W70 was a two-stage, thermonuclear warhead that was developed for the MGM-52 Lance missile by the United States. Designed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Mod 1 and Mod 2 version of the weapon entered service in 1973, while the enhanced radiation ("neutron bomb") Mod 3 weapon entered service in 1981.[1] The last W70 warhead was dismantled in February 1996.[2]

W70 nuclear warhead
TypeNuclear weapon
Place of originUnited States
Production history
DesignerLawrence Livermore National Laboratory
ProducedW71-1,-2 June 1973 to July 1877
W70-3 August 1981 to February 1983
No. builtW70-1,-2 900 produced
W70-3 380 produced.
Mass270 lb (120 kg)
Length41 inches (100 cm)
Diameter18 in (46 cm)

Blast yieldW70-1,-2 1 to 100 kilotonnes of TNT (4.2 to 418.4 TJ)
W70-3 1 kilotonne of TNT (4.2 TJ)


The Mod 1 and Mod 2 versions of the weapon are estimated to have had a variable yield of 1 to 100 kilotonnes of TNT (4.2 to 418.4 TJ), while the Mod 3 enhanced radiation version was estimated to have a yield of 1 kilotonne of TNT (4.2 TJ)[3] The Mod 1 reportedly had more yield options than the Mod 2 warheads. The Mod 3 was reportedly 40% fission and 60% fusion, with two yield options. The weapon weighed 270 lb (120 kg), and was 41 inches (100 cm) long and 18 in (46 cm) in diameter.[4]

Mod 1 and 2 weapons were produced from June 1973 to July 1977, while Mod 3 weapons were produced from August 1983 to February 1984. 900 Mod 1 and 2 warheads and 380 Mod 3 warheads were manufactured. The last warheads were retired in September 1992.[4]

The weapon was the successor to the previous proposed Lance warhead, the W63.[4] The weapon used a category D Permissive Action Link and had command disable, but lacked insensitive high explosives and enhanced nuclear detonation safety.[1]

The inventor of the neutron bomb, Samuel Cohen, has criticized the description of the W70 as a "neutron bomb":

the W-70 ... is not even remotely a "neutron bomb." Instead of being the type of weapon that, in the popular mind, "kills people and spares buildings" it is one that both kills and physically destroys on a massive scale. The W-70 is not a discriminate weapon, like the neutron bomb—which, incidentally, should be considered a weapon that "kills enemy personnel while sparing the physical fabric of the attacked populace, and even the populace too."[5]

See alsoEdit


Sandia Weapon Review: Nuclear Weapon Characteristics Handbook (PDF) (Report). Sandia National Labs. September 1990. SAND90-1238. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-01-12.


  1. ^ a b Sandia Weapon Review: Nuclear Weapon Characteristics Handbook, p. 71.
  2. ^ "U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile, July 1996". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 52 (4): 61–63. 1996. Bibcode:1996BuAtS..52d..61.. doi:10.1080/00963402.1996.11456646.
  3. ^ "W70". GlobalSecurity.org. 30 September 2018. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  4. ^ a b c Sublette, Carey (12 June 2020). "Complete List of All U.S. Nuclear Weapons". Nuclear Weapon Archive. Retrieved 1 April 2022.
  5. ^ "Check Your Facts: Cox Report Bombs". Insight on the News. 9 August 1999.[dead link]

External linksEdit

  • "Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) - W70". globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 2006-03-11.
  • "Types of Nuclear Weapons". Carey Sublette. Retrieved 2006-04-07.
  • "U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile (June 1990)". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. June 1990. Retrieved 2009-07-30.