While the world beats its chest over Russia being the rogue player in the nuclear weapons race, the latest news of America’s new “super-fuze” device proves that these voilations don’t occur in a vacuum. The super fuze is a submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead that is extremely accurate, so much so that it can wipe out an entire fleet of Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) while they are in their silos. Naturally, this has made Russia incredibly nervous and uneasy, adding to the already increasing tensions between the two countries.
According to a report by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist, the super fuze device has been under construction since 2009 as part of the modernization program of the Navy’s W76-1/Mk4A warhead. Super fuze devices are worth noting because they make the nuclear warhead more accurate as they can explode precisely above the intended target.
Usually, nuclear bombs are not made to be accurate since they are designed to decimate cities after cities, thus pinpoint accuracy in an attack is not required. So most of the engineering work goes into designing the physics and destructive powers of the bomb while trying to make it small, safe, and versatile.
This makes sense when targeting a soft target like a city. But the super fuze can be called a reaction to the massive anti-nuclear bunkers built during the Cold War, like the ones in the Cheyenne Mountain complex used by North American Aerospace Defense Command (or NORAD), which is a bunker buried under an enormous mountain which would shield it from a nuclear attack.
NORAD would still be vulnerable to attack if a large enough nuclear bomb explodes, but now it can also be decimated out of existence with a relatively smaller nuke thanks to the precise super fuze. The technology enhances targeting capabilities of warheads and makes America’s ballistic submarine fleets an existential threat to Russia. A decade ago, this was the case with around 20 percent of U.S. submarine warheads, now all of them have this capability!
The super fuze naturally has put Russian military on edge and will certainly trigger a host of more treaty violations and furor on the global forums. Making a nuke more accurate doesn’t violate the nuclear proliferation treaties, but it does weaken Russia’s “situational awareness,” since Russia will now have less time to react to an imminent nuclear attack, instilling a perpetual feeling of urgency and need to respond even prematurely.
Negotiations will also be trickier with the advent of super fuze, since even if America agrees to cut its SLBMs in half, they will still have enough strike power to decimate Russia’s ICBM silos. Steps like MAD worked since it forced all players to slow down, but the introduction of technologies like super fuze means everyone has to make decisions quicker. And if we know anything, having scared, panicky, and prideful politicians behind the red button is something any sane person would like to avoid.