U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues [November 8, 2011] [open pdf - 433KB]
"During discussions about the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, Congress reviewed and discussed the plans for maintaining and modernizing U.S. strategic nuclear forces. Although the United States plans to reduce the number of warheads deployed on its long-range missiles and bombers, consistent with the terms of the New START [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] Treaty, it also plans to develop new delivery systems for deployment over the next 20-30 years. As a result, the 112th Congress will continue to review these programs during the annual authorization and appropriations process. During the Cold War, the U.S. nuclear arsenal contained many types of delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons. The longer-range systems, which included long-range missiles based on U.S. territory, long-range missiles based on submarines, and heavy bombers that could threaten Soviet targets from their bases in the United States, are known as strategic nuclear delivery vehicles. At the end of the Cold War, in 1991, the United States deployed more than 10,000 warheads on these delivery vehicles. […] The U.S. fleet of heavy bombers includes 19 B-2 bombers and 94 B-52 bombers. The B-1 bomber is no longer equipped for nuclear missions. The fleet will decline to around 60 aircraft in coming years, as the United States implements New START. The Air Force has also begun to retire the nuclear-armed cruise missiles carried by B-52 bombers, leaving only about half the B- 52 fleet equipped to carry nuclear weapons. The Air Force plans to procure both a new long-range bomber and a new cruise missile over the next 20 years. The Obama Administration recently completed a review of the size and structure of the U.S. nuclear force as a part of the congressionally mandated Nuclear Posture Review. It has also recently signed a New START Treaty with Russia that will limit the number of deployed missiles and warheads in the U.S. strategic force. Congress will review the Administration's plans for U.S. strategic nuclear forces during the annual authorization and appropriations process, and if it assesses the terms of a prospective nuclear arms control treaty with Russia. This report will be updated as needed."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33640