SPREADING NUCLEAR DISINFORMATION

Warrior Maven

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By Peter Huessy, President of GeoStrategic Analysis, Potomac, Maryland - Senior Warrior Maven Columnist

NBC NEWS COMMENTATOR SEBASTIEN ROBLIN WRITES ABOUT NUCLEAR DETERRENCE. AND IN THE SPACE OF 1000 WORDS MAKES 26 ERRORS. HERE IS MY ANALYSIS IN CAPS.

COMMENTARY: U.S. military has enough nukes to start Armageddon. Kill $100 billion program to make more.
NBCNews.com, 16 Feb 21
Sébastien Roblin

A fight is brewing on Capitol Hill over continuing a program, begun under President Barack Obama, and supported by President Donald Trump, that will cost an estimated $100 billion to develop and deploy improved ground-based missiles that would be used only in a civilization-shattering nuclear war.

PRH: UNTRUE-ICBMS ALWAYS AVAILABLE FOR A LIMITED STRIKE RESPONSE/ A SIGNIFICANT PORTION OF OUR NUCLEAR DETERRENT WILL SURVIVE EVEN THE MOST MASSIVE RUSSIAN STRIKE. INCLUDING SOME NUMBER OF ICBM MISSILES, THIS FACTOR ALONE PROVES US ICBMS PREVENT ARMAGEDDON…..

The Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent is intended to replace Minuteman III intercontinental-range ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, in underground silos spread out across Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming. Currently, 400 Minuteman missiles are actively deployed. Northrop Grumman was awarded $13.3 billion last year to develop the weapons, 666 of which would be procured, with 400 of them actively deployed.

Most likely the new missiles' advocates — who include Republicans, centrist Democrats and Air Force brass, in addition to a massive industry lobbying effort — will prevail. But that's too bad, as the new weapon system devotes a massive sum of money to improving the U.S. ability to threaten a marginally higher-grade nuclear apocalypse than what it can threaten now.

PRH: MM MAKES ANY CONTEMPLATED RUSSIAN STRIKE TECHNOLGICALLY IMPOSSIBLE AND THUS DETERS ANY SUCH STRIKE. WHO SAYS SO? THE ADMIRAL WHO HEADS THE NAVY’S NUCLEAR SSP AND OUR SUBMARINE DETERRENT. ICBMS ARE ALSO NEARLY 50% OF ALL THE WARHEADS ON ALERT THAT HOLD AT RISK THE RUSSIAN RESERVE OF ICBMs AND THUS AS THEY ARE 99-100% OF THE TIME ON ALERT, SERVE AS A CRITICAL DETERRENT, EQUALLY VALUABLE AS THE SUBMARINE LEG OF THE TRIAD..

Land-based missiles are generally understood to be the most vulnerable and least flexible of America's triad of strategic nuclear forces intended to dissuade nuclear attacks from rival powers by promising city-leveling retribution.

PRH: THE US NUCLEAR DTERRENT IS NOT AIMED AT ANYONE’S CITIES. MAD OR MUTUAL ASSURED DESTRUCTION WENT OUT THE WINDOW NEARLY 60 YEARS AGO.

Unlike with the Navy's submerged missile submarines or the Air Force's airborne bombers, the locations of America's land-based ICBMs are well known, so the states harboring them would be plastered by enemy nuclear strikes in a war.

PRH: IF THE ICBMS WOULD BE TARGETED WHAT HAPPENED TO THE IDEA OUR ENEMIES WOULD ONLY ATTACK OUR CITIES? THE 2 SUB-BASES AND 3 BOMBERS BASE LOCATIONS  ARE ALSO WELL KNOWN, CONTAIN 1200 WARHEADS (300% OF THE ICBM WARHEADS) AND THUS ARE MUCH MORE LUCRATIVE TARGETS. SHOULD WE GET RID OF THEM AS WELL?

Indeed, the moment the heat flash of an adversary's ICBM launch was detected, American or Russian leaders would have only 15 to 30 minutes warning time to consider whether to launch their own ICBMs before they were likely to be destroyed on the "use them or lose them" principle.

PRH: IF YOU THINK THE RUSSIANS ARE IRRATIONAL OR SUICIDAL, AND THEY WOULD LAUNCH 900-1000 WARHEADS AGAINST OUR NEARLY 500 ICBM ASSETS. THEN NO US DETERRENT WOULD COMPEL THE RUSSIANS TO STAND DOWN.

By contrast, the two other nuclear triad prongs are less vulnerable to a surprise attack, giving politicians more time to determine whether a nuclear response is warranted.

PRH: A SURPRISE ATTACK AGAINST OUR ICBMS IS NOT IN THE CARDS AS THE RUSSIANS WOULD HAVE TO GO ON ALERT TO A HIGHER LEVEL TO CARRY OUT SUCH AN ATTACK. ALLOWING THE US TO GO ON HIGHER ALERT AND MAKE ITS FORCES MORE SURIVABLE.  MAJOR ARMS CONTROL GROUPS SUCH AS FAS, CEIP AND ACA HAVE ALL RECENTLY RECANTED AND NOW AGREE WITH THE 2018 NUCLEAR POSTURE REVIEW ANY SUCH RUSSIAN ATTACK IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. ROBLIN NEEDS TO BONE-UP ON HIS FACTS.

The Navy's extremely stealthy Ohio-class missile submarines are largely immune to the threat of a pre-emptive strike.

PRH: NOT THOSE IN PORT.  AND A TECH BREAKTHROUGH MEANS THE SUBS UNDERWATER COULD BE ATTRITED OVER TIME WITHOUT THE US KNOWING THE UNDERWATER ENEMY.

Air Force B-52s and B-2 bombers armed with nuclear weapons can be used for missions other than all-out nuclear warfare. And both of those forces are also being expensively modernized already.

PRH: SO, WHAT? BOMBERS GENERALLY TAKE MORE TIME TO GET TO THEIR TARGETS. WAR MIGHT BE TERMINATED BY THEN. ALTHOUGH ALL  ELEMENTS OF THE NUKE FORCE CAN BE USED FOR OTHER THAN ALL OUT NUCLEAR WAR. AND BOMBER NUKE COSTS ARE ONLY 3% OF THE TOTAL BOMBER COSTS AND THUS. HARDLY EXPENSIVE.IN FACT A BARGAIN FOR A GREAT CAPABILITY

Given the advantages of air- and sea-based nuclear deterrents and their ongoing upgrades, there's a good case to be made that the land-based missile force could be downsized or retired.

PRH: THERE IS NO GOOD CASE TO BE MADE FOR DOWNSIZING OR RETIREMENT. AND NO AMERICAN PRESDIENT OVER 12 ADMINISTRATIONS HAS EVER MADE SUCH A DECISION. THE REASON IS SIMPLY: THE ICBMS REMAIN CRITICAL FOR DETERRENCE.

Even former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis promoted the land-based nukes as a decoy of sorts for enemy weapons — a "nuclear sponge" meant to draw nuclear weapons away from coastal cities and military bases.

PRH: NO, MATTIS DID NOT. THE SPONGE IS AN IDEA FROM THE GLOBAL ZERO FOLKS. ICBMS ARE NOT A SPONGE IN THAT EVEN AFTER USING 1000 WARHEADS AGAINST THESE MM III MISSILE SILOS, THE RUSSIANS WOULD HAVE HUNDREDS OF REMAINING WARHEADS AVAILABLE TO DESTROY MOST AMERICAN CITIES.

Proponents of the $100 billion modernization plan point to the nearly half-century-old age of the Minuteman III and argue that a new design is needed to overcome missile defense capabilities.

PRH: THE NEW DESIGN WILL BE CHEAPER TO OPERATE BY UPWARDS OF 70%; WILL BE ABLE TO OVERCOME ENEMY DEFENSES, WILL BE MORE ACCURATE.

Though details are scant, the new missile should be larger and more accurate, and it should be armed with a more powerful nuclear warhead.

PRH: THE WARHEADS, SILO INFRASTRUCTURE AND C3 ALL HAVE TO BE REDONE FOR THE MMIII AS WELL AS THE GBSD. WHAT IS THE POINT OF KEEPING THE MMII—YOU WILL SPEND MORE MONEY, HAVE A LESS CAPABLE MISSILE AND THEN HAVE TO SOON RETIRE THE MISSILE ANYWAY. A TRIFECTA OF STUPIDITY. 

But even if we assume that land-based missiles are necessary to maintain a nuclear sponge to "soak up" enemy attacks,

PRH:THAT IS NOT WHAT THE ICBMS ARE FOR. WHEN I NEED AN ASSURED RESPONSE TO THE NEW RUSSIAN STRATEGY OF LIMITED STRIKES AND ESCLATE TO WIN, GBSD GIVES ME A GREAT WEAPON—A SINGLE WARHEAD IF NEEDED RATHER THAN A LARGER NUMBR OF WARHEADS FROM A SUBMARINE LAUNCHED MISSILE WHICH MAY NOT BE NEEDED. ICBMS HAVE ALWAYS HELD AT RISK THE SOVIET AND NOW RUSSIAN MISSILE RESERVE FORCE.

…it isn't true that there's no other choice but to replace the Minuteman III. To start with, the datedness of the Minuteman is overstated, as the missiles recently had most of their internal components replaced and upgraded.

PRH: NO; MM HAD ONLY A PARTIAL GUIDANCE UPGRADE AND PROPULSION REPLACEMENT  STARTING IN 1995 AND BOUGHT THE MISSILE A 20 YEAR EXTENSION ACCORDING TO THE DIRECTOR OF REQUIREMENTS FOR SPACE COMMAND. THAT BRINGS MM VIABILITY TO ROUGHLY 2030. OUR MARGIN OF ERROR IS CLOSING FAST. AS GENERAL HYTEN AS EXPLAINED, BEYOND 2030 MM STARTS FALLING APART.

Additional refurbishing could keep the current missiles operational for decades.

PRH: BALONEY. NO TRUTH TO SUCH AN ASSERTION. THE MILITARY AND CIVILIANS THAT OPERATE THE MISSILE CONCUR THAT GBSD IS ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL TO COME ONLINE AS SCHEDULED. OUR COMMANDER OF STRATCOM AND OUR VICE CHAIRMAN OF THE JCS HAVE BOTH SO TESTIFIED.

Alternatively, the Pentagon could look into modifying the Navy's nuclear missiles to launch them by land.
PH; THEY DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH “LEGS’ TO GET TO THEIR TARGETS AND WOULD COST CONSIDERABLY MORE THAN THE GBSD. MORE MONEY AND LESS CAPABILITY—APPARENTLY WHAT ROBLIN THINKS IS CHARACTRISTIC OF SOUND POLICY.

LAUNCH NAVY MISSILES FROM LAND—I SEE DUPLICATE THE VULNERABILITY OF ICBMS THAT HAS PUT EVERYONES KNICKERS IN A TWIST IN THE FIRST PLACE!

These less expensive options may not boast the features of a shiny, brand-new missile — but there's good reason to question how much added strategic deterrence value those features bring.

PH: YOU COULD MAKE THE SAME ARGUMENT RE ANY LEG OF OUR DETERRENT. THE MEASURE OF EFFECTIVENESS IS NOT TOTAL YIELD, IT IS OVERALL FLEXIBILITY AND RESPONSIVENESS, SO AN ENEMY CANNOT REMAIN IN A SANCTUARY FROM WHICH TO ATTACK THE UNITED STATES AND OUR ALLIES.

Most of the current force carries warheads 22 times more powerful than the Little Boy atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

Advocates of the new program frequently cite new nuclear systems deployed by China and Russia as necessitating improved land-based missiles in the U.S., but they often fail to mention that those improvements may be to make up for perceived advantages the U.S. has, such as stealth bombers and missile defenses.

PH: CHINA AND RUSSIA DEPLOYED NEW SYSTEMS OF NUCLEAR PLATFORMS NOW NUMBERING 30 NEW TYPES JUST SINCE 2010 LONG BEFORE THE US STARTED DOING RESEARCH FOR OUR NEW BOMBER. AS FOR MISSILE DEFENSE, RUSSIA IS ON ITS FIFTH GENERATION DEPLOYMENTS AROUND MOSCOW,  HAS 70+ ABM INTERCEPTORS WHILE THE US HAS 44 INTERCEPTORS AND A FIRST-GENERATION DEFENSE. CHINA AND RUSSIANS HUGE GROWTH IN MODERNIZATION HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH OVERCOMING AMERICAN DEEFNSES WHICH CAN ONLY DEAL WITH LIMITED ROGUE STATE THREATS.

It's also worth noting that the U.S. may not want to use ICBMs against China at all, given that they would have to overfly Russian airspace and could inadvertently trigger a nuclear attack.

Though it's true that Russia and China have recently shown interest in boosting their missile defense capabilities, they remain far behind the U.S.

PH: NOT TRUE. RUSSIA HAS 70+ 5TH GENERATION INTERCEPTORS.

And in the unlikely event that Russia or China somehow developed better missile defense capability than the U.S. could manage, the tests, expenses and time required would make it easy to see this development coming, allowing Washington to reconfigure its nuclear forces accordingly.

PRH: RUSSIA AND CHINA CAN DEPLOY MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEMS FAR FASTER THAN THE 13 YEAR AVERAGE FOR US MILITARY ACQUISITION.

On the other hand, scrapping this program — or even retiring or downsizing our land-based nuclear missiles in favor of air- or sea-based nuclear forces — not only would save money, but it could also serve as a bargaining chip in negotiations over a future arms control treaty.

PH: THIS IS A VERY BIZARRE IDEA. WE ARE TO BELIEVE THE RUSSIANS WILL AGREE TO REDUCE OR ELIMINATE 80% OF THEIR JUST MODERNIZED NUCLEAR SYSTEMS, NOW NUMBERNG AS HIGH AS 2400 WARHEADS AND 524 PLATFORMS, ALL ALLOWED UNDER NEW START. AND THE RUSSIANS BEING VERY BAD NEGOGIATORS, WE  TRADE 80% OF THEIR JUST MODERNIZED ARSENAL FOR A US DEPLOMENT OF A LIFE EXTENDED MINUTEMAN III THAT LIKELY WILL NEVER HAPPEN AND WHICH IS NOT EVEN IN THE BUDGET? TRADE SOMETHING FOR NEXT TO NOTHING? REALLY?

If the U.S. commits itself to a brand-new system, that chip will be lost while pressure builds to remain committed for decades to a static ICBM force and the projected $264 billion cost over its lifetime.

PH: THE $264 BILLION COST IS A FAIRY TALE. FIRST THE COST IS ESTIMATED FOR 60+ YEARS AND IS BASED ON HISTORICAL BUT ERRONEOUS OPERATIONAL COSTS WHICH WILL ACTUALLY DECLINE FOR THE NEW GBSD BY UPWARDS OF 75% WITH THE NEW SYSTEM ACCORDING TO GLOBAL STRIKE COMMAND. THE CURRENT ANNUAL INVESTMENT FOR GBSD IS $1.5B.

THE MULTIPLE HUNDRED BILLION NUMBER ASO ASSUMES A 60 YEAR TIME FRAME FOR SUSTAINMENT AND OPERATIONS WITHOUT TAKING INTO ACCOUNT THE MODULAR NATURE OF GBSD AND THE DRAMATIC REDUCTIONS IN COST ASSOCIATED WITH THAT NEW TECHNLOGY. ACCORDING TO GLOBAL STRIKE, SUSTAINMENT COSTS ARE UP TO 70% LESS FOR GBSD. THE NUMBER ALSO INCLUDES A NEW WARHEAD AND NEW COMMAND AND CONTROL, AND NEW INFRASTRUCTURE, ALL OF WHICH HAVE TO BE DONE IRRESPECTIVE OF WHETER THE US GOES FORWARD WITH A MMIII OR GBSD.

The bottom line is that the deterrence behind mutually assured destruction…..

PH: MAD IS NOT THE US DETERRENT STRATEGY AND HAS NOT BEEN FOR AT LEAST 60 YEARS

. is already maintained by America's nuclear forces. It's a stretch to think that marginally better missiles

PH: THEY ARE NOT MARGINALLY BETTER. GBSD WOULD BE MARKEDLY CHEAPER TO OPERATE, FAR MORE ACCURATE AND ABLE TO PENERATE DEFENSES, AND DOWNLOADED TO ONE WARHEAD WHICH THEY ARE, MAKES THEM HIGHLY FLEXIBLE AND AN UNATTARCTIVE TARGET AND THEREFORE A STABILIZING DETERRENT FORCE..THEY HOLD AT RISK THE RUSSIAN RESERVE MISSILE FORCE, MAKING ANY MAJOR RUSSIAN NUCLEAR ATTACK SUICIDAL.

would discourage a foreign leader from initiating a nuclear strike any more than the current force. And acquiring them would commit huge sums far into the future to a force that is arguably increasingly obsolete.

PH: UNLESS DETERRENCE IS OBSOLETE, THE GBSD IS NEEDED. HAVING A FORCE OF JUST SUBMARINES ELIMINATES ANY HEDGE OR UPLOAD CAPABILITY PLUS LEAVES THE US WITH AT MOST 10 DISCRETE TARGETS THAT IF DESTROYED WOULD PUT THE US OUT OF THE NUCLEAR BUSINESS, (COMPARED TO MORE THAN 500 TARGETS TODAY).

American security will be better served if those dollars go to military capabilities it can actually use

PH: UNLESS THE AUTHOR THINKS THE SUBMARINE NUKES WILL ACTUALLY BE USED THE SAME ILLOGIC APPLIES—WE SHOULD JUST ELIMINATE ALL NUKE FORCES BECAUSE THEY CANNOT BE “USED”. ALTHOUGH TECHNICALLY EVERY DAY THAT WE DETER THE BAD GUYS IS EVERY DAY THAT WE ‘‘USE” OUR NUCLEAR DETERRENT.

or to public investments in pandemic prevention and infrastructure or similar safety measures, rather than be invested in the specter of a modestly upgraded nuclear Armageddon.

Peter R. HuessyMr. Huessy is the President of Geostrategic Analysis, a Potomac, Maryland-based defense and national security consulting business, and Director of Strategic Deterrent Studies at the Mitchell Institute, a Senior Fellow at ICAS, a senior consultant with Ravenna Associates, and previously for 22 years Senior Defense Consultant with the National Defense University Foundation at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C.He is and has been a Guest Lecturer at the School of Advanced International Affairs at Johns Hopkins University, at the Institute of World Politics, at the University of Maryland, at the Joint Military Intelligence School, at the Naval Academy and at the National War College.

Image: af.mil

Comments (1)
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nicholasdouglas
nicholasdouglas

We should use all advanced technology for the benefit of human beings. There is a lot of debates and controversies regarding this nuclear disinfection issue. I am a senior officer and help house owners with Home inspector for preparing their property to buy or sell.


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