Strategic nuclear weapon

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Fat Man was a strategic nuclear weapon dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki during the final stages of World War II. It was the second and the last nuclear weapon to be used in combat. This nuclear strike killed roughly 39,000–80,000 people. About half of these died immediately, while the other half suffered lingering deaths.[1][2]

A strategic nuclear weapon refers to a nuclear weapon which is designed to be used on targets as part of a strategic plan, such as nuclear missile bases, military command centers, factories, and heavily populated areas such as cities and towns.

They are in contrast to tactical nuclear weapons, which are designed for use in battle, as part of an attack with conventional weapon forces. Strategic nuclear weapons generally have significantly larger yields, starting from 100 kilotons up to destructive yields in the low megaton range. However, yields can overlap, and many weapons such as the B61 nuclear bomb are used in both tactical and strategic roles. Indeed, the strategic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki utilized weapons of between 10 and 20 kilotons, though this was because the "Little Boy" and "Fat Man" bombs were the most destructive (and indeed only) nuclear weapons available at the time.

A feature of strategic nuclear weapons is the greater range of their delivery apparatus (e.g. ICBMs), giving them the ability to threaten the enemy's command and control structure, even though they are based many thousands of miles away in friendly territory. Intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads are the primary strategic nuclear weapons, while short-range missiles are tactical. In addition, while tactical weapons are designed to meet battlefield objectives, the main purpose of strategic weapons is in the deterrence role, under the theory of mutually assured destruction.

After the Cold War, the tactical nuclear weapon stockpiles of NATO and Russia were greatly reduced, and, on the other hand, long-range ballistic missiles are boasting good accuracy. As a result, highly accurate strategic missiles like the Trident II can also be used in substrategic, tactical strikes.


  1. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions #1". Radiation Effects Research Foundation. Archived from the original on September 19, 2007. Retrieved September 18, 2007. 
  2. ^ Robert Hull (October 11, 2011). Welcome To Planet Earth - 2050 - Population Zero. AuthorHouse. p. 215. ISBN 1-4634-2604-6. 

Strategic nuclear weapons[edit]

Strategic/tactical nuclear weapons[edit]