Russia and nuclear arsenal, what is meant by tactical weapons

Russia can only use the nuclear arsenal in case of a threat to the existence of the state or as an equivalent response to an aggression using weapons of mass destruction, according to the country’s military doctrine. And yet now that the borders of the Russian state have widened with the annexations last Friday, extending over Ukrainian regions that are still living in a state of war, the concepts of state security risk a very dangerous fluidity.

What are tactical nuclear weapons

According to experts, Vladimir Putin could have recourse to them at this juncture of the war in Ukraine. The main task of tactical nuclear weapons is maximum combat effectiveness with the minimum size of ammunition. Tactical nuclear weapons, unlike strategic ones, cannot destroy entire cities and are intended for targeted attacks against enemy positions. In strategic nuclear weapons, the equivalent TNT power is much higher. At the moment, however, there is no single and exhaustive definition of which nuclear weapons should be considered tactics. There is no clear boundary between tactical and strategic weapons, and the attribution of nuclear weapons to one or the other type can vary depending on the conditions for their use.

Any expert explains that what makes the difference is not the missile but what is inside, as well as of course how it is delivered. For tactical weapons, projectiles and artillery installations, land and naval missile systems, anti-missile systems, naval mines and torpedoes are used.


The Russian Iskander-M systems can reach up to 500 kilometers, while the Kalibrs can reach a distance of 4,500 kilometers. Each missile will be able to carry the nuclear part of a charge equivalent to 50 kilotons of TNT. To understand, a comparison is needed: during the bombing of Hiroshima, a 13 kiloton (aerial) bomb was used. According to Russian military expert Alexei Leonkov, some types of weapons, such as Iskander missiles, have a special warhead. Then there are the Kh-102 missile and the Kh-55 missile: they also have a special warhead. All of these types of tactical nuclear weapons are designed to be used in a conflict where the primary weapon has already been used.

An attack from the air: aerial bombs

It is indeed possible to strike with tactical nuclear weapons from a fighter aircraft, whose range reaches 8,000 kilometers, but if equipped with long-range missiles the distance is very different: up to 600 kilometers. These aircraft include the Su-34, Il-38, Tu-142 fighters and the Tu-22M3 supersonic bomber. In the event of an attack on Russian territory, the long-range strategic aviation missile bombers, the aforementioned Tu-22M3, and the Tu-160 and Tu-95 will mainly act as carriers of tactical nuclear weapons, Leonkov explains to

Um ground attack: artillery shells

Russia also has ammunition carriers of tactical nuclear weapons for ground forces artillery with a caliber greater than 152 mm. The Soviet-made artillery self-propelled first and then Russian Msta (codenamed NATO: Farm) and the self-propelled 2S5 Giatsint (Giacinto in Italian). The 203 mm 2S7 Pion heavy self-propelled howitzer (NATO codename: M1975), the 2S7M Malka super-heavy artillery systems with nuclear capability for front-line service, and the 2S4 Tyulpan, a 30-ton beast that would already be present in Donbass.

One instead of a hundred

The power of a tactical nuclear missile is enough to replace a hundred conventional shells used to destroy individual objects. To defeat, for example, the accumulation of enemy equipment or manpower, a nuclear tactical bullet will be enough. A power of one or two kilotons (this is about 50-100 times less than in the case of aircraft missiles) will be enough to destroy enemy concentrations over a large area without harm to the environment. Of course, a small caliber causes relatively less damage, military expert Viktor Litvinenko explained to Ria Novosti. But the main problem is that neither tactical nor strategic weapons have been used in practice in combat operations. Therefore, the consequences of its use could still be very serious. This is why nuclear weapons must remain a deterrent.

(with source Askanews)

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