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American Mobile Nuclear Missile Launchers Is a Really Bad Idea

The military could drive them on roads, but they will not be able to cross most bridges due to the great weight. This option would also make them harder to hide, and create security risks by mixing with civilian traffic. A nuclear missile in a remote silo far away from population centers is never completely danger proof. Try driving one down the highway and convince American voters to accept it.

There is a similar set of problems moving launchers by rail. And during the Cold War, the Pentagon also considered mounting nuclear missiles on barges, although it didn’t go anywhere because of limited space on America’s rivers and the proximity of major waterways to population centers.

In any case, the scenario of nuclear weapons traveling the American countryside may never happen short of imminent nuclear war, as the United States is bound by treaty to keep mobile ICBMs — if it ever builds them — locked away.

The New START treaty between the United States and Russia, which went into force in 2011, restricts deployed mobile launchers to ICBM bases and nondeployed launchers to military production, repair and storage facilities. Which, in the event of a nuclear war, negates mobile launchers’ mobility advantage. It would take hours to disperse the slow-moving vehicles away from their bases as the nukes begin flying.

All told, this means they’re vulnerable like bombers, more expensive than silos and less stealthy than submarines. And right now, the Air Force is discussing, away from the public eye, whether to build them.

This article originally appeared on War is Boring.

Image: Wikicommons.