If the US does eventually develop penetrating nuclear weapons capable of knocking out buried military sites, don’t expect the weapons to be neat. There is “certainly no way” to avoid a large amount of radioactive fallout if an earth penetrating nuclear weapon is delivered through “traditional delivery modes,” Linton Brooks told defense reporters Thursday. Shaping or hardening the case of an existing weapon would only allow the weapon to plow a few meters into the earth. It would still, essentially, be a surface burst. The undersecretary of energy for nuclear security said use of a penetrating weapon would allow a given target to be attacked with a smaller warhead, but the choice is between “lots of fallout and even more fallout.” The notion of a “surgical nuclear war” is a fallacy, said Brooks, adding, “The idea that the use of nuclear weapons is other than unimaginably destructive is not a helpful idea.” He continued, “If you want to use brute force, then nuclear weapons are attractive,” but the best solution is to find ways to hold underground facilities at risk “through conventional means.”
The F-35 Joint Program Office has officially announced plans to issue multiple sole-source contracts to Pratt & Whitney to upgrade the fighter’s F135 engine—a widely expected move after Pentagon officials indicated they would do so earlier this year instead of developing an entirely new engine.