One B61 US Nuke delivers $1.2 billion worth of Tomahawk TNT

One B61 US Nuke Delivers $1.2 Billion Worth of Tomahawk TNT. Do the cost-benefit analysis here.

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Mark Langfan,

Mark Langfan
Mark Langfan
Mark Langfan

A wise man once said, “Before starting a gunfight, count your bullets.”  So, with everyone talking about “military options” in North Korea, it’s instructive to ask what US military options exist.  Or more specifically, to find out the number of the only state-of-the-art conventional “bullets” that would really count in a military conflict with North Korea: Tomahawk missiles. 

Then, let’s calculate how Tomahawk missiles stack up against America’s standard B61 nuclear bombs.  Former President Obama’s real "legacy" to the United States is that not only did he empower and enable a nuclear North Korea and soon-to-be nuclear Iran, he also insured the United States become conventionally powerless to militarily stop these nuclear-bomb rogues no matter who became president. As a result, it may very well be that President Trump has to use America’s nukes against North Korea or accept North Korea nuclear-tipped ICBMs ranged against the entire continental United States.

First, various open-source articles approximate America’s world-wide inventory of Tomahawk missiles to be about 4,000 missiles.  That might seem like a lot except America can’t use its entire arsenal of Tomahawks on North Korea, and leave all other defensive theaters without Tomahawks.  , Dedicating a sensible third of the inventory to a North Korea attack leaves only 1,300 missiles.  However, the sobering fact is the first day of the Gulf War, America used 900 Tomahawks and there’s no one who believes a conventional North Korean attack will be a 1 and a one-third day war.  So, on numbers alone, the Tomahawks are a bankrupt conventional option.

The compounded problem in addition  to the low inventory is the fact that despite the 59 Tomahawks President Trump sent against Assad after Assad’s chemical massacre, the attacked air base was up and running a couple of days later.  If the Syrian failure is any indication, Tomahawks will likely prove relatively worthless in really stopping the 12,000 pieces of North Korean tube artillery ranging from 122 to 170 millimeters and its 2,300 pieces of multiple rocket launch of over 107-millimeters. 

Once the Tomahawk inventory is spent, the US will be forced to send manned bombers in, a scenario where the risks of capture of US POWs becomes astronomical.

Further, once a North Korean war drags on, the likelihood of Russian or Chinese pro-North intervention escalates, making a conventional attack with 1,300 or even 2,000 Tomahawks have a protracted and unclear end-game.

Now, let’s compare the TNT explosive warhead of the Tomahawk to TNT explosive impact of one B61 nuclear bomb.  A B61 nuclear bomb can be calibrated to produce varying explosive effect.  A B61 can produce 0.3 kilotons of TNT explosive effect on the low side, and can be ratcheted up to 340 kilotons of TNT on the high side.  The Little Boy Hiroshima nuclear bomb used against Japan in World War 2 had approximately 15 kilotons of TNT explosive effect.  So, a B61 programmed to 0.3 kilotons is basically about 1/50 of a Hiroshima-type bomb.  What’s so bad about a toy-nuke bomb that is 50 times weaker than Hiroshima's?   And, using the high-end of 340 kilotons of TNT, that id about 23 Hiroshima bombs.  Now, that’s a serious bomb.

The real comparison of the B61 isn’t comparing its TNT equivalent to Hiroshima’s Little Boy, but its TNT comparison to the Tomahawk.  Thanks to Obama’s “Treaty” with Russia’s Putin, Obama de-nuclearized the Tomahawk, so the Tomahawk is purely a conventional missile.  And, the Tomahawk only carries 1000 pounds of TNT, and a tonis 2000 pounds.  So, each Tomahawk can only carry one-half of a ton or .5 tons of TNT. 

Now, a “megaton” is 1000 tons. So, a B61 on the low-side is equal to 300 tons of TNT.  A simple calculation comparing the Tomahawk to the B61 means the one B61 is equivalent to 600 Tomahawks.  We dropped 900 Tomahawks on Iraq in one day. What’s the moral difference between dropping 900 Tomahawks in one day or one or two B61 - equivalents of 600 Tomahawks each - in one day.  Of course, we’re assuming the American engineers did their work and built bombs that have little nuclear residue.

And, on the high-side, one B61 producing 340 kilotons, or 340,000 tons of TNT is equal to 680,000 Tomahawks.  Now, again, that’s a serious bomb.

But the B61’s real kicker advantage isn’t just the effectiveness of its TNT equivalent, but its cost.  Each Tomahawk costs about 2 million dollars.  So, as a reference, Trump’s 59 Tomahawk strike on Syria cost American taxpayers 120 million dollars, and the Assad airfield was up and running a few days later.  Again, on the B61’s low-side of 0.3 kilotons or 300 tons, a B61 is worth $1.2 Billion dollars worth of the Tomahawk’s TNT.  So, dollar for dollar a pair of B61s will wipe out North Korea at a fraction of the cost of the Tomahawk.  On the B61’s high-side, the dollar equivalent would break the American bank at an astounding $1.360 trillion dollars worth of Tomahawk TNT.

Any war with North Korea had better be fast, cheap, and a decisive victory for America, or the American public will turn on President Trump.  Looking at the options, it looks like either we use our power to win, or we will lose big-time to North Korea, and all the other nuclear armed-dictators coming down the road.