Tactical Nukes Have Same Punch As Atom Bombs Used vs Japan
With his forces retreating in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has once again threatened to turn to nuclear weapons, most likely what are often called tactical nuclear weapons, Brad Lendon reported for CNN.
Photo Insert: Nuclear bomb survivor Koko Kondo
Russian weapon systems include 4,477 deployed and reserve nuclear warheads, with about 1,900 of these being "non-strategic" warheads, otherwise known as tactical nuclear weapons, according to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).
Tactical warheads refer to weapons designed for use in a limited battlefield, say to destroy a column of tanks or an aircraft carrier battle group if used at sea. These warheads, with explosive yields of 10 to 100 kilotons of dynamite, are also called "low yield."
In contrast, Russia's most powerful "strategic" nuclear warheads have explosive yields of 500 to 800 kilotons and are designed to destroy entire cities -- and then some.
The reference to "low yield" for tactical weapons is somewhat misleading as explosive yields of 10 to 100 kilotons of dynamite are still enough to cause major destruction -- as the world discovered in 1945 when the US dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.
Those bombs were the equivalent about 15 and 21 kilotons of dynamite, respectively -- within the ballpark of Russia's tactical nuclear weapons. And it's because of this devastating capability that many people say there's really no difference between a strategic and tactical weapon when used in war.
“I don’t think there is any such thing as a ‘tactical nuclear weapon," said former US Defense Secretary James Mattis, during a congressional hearing in 2018.
"Any nuclear weapon used any time is a strategic game-changer,” said Mattis. Putin's tactical nuclear weapons could pack the same punch as atomic bombs dropped on Japan.