Trump Discloses Supposed Existence Of A Secret New Nuclear Weapon System To Bob Woodward

Other sources reportedly confirmed that the weapon system does exist, but declined to get into specifics.

byJoseph Trevithick and Tyler Rogoway|
U.S. Homeland photo


President Donald Trump disclosed that the U.S. military has a potentially previously unknown secret nuclear weapon in an on-the-record interview with Washington Post associate editor and veteran journalist Bob Woodward for his new book. Other sources reportedly confirmed the existence of the weapon system in question, but offered no additional details about it.

Woodward conducted 18 interviews between December 2019 and July 2020 with Trump for the book, titled Rage, which will begin shipping to the general public later this month. The Washington Post

published various details from it, along with audio from Woodward's conversations with the President, on Sept. 9, 2020.

“I have built a nuclear – a weapons system that nobody’s ever had in this country before. We have stuff that you haven’t even seen or heard about," Trump told Woodward. "We have stuff that Putin and Xi have never heard about before. There’s nobody – what we have is incredible."

There are throngs of secret Defense Department programs ongoing at any given time. According to Steve Trimble, Defense Editor at Aviation Week, the DoD is planning on spending a whopping $71.4B on classified programs just next year. For comparison, that is nearly half the amount of the Air Force's entire 2021 budget and does not include the intelligence community's clandestine budget, either:

Though Woodward's sources said that Trump was speaking about a real system, and they were surprised he did so at all, they do not appear to have confirmed any specifics about it. These kinds of comments from Trump are not necessarily new. The President certainly has a known penchant for touting advanced American military and intelligence capabilities, including openly discussing sensitive topics, including in public. He has also talked up the strength of America's nuclear arsenal, and the efforts under his administration to continue modernizing it, on a number of occasions.

However, it is also known that Trump doesn't always appear to have a firm grasp of the topics in question, leading him to make false pronouncements about certain weapon systems and their capabilities. Perhaps the best-known example of this is the case of the "super-duper missile," which he referenced while speaking to reporters during an event at the White House in May 2020. He claimed this weapon was "17 times faster than what they have right now," referring to comparative Russian and Chinese developments. It ultimately turned out to be a hypersonic boost-glide vehicle that the U.S. Army and Navy are collaboratively developing that the Pentagon had previously publicly stated had an estimated peak speed of Mach 17. 

When it comes to nuclear weapons, and many of their delivery systems, these are some of the most secretive systems within the U.S. military's arsenal, even if their existence is publicly known. Their exact capabilities generally remain undisclosed in order to prevent opponents from developing countermeasures that could limit the utility of America's nuclear deterrents. As such, it is possible that Trump was talking about a still-secret nuclear weapon, about which little is known, but which has been publicly acknowledged. A prime candidate may be the still-nebulous W93 warhead, which, if the program proceeds, could eventually go on top of the Navy's Trident D5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The U.S. military has been coy about just how new or not the design of this weapon might be.

The Navy also deployed the W76-2 warhead, a lower-yield variant of the W76 series, on some of its Tridents for the first time earlier this year. Work is also still ongoing on the nuclear-capable B-21 Raider stealth bomber, the B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb, and the new Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the U.S. Air Force, as well. In August, that service also indicated that it might be interested in a nuclear-armed hypersonic weapon as a potential warhead for the GBSD in the future, as well. 

On the other hand, Trump could be referring to something far more exotic that does not exist currently in the public domain in any concrete manner. Russia has been actively pursuing so-called "super weapons,"  some of which are of an exotic nature, including nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed cruise missiles and ultra-long-range torpedoes. It is possible that Trump let slip something along these same lines that is truly unique. 

It remains to be seen whether any new details about the weapon system Trump mentioned to Woodward will emerge now that the interview is public record, but someone is sure to press Trump further on it. We will keep you up to date with what he says and any other info that emerges about it. 

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