by Richard Krushnic
Raytheon Technologies’ Paveway guided bomb has been the primary weapon used by the Saudis in Yemen since the expansion of the war early in 2015. With the targeting and refueling assistance of the US, the Raytheon bombs hit fields, flocks, irrigation pumps, fishing boats, water and sewage facilities, to produce mass death via disease and starvation in Northern Yemen. But localized genocide pales in comparison to the more likely omnicide that would result from the rapidly increasing likelihood of nuclear war, a likelihood brought closer every day by Raytheon.
Fundamental to recognizing how Raytheon makes nuclear war more likely is understanding the difference between the previous generation of nuclear weapons and the new generation being designed, produced, and deployed now. The first generation of nuclear weapons targeted Russia’s nuclear weapons and command and control systems. Russia’s weapons targeted similar sites in the US, resulting in mutual assured destruction (MAD), deterring either side from using their nukes. But the new generation of nukes emphasizes nukes for actual tactical use on the battlefield. All nuclear warfighting simulations to date show that tactical battlefield nukes can’t be confined to the local battlefield, and that tactical use always quickly escalates to large-scale nuclear war that produces years-long nuclear winter, which starves a significant portion of the world’s population to death. Russia has warned that if the US provides Ukraine with modern jets, it may respond by launching tactical nuclear weapons.
The previous generation of long-range nukes were accurate to over 300 meters, requiring warhead blasts around 20-times that of the Hiroshima bomb in order to take out a missile silo. There were somewhat more accurate short and intermediate-range nuclear missiles, but those with ranges around 1500 miles were taken out of service by the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, leaving us essentially with MAD. MAD made nuclear war extremely unlikely, since it would definitely destroy both sides. However, there were numerous cases of close calls due to accidents. Now, with super-accurate battlefield nukes that limit collateral damage, nuke use is far more tempting, and even programmed for certain scenarios.
The US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM)Treaty in 2002 , and the INF Treaty in 2019, signaling US intentions to pursue first-strike capability and battlefield tactical nuclear warfighting capability. The new-gen nuclear missiles are accuracy ranges from a few to 30 meters, so a warhead blast smaller than the Hiroshima bomb—instead of 20 times larger—will do as much damage to a discrete target as the previous-gen warhead 20 or 30 times more powerful. This drastically reduces collateral damage, and therefore makes battlefield use much more attractive. And here we are today, with Russia stating at what point it will use nukes in Ukraine.
To consider an all-out first strike at all of Russia’s nukes and command and control, the US would have to have an effective anti-ballistic missile system, capable of shooting down nearly all of Russia’s retaliatory nukes. Fortunately, the US is still far from this anti-missile missile capability, but it does have considerable capability against short- and medium-range nuclear missiles, particularly via Raytheon’s SM-3, deployed on Russia’s border in Romania and Poland. This Raytheon anti-missile missile makes the US more willing to engage in tactical nuke warfare in and around Ukraine. At any rate, the primary danger right now from the new-gen nukes is a battlefield outbreak.
The nuclear and conventional war systems profits to Raytheon are extraordinary, because most of the contracts are non-competitive, scarcely audited single-source contracts guaranteeing monopoly profits. In recent years the firm has been regarded as the most successful lobbyist among the largest military firms—symbolized by the last two Secretaries of Defense being a Raytheon lobbyist and a Raytheon board member (see here and here .
Raytheon’s nuclear warfighting systems
In 2021, Raytheon secured a $2 billion, 6-year development contract for the LRSO (Nuclear Long Range Standoff Missile, which will be the air-launched leg of the new US strategic nuclear triad strategy. Raytheon is expected to get the follow-on production contract, which should be at least 6 times as large. Raytheon is also expected to continue receiving significant subcontracts for communications and guidance and control systems for the new-gen land-based leg of the triad—the GBSD (Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent), replacing the Minuteman missile in missile silos in 5 US states; and in the upgraded Trident II missiles that will continue to be used in the new-gen sea-based leg—the Columbia Submarines.
Several former top Pentagon and Congressional Armed Services Committee leaders, including, for example, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, and former Senate Armed Services chair Sam Nun consider the LRSO to be a weapon making nuclear war much more likely, because it could be an effective first-strike weapon. It’s designed to find its target with pinpoint accuracy, even when an enemy renders its GPS homing inoperable, and it’s designed to disable and/or evade complex, integrated defense systems. Launched from patrolling aircraft not far from targets, it would give an enemy only 10-15 minutes to launch a counter strike and no way of knowing if the missile had a conventional or nuclear warhead.
Raytheon also makes the SM-3 anti-missile missile, the most effective and most widely deployed anti-missile system in the world for defending against short- and medium-range nuclear-tipped missiles. Already deployed in Romania and set to be active in Poland later this year, the SM-3 is launched from Mk-21 tubes, which can also launch nuclear-tipped Raytheon Tomahawk cruise missiles. These missile emplacements, part of the NATO eastward march, contributed to Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine. Raytheon’s SM-3 makes nuclear war more likely, because if Russia fears the SM-3 and other US anti-missile missiles could effectively shoot down Russian nuclear missiles, the US may infer that it could launch a first-strike, and shoot down enough retaliating Russian missiles to start a nuclear war and win it. Such speculations make Russia more likely to fire their nuclear missiles when systems erroneously indicate that the US has launched a missile.
Raytheon’s Tomahawk subsonic cruise missile is the most widely used, over 4,000 so far. These have all had conventional warheads, but the dual-use Tomahawk used to be flying all the time with nuclear warheads in patrolling aircraft. The nuclear tips were removed by Obama, but are in storage. They could secretly be reattached, or the new B61-12 warhead could be attached. and they could be snuck into the Mk-41 launch tubes in Romania and Poland. There have been numerous cases in the past when systems falsely indicated launches by one side or the other , but wisdom prevailed, and counter-launches did not happen. In those cases, launches could be detected up to a half hour before impact. Several new-gen systems would give only 10-15 minute warnings to consider whether to counter-launch. If the US snuck nuclear-tipped Raytheon Tomahawks into the Romanian and Polish Raytheon SM-3 launch tubes on the Russian border, they would be 10 minutes or less from key Russian targets. Think of the Russian missile crisis of 1962, with Russian nuclear missiles in Cuba. Russian fear of precisely this scenario is one of the many reasons it invaded Ukraine.
All of the systems that could reach Russian targets in 15 minutes or less—the LRSO, Tomahawk and Trident, could use the B21-12 warhead—already on Trident submarines. It has a dialable yield, from 1/45th the size of the Hiroshima blast, to 3.3 times the size of that blast, and pinpoint accuracy. It is designed for tactical battlefield as well as strategic warfighting. It is these new tactical nuke warheads with pinpoint accuracy that make nuclear war most likely. If the US gives modern jets to Ukraine, Russia might use similar tactical nukes on the battlefield.
Raytheon’s new-gen LRSO air-leg of the strategic triad, its communications and guidance subcontracts on the GBSD ground-leg and Trident sea-leg, its ani-missile SM-3 missile, and the possibility of secret resurgence of nuclear-tipped Tomahawk cruise missiles all make nuclear war more likely. But most important of all is the context in which these developments are taking place: new-gen pinpoint accuracy, dialable blast sizes for different battlefield targets, and new-gen systems that make it extremely difficult to hide nukes from US tracking. The US and Russia are ready for nuclear battlefield warfighting, but have no ability to stop escalation resulting in global nuclear winter. Meanwhile the US continues to perfect anti-missile missiles required before a first all-out strike could be contemplated.
Richard Krushnic is a long-time researcher of military production and imperial U.S. foreign policy and overt covert warfare. He is also a professional in public financing of community economic development in the U.S. and Latin America.