What Nuclear Weapons Delivery Systems Really Cost

The U.S. Nuclear Weapons Cost Study Project was completed in August 1998 and resulted in the book Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940 edited by Stephen I. Schwartz. These project pages should be considered historical.
- All figures in constant 1996 dollars -

The following figures include research, development, testing and evaluation (RDT&E), and procurement costs and exclude operations, support, training, post-deployment upgrades or conversions, construction, and personnel costs. Warhead and bomb costs are rough averages only based on total research, development, testing and production costs during the Cold War; actual costs are classified.

  • Armament:

      Total — ~$119-$369 million each


    • Armament:

      • up to 16 gravity bombs (B61-7, B61-11, B83, single type or combination)
        ~$4.9 million each
      • or up to 80 Mk. 82 500-pound bombs (conventional)
      • or up to 16 Mk. 84 2000-pound bombs (conventional)
      • or up to 16 GBU-36 (Global Positioning System Aided Munition) 2000-pound bombs (conventional)

        Total — ~$2.7 billion each


      • Armament:

        • 3 W62 170 kiloton warheads
        • or 3 W78 335 kiloton warheads

          Total — ~$48.5 million each


        • Armament:

          • 10 W87 300 kiloton warheads

        • Subtotal armament — ~$49 million

          Total — ~$238 million each


        • Armament:1

          • Trident I/C-4 missile (24 per submarine, including 5 W76 100 kiloton warheads per missile)
            ~$61.9 million each
          • or Trident II/D-5 missile (24 per submarine, including 5 W76 100 kiloton warheads per missile or 5 W88 475 kiloton warheads per missile)
            ~$89.7 million each

            Total — ~$3.4-4.1 billion each


          1 Until quite recently, it was assumed that Trident I and Trident II missiles carried 8 warheads each. In January 1998, however, officials with the United States Strategic Command acknowledged that the missiles on submarines on hard alert at sea (within range of their targets) are armed with just 5 warheads apiece. See Elaine M. Grossman, "Briefing Shows Navy Now Loads Trident Missiles With 5 Warheads, Not 8," Inside the Pentagon, vol. 14, no. 5, February 5, 1998, pp. 5-6.[Back]

          Copyright © 1998 The Brookings Institution
        • Subtotal armament — ~$1.5-2.2 billion

      • Subtotal armament — ~$15 million

    • Subtotal armament (nuclear only) — ~$78 million

  • Subtotal armament — ~$76-$326 million