What is this "new secret nuclear weapon" that Donald Trump spoke about?

On the occasion of an interview given in December to journalist Bob Woodward, for his book to be published next week, US President Donald Trump? once again plunged the U.S. and global defense community into suspense, whenhe referred to a new nuclear weapon he would have developed, a unique weapon that no other country would have, according to it, and which would already be in service. And to add that he could not say more because the subject was confidential. Naturally, since then, speculations have been rife in an attempt to understand what new secret nuclear weapon the president had been talking about.

It must be said that the previous interventions on the subject from the tenant of the White House have something to call for restraint. Thus, in 2017, during a press conference, the President presented Lockheed-Martin's F35 Lighting II fighter as a "truly invisible" aircraft, in his words, arguing that no one could see him, so no one could shoot him down. In 2020, he reiterated by speaking of a new “super-fast” missile capable of going “17 times faster” than current missiles, and which would soon be in service with the US armies. In both cases, it was naturally a misunderstanding on the part of the President vis-à-vis the technical briefings that had been given to him. The F35 is obviously no more invisible than a pot of yogurt, and no operational American missile is hypersonic today, apart from the ICBMs which have been for decades. Several of his former collaborators have, in this capacity, indicated that thePresident Trump had great difficulty staying focused during this type of briefing, this probably explains it.

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At a press conference, President Trump declared in 2017 that the F35 was a "truly invisible" aircraft, creating amazement in the assembly

In all probability, the American president was referring to the commissioning of the new low-charge (5 kiloton) W76-2 nuclear warheads on board Trident missiles deployed for the first time. by an Ohio-class nuclear launcher submarine in February 2020. If these weapons are indeed new, and their development has remained confidential, they have never been secret, the subject already being in the public square one year before their entry into service. In addition, it is a program initiated by the term of President Obama, and not by that of President Trump. Having regard to the liabilities of the president-elect in this area, it therefore appears probable that he had once again gone astray on the subject, by trying to give a little more sensationality to information already stale.

But when it comes to nuclear weapons, the ultimate prerogative of the President of the United States who holds under his command, like his Russian counterpart, almost half of the nuclear warheads and vectors on the planet, the incomprehension of the stakes of deterrence is difficult to understand. This is the reason why specialists on the subject remained skeptical, wondering about the possibility of a new nuclear weapon effective in the American Arsenal, perhaps for counter the progress made by Russia in recent years in this area, like the RS28 Sarmat missile, the Avangard hypersonic glider, the Status 6 Poseidon nuclear autonomous torpedo, or the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered missile.

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Nuclear weapons, such as the Russian hypersonic glider Avangard here, are not intended to remain secret beyond their entry into service, in order to fulfill their mission of deterrence.

But the chances of a nuclear weapon being simultaneously operational and completely secret remain low. Indeed, weapons of this type are above all weapons of deterrence, intended to prevent the adversary from acting for fear of reprisals. If the latter is not aware of the existence of the danger, deterrence cannot have any effect. If the development of new weapon systems of deterrence are themselves, naturally, under the seal of secrecy, as soon as it comes into operation, this confidentiality is lifted, and the weapon is even staged publicly, or by demonstrations. operational, or by the heads of state themselves, to achieve their real objectives. This is what President Putin did in January 2019 during a public television interview for the Russian presidential campaign, when he publicly presented the new Russian deterrence systems.

The fact remains that a president of a nuclear nation, who is more of the most powerful among them, may not master the concept of deterrence has cause for concern. Winston Churchill used to say that the best argument against democracy was to chat for a few minutes with a popular voter. One may wonder if, today, discussing with a President the first military and economic power in the world, as well as the first world democracy as Americans like to define themselves, would not have the same effect on the late Prime Minister British…

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