At the very beginning of the invasion of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin reminded us that Russia had nuclear weapons. Putin’s move suggested that they would use nuclear bombs very soon, but it didn’t happen. Putin’s intent was presumably to scare NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and discourage its intervention on behalf of Ukraine. Tactical nuclear weapons have not been part of strategic thinking since the end of the cold war in 1991. But now, according to reports, we are learning that Russia plans to use tactical nuclear weapons in Kiev, Ukraine.
What are Tactical Nuclear Weapons?
Tactical Nukes are those that used to be over relatively short distances. In the Cold War, these were the two bombs that the US and the Soviet Union fired over long distances at each other’s homelands.
What tactical nuclear weapons does Russia have?
According to reports, Russia has about 2000 tactical nuclear weapons. These can be placed on different types of missiles. They can be fired like artillery shells on a battlefield. They also developed aircraft and ships, for example torpedoes and missiles to target submarines. There are two Russian systems that carry nuclear weapons at close range:
- Calibr Missile (SS-N-30) – This is a submarine and ship-launched cruise missile system. It focuses on both land and sea. It ranges from 1,500 to 2,500 km. The Nuke’s missile length is 6.2 meters.
- Iskander M Rocket Launcher (SS-26 ‘Stone’) – This is a mobile ground missile system. It focuses only on land. It varies from 400 km to 500 km. The Nuke’s missile length is 7.3 meters.
Where are these tactical warheads?
These warheads are believed to be in Russian facilities and ready to be deployed. Russia could be more willing to use smaller tactical weapons rather than larger strategic missiles. dr. Patricia Lewis, who is leading the Chatham House think tank’s international security program, says: “They may not see it as crossing this great nuclear threshold. They could see it as part of their conventional forces.” Now Russia plans to use tactical nuclear weapons in Kiev, Ukraine. Like they found when testing those tactical nuclear weapons.
How powerful are these Tactical Nukes?
Tactical Nukes vary a lot in power and it’s huge. The smallest tactical nuclear weapon can be one kiloton or less (equivalent to a thousand tons of the explosive TNT). The larger ones are perhaps 100 kilotons in size. The effects would depend on the size of the warhead, how far above the ground it explodes, and the local environment. The atomic bomb that killed about 146,000 people in Hiroshima, Japan during World War II was 15 kilotons. Russia’s largest strategic weapons are estimated to be at least 800 kilotons.
No one knows whether this nuclear weapons test will lead to nuclear war or not. How the US and NATO would react to any nuclear use is difficult to predict. According to reports, Russia plans to use tactical nuclear weapons in Kiev, Ukraine. They also found testing those tactical nuclear weapons in Kiev. These nuclear weapons are very dangerous and deadly, as we saw in the 1939 World War II in Hiroshima in Japan.