Trump Administration Plans to Develop Nuclear Warheads for Trident Missiles

A Trident Ii, Or D-5 Missile, in this undated file photo. Jon Wolfsthal, a former special assistant to Barack Obama, claims that the U.S. is gearing up to develop a new low-yield Trident Missile. Getty

The U.S. wants to develop a new low-yield version of the Trident missile as the Trump administration gears up to relax nuclear weapons restrictions, according to a former special assistant to Barack Obama on arms control and proliferation.

Jon Wolfsthal, who says he has seen the most recent draft of a policy review, told The Guardian that the new plans—which are set to be released later this month—will loosen nuclear weapons usage regulations.

The new nuclear posture review (NPR) also details plans to develop an enhanced Trident D5 submarine-launched missile with a smaller warhead for "tactical" use, The Guardian reported.

The new draft policy, which is set to be released later this month by the Pentagon, will directly contradict efforts made by the Obama administration to limit the use of nuclear weapons.

Wolfsthal said that earlier drafts of the policy were more "extreme" but that the new one isn't much better.

"My read is this is a walk-back from how extreme it was early on. It doesn't have as much terrible stuff in it as it did originally. But it's still bad," Wolfsthal told the newspaper.

The NPR sets out other scenarios in which the U.S. could use its nuclear weapons, including as a response to non-nuclear attacks that resulted in large-scale casualties or targeting critical infrastructure.

According to Wolfsthal, the draft policy was made with the intent to deter Russia, North Korea and China from engaging in nuclear activity.

"There is pretty good, moderate but strong language that makes clear that any attempt by Russia or North Korea to use nuclear weapons would result in a massive consequence for them and I think that's actually moderate, centrist and probably very much needed," he told The Guardian.

But Wolfsthal believes the clauses allowing for the modified Trident warheads are "totally unnecessary" as the U.S. already has low-yield weapons.

"Where they go overboard, is where they say that in order to make that credible the U.S. needs to develop two new types of nuclear weapons," he added.

Wolfsthal said the idea of putting a low-yield "tactical" weapon on a new ballistic missile submarine was "pretty dumb." He believes that firing the weapon would simply reveal the submarine's position and therefore take away the "tactical" edge.