Instruction from Navy shows retirement of nuclear Tomahawk cruise missile

While the U.S. Navy has yet to formally announce the retirement of the nuclear Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile, a new updated instruction from the Navy shows the elimination of the nuclear weapon.

The Navy published an updated version of its Department of the Navy Nuclear Weapons Responsibilities and Authorities instruction on February 15 which contained no mention of the TLAM/N and deleted a previous sub-section on the weapon. The retirement of the TLAM/N completes a 25-year process of eliminating all non-strategic naval nuclear weapons from the arsenal of the Navy, the Federation of American Scientists reports.

In 1989, the Navy instituted plans to unilaterally retire three of its non-strategic nuclear weapons, including the SUBROC, the ASROC and the Terrier. The unilateral retirement of the three missiles left the Navy with B61 and B57 bombs on aircraft carriers and land-based anti-submarine aircraft, in addition to the TLAM/N. Work began on the B90 NSDB to replace the B61 and B57, but President George H.W. Bush cancelled the program in September 1991 and ordered the offloading and withdrawal of non-strategic nuclear weapons, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

The 1994 Nuclear Posture Review during President Clinton's administration denuclearized the entire surface fleet, leaving only TLAM/N for some of the navy's attack submarines. The TLAM/N survived the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review, but the Obama administration's 2010 Nuclear Posture Review found the TLAM/N was redundant and should be retired.

Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, praised the move and said the Obama administration should make the retirement public.

"I only wish the Obama administration and its allies were not so timid about the achievement," Kristensen said, according to the Federation of American Scientists. "The unilateral elimination of naval non-strategic nuclear weapons is an important milestone in U.S. nuclear weapons history that demonstrates that non-strategic nuclear weapons have lost their military and political value."

In 1987, the U.S. Navy possessed more than 3,700 non-strategic nuclear weapons and today the number is down to zero, the Federation of American Scientists reports.

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