While it would be an understatement to say most everyone would prefer a world without nuclear weapons, it’s realistic to say that the most powerful of weapons ever devised by humans are here to stay in some form.
It took the wartime use of only two atomic bombs for the world to learn that massively destructive world wars could no longer be an option. And that lesson has held sway for almost 69 years.
Certainly, there continue to be limited conventional wars since the second great World War and madmen like Cambodian Communist revolutionary Pol Pot have succeeded in murdering millions of their own people, but the great losses of human life and the leveling of cities that were all too common before the advent of nuclear weapons have faded away.
So New Mexico can take comfort and pride in the work being done here to modernize one of the oldest and most versatile nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal – the B61 bomb. Sandia National Laboratories, working with Los Alamos National Laboratory and the U.S. Air Force, expects a refurbished model to be ready for production by 2020. The overall project will consolidate four different B61 models into a single, more versatile weapon called the B61-12.
The new version of the B61 will allow the United States to keep a smaller, adjustable arsenal of more dependable nuclear weapons than currently available. For instance, Sandia National Laboratories recently announced that it had successfully completed wind tunnel testing on a new tail kit assembly that will enable more precise direction of the bomb, and the weapon can be adjusted for lower yields if the United States is ever forced to use it. The real value is deterrence. The Vladimir Putins of the world – and others who have little compunction about sacrificing their own people – are much more willing to risk a conventional war than the possibility of one that includes tactical nukes.
While the ideal world would have no nuclear weapons, reality dictates otherwise. Our freedom depends on that nuclear capability. In that way, New Mexico plays an important role in maintaining some level of world peace.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.