Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons Updated July 15, 2021 Congressional Research Service


The Distinction Between Strategic and Nonstrategic



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The Distinction Between Strategic and Nonstrategic
Nuclear Weapons
The distinction between strategic and nonstrategic (also known as tactical) nuclear weapons reflects the military definitions of, on the one hand, a strategic mission and, on the other hand, the tactical use of nuclear weapons. According to the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military Terms a strategic mission is Directed against one or more of a selected series of enemy targets with the purpose of progressive destruction and disintegration of the enemy’s warmaking capacity and will to make war. Targets include key manufacturing systems, sources of raw material, critical material, stockpiles, power systems, transportation systems, communication facilities, and other such target systems. As opposed to tactical operations, strategic operations are designed to have a long-range rather than immediate effect on the enemy and its military forces. In contrast, the tactical use of nuclear weapons is defined as the use of nuclear weapons by land, sea, or air forces against opposing forces, supporting installations or facilities, in support of operations that contribute to the accomplishment of a military mission of limited scope, or in support of the military commander’s scheme of maneuver, usually limited to the area of military operations

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