Earlier this year, it became blatantly obvious that President-elect Donald Trump had no idea what the nuclear triad was. Earlier this afternoon, Donald Trump exposed himself once more as a know-nothing when it comes to nuclear weapons. Here, in short, is why it’s blatantly obvious why he has no idea what he’s talking about.

As we noted last time, when it became blatantly obvious that Trump had never heard the term “nuclear triad” before, here’s a quick an easy explanation:

For those who, like Trump, have no idea what the nuclear triad is, that’s okay, we still love you, as you are not running for president. It refers to the American military doctrine of having land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-based ballistic missiles, and air-dropped bombs, all tipped with nuclear warheads. In an atomic shootout, all three fulfill different strategic and tactical uses based on whatever situation is at hand.

But today, Trump decided to Tweet, as he likes to do. And boy, was it a Tweet:

But we should explain why this is just as dumb as saying “I have ten bullets to kill myself, surely I will need more.” Beyond the fact that we have no idea what “comes to its senses” means, and that this is an enormous strategic shift away from more than 40 years of strategic nuclear arms reduction treaties dating back to the first, SALT I, in 1972.

The Warheads

The United States currently maintains a stockpile of 4,571 nuclear warheads, according to the Federation of American Scientists. Of those nukes, 1,367 of those are considered “strategic,” or pretty much capable of demolishing an entire city, and are already mounted atop various nuclear missiles, standing at the ready for nuclear bombers, and are primed to be launched at a moment’s notice of impending planetary doom, according to the United States Department of State.

And here’s what those weapons look like.

The W76

The United States produced roughly 3,250 W76 thermonuclear warheads between 1978 and 1987, and it is thought to remain the most numerous warhead in American service. With an estimated yield of 100 kilotons, or the equivalent of 200,000,000 pounds of TNT, one single warhead contains approximately five times the raw destructive power of the nuke that destroyed the Japanese city of Nagasaki at the end of World War II. That is considered to be on the smaller end of the American strategic nuclear stockpile.


The United States has at least 2,000 total W76 warheads, as that was the number approved for the W76 refurbishment and upgrade program approved by President George W. Bush.

Detonated all at once, they would explode with the force equivalent to four hundred billion pounds of TNT.

We do not need more of these.

The W88

In 1999, the director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Harold M. Agnew, described the W88 as “the most advanced U.S. nuclear warhead” in a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal. He also described it as “delicate and neat,” which must be some sort of physicist joke.

One W88 warhead (of which the U.S. is estimated to possess almost 400) is capable of exploding with a force of 475 kilotons. One missile can fit 12 of these warheads. One missile can therefore bring a rain of hellfire packing a 5,700 kiloton punch onto one city-sized spot of Earth.

That is the equivalent of more than 316 Hiroshima-sized explosions, simultaneously.

We do not need more of these.

The W78

The W78, like the W76 and W88, is designed to be deployed on ballistic missiles. With a little over 1,000 produced starting in the late 1970s, the W78 bears an explosive yield of 335 kilotons. Only 600 W78s remain, the FAS estimates, with 250 currently deployed.


Let’s be thankful to strategic arms reduction treaties signed by the United States and Russia for that for the reduced number.. But Donald Trump thinks we need more.

We do not need more of these.

The W87

The W87, deployed atop missiles one at a time, has a yield estimated at 300 kilotons by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

I can tell you right now, we do not need more of these.

The B61

While every other warhead we’ve talked about so far is designed to be placed atop a missile and then fired on a ballistic trajectory, the B61 is designed to be carried by everything from the F-16 Viper fighter jet to the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. It’s actually quite versatile, with a variable yield of between 0.3 to 340 kilotons. That smaller is still nothing to sneeze at, and is more than capable of destroying a good number of city blocks.


The big number, well, that would stand a good shot of taking out the entirety of Manhattan, and it would do it so quickly that not even Donald Trump’s helicopters could save him. But he should like their value, anyway, as an upgrade program for the B61 would value each one at twice its weight in gold, according to the Ploughshares Fund.

The B61 was first designed in the 1960s, and 3,155 of them were built, though some of those have likely been withdrawn from service.

But for arguments’ sake, let’s say they President-elect Trump decided to detonate all of those at once, too. They would explode with the equivalent of 1,072,700,000 tons of TNT.

We do not need more of these.

The B83

The B83 is the big daddy of them all. The big kahuna. The grand poobah of death. With a yield of 1.2 megatons, it is the only megaton-capable bomb left in the active American nuclear arsenal.


Detonated over Washington, DC, it would completely flatten the capital, as well as a good portion of the surrounding suburbs, according to NUKEMAP. The fireball itself would be more than half a mile wide. All residential buildings at four and a half miles out would be reduced to splinters, if anything. If you were standing eight miles away from the blast, any exposed bits of flesh you had on your body would suffer third degree burns, potentially requiring amputation. If you somehow survived, that is.

The United States originally built 650 B83 bombs.

We do not need more of these.

The Delivery Systems

But even with all of these nukes, they’re useless if anyone could stop them from detonating over the heads of millions of innocent people.


Luckily for President-elect Donald Trump, once the decision has been made to use them, they’re pretty much unstoppable.

Land-Based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles

Photo credit: Getty Images

The primary American intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, system is the LGM-30 Minuteman III missile, with approximately 530 buried underneath three Air Force bases spread between Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota. With a range of over 6,000 miles, according to the FAS, the Minuteman III is unstoppable once launched, with no anti-ballistic missile system ever proven to have truly been effective. The warhead itself is thrown over 700 miles high into space, much higher than the International Space Station.

We do not need more of these.

Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles

Submarine-launched ballistic missiles, or SLBMs, are the backbone of most nuclear-capable countries’ strategic deployment. The primary American SLBM is the Trident II missile, with 24 missiles stored in the hull of each of the 14 Ohio-class nuclear submarine, for a total of 336, though the New START treaty signed by the U.S. and Russia limits that to 288 missiles.


Each Trident II missile is physically capable of carrying up to 14 W88 or W76 warheads, over a distance of more than 4,000 miles.

Once launched, the Trident II missile is nearly unstoppable once launched, with no anti-ballistic missile system ever proven to have truly been effective. The best chance you would have of stopping a Trident II missile would be to destroy the submarine carrying it before it launched.

How stealthy nuclear submarines are is considered a closely guarded national secret, but we do have a small idea of how stealthy they are. Back in 2009, two nuclear missile submarines, one British and one French, smashed right into each other while they were deep under the Atlantic Ocean. Neither one had any idea the other was there until they collided. They were simply undetectable.

We do not need more of these.

The Bomber Force

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Within the U.S. Air Force, the F-16 fighter jet, F-15 fighter jet, F-22 fighter jet, F-35 fighter jet, B-2 bomber, B-52 bomber, and B-1B bomber are all capable of dropping nuclear weapons. Within the U.S. Navy, the F/A-18 fighter jet is also capable of dropping nuclear weapons.


The U.S. Air Force alone, not to mention the Navy, has thousands of planes at its disposal capable of reducing entire nations to rubble. Many of them are stealthy, capable of evading even moderately sophisticated radar systems.

They would be, in short, unstoppable.

We do not need more of these.

We probably don’t need six different types of warheads to begin with. We probably don’t need thousands of them. We probably don’t need multiple ways of delivering them. Even the ones we already have are in the midst of being upgraded. We probably don’t need any of this, especially when it’s all almost certainly guaranteed to kill everyone.


President-elect Donald Trump thinks we need more. And even scarier, Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to agree with him.