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The W76 warhead and Mk-4 re-entry vehicle (cutaway diagram) – Los Alamos National Labs image
TypeNuclear bomb
Service history
In service1978–present
Used byUnited States and possibly the United Kingdom (see Trident Nuclear Program)
Production history
DesignerLos Alamos National Laboratory
DesignedW76-0 1973–1978, W76-2 2018
ManufacturerPantex Plant
ProducedW76-0 1978–1987 (full production), W76-1 2008-2018 (LEP), W76-2 2018-FY2024
No. built~3400
Mass362.5 pounds (164.4 kg)

Contact, airburst
Blast yield100 kt (W76-0)

90 kt (W76-1)

5–7 kt (W76-2)

The W76 is a United States thermonuclear warhead. The first variant was manufactured from 1978 to 1987, and is still in service as of 2019. In 2018 a new low-yield variant was announced which is expected to gain initial operating capability in 2019.

The W-76 is carried inside a Mk-4 re-entry vehicle. U.S. Trident I and Trident II SLBM/submarine-launched ballistic missiles may carry W76 warheads as one warhead option, along with W88 warheads in the Trident II.

The dimensions of the W76 and Mk-4 re-entry vehicle which carries it are not known; only the warhead's weight of 362 pounds (164 kg) has been disclosed.

The W76 Mod 0 has a yield of 100 kilotons, while the W-76 Mod 1 has a yield of 90 kilotons.[1]

The upgraded W76-1/Mk4A will be used in both American and British submarines.[2]

Extensions to the service lives for 800 of the warheads was approved by the US government in 2000, then later increased to 2,000.[3] Production on the W76-1 started in September 2008 to extend service life by 20 years and add safety features; the National Nuclear Security Administration completed updating all W76-0 warheads to the W76-1 design in December 2018.[4]

The warhead is currently the most numerous weapon in the US nuclear arsenal,[5] having replaced the Poseidon SLBM warhead, the W68, in that capacity.

The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review announced that manufacturing of a new variant, W76-2, would commence.[6] The W76-2 variant is described as a low-yield warhead, expected to yield about 5-7 kilotons of TNT equivalent[7]. The National Nuclear Security Administration announced that it had started to manufacture the W76-2 variant in January 2019. Initial operating capability is expected in the final quarter of 2019,[8] and manufacturing is expected to last through FY2024[9] at the Pantex Plant[10].

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kristensen, Hans M.; Korda, Matt (29 April 2019). "United States nuclear forces, 2019". Taylor & Francis. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  2. ^ Kristensen, Hans. "British Submarines to Receive Upgraded US Nuclear Warhead." FAS, 1 April 2011.
  3. ^ Pincus, Walter, "Strategic Plan Extends Life Span Of Nuclear Arsenal", The Washington Post, 19 May 2011, p. 17.
  4. ^ Work completed on Navy’s upgraded nuclear warhead. Defense News. 24 January 2019.
  5. ^ http://www.nuclearweaponarchive.org/Usa/Weapons/W76.html
  6. ^ https://media.defense.gov/2018/Feb/02/2001872886/-1/-1/1/2018-NUCLEAR-POSTURE-REVIEW-FINAL-REPORT.PDF "Nuclear Posture Review 2018"
  7. ^ https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-poised-to-get-new-low-yield-nuclear-weapons/2018/06/13/161b1466-6dac-11e8-9ab5-d31a80fd1a05_story.html "Trump poised to get new low-yield nuclear weapons"
  8. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/28/us-nuclear-weapons-first-low-yield-warheads-roll-off-the-production-line "US nuclear weapons: first low-yield warheads roll off the production line"
  9. ^ https://fas.org/blogs/security/2018/11/ssmp2018/ "NNSA Plan Shows Nuclear Warhead Cost Increases and Expanded Production"
  10. ^ https://www.defensenews.com/smr/nuclear-arsenal/2019/01/28/trumps-new-nuclear-weapon-has-entered-production/


External links[edit]