Nuclear Friday: Debutante’s Parade

The title background image is a classic example of a Soviet mobile ICBM at its coming out party, the victory day parade in Moscow. This sort of thing never happened in the US. We didn’t deploy road mobile ICBMs, and the US was always in most ways much more concerned with secrecy than the Soviets ever were. This is probably because the Soviet government had more effective ways of dealing with leaks if they got out of hand while the US for the most part did not. The US did have mobile intermediate systems like the Pershings, and many short range systems, all of these were deployed in Europe, and were moved mostly at night, covered in tarps, and always under heavy guard.

The US is almost as secretive as it has always been, and Russia, inheritor of all the former Soviet nuclear capability still has the old traditions of openness. But they don’t need to have a military parade to show off their strengths, they have YouTube now. Russia even has a YouTube channel in English to present their view on strategic issues to the wider world. Russia Today isn’t always reliable on the facts, but it is very reliable about how strategic issues are seen in the Russian government.

Here’s a Russia Today video about what is the biggest conflict on high level strategic policy between the US and Russia as it seemed in 2012:

First off, the title of this video is preposterous. “Preemptive Strike” is an old-timey arms control theory term that refers to using nuclear weapons to attack command and control systems and the nuclear weapons of the other side. There is absolutely no fucking way Russia would ever nuke the Aegis Ashore missile defense complex already operational in Romania or the similar base under construction in Poland. Just not gonna happen. Not even a conventional strike into Romania or Poland, which is all it would really take though there would be losses, is ever gonna happen.

The true test of whether Trump is Putin’s bitch as I suspect he is, is the Polish Aegis Ashore  installation. If it isn’t cancelled and becomes fully operational in early 2018, we will know Trump is legit.

And keep in mind I understand Russia’s point of view. Aegis Ashore really is directed against Russia in the long term. As the US Navy states here, the Aegis site in Romania is just barely a threat to Russian capabilities. The Missile Defense Agency gives similar assurances about the system in Poland. And they’re right! However, I do think that once these systems are in place, their capabilities can be upgraded such that they might really threaten Russia’s ability to at least have flexible options for nuclear response.

I get it. It’s like if Russia put an S-400 and all its radars near Nuevo Laredo. The S-400 isn’t nearly as capable as Aegis Ashore backed up by mobile PAC-3, but it’s still pretty threatening and has been recently deployed in Syria.

Missile defense has improved as the US has “bigly” developed  it under Obama, and also in Japan, South Korea, and an independent program in Germany. That may not really matter. Russia has been on that, and has a solution. That’s what Russia Insider seems to think, and I believe they are right. But what’s this? Not just announcing a new missile on YouTube, but actually showing off the new mobile launcher in Russian cities? Seems like old times, as if the 2015 Bear incidents were not enough.

But Russia needed a missile parade. A Debutante Ball for old times sake:

There it is, the Yars mod based on the old Topol. I’m impressed. Russia’s mobile ICBM forces had been degrading to ineffectiveness since the early 90’s. This is the missile that brings them back. As the video says, this missile can launch a small number of low yield maneuverable reentry nukes that will not be able to be intercepted for twenty years. They are probably right, though the amount of deviation from a parabola depicted in this video was wildly unrealistic

Missile defense and new Russian capabilities are really a twenty year game. And parading the Yars just like old times shows a commitment to the long game.

Next Week:

How does Yars penetration really work and how does this relate to early types of terminal guidance?

Media Note: 

Yesterday I saw an episode of The American Experience that a friend DVRd for me. The episode is titled “Command and Control” and is based on interviews Eric Schlosser conducted for his book Command and Control. I loved it for the interviews with the survivors of the deadliest and highest yield Broken Arrow incident.

Search your TV listings and DVR it. Amazing.


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