballistic missiles land-based leg of the “Nuclear Triad”

“Let me be very clear: you can not life-extend Minuteman III, right? It is getting past the point where it is cost-effective to life-extend Minuteman III. We’re getting to the point where you can’t do it at all,” he said, according to Defense One.

The program, involving 400 missiles, began in the 70s and has been continuously enhanced.

“That thing is so old that in some cases, the drawings don’t exist anymore. Or where we have drawings, they’re like six generations behind the industry standard. There’s not only not anybody working that can understand them, they’re not alive anymore,” said Richards.

An inert Minuteman 3 missile is seen in a training launch tube at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on June 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
An inert Minuteman 3 missile is seen in a training launch tube at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on June 25, 2014. (Charlie Riedel/AP Photo)

Richards said that the United States never before had to consider two nuclear-capable adversaries and insisted that the ICBMs need to stay put in the U.S. nuclear arsenal: “This nation has never before had to face the prospect of two, peer, nuclear-capable adversaries who have to be deterred differently and actions to deter one have an impact on the other. This is way more complicated than it used to be.”

He also mentioned that there is a necessity for an update to protect against cyber hacking.

“One of the biggest pieces is in its cyber resilience… We will replace a 60-year-old, basically a circuit switch system with a modern cyber defendable up-to-current standards command and control system. Just to pace the cyber threat alone, [Ground Based Strategic Deterrent] is a necessary step forward,” said the Admiral.

The 2020 Department of Defense military report (pdf) states that China’s nuclear warhead stockpile could double in a decade from the current estimated number in the low 200s.

At the start of this year, Chinese leader Xi Jinping told the regime’s military to focus on “Preparing for war.”

According to state media Xinhua, he told the People’s Liberation Army: “Focus on preparing for war, deepen the transformation of military training, build a new type of military training system, and comprehensively improve the level of combat training and ability to win.”

In recent years, the CCP’s relationship with Taiwan and India has become more tense.

Epoch Times Photo
Chinese leader Xi Jinping (L) speaks after reviewing the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy fleet in the South China Sea on April 12, 2018. (Li Gang/Xinhua via AP)