18 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Observer
Observer
November 2, 2015 4:38 pm

Probably. Those things are notoriously high maintenance and if they had problems even maintaining aircraft in ’91, the nukes would have been even further ahead on the list.

Dr Mark
Dr Mark
November 2, 2015 6:09 pm

This is an area (proliferation and prevalence of nuclear weapons) that i try to track. There is evidence that Russia not only possesses but may still field tactical nuclear weapons on its attack sub fleet.

http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/russia-might-still-deploy-sub-launched-nuclear-cruise-missiles/

However the primary concern about this is related to land defense in the USA rather than ship defense. I assume the rational being that a tactical nuclear missile is countered in a similar manner to a conventional missile for most advanced warships with area air defense capability.

Also of note (and pleasingly well timed for this comment) the blimp above DC that recently went for a day out (http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/2015/10/30/jlens-hangs-by-thread/74873058/) is a system designed to counter this threat. Experts in the field fear that cruise missiles fired at DC from an attack submarine off the us coast would be difficult to detect using methods of air defense including the current incarnation of the ballistic missile early warning system. (see http://missilethreat.com/us-concerned-russian-submarines-nuclear-armed-cruise-missiles-near-washington/ for additional info).

For more info on the currently fielded BMEWS – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solid_State_Phased_Array_Radar_System is a good place to start.

Hohum
Hohum
November 2, 2015 6:48 pm

There is nothing new about the JLENS concept, the British tried a balloon born radar system for detecting low flying threats (basically what a cruise missile is) in the 1950s but cancelled it. The US had a system that was used for detecting low flying smuggling aircraft in the 1980s and Westinghouse credited a system made by itself for giving sufficient warning time for the Kuwaiti Royal family to escape the country 1990.

I personally doubt the Russians carry nuclear equipped cruise missiles on their attack boats, there are much better uses for those slots in the torpedo room. Far more concerning is the believed INF treaty violation around GLCM that is being reported.

Dr Mark
Dr Mark
November 2, 2015 7:27 pm
Reply to  Hohum

Agree completely on that point.

Dr Mark
Dr Mark
November 2, 2015 7:27 pm
Reply to  Think Defence

Thanks TD. commented a few times a long time ago – love the site. Daily reading.

Dr Mark
Dr Mark
November 2, 2015 7:30 pm
Reply to  Dr Mark

Specifically the destabilizing threat of the INF violation.

Hohum
Hohum
November 2, 2015 7:57 pm

Destabilising but unsurprising, for two reasons:

1) Russia clearly concluded sometime ago that long range cruise missiles were their most reliable mechanism for long-range deep strike with conventional warheads, they have proliferated them through the strategic aviation and naval assets and IMO it was only a natter of time before they wanted to land launch them

2) Russia’s nuclear posture is a central part of its menace, it uses its *interesting* nuclear weapons use policy and hints that nuclear weapons are deployed at tactical levels dissuade non-Russian interference in what it call its near abroad (former empire). Violating the INF treaty further raises the risk around their possible use should anybody think, say, coming to Ukraine’s aid militarily was a good idea.

duker
duker
November 2, 2015 10:19 pm
Reply to  Dr Mark

Would that be the INF violation by The US by using land launched armed drones which are covered by the definition in the treaty).

Or does the US get around it by ‘deciding’ that the technology wasnt invented at time of signing so obviously isnt covered . They used the same reasoning to get around the Washington naval treaty of the 1920s regarding maximum displacements by not counting radar equipment.

Dr Mark
Dr Mark
November 2, 2015 10:53 pm

I think that is an unfounded claim – raised by Russia in response to being called out on their non compliant technology.

While I will accept that Drones are consistent with the INF Treaty’s stated definition of a cruise missile – “an unmanned, self-propelled vehicle that sustains flight through the use of aerodynamic lift over most of its flight path.” they are NOT launched from a ground-launched cruise missile launcher as defined by the treaty, rendering them treaty exempt. Drones are able to return to a base for servicing and reuse – something that distinguishes drones from missiles.

I think the more pertinent issue is that the INF treaty specifically sought to limit intermediate range nuclear forces. None of the US drones are nuclear capable nor is there any program underway to deploy them as such.

And outside the legality of the treaty i know which system i think will undermine strategic stability more.

Hohum
Hohum
November 2, 2015 11:05 pm

UAS are exempt under the INF treaty, as ably demonstrated by our new poster.

Observer
Observer
November 3, 2015 12:57 am

But if I recall correctly, wasn’t the US first to abandon that treaty? I know of it tangentially from the Russian/Indian development of the Brahmos and the 290km range limit (capped at 300km via that same treaty).

As for the offshore sub launch, wasn’t that called a “depressed trajectory shot” in the past? IIRC ballistic missiles are banned from approaching past a certain limit because of the high chance of a decapitation nuclear shot.

I could be wrong though, my in depth interest in instant sunshine took a capability gap from ’91 after the USSR checked out of history.

stephen duckworth
November 3, 2015 5:11 am
Reply to  Dr Mark

Interesting Dr Mark so a stealth drone loaded with nukes is emempt? Time to get back to the negotiations me thinks. It won’t stop the nutters but at least it will put a pair of nut crackers on their testicels:-)

Hohum
Hohum
November 3, 2015 7:28 am

Observer,

You are confusing the INF treaty with the MTCR. The U.S. has not abandoned the INF Treaty.

Rocket Banana
November 3, 2015 8:52 am

What is the point of the INF treaty if it doesn’t cover air, sub and surface launched missiles?

It also doesn’t explicity state nuclear missiles, it only implies such.

Hohum
Hohum
November 3, 2015 10:10 am

Simon,

INF covers missiles whether or not they are nuclear, which is why the US currently doesn’t deploy ground launched cruise missile at all.

Rocket Banana
November 3, 2015 10:22 am

So what’s the big deal about ground-launched then? Sheer numbers? Proximity?

It just seems mad that it’s okay for a hundred American destroyers and subs to launch a hundred TLAM each but GLCM is such a no-no.

Hohum
Hohum
November 3, 2015 10:38 am

It’s part accident of history,

The INF treaty was convenient for both the Soviets and the US as it got rid of a class of weapon that both wanted disposed of. Arguably, cruise missiles probably weren’t the main target but rather accurate intermediate range weapons such as the SS-20 and the Pershing II that were very hard to counter (and crucially had very short flight times) but could theoretically devastate rear area infrastructure.

and part deterrence theory,

Such weapons were seen as an escalation path between tactical nuclear weapons and strategic ones, many argued that by removing them it would be easier to avoid an escalation from a tactical exchange to a full strategic exchange.

Remember, air and sea launched cruise missiles were caught under the START treaty as strategic weapons and limited in their numbers. These were considered strategic rather than intermediate weapons.