Triad Summary

PEMD-92-36R: Published: Sep 28, 1992. Publicly Released: Sep 28, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the U.S. strategic defense triad, focusing on the: (1) strengths and weaknesses of major modernization programs; (2) programs' cost-effectiveness; and (3) future of arms control and U.S. strategic capabilities. GAO found that: (1) disparities exist between estimates and realities of triad defense systems; (2) triad's sea leg is the most cost-effective; (3) the speed and reliability of communications to submerged missile launch sites is equal to communications to land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos; (4) the accuracy, reliability, and warhead yield of the Navy's Trident II missile equals that of the Peacekeeper missiles, and the Trident is more cost-effective and nearly invulnerable to attack; (5) the Soviet threats and air defense systems which justified the procurement of the B-2 bomber, were greatly overestimated; (6) each B-2 bomber's procurement cost totals $2 billion; (7) B-52 bombers have only reached half of their structural life expectancies and compare favorably in cruise missile delivery and radar penetration capability; (8) the superiority of the advanced cruise missile's range over the present air-launched cruise missile is negligible; (9) the vulnerability of silo-based ICBM was greatly overstated because of overstated Soviet missile accuracy, yield, and reliability; (10) Peacekeeper and Minuteman accuracy projections could be overstated because of limited testing; and (11) due to the reduced nuclear threat and U.S.-Soviet arms control agreements, the United States has reduced its missile inventory, hard-target kill capability requirements, and total warheads.

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