Home > United States, Weapons > Mystery: Declassified Document Shows the U.S. ‘Stockpiling’ a Secret Weapon in 1981, But What Is It?

Mystery: Declassified Document Shows the U.S. ‘Stockpiling’ a Secret Weapon in 1981, But What Is It?

September 20, 2012


A document declassified in the last few years is getting now attention for showing that the National Security Council under former President Ronald Reagan authorized stockpiling of a certain weapon. One item in the memo that was not declassified though is just what weapon the National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 7 was allowed to load up on.

The Federation of American Scientists is bringing attention to this document called “Production of [Deleted] Weapons, 1981,” which was partially declassified in 2008, and even offers some speculation as to what would fit into the brackets.

The document itself states:

“The production and stockpiling of [deleted] weapons is authorized with stockpiling being restricted to the United States [deleted].”

FAS Speculates Redacted Weapon in Declassified 1981 Document Is Enhanced Radiation Weapons

(Image via UTexas.edu)

Hans Kristensen with FAS is reported as speculating the redacted term is “enhanced radiation.” Why? Not only does FAS point out that two enhanced radiation weapons began production in 1981 — the W70 (Lance warhead) and the W79 (artillery shell) — but it also notes when former President George Bush declassified the title of the NSDD7 in 1996, “enhanced radiation weapons” was left unredacted.

If this stockpile does in fact indicate enhanced radiation weapons, what does this mean? This is another term for the weapon of mass destruction known as a neutron bomb. According to Global Security, a neutron bomb would have a total energy that was 30 percent blast, 20 percent thermal and 50 percent nuclear radiation. “Thus, a 3-kiloton ER weapon will produce the nuclear radiation of a 10-kiloton fission weapon and the blast and thermal radiation of a 1-kiloton fission device,” Global Security writes.

A study published by the National Institute of Health a couple years ago stated that the purpose of a neutron bomb, compared to other nuclear weapons, is to “enhance radiation casualties while reducing blast and thermal damage to the infrastructure.”

The study states that since the Cold War, there have been no threats for use of such a weapon. Still, given that five nations were reported to have developed enhanced radiation weapons at the time, the report recommends medical personnel know the difference in health implications compared to a fission weapon.

Here is a look at the one-page document:


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