Tactical Nuclear Weapons in the Russian Black Sea Fleet: In Play in the Current Crisis?

By Ed Timperlake


Since publishing this article it is being reported that Russian military forces may be moving their state-of-the art anti-ship missiles into Crimea to threaten the US Navy.

Unlike the A2AD posturing about their missiles capabilities by the PLA the Russians have successfully test fired anti-ship missiles in the Black Sea.

It is a threat that must be respected. The US Navy knows that but as said in the article “Why Not The Best?”

Where are the F-22s flying high cover?


“The first sign of the coming U.S. air raid was when the enemy radar and air-defense missile sites began exploding. The strikers were Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth fighters, flying unseen and faster than the speed of sound, 50,000 feet over the battlefield”




In 1995, The Belfer Center of Harvard published a well thought out research paper on “Crimea and the Black Sea Fleet in Russian- Ukrainian Relations,” this was one of their findings:

Russia tried to prove that the whole Black Sea Fleet was a part of “strategic forces” which should be under joint CIS (i.e., Russian) command.

The presence of tactical nuclear weapons on its ships and planes, and its important role in defending the CIS from a maritime sector were presented as arguments to emphasize the strategic nature of the Black Sea Fleet

Sevastopol has been viewed as the city of “Russian naval glory,” and the Russians are very sensitive to the idea of restricted access to the city


Regardless of all the current discussions which are devolving into circles within circles about Russia Vs Ukraine, or perhaps using the other Intelligence Community cliché “a wilderness of mirrors,” it is important that all Americans know what might be in jeopardy as seen from Moscow.

Consequently, as Editor Sldforum.com I sent an e-mail  to  Russia Today for any information that they may have published in Russian.


For US Naval Officers of my generation (I am USNA ’69)  TacNucs-were neither confirmed nor denied. I understand from many articles that the Russian Military  still has tactical nuclear weapons as a deterrence factor- It would be nice to know if there are any present with Black Sea Fleet.

–I have no current idea either way.

The most current reporting in RT has focused on Strategic Weapons and deterrence–

My question is— has RT published any additional information about the presidential Phone call?

Is there anything that RT has published about tactical nuclear warheads on ships and subs? –Especially stationed with Black Sea Fleet.

It is beyond foolish to think Russia would use tactical nuclear weapons in the Ukraine engagement. However, being worried about losing control is another matter completely. Regardless of the current hot house debate about Russian aggression, all Russian leaders have understood how to protect warheads since the dawn of the Nuclear age. Consequently, a lot of conventional force on force blustering by US military experts should take in account a potential catastrophic problem if Russia loses control of their weapons.

Setting aside the unknown about TacNucs, it is known worldwide that the US is never afraid to send our combat ships into harm’s way regardless of the threat of facing very lethal conventional weapons

The USS Truxton DDG-103 has just been dispatched into the Black Sea. It is a powerful navy combat ship that can acquit itself well in a fight. However, in this 21st Century, just like 20th Century war at sea it would be nice to have air cover as a combat insurance policy against any attack from any quarter.

Ships, protected by Combat Air Patrols (CAPs), are a winning formula. In times of crisis such as the  brewing potential Ukraine civil war being exacerbated and flamed  by  Russian military cross-border engagements at sea and on the ground especially around the city of “Russian Naval Glory” it would be prudent to provide defense in depth to the crew of the USS Truxton.

In fact, using the title of President Carter’s book, “Why not the Best” comes to mind.

The F-22 is the most lethal Air-to-Air Fighter and Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) aircraft in the world today and should be flying cover over the USS Truxtun going into Black Sea. Why not the best? Perhaps even the few that we have are not being given visibility.

Is it because the President, supported by Senator McCain and Secretary Gates in cheering over the cutting of the buy below the numbers requested by then General “Conan” Corley of our Air Combat Command and fully supported by Secretary Mike Wynne and General Buzz Moseley AF Chief called them “outdated”, The stopping of the F-22 line was praised by many in the media and think tanks that a bipartisan effort at the very top of our Defense establishment had said the F-22 was a cold war relic. I think President Putin is pleased to see such American foolishness.


If the past politics of the Raptor is any clue it should be remembered that White House staff pulled an F-22 out of an Alaskan Presidential Photo op a few years back that resonates to this day.


In today’s very dangerous world all America should never forget the cancellation of the F-22 was by a confederacy of short sighted and foolish leaders making a very bad decision

Again there is no cause to think the Russian would ever use tactical nuclear weapons in this current crisis but losing control of them is another matter and additionally U.S. and allies, especially NATO, being conventionally prepared with the best weapons available is very prudent.

Admiral Hyam G Rickover, Father of the Nuclear Navy said it best, note the emphasis on the word “serious.” It is up to the US National Command authority to determine the current definition of that word.

“… attempts to limit war have always failed. The lesson of history is when a war starts every nation will ultimately use whatever weapon it has available. … Therefore, we must expect that if another war — a serious war — breaks out, we will use nuclear energy in some form.”



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One response to “Tactical Nuclear Weapons in the Russian Black Sea Fleet: In Play in the Current Crisis?”

  1. Oluwilliams says:

    A very informative piece. Good work!

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