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Sunday, November 19, 2017

An urgent need

Some U.S. military observers are surprised by this action by the USAF:
Defense and space industry executives were surprised Wednesday to see a U.S. Air Force “sources sought and request for information” in FedBizOpps on the next-generation missile-warning satellite constellation — known as the Space-Based Infrared System Follow-On.

The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center invited contractors to an industry day Nov. 21 and gave them a short window of less than 24 hours to register.

To many who have watched the SBIRS follow-on effort drag on for years, the suddenly convened industry day seemed odd. Industry sources said they were puzzled as to why the Air Force solicitation talks about an urgent need and then says a new system would not be deployed until 2029.

The Space and Missile Systems Center’s Remote Sensing Directorate has an “unusual and compelling urgency to constitute a new highly resilient space warfighting construct-based five geosynchronous and two polar next generation architecture, in order to counter emerging threats while operating in a contested environment,” said the solicitation.
Russian military observers are less surprised. I'm going to assume it has something to do with the new Zircon missiles, which reportedly travel at 4,600 mph. That sort of speed is bound to break any current anti-missile system. It also guarantees that the US Navy's control of the seas appears to have gone the way of the Royal Navy's.

The important thing to remember is that this doesn't mean that the U.S. military is unable to defend U.S. borders - that has merely been the will of the civilian leadership for the last 52 years - but that it will no longer be able to project force or impose U.S. demands the way it has in the post-WWII era. Serbia was the warning, and Syria was the onset of the return to a balance of power situation that, while still favorable to the US, is an observable change from the last 25 years of a monopolar world.

Labels:

80 Comments:

Blogger wreckage November 19, 2017 4:37 AM  

So, gender imbalance ISN'T the biggest challenge facing American strategic defence and power projection abilities in the 21st century?

Don't talk crazy Vox. The real issue is how many of those satellites will be gender-diverse and inclusive.

Blogger Ingot9455 November 19, 2017 5:27 AM  

Interesting stuff, that Zircon. I wonder what the real max operating range of the thing is and how the just coming out laser defenses work at that speed.

Anonymous Philipp November 19, 2017 5:34 AM  

Stephen Davenport to comment that the Russian armed forces are a paper tiger and the Zircon missiles a worthless piece of scrap in 5,4,3,2,....

Blogger The Observer November 19, 2017 5:38 AM  

At this stage of convergence, it's probably too little, too late.

Anonymous Looking Glass November 19, 2017 6:14 AM  

Also possible that a Trump Admin is trying to kick some Aerospace company's butts a bit over standard contracting approaches. Zircon probably matters, but the main program is also pretty far behind schedule.

Blogger William Warren November 19, 2017 7:00 AM  

Speed is not the only thing here. We do not know the flight profile of Zircon. If it is a water or land hugger along with evasive flying, yes carriers are in danger. Keep in mind though lasers are on the way around the world as well. This is going to be an interesting race. I, personally, would like to see carriers go away. Their time is done IMO even without zircon.

Anonymous Looking Glass November 19, 2017 7:06 AM  

@6 William Warren

Carriers are here to stay, though watch for larger Frigates that act as "Drone Carriers".

Blogger wreckage November 19, 2017 7:12 AM  

Low profile, low radar profile, high powered reactor, and railguns and lasers pointing everywhere. Low slung battleships making a comeback?

Anonymous Anonymous November 19, 2017 7:15 AM  

I certainly hope that the Air Force does not let a bunch of white males work on this urgent need.

I hope the federal government makes the companies put females, POC, trans, and other "minorities" do the heavy lifting here.

Perhaps they could do their recruiting in the middle of Detroit. After all, Detroit gang members are very under represented in the weapons development field.

Anonymous JI November 19, 2017 7:24 AM  

This sounds more like typical bureaucracy than any panic over a new Russian capability. Also: "The RFI suggests that the Air Force is not confident that any other company will be able to challenge Lockheed Martin." The consolidation of American defense companies into just a few mega-companies is not good. The AF and LM are going to continue dragging out this program for many years, LM will hire retired AF officers for high-level positions, and actual defense of the nation and its interests will continue to take a back seat to pocket-lining.

Anonymous I'm Not a Fascist. But My Sons Are. November 19, 2017 7:27 AM  

Detroit gang members are very under represented in the weapons development field

But over-represented in the weapons deployment field.

Fair and Balanced™

Anonymous JAMES November 19, 2017 7:52 AM  

Eventually China or Russia will create a carrier killer missile.

The U.S has staked an awful lot on its carrier groups. The incentive to find a way to take them out is huge.

Of course the incentive to develop laser tech to protect them is also huge, but you've got to figure there's an Airplane v Dreadnaught confrontation happening at some point in the future.

Anonymous grayman November 19, 2017 7:52 AM  

Better yet, look at the race around hyper sonic "gliders". Once they can consistently get them to operate in the Mach 25+ range nukes are largely obsolete as a tungsten kinetic impactor at that velocity approaches a 1 kiloton detonation.
All the boom and none of the fallout or infrastructure needed for nuke materials. Several countries have publicly tested gliders in the Mach 20 range to date.

A similiar curiosity. Why wouldn't North Korea focus on a "rod from god" system, space based kinetic impactors? It's not any more complex then nuke tech. The main barrier is a heavy lifter rocket and international treaties banning that..... if you're ignoring treaties....

Anonymous Avalanche November 19, 2017 7:54 AM  

@10 "actual defense of the nation and its interests will continue to take a back seat to pocket-lining."

Y'all have seen this? Lotsa pocketesses!

"The latest fallout from the Navy’s investigation into the “Fat Leonard” corruption scandal has left 440 active duty and retired personnel, including 60 admirals, under review for their conduct."
http://www.dailywire.com/news/23217/navy-investigating-60-admirals-corruption-scandal-hank-berrien

and

"The Navy is reviewing the behavior of 440 active-duty and retired Navy personnel that includes 60 current and retired admirals for possible military and federal violations that sprang forth from their dealings with the corpulent, 350-pound Leonard Glenn Francis and his Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia company.
Francis is accused of plying Navy officials with booze, prostitutes and lavish feasts in exchange for lucrative work supplying ships in ports throughout the west Pacific."
https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2017/11/06/more-than-60-admirals-being-looked-at-in-fat-leonard-probe-report-says/

Anonymous JAMES November 19, 2017 7:59 AM  

Just looked up HGVs grayman. Hadn't heard of them before.

The idea of thousands of missiles waiting in space to be activated, diving to earth at Mach 10+ is a picture with bright colours.

Blogger Johnny November 19, 2017 8:02 AM  

Sounds like the plantif cry, give us money.

The problem seems to be that we no longer benefit from our global roll. Too many upstarts complicating things.

Blogger Tino November 19, 2017 8:03 AM  

Carriers are and will now forever remain floating coffins for any aboard. Today, for roughly $500 million, fully COTS, a determined adversary can develop and manufacture 10,000 stealthy solar drones capable of dropping 4 pounds of explosive kamikaze-style to the carrier deck, effectively putting them out of commission at the moment of operational need.

Anonymous Bob Ramar November 19, 2017 8:03 AM  

The only part of the ocean the US Navy controls might be the subsurface. I have never seen what I am about to say in public before but here is the truth of the matter. A Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is huge. It is relatively slow. You can see it from space. If you can see it from space, you can hit it from space. A megaton class nuclear warhead detonated at 20,000 feet will kill anything within line of sight out to ... say a hundred miles from its hypocenter. There is no way to get a carrier out of the kill zone even if the intelligence you have is an hour or two old. A subscription a subscription satellite service will get about anybody the imagery they need to target a carrier.

Blogger tuberman November 19, 2017 8:17 AM  

JAMES wrote:Eventually China or Russia will create a carrier killer missile.

The U.S has staked an awful lot on its carrier groups. The incentive to find a way to take them out is huge.

Of course the incentive to develop laser tech to protect them is also huge, but you've got to figure there's an Airplane v Dreadnaught confrontation happening at some point in the future.


The range and pulse frequency of laser canons is the problem now. They seem effective at short to medium range, but can be overwhelmed. Much longer range and intensity (so less time to take out target) would help, Don't know if that is possible for years. My info could be dated though.

Blogger tuberman November 19, 2017 8:27 AM  

Whether or not the Zircon is effective, there is plenty of evidence of extremely high mach speed missiles being developed all over the globe, and particularly by SA and Israel. Some of these are even hand shot from the ground, so those would not be for against carriers, but if those exist, what larger ones exist?

Anonymous Rocklea November 19, 2017 8:35 AM  

"The U.S has staked an awful lot on its carrier groups. The incentive to find a way to take them out is huge."

I thought stealth cargo ships was the current method.

Blogger mike November 19, 2017 8:46 AM  

I try telling my fellow soldiers that Russia and China are absolutely not to be fucked with and that we could very well lose a war with them, and they blow me off. It's a sad thing when you don't realize how much the game is changed and this isn't 1946 or 1992 anymore.

And agreed concerning the carrier-killer. That's coming down the pike probably sooner rather than later.

Blogger justaguy November 19, 2017 9:04 AM  

In 1956, with the release of the Gaither Report, the United States officially acknowledged it vulnerability to nuclear attack. We never really tried SDI, nor adequately funded it. Being able to stop a few missiles from rogue countries such as Iran or North Korea is a possible outcome if we actually put serious effort into missile defense (my supposition is that we haven't--merely a little funding). Stopping large numbers from China or Russia with their counter-measures isn't feasible with current technology and our economy relative to theirs. That said, being able to stop a percentage of a large attack is still valuable--it prevents many scenarios of headshot launches and help maintain our deterrent-- if we bother to keep it. Obama tried to end it. Democrats want us completely vulnerable and have been slowly getting us there. From 41 SSBNs (the only survivable and credible deterrent) to 14.

Anonymous Anonymous November 19, 2017 9:06 AM  

US Carriers have been known-obsolete as a concept long before the threat of hypersonic missiles.

A good half-decade ago I was reading white papers on how naval missile defense systems could be consistently overcome by bombarding them with cheap missiles until either their tracking systems were overwhelmed or they were out of ammo, at which point a "kill shot" could be delivered.

The future of power projection are high-stealth and/or high speed, the smaller the better.

An uglier reality is technology has moved on to the point even the eggiest of egg-heads don't fully understand how they would contend with one another, which would flop vs dominate, and this means geopolitical instability is increasingly likely as rivals seek to test their power.

At this point the only thing preventing it is unprecedented global prosperity.

Anonymous Looking Glass November 19, 2017 9:33 AM  

I also find the hatred for the Carrier to be interesting. I think it comes too much from that nihilistic streak that's been within the Western for too long. The whole "but X could happen and take a carrier down!". Yes, duh!

This ignores the actual utility of a Carrier, as there is a "Carrier Group" for a reason. At the current military use cases, a floating aircraft platform is incredibly valuable, which is also why we've kept them out in open water since some of the wargames in the mid-2000s showed they're extremely vulnerable within places like the Persian Gulf. Thus, as long as we have a nuclear deterrent, there's no party that would be in a situation to take down a carrier without overwhelming reprisal.

And, even if the end of the Super Carrier actually happens by the end of the century, the most likely direction is a return to carriers of the WW2 size that are for a Drone air fleet. "The Carrier is Dead! Long Live the Carrier!"

The most important key military objectives for the USA is defending our borders, of which nearly all of it is coast line.

Blogger Resident Moron™ November 19, 2017 9:34 AM  

@23

Indeed, the Navy proved this to themselves long ago.

But it doesn't do their budget allocations any good to talk about it, so they don't. Nor admit it, so they don't.

Anonymous roadrage November 19, 2017 10:23 AM  

Gen. Montgomery once said:
There are two rules in warfare.
Never attack Russia. And never attack China.
Probably right.

Blogger JaimeInTexas November 19, 2017 10:39 AM  

@25. Looking Glass

"I also find the hatred for the Carrier to be interesting."

Because Carrier and group are a power projecting offensive system, that are not kept within 200 miles forum our shores.

The Russians seem, for what I read, building a Corvette centered navy. They are more concerned with defending their borders than projecting power abroad. The Russians do not have proper carriers and are more like missile carrying cruisers that also carry aircraft.

Anonymous Sam the Man November 19, 2017 10:49 AM  

To me, working in Industry, it is the inability to sustain a war. We simply do not have the productive capacity to keep a 90 division Army/Air force/Navy/ like we did in WWII. I work in electronics and we no longer have the production facilities to built things like we did in WWII. Same is true with tires, steel, lead (for SAA).

For example in WWII from 1940 to 1945 we made 334 metric tons of steel, but we started from a capacity of 37 million metric tons in 1940, by 1944 we made something like 92 million metric tons. Productive capacity peaking in 1973 when we made something like 137 million metric tons, today we produce around 78 million metric tons, about the same as we did in 1943, when our population was 45 % of todays.

Ohio used to be the tire capitol of the world, not so any more. Same is very much true of electronics, many of the fab facilities are not over seas as well as the packaging facilities.

The ability to project power has much to do with how deep your economy is. For us to enter a war when we are lacking rare earth metals, oil, steel capacity among other areas, should give our leadership pause. We are much like Great Britain in 1939, to be feared but any real serious war will be our downfall.

Anonymous Godfrey November 19, 2017 10:52 AM  

We have nothing to worry about, we have the secret weapon known as transvestites.

Blogger Stephen Davenport November 19, 2017 11:08 AM  

Yeah ole Vox Day has drank to much of the "Alt-Right" Kool-Aid..lol...name a country that can defeat us anywhere, but I will narrow it down for you, since you said we have gone the way of the Royal Navy, name the country that has defeated us or could defeat us on the seas..lol..name one..You are not as smart as you think you are Day.

Anonymous BBGKB November 19, 2017 11:23 AM  

new Zircon missiles, which reportedly travel at 4,600 mph. That sort of speed is bound to break any current anti-missile system

I am still going with #AffirmativeAction, this is just like when they brought Asians/Whites in to fix Obamacare. They must have realized they can't go forward with blacks looking at porn and gays playing World of Warcraft.

Perhaps they could do their recruiting in the middle of Detroit.

Don't joke about that a veteran I know who lives on the coast saved a postcard for a vet job fair in Detroit mailed to him.

We have nothing to worry about, we have the secret weapon known as transvestites.

You know I was joking about trannies being our own suicide bombers right? https://stonetoss.com/comic/friendly-fire/

name a country that can defeat us anywhere, but I will narrow it down for you,

How about the nation that attacked the USS Liberty with no reprisals?

Anonymous Looking Glass November 19, 2017 11:30 AM  

@27 JaimeInTexas

Correct, it's actual Power and the projection of it. That's why people work very hard to destroy it. It's the same with anti-ABM tech. We could never prevent Russia from pulling of a full-scale nuclear strike, but anti-ABM tech makes it economically impossible for anyone else to ever achieve that point. Thus the Left hates anti-ABM tech with a passion. (Thankfully the Japanese are not that stupid, which is why so much of it has been joint-ventures with them.)

The USA is the dominant economy in the world, so we have the largest vested interest in maintaining open shipping in the "Blue Water". The USA will always have an interest in maintaining open shipping in the Blue Water. That got us into 2 wars, in fact. (War of 1812 and WW1.) It'll always be in our strategic interest to act as such, which requires a skilled & powerful Navy.


@28 Sam the Man

For industrial scale in military applications, we don't need anything more than we already produce. Steel is relatively easy to produce at mass scale, to the point that China has put itself at something like 4x the capacity that they need. The computer tech needed, design and fabrication, is already done out of the New York fabs anyway.

The real question is, even if we put 5 million Men under arms, what are they invading? And what would we need that many for? No other country has the sea-lift capacity to use a full army to invade across a body of water, so Who's invading What that would require it?

There's a direction that general War Fighting is headed, but that's a longer discussion for another day. The main thing is that Modern Total War is off the table because the downside of the conflicts is too much. "Little Green Men" can make all major cities unlivable with fairly little work. MAD worked.

Anonymous Sam the Man November 19, 2017 11:33 AM  

Mr. Davenport,

You can win a conflict and loss an empire.

AKA the UK. Clear ruler of the waves in 1914 with size of fleet. Sort of beat or at least a draw in the battle of Jutland in 1916, but that battle demonstrated the UK did not have a qualitative superiority, in fact thy were decidedly technically behind. Nonetheless the German fleet completely destroyed in 1919 at Scapa flow. Yet the Washington conference saw the UK reduced to the power of the US, but with the lack of industrial capacity it meant they were for all practical purposes # 2. and every one knew it. The UK never again ruled the waves and were in fact in WWII distinctly second rate to both the US and Japan in 1941.

Now consider China and its industrial and technical rise. If they continue to become the great production house of the world and increasingly the leading edge in innovation, at some point South Korea and Japan will have to adapt to real politic, which means the US will stand alone in the pacific, without the industrial might to back up any serious threat. Much like the UK in 1895 when after the Venezuela crisis they decided they could never again even consider threatening the US in the western hemisphere, so too we will lose our position of preeminence in the eastern pacific.

Anonymous Looking Glass November 19, 2017 11:45 AM  

@33 Sam the Man

The South China Sea and Sea of Japan are sub-zones. That's what everyone there is keyed to dealing with. Everyone but the USA and France are pretty much out of the Power Projection business.

Blogger Ken Prescott November 19, 2017 11:49 AM  

"To many who have watched the SBIRS follow-on effort drag on for years, the suddenly convened industry day seemed odd. Industry sources said they were puzzled as to why the Air Force solicitation talks about an urgent need and then says a new system would not be deployed until 2029."

I'm utterly unpuzzled. Then again, I worked in defense aquisition for 14 years.

The system I spent most of my career in, the Defense Message System, was initially listed as a "Military Required Operational Capability" in 1988 with a fairly high priority (not Brickbat, but it wasn't at the bottom of the heap, either). It didn't achieve FOC until 2012. 24 years to deliver what was essentially a system for sending official organizational email (i.e., email that would be treated as if it were a letter signed by the unit commander) is insanely stupid.

2029 is actually a very short timeline for deploying a high complexity system like SBIRS Follow On. SBIRS itself was in Acquisition Milestone Hell for most of a decade, and that was before the abomination that is known as JCIDS (Joint Capabilities Integration Development System).

Also, "urgent need" isn't as urgent as it sounds any more. The new gold standard is "UMNS," "Unmet Mission Need Statement." That's Pentagonese for "Nobody told us we'd have to do (insert task name here) and we need (insert capability here) and it's going to cost (insert absolutely insane dollar figure here)."

(Worst month of my life: justifying an already-funded, already-nearly-done-with-construction fleet communications facility using the JCIDS Operational View diagrams and building a Capability Production Document. What ended up winning the day was my exasperated outburst during a VTC: "We're going to look pretty f---ing stupid when some Congresscritter asks why we spent eighty megabucks to build something that ends up being repurposed as a g--damn bowling alley.")

"Russian military observers are less surprised. I'm going to assume it has something to do with the new Zircon missiles, which reportedly travel at 4,600 mph. That sort of speed is bound to break any current anti-missile system. It also guarantees that the US Navy's control of the seas appears to have gone the way of the Royal Navy's."

FFS, Vox.

A 4,000 mph missile is NOT going to break Aegis--the latest variant of Standard that has entered service is designed to defeat hypersonic weapons, and battle management (which is the invisible piece that nobody ever really sees, not even major pubs like Combat Fleets and Jane's) has improved massively over the past decade. SBIRS and the SBIRS Follow-On are aimed at the ballistic missile threat, those typically move at 14,000 MPH.

Blogger Ken Prescott November 19, 2017 11:55 AM  

"Speed is not the only thing here. We do not know the flight profile of Zircon. If it is a water or land hugger along with evasive flying, yes carriers are in danger."

A hypersonic missile that can fly at sea level has to be built from unobtainium. Seriously. Sustained hypersonic flight at 100,000 feet is pretty damn challenging for thermal management--and that's with an air pressure of only 0.2 psi. At 14.7 psi . . . the missile will probably melt before it hits cruise speed.

Blogger Ken Prescott November 19, 2017 12:02 PM  

"A megaton class nuclear warhead detonated at 20,000 feet will kill anything within line of sight out to ... say a hundred miles from its hypocenter."

Get thee to a copy of Glasstone, you're overstating things bigly.

Anonymous Joe Katzman November 19, 2017 12:54 PM  

SBIRS job is to detect ballistic missile launches; anti-ship missiles aren't its job. The Zircons are a problem for the USN, but SBIRS isn't going to be how it gets handled.

Blogger Bob Loblaw November 19, 2017 1:44 PM  

Joe Katzman wrote:SBIRS job is to detect ballistic missile launches; anti-ship missiles aren't its job. The Zircons are a problem for the USN, but SBIRS isn't going to be how it gets handled.

Yeah, there's no connection between an early launch detection system and a cruise missile. SBIRS won't detect a Zircon launch.

Also, scramjets aren't the proverbial "I win button" for anti-ship warfare. We already have missiles that can intercept incoming ballistic missiles, and those typically come in between 2 and 4 times as fast as this one.

Blogger Bob Loblaw November 19, 2017 1:45 PM  

Most likely they want a new launch detection system because they're concerned the Norks might actually nuke somebody.

Anonymous Sim1776 November 19, 2017 2:00 PM  

Monty sucked as a general. He does have a point in this instance. Anti-ship systems are at the point where point defense is generally useless. Carriers are a relic from WW2. They're only useful in projecting imperial power upon 2nd and 3rd world nations.

Anonymous Bruce November 19, 2017 2:17 PM  

People will be putting flat decks on ships and launching planes from them forever. Doesn't mean today's carriers will be optimal forever.

Blogger Skyler the Weird November 19, 2017 3:15 PM  

Drone Carriers could be a thing. I loved playing the Mirak in Star Fleet Command. Waves and waves of drones coming in on those Command Cruisers and Katinga class cruisers.

Anonymous Pitcrew November 19, 2017 4:06 PM  

@22
soon down to 10. And not all are loaded or at sea at any one time. The replacements are also probably way to expensive for the Navy to afford. This is why the USAF should have copied the Russians and deployed the Midgetman- which was road mobile and cheap, compared to the Navy missiles.
https://infogalactic.com/info/MGM-134_Midgetman

Anonymous Anonymous November 19, 2017 4:23 PM  

SBIRS is more evidence that the U.S. is pursuing first strike counterforce capabilities. The vulnerability of Russia's nuclear arsenal is increasing much more quickly than the U.S. arsenal. Since 2009 we have had the capability to destroy all of Russia's silo based nuclear weapons using only SLBM's and just 20%~ of our ballistic missile warheads. Russia's navy is in a pitiful state and their nuclear subs are becoming obsolete faster than they can afford to replace them.

I think the U.S. is trying to send a message to smaller "rogue" states that a handful of nukes are no longer a credible deterrent. The danger with this strategy is that if Russia or Pakistan begin to believe their deterrence has been undermined their only logical option will be to increase the quantity of their weapons.

The risk is even there for China. The U.S. arsenal is much larger than China's for obvious historical reasons. If China feels like it has fallen behind in the race to develop a credible defense against ICBMs, it will have no choice but to increase it's stockpile of weapons.

Anonymous Anonymous November 19, 2017 4:25 PM  

Forgot to add for those interested in the subject:

https://thebulletin.org/how-us-nuclear-force-modernization-undermining-strategic-stability-burst-height-compensating-super10578

https://www.belfercenter.org/sites/default/files/files/publication/isec_a_00273_LieberPress.pdf

Anonymous Mr. Rational November 19, 2017 4:55 PM  

Ingot9455 wrote:I wonder what the real max operating range of the thing is and how the just coming out laser defenses work at that speed.
At 4600 MPH it will be travelling behind a wall of plasma.  Shooting at it with a laser will heat the plasma but the plasma will reflect and scatter the laser pulse.  Think of it as Star Trek style shields, only opaque and glowing white-hot.

@10 Exactly.  It's a sole-source deal, other companies should talk to their lawyers and congresscritters instead of trying to get into this rigged process.

Blogger Ken Prescott November 19, 2017 5:40 PM  

Pitcrew wrote:@22

soon down to 10. And not all are loaded or at sea at any one time. The replacements are also probably way to expensive for the Navy to afford. This is why the USAF should have copied the Russians and deployed the Midgetman- which was road mobile and cheap, compared to the Navy missiles.

https://infogalactic.com/info/MGM-134_Midgetman



There are very good reasons for NOT going road-mobile with your missiles. It works (sort of) in Russia because they're not squeamish about shooting their own people just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time (I've heard that anywhere from 10-50 people per year get shot by Strategic Rocket Forces personnel because they blundered into an unannounced SS-25 Topol relocation). In America . . . the Strategic Air Command Phoenix study at the end of the Cold War concluded that silo-based missiles are secure against all sub-nuclear threats " . . . from terrorists to tornadoes." Imagine the PR over some "unarmed peace protestor" getting shot by USAF Security Police for breaching the red zone of a Midgetman convoy.

Anonymous Pitcrew November 19, 2017 5:46 PM  

@45
China is rapidly increasing its stockpile of weapons. The Clinton tech transfer allowed them to MIRV. So the 60-70 ICBMs they possess will soon carry several hundred warheads, as opposed to 60-70. A few years of arsenal building and they could easily match the treaty limited US arsenal of 1,550 warheads. China also forms a nuclear bloc with Pakistan and North Korea. It's also worth noting that game theory is unstable with 3 actors. This is why the US (and Russia) is modernizing.

Anonymous Pitcrew November 19, 2017 5:54 PM  

@48
Then we are going to lose, because of feelings? I would trade 200-300 mobile points of failure and bad PR for the subs, which only have 2 bases and only a couple are at sea. The mobile land based missiles are also cheaper than the subs. Also it is worth noting, the Minuteman silos are 60 years old and have massive infrastructure issues- for example, did you know they almost flood every spring after the long Dakota winters? And, they can't move. Half century old infrastructure and weapons probably aren't a good deterrent against a hostile, Sinic force that is on parity with the West, and brand new.

Blogger Ken Prescott November 19, 2017 6:10 PM  

"Then we are going to lose, because of feelings?"

No. We would lose, in this case, because the vast majority of Americans are not cool with the level of security a land-mobile missile force would require. Imagine shutting down I-80 between Battle Mountain and Salt Lake for an entire day to let the Midgetman convoy clear out.

"I would trade 200-300 mobile points of failure and bad PR for the subs, which only have 2 bases and only a couple are at sea. The mobile land based missiles are also cheaper than the subs."

Land-based missiles have the same single points of failure--i.e., base infrastructure. You can't have them on the road 100% of the time.

Mobile missiles are NOT cheaper than subs because you also have to buy the dirt they roll over.

"Also it is worth noting, the Minuteman silos are 60 years old and have massive infrastructure issues- for example, did you know they almost flood every spring after the long Dakota winters?"

They "almost flood." I.e., they don't actually flood.

"Half century old infrastructure and weapons probably aren't a good deterrent against a hostile, Sinic force that is on parity with the West, and brand new."

How many nuclear missiles have been live-fired?

One. And that was 55 years ago. That particular missile and warhead combo is no longer in service.

If I were the Chinese 2nd Artillery Corps commander, the LAST thing I would want is for the Premier to call up and give the order to fire a live missile. I would be betting a bullet in the back of my head on whether or not Minister so-and-so black-marketed the materials for a DF-41 and used inferior materials to "finish" said missile...

Anonymous Napoleon 12pdr November 19, 2017 6:25 PM  

Ken Prescott is right. The Navy is quite aware of the threat, countermeasures are in hand.

As for unmanned aircraft...I've been in that business for nearly 25 years. They're useful, but not a panacea. Nor are they cheap. Once you get into the heavy stuff, they are every bit as expensive as a tactical jet.

Anonymous A Deplorable Paradigm Is More Than Twenty Cents November 19, 2017 6:26 PM  

@50 pitcrew
Then we are going to lose, because of feelings?

Dude, you're not serious. Remember Ferguson, MO.? Gentle Giant Dindu tries to disarm a cop and gets shot, then riots go on for days. You're proposing like 10x that yearly because there's always another low IQ thug willing to try to push things.

Your rolling convoy of MIRV death would have to be kept far away from places like Ferguson, MO. because how many burn-down-the-town riots per year are "too many"? How many of those before people start ambushes to keep out of their backyard?

Mobile Waco wouldn't have worked in the homogeneous US of the 50's for sure no way now.

Last up: show me the money.

Anonymous Bob Ramar November 19, 2017 6:39 PM  

@37 Mr. Prescott:

I don't get the Gladstone reference, but ok, 50 miles. Still a dead or disabled aircraft carrier.

Blogger Ken Prescott November 19, 2017 7:13 PM  

"I don't get the Gladstone reference, but ok, 50 miles. Still a dead or disabled aircraft carrier."

"Glasstone" refers to "The Effects of Nuclear Weapons," published by the US Government Printing Office. (The older version came with a circular sliderule that let you calculate weapons effects for whatever scenario you came up with, I think fourmilab.ch has a simulator for it.)

50 miles still vastly overstates even the mission kill radius of even a high-yield nuke. Blast overpressure falls off as a function of the square of the distance. At 50 miles, you'd get a minor gust of hot air.

Anonymous Mr. Rational November 19, 2017 7:39 PM  

@54  The Tsar Bomba was the largest nuclear device ever tested.  It was tested w/o its outer U-238 casing, so the actual yield was only about 40 megatons and not the design power of 100.

It was dropped over an arctic island.  Its fall was retarded by a parachute to allow the drop plane to get away.

Both the carrier aircraft and the chase plane survived the heat flash and shock wave.  They were far more fragile than aircraft carriers and a lot closer than 50 miles.

Blogger Ken Prescott November 19, 2017 7:58 PM  

"The Tsar Bomba was the largest nuclear device ever tested. It was tested w/o its outer U-238 casing, so the actual yield was only about 40 megatons and not the design power of 100."

58 megatons, actually.

It blowed up good. It blowed up REAL good.

Anonymous Pitcrew November 19, 2017 8:05 PM  

@51
Nevada/Utah salt flats and the Dakotas/Montana have more than enough room. Plus, who said folks have to know when a convoy moves through town, plus, here's the kicker- It ALREADY happens- just the drivers need a little more following distance.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCwlV_94kPE

@53
This stuff is nowhere near Ferguson, its just nuts to imply that.

Anonymous A Deplorable Paradigm Is More Than Twenty Cents November 19, 2017 8:44 PM  

@58
Nevada/Utah salt flats and the Dakotas/Montana have more than enough room.

LOL! Your convoys will look like bugs on a plate from orbit out on the plains and even more on the salt flats. The location will be continuously known in realtime, and won't have the hardening of silos so airbursts will smack them hard.

Plus, who said folks have to know when a convoy moves through town,

Dude, that's double stupid.

@53
This stuff is nowhere near Ferguson, its just nuts to imply that.


LOL! You're too short for your own ride. This is dorm room level.

PS:
Show me the money.

Anonymous Pitcrew November 19, 2017 9:05 PM  

@59
The time it takes for an enemy warhead to arrive at the mobile ICBMs location, the ICBM truck will have already moved.

Nuclear convoys already move all over the Western US. They avoid large cities. If a nations deterrent is failing because citizens are behaving badly- well that nation won't remain nuclear for long. China, Russia, Pakistan, N. Korea don't have this problem. Guess they'll be the ones nuclear armed.

Anonymous A Deplorable Paradigm Is More Than Twenty Cents November 19, 2017 9:20 PM  

@60
The time it takes for an enemy warhead to arrive at the mobile ICBMs location, the ICBM truck will have already moved.

LOL! You're too short for your own ride. What is an SLBM?

China, Russia, Pakistan, N. Korea don't have this problem.

China, Pakistan and North Korea don't drive ICBM's around on mobile launchers, either. The Russians have legacy mobile systems. Are they building new ones?

Guess they'll be the ones nuclear armed.

LOL! You're dumb. Do your dormies ever send you out on a beer run then go somewhere else just to ditch you? Wonder why?

Anonymous Pitcrew November 19, 2017 9:36 PM  

@61
The Chinese DF-31 and DF-41 are road mobile. Pakistan has road mobile IRBMs. North Korea's KN-18 is road mobile. There are pictures of these.

SLBM flight times are still over 10 minutes from any realistic launch point (deep ocean). These trucks are blast hardened, fast and spread out.

The cost per warhead was something like 1/2 for a road mobile vs. the SSBN option. The newer Columbia SSBN is even more expensive and has fewer missiles so that cost works out to around 1/3 or even 1/4. The road mobile ICBMs are much cheaper than SLBMs. Remember you are paying for the system. Base, SSBN or Truck, SLBMs or ICBMs, and finally MIRVs. Fewer crew are needed as well, and the main difference is a SSBN has a very expensive nuclear reactor on board.

Blogger James November 19, 2017 10:07 PM  

Ken Prescott wrote:

It works (sort of) in Russia because they're not squeamish about shooting their own people just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time (I've heard that anywhere from 10-50 people per year get shot by Strategic Rocket Forces personnel because they blundered into an unannounced SS-25 Topol relocation).


I don’t think that the USSA is any more squeamish about shooting their own people. I bet the DNC and the Clintons rack up at least 20 a year. That doesn’t even include the alphabet agencies.

Blogger Ken Prescott November 19, 2017 10:10 PM  

"The cost per warhead was something like 1/2 for a road mobile vs. the SSBN option.l

That was because SAC offloaded a bunch of required costs onto other commands and onto other federal agencies.

Anonymous Pitcrew November 19, 2017 10:11 PM  

@63
Global Strike Command truck crews won't shoot Americans, they will beat the shit them if they block a convoy however.
This is what happens on cuck island.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Srytx_01MW8

This is what is already happening btw.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZ0oeNJeEAQ

Anonymous Pitcrew November 19, 2017 10:12 PM  

@64
Ken, and the USN didn't? Do you have any clue how expensive a fully loaded SSBN is?

Blogger Ken Prescott November 19, 2017 11:06 PM  

"Ken, and the USN didn't? Do you have any clue how expensive a fully loaded SSBN is?"

Yes, I do. And you have no idea how expensive Midgetman would have actually been. The USN doesn't have to buy the Pacific Ocean or have a lot of escort & security for an SSBN. A Midgetman convoy would require a lot of dirt to run around on and a lot of bodies to secure the perimeter of said dirt and the convoy itself.

SAC's cost per warhead analysis assumed the Navy ate all required costs, including the costs of escort SSNs (which the Navy does not use--but SAC imputed 33% of the 688 & Seawolf program cost to the Trident program), but that somehow SAC wouldn't have to pony up the costs of securing the land (including the railroads' rights-of-way--yes, SAC was going to completely reroute the Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, Burlington Northern, and Santa Fe, and the feds weren't going to pay eminent domain), SAC also assumed TAC(!) was willing to eat the manpower costs associated with Security Forces not directly attached to the convoy itself (i.e., perimeter security for the reservations) and they understated the manpower needed to secure the convoys, too. They also assumed that there'd be sufficient water for their purposes at essentially zero cost--never mind that every drop of water available in the Great Basin is already spoken for already by various municipalities, Indian tribes, ranchers, and farmers.

The Midgetman basing study is taught in defense acquisition circles as (a) an example of how to lie with numbers and (b) how to get your program killed the instant it looks even remotely politically feasible to do so.

The reason nuclear convoys today don't require that level of security is that the weapon is not ready to fire, while the Midgetman launcher is designed to be ready to shoot as soon as you park the thing. A Midgetman convoy would require (in my estimation) at least a rifle company riding shotgun to ensure sufficient security, and that's in a relatively secure sanctuary. (GLCM was generally considered to be the most insecure and crisis-destabilizing weapon system ever fielded because they never could get enough security around the damn things.)

SAC's own (overly optimistic, remember) analysis said that basing at Wendover (their preferred base site) would require closing I-80 for 24 hours at a time between Battle Mountain and Salt Lake City, to allow the missiles to deploy without being sighted from the highway during initial run-out. They usually tried to talk around that point. There was a corollary to that study that concluded that I-80 would end up being the ONLY road in that neck of the woods--too many side roads would end up getting closed permanently and a bunch of communities getting bulldozed because of security issues.

Blogger Thucydides November 19, 2017 11:37 PM  

The larger issue is we are entering an era where another true revolution in military affairs is taking place (there have been a multitude of announced "Revolutions" but realistically they have essentially been putting many of the pieces of the true military revolution in place).

The best analogy is the "Infantry Revolution" that started in the mid 1400's. Weapons and tactics were developed which allowed large numbers of relatively unskilled townsmen to take to the field and effectively fight against fully armoured cavalry (AKA Knights) in their typical feudal battle arrays. The problem is that knights, Samurai or even Ottoman Jannessaries were very expensive, since they required full time training since boyhood, and were unavailable for any productive economic purpose (pillaging may be a gain for you, but a net loss overall).

While the Infantry Revolution may have required more expensive weapons individually (steel crossbows and eventually handheld firearms), the real beauty was you didn't need to spend a lot of time training to effectively use these weapons, and they were incredibly effective (a longbow can deliver @ 100J of energy to the target, a crossbow @ 200J while an arquebus can deliver @ 1000J of energy, an order of magnitude difference).

Today we are seeing the development of the tactics (4GW) and the application of technology to make small, cheap and effective weapons that are effective against armoured fighting vehicles and aircraft (ATGM's and SAMs) and to a limited extent against ships as well (you have to go out to sea to get at the ships, which make the contest less unequal, unless you can stalk them in port like the USS Cole).

So it isn't *just* the aircraft carriers. Tanks, warplanes, base infrastructure, roads and pretty much the entire industrial ecosystem needed to build and field the very expensive high end weapons systems and the skilled personnel needed to use and maintain them become "at risk", and increasingly difficult to use.

By this analogy we are probably near the end of the 1400's or into the early 1500's. Knights have full plate armour which is proof against shot and virtually any infantry weapon, but it is increasingly costly to train and equip large forces of feudal military men, while the opposite side of the field is being flooded with pikes, crossbows and more and more guns....

Anonymous Pitcrew November 19, 2017 11:42 PM  

Looks like the mix is the thing. Hopefully an opponent never figures how to sink a few Columbia SSBNs. Even using Cold War estimates- which I agree are flawed, the Ohio SSBN carried 24 Tridents with 12 warheads apiece. Treaties have reduced this to 20 Tridents with 4-5 warhead apiece. The Columbia will be even more expensive than the Ohio and will only carry 16 Tridents, again with a treaty limited 4 or 5 warheads.

This breaks the cost curve. Having a few mobiles moving around Dugway/Northern Nevada or other range lands would enhance American nuclear deterrence. You can't put all of your eggs in one basket.

Anonymous Ahärôwn November 19, 2017 11:53 PM  

Ken Prescott wrote:"Ken, and the USN didn't? Do you have any clue how expensive a fully loaded SSBN is?"

Yes, I do. And you have no idea how expensive Midgetman would have actually been. The USN doesn't have to buy the Pacific Ocean or have a lot of escort & security for an SSBN. A Midgetman convoy would require a lot of dirt to run around on and a lot of bodies to secure the perimeter of said dirt and the convoy itself.

SAC's cost per warhead analysis assumed the Navy ate all required costs, including the costs of escort SSNs (which the Navy does not use--but SAC imputed 33% of the 688 & Seawolf program cost to the Trident program), but that somehow SAC wouldn't have to pony up the costs of securing the land (including the railroads' rights-of-way--yes, SAC was going to completely reroute the Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, Burlington Northern, and Santa Fe, and the feds weren't going to pay eminent domain), SAC also assumed TAC(!) was willing to eat the manpower costs associated with Security Forces not directly attached to the convoy itself (i.e., perimeter security for the reservations) and they understated the manpower needed to secure the convoys, too. They also assumed that there'd be sufficient water for their purposes at essentially zero cost--never mind that every drop of water available in the Great Basin is already spoken for already by various municipalities, Indian tribes, ranchers, and farmers.

The Midgetman basing study is taught in defense acquisition circles as (a) an example of how to lie with numbers and (b) how to get your program killed the instant it looks even remotely politically feasible to do so.

The reason nuclear convoys today don't require that level of security is that the weapon is not ready to fire, while the Midgetman launcher is designed to be ready to shoot as soon as you park the thing. A Midgetman convoy would require (in my estimation) at least a rifle company riding shotgun to ensure sufficient security, and that's in a relatively secure sanctuary. (GLCM was generally considered to be the most insecure and crisis-destabilizing weapon system ever fielded because they never could get enough security around the damn things.)

SAC's own (overly optimistic, remember) analysis said that basing at Wendover (their preferred base site) would require closing I-80 for 24 hours at a time between Battle Mountain and Salt Lake City, to allow the missiles to deploy without being sighted from the highway during initial run-out. They usually tried to talk around that point. There was a corollary to that study that concluded that I-80 would end up being the ONLY road in that neck of the woods--too many side roads would end up getting closed permanently and a bunch of communities getting bulldozed because of security issues.


Interesting - this might explain why, aside from the fact that America does much of the world's policing, smaller nuclear-capable countries like Canada never bothered with nukes, as having a small navy, we don't have the delivery systems necessary to field such things.

Anonymous Anonymous November 20, 2017 12:25 AM  

@67

Ken, thank you for taking the time to write up comments that are informative and objective.

Anonymous A Most Deplorable Paradigm Is More Than Twenty Cents November 20, 2017 12:38 AM  

@pitcrew

Dude, you're asking for a fleet of entirely new solid fueled ICBM's plus transporters to be tested and fielded while closing Minuteman silos in order to maintain treaty limitations.

Show. Me. The. Money.

Dude, no matter how you look at it, US nuclear forces are not going to be restructured to suit the mental masturbation of some guy on the Internet. Sorry about that.

Anonymous Anonymous November 20, 2017 12:48 AM  

Pitcrew wrote:Looks like the mix is the thing. Hopefully an opponent never figures how to sink a few Columbia SSBNs. Even using Cold War estimates- which I agree are flawed, the Ohio SSBN carried 24 Tridents with 12 warheads apiece. Treaties have reduced this to 20 Tridents with 4-5 warhead apiece. The Columbia will be even more expensive than the Ohio and will only carry 16 Tridents, again with a treaty limited 4 or 5 warheads.

This breaks the cost curve. Having a few mobiles moving around Dugway/Northern Nevada or other range lands would enhance American nuclear deterrence. You can't put all of your eggs in one basket.


That is why we have a mix. Our eggs aren't all in one basket. Having a few mobile launchers anywhere in the U.S. would not improve our nuclear deterrence and would require the development of an entirely new ICBM.

"This breaks the cost curve" - What do you mean by this?

Anonymous Pitcrew November 20, 2017 12:49 AM  

@72
That's pretty funny, I'll give you that. If a few Midgets had been procured in 1990 they'd be cheaper now- per warhead than the per warhead costs of Columbia SSBN based warheads. This is mostly because treaties have limited the U.S. arsenal and even the GE agrees that these treaties aren't in America's best interest. That being said, this is an incredibly narrow discussion that there is no way any of us have all the tools to answer fully, because those facts are probably very highly classified within U.S., Chinese and Russian governments.

And I should point out, continued nuclear modernization will require money. Alot of it.

Anonymous Pitcrew November 20, 2017 12:56 AM  

@73
By down MIRVing Tridents the cost per warhead goes up. An SSBN costs relatively the same to deploy whether it has 300 warheads or 80.

Other than that, Bombers aren't on 24-hour alert anymore. SSBNs have dropped from dozens to 14 and will probably drop further. And missile silos don't move.

Look I'm not a fan of restarting the Cold War, but somebody has to be ready in case one starts with China. That means weapon systems. And I should point out the USAF is developing an entirely new ICBM right now, the GBSD.

Blogger Ken Prescott November 20, 2017 7:58 AM  

"Look I'm not a fan of restarting the Cold War, but somebody has to be ready in case one starts with China. That means weapon systems. And I should point out the USAF is developing an entirely new ICBM right now, the GBSD."

True. And land-mobile basing is going to, once again, lose out because it's the most expensive per warhead AND it annoys the locals to no end without appreciably increasing survivability.

Land-mobile basing requires one element to actually work: fairly robust ABM defenses. The two elements create a synergistic effect. But ABM defense for the land-mobile basing areas (it would be terminal defense a la Sprint) will have to be costed as part of the defense.

Absent ABM, the best way for the USAF to stay in the missile business would be for them to buy some Columbia SSBNs and put the old SAC stripe on the bow.

Blogger Ken Prescott November 20, 2017 8:11 AM  

@68

There's a video out there that talks to some of the issues you're describing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CO6M2HsoIA

Anonymous Pitcrew November 20, 2017 8:35 AM  

@76
Are you factoring in SSBN port ops and nuclear reactor refueling into your calcs? SSBNs also need protection from surface ships. And again 1 Columbia would have 1 point of failure. 50 mobiles could do the same spread out over Nevada and Utah, with another 50 in Montana-N.Dakota. And I'll mention I'm a fan of train mobile MX as well.

Blogger Ken Prescott November 20, 2017 2:48 PM  

@79

Good God, you're the guy who did the analysis of alternatives for SAC!

Seriously, your idea that SSBNs need to be protected against surface ships is downright silly.

And Rail Garrison Peacekeeper was never going to actually happen because it would shut down the entire US rail network within 72 hours ofa decision to flush the missiles out of garrison.

If China decided to hold a no-notice exercise a few days before the EBT cards recharged, the ensuing dindu riots across the fruited plain would be spectacular...

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