The W76 is a United States thermonuclear warhead. The first variant was manufactured from 1978 to 1987, and is still in service as of 2019. In 2018 a new low-yield variant was announced which is expected to gain initial operating capability in 2019.
The W76 warhead and Mk-4 re-entry vehicle (cutaway diagram) – Los Alamos National Labs image
|Used by||United States and possibly the United Kingdom (see Trident Nuclear Program)|
|Designer||Los Alamos National Laboratory|
|Designed||W76-0 1973–1978, W76-2 2018|
|Produced||W76-0 1978–1987 (full production), W76-1 2008-2018 (LEP), W76-2 2018-FY2024|
|Blast yield||100 kt (W76-0) |
90 kt (W76-1)
5–7 kt (W76-2)
The W-76 is carried inside a Mk-4 re-entry vehicle. U.S. Trident I and Trident II SLBM/submarine-launched ballistic missiles may carry W76 warheads as one warhead option, along with W88 warheads in the Trident II.
The dimensions of the W76 and Mk-4 re-entry vehicle which carries it are not known; the RV/warhead weight is estimated to be around 95 kg.
Extensions to the service lives for 800 of the warheads was approved by the US government in 2000, then later increased to 2,000. Production on the W76-1 started in September 2008 to extend service life by 20 years and add safety features; the National Nuclear Security Administration completed updating all W76-0 warheads to the W76-1 design in December 2018.
The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review announced that manufacturing of a new variant, W76-2, would commence. The W76-2 variant is described as a low-yield warhead, expected to yield about 5-7 kilotons of TNT equivalent. The National Nuclear Security Administration announced that it had started to manufacture the W76-2 variant in January 2019. Initial operating capability is expected in the final quarter of 2019, and manufacturing is expected to last through FY2024 at the Pantex Plant.
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- https://media.defense.gov/2018/Feb/02/2001872886/-1/-1/1/2018-NUCLEAR-POSTURE-REVIEW-FINAL-REPORT.PDF "Nuclear Posture Review 2018"
- https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-poised-to-get-new-low-yield-nuclear-weapons/2018/06/13/161b1466-6dac-11e8-9ab5-d31a80fd1a05_story.html "Trump poised to get new low-yield nuclear weapons"
- https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/28/us-nuclear-weapons-first-low-yield-warheads-roll-off-the-production-line "US nuclear weapons: first low-yield warheads roll off the production line"
- https://fas.org/blogs/security/2018/11/ssmp2018/ "NNSA Plan Shows Nuclear Warhead Cost Increases and Expanded Production"