This is really the only option America has if Japan or South Korea want US nukes based there

As the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear program heats up, some are calling for the return of American tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea, or possibly basing them in Japan.

And while the notion of America deploying so-called “tactical” nukes to South Korea or Japan may send arms controllers into a fit, there are actually few options if the US does get the nod from Asian nations.

During the Cold War, the United States had a variety of delivery platforms for the tactical nukes. There were artillery rounds like the W48. There were missiles like the MGM-52 Lance. There were also air-dropped tactical nuclear bombs.

General Roger Brady, USAFE Commander, is shown B61 nuclear weapon disarming procedures on a “dummy” (inert training version) in an underground Weapons Security and Storage System (WS3) vault at Volkel Air Base, The Netherlands, on June 11, 2008. (USAF photo)

But arms control agreements through the 1990s and later cut America’s options way down — no more cruise missiles, artillery rounds or ballistic missiles were allowed after the treaties were signed, so today the only US option available other than full-on doomsday weapons are air-dropped bombs.

If Tokyo or Seoul want US nukes there, America could deploy the B61 bomb. According to the Nuclear Weapons Archive, this bomb has been in service with the United States since 1966 – meaning it’s got over 50 years of service. Its most notable feature is its versatility thanks to “dial a yield” technology, meaning it can provide the force equivalent to 300 tons of TNT all the way out to 340,000 tons of TNT.

Any combat plane in the United States arsenal has been fitted at one time or another to use this bomb. Five versions of the bomb are currently in the stockpile, the B61 Mod 3, B61 Mod 4, M61 Mod 7, B61 Mod 10, and B61 Mod 11. A sixth version, the B61 Mod 12, is in development, adding the ability to use an internal guidance system, according to Popular Mechanics.

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, May 4, 2016, takes off. The five squadrons of F-16s based in South Korea and Japan are capable of delivering the B61 tactical nuclear bomb. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Turner)

Deployment to South Korea and Japan would place the weapons next to the most likely delivery platform for tactical nuclear strikes: F-16 Fighting Falcons. The 8th and 51st Fighter Wings at Osan and Kunsan Air Bases in South Korea and the 35th Fighter Wing in Japan combine for five squadrons of the planes.

The deployment of this system does come with the need for added security. During the Turkish coup of 2016, the security of the nukes became a concern, prompting their eventual evacuation.

TOP ARTICLES
Here's where the military's highest award is made — the Medal of Honor

Approximately 3,500 brave troops have earned our nation's highest honor. Crafting such an important medal takes precision, dedication, and extreme care.

You can buy a civilian version of the Army's new sidearm system

Sig Sauer, maker of the Army's new M17, is planing to make and sell 5,000 civilian versions of the MHS 9mm pistol. There is no estimated price tag yet.

This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

Hundreds of ghost ships, filled with skeletal remains and shrouded in mystery, have washed ashore in Japan in recent years. They may be from North Korea.

This Marine veteran uses this special ingredient to boost his men's morale

Bill Joerger, Marine veteran and South Philly firefighter, uses his culinary talents to help his men combat the stresses they face every day.

Now you can read about every single fallen US troop in the Vietnam War

The Virtual Wall has a searchable, browsable database with casualty information and tributes for every name on "The Wall," broken down by city and state.

10 places in the world where US influence has plummeted

As the U.S. burns bridges with allies left and right, China has been following behind, picking up the pieces, and forging stronger ties around the world.

Watch this WW2 pilot take to the skies in his old trainer aircraft

After the attack against Pearl Harbor, Capt. Jerry Yellin became a P-51 pilot to defend his country, serving until the last combat mission of World War 2.

Russia's biggest transport plane hauled the Soviet space shuttle

The Anotov An-225 can carry 275 tons of normal cargo in its hold, equivalent to a platoon of M1A2 Abrams tanks. Learn more about this Soviet aircraft.

Nobel Prize winner warns the world is 'one tantrum away' from nuclear crisis

While accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons warned that we're just "one tantrum" away from nuclear war.

How Norway's high-speed missile boats pack a big punch

The Skjold can leave a Littoral Combat Ship in the dust, but still packs eight powerful Naval Strike Missiles that'll put some serious hurt on bad guys.