How powerful are modern nuclear weapons?

Modern nuclear weapons are not so powerful but they are more efficient and effective against their targets. States do not build large atomic bombs anymore but that does not mean they cannot do it. Bigger bombs are cumbersome, inefficient and difficult to carry.

As one scholar explains: “Making a weapon twice as accurate has the same effect on lethality as making the warhead eight times as powerful. Phrased another way, making the missile twice as precise would only require one-eighth the explosive power to maintain the same lethality.”

It is a smart way to use multiple smaller warheads in a missile than to use a large one. MIRVs are used in ballistic missiles to carry multiple nuclear warheads to specified targets. Precision strike and small Circular Error Probability (CEP) of modern missiles have greatly enhanced the effectiveness and strength of nuclear weapons. Precision strike allows a smaller weapon to destroy a target with greater accuracy and less collateral damage.

According to The National Interest, “In practical terms, all this means that the more accurate the bomb, the lower the yield that is needed to destroy any specific target. A lower-yield and more accurate bomb can, therefore, be used without having to fear the mass, indiscriminate killing of civilians through explosive force or radioactive fallout.”

modern nuclear weapons

A higher yield nuclear weapon is unnecessary and an overkill against a single target. These are the reasons behind the modern use of lower-yield nuclear weapons. Present-day nuclear weapons are not as powerful as they were before but they are surely more powerful than the first generation nuclear weapons like “Little Boy” or “Fat Man”.