Other nations could use 3-D printing to develop atomic arsenals, according to the Chief of Naval Operations.
“Much is changing here in the nuclear world,” Adm. John Richardson said July 2 during remarks at a breakfast in Washington, DC, hosted by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. “There are more nations seeking to join the club. Some with high technology, some with low technology. … It”s relatively simple. With the advent of additive manufacturing and 3-D printing, these types of weapons are going to be very easy to craft in very small scale.”
These systems might include “dirty bombs” that use high explosives to spread radioactive materials, he noted.
The United States could be entering an era where these types of weapons are part of the strategic landscape, which would give other countries asymmetric capabilities to undermine U.S. military advantages. Meanwhile, great power adversaries such as Russia have large arsenals of low-yield nuclear warheads that are of great concern to Pentagon planners.
Richardson noted that the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review proposed acquiring low-yield nuclear weapons to bolster deterrence.
“In the near-term, the United States will modify a small number of existing [submarine-launched ballistic missile] warheads to provide a low-yield option, and in the longer term, pursue a modern nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile,” the review stated.