U.S. to trim air, sea and land nuke launchers under U.S.-Russia treaty -officials

WASHINGTON, April 8 Tue Apr 8, 2014 11:30am EDT

WASHINGTON, April 8 (Reuters) - The United States will scale back its land, sea and air nuclear missile launchers under a New START treaty with Russia but not retire a ballistic missile squadron as some lawmakers had expected, U.S. officials told Reuters.

The U.S. military will disable four missile launch tubes on each of its 14 U.S. nuclear submarines, convert 30 B-52 nuclear bombers to conventional use and empty 50 intercontinental ballistic missile silos, senior administration officials said on condition of anonymity.

The plan is expected to be formally announced on Tuesday.

One official said the government wanted to maintain flexibility across its land, sea and air weapons systems. "It provides us a bit of a hedge," said the official.

The New START treaty reached in President Barack Obama's first term called for cuts in the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads in the United States and Russia to 1,550 apiece by 2018, down from the previous ceiling of 2,200. It was agreed in 2010 and went into force on Feb. 5, 2011.

The United States total nuclear stockpile, including deployed and non-deployed, tactical and strategic nuclear weapons was 5,113, the government said in 2010.

Some lawmakers have voiced concerns that an entire ballistic missile squadron would be eliminated under the treaty.

"Because they (cuts) will be spread across the three different bases, we won't close a squadron," another official said, also on condition of anonymity.

The New START treaty also calls for each side to reduce its total number of nuclear delivery systems to no more than 800. (Editing by Jason Szep and Andrew Hay)

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