The Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he intends to deploy tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus

What are tactical nuclear weapons?

  • Nuclear weapons can be categorised into two types — strategic and tactical.
  • Strategic weapons refer to weapons that have bigger objectives, such as destroying cities or larger targets with larger war-waging objectives in mind.
  • Strategic nuclear weapons would likely be used to bring the enemy to its knees entirely with a massive strike like the United States did in World War II when its nuclear weapons forced Japanese surrender.
  • Tactical weapons are limited in their scope and the intention behind their usage is limited to arriving at a particular battlefied outcome.
  • An example of a tactical nuclear weapon would be its use to stop adversary’s progress in a particular theatre.
  • Tactical nuclear weapons are called “non-strategic nuclear weapons”.

Tactical (non-strategic) nuclear weapons (TNWs) typically refer to short-range weapons, including:

  1. land-based missiles with a range of less than 500 km
  2. air- and sea-launched weapons with a range of less than 600 km
  3. Tactical nuclear weapons are intended to destroy enemy troops and weapons on the battlefield.

They have a relatively short range and a much lower yield than nuclear warheads.

  • Unlike strategic weapons, which have been subject to arms control agreements between Moscow and Washington, tactical weapons never have been limited by any such pacts.
  • While strategic nuclear weapons are fitted to land- or submarine-based intercontinental ballistic missiles that are constantly ready for launch, tactical nuclear weapons are stored at a few tightly guarded storage facilities and it takes time to deliver them to combat units.

How can they be used?

  • Tactical nuclear warheads can be placed on various types of missiles which are normally used to deliver conventional explosives, such as cruise missiles and artillery shells.
  • They can also be fired from aircraft and ships as anti-ship missiles, torpedoes and depth charges.


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