Chinese test of Fractional Orbital Bombardment System

TomcatViP

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Much faster also. The lower the orbit, the greater the speed (and icbm don't even reach orbital speed per definition).
 

GTX

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UpForce

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With recent developments, I'm just left with an impression that the Russians and the Chinese are surprisingly insecure about their respective nuclear forces being able to overcome current U.S. ABM systems (or at least near future ones), be it for a "de-escalatory" or a more MADdening scenario. No-one seems to publicly profess much faith in said systems repelling anything but basically smallish rogue states acting out of desperation, after all. On the other hand Chinese and Russian public arguments/protestations over U.S. ABM installations and systems (not least in the context of arms control agreements) have always been reflective of their own disingenuousness about their own intentions or them developing and deploying actual nuclear weapons and/or ABM capabilities.
 

uk 75

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All of which takes us back to the fact that when the heat and light dies down the three countries will return to the negotiating table.
On the positive side all three have sufficient capability to inflict mortal wounds on the others. Deterrence has not been undermined.
More worrying for all three is the presence of possible nuclear weapon states who don't care if their people and cities are annihilated.
 

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Since the US ABM system can't deal with current MIRVed Chinese systems, this doesnt buy them anything they don't already have at a significant cost in payload.
It buys them the direction of attack. And the ability to hit targets anywhere on planet with high precision.
Direction yes. But they can already hit targets anywhere on Earth, not that there really are targets outside the US or Russia they would want to hit.

FOBS and depressed trajectory are NOT the same. FOBS is not faster than a conventional ICBM, especially if going over the South Pole.
 

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Pretty sure there are undisclosed US and Russian satellites with unknown purposes that can be related to FOBS. Launching a barrage of nuclear warhead scramjets underwater 15-20 miles away from a coast offer less warning time where you have 10-15 seconds to intercept it before it enters any territorial land when a nuclear warhead has the option to detonate 30-40kms above everyone's heads.
There's such thing as sonar networks though.
Fair point, I have no idea on stealth of Yasen subs, but the US can use nuclear powered sonar arrays that can be placed anywhere in ocean without needing cables like SOSUS
 

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FOBS and depressed trajectory are NOT the same. FOBS is not faster than a conventional ICBM, especially if going over the South Pole.
It's slower than a traditional ICBM because FOBS reaches orbit and then has to de-orbit, where as the ICBM has a gravity assist.
 

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For the record: ICBM warheads travels at mach 20-22, minimum orbit is mach 25-26. Five Mach (at 1200 km per hour a mach) is 6000 km per hour: a hefty speed difference.
 

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It's slower than a traditional ICBM because FOBS reaches orbit and then has to de-orbit, where as the ICBM has a gravity assist.
The orbit is lower than an ICBM apogee and LEO orbital speed is faster. De-orbit means the glide vehicle applying a directional thrust towards the Earth. Therefore the distance travelled is less and the speed is faster.
 
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bloody sky

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All of which takes us back to the fact that when the heat and light dies down the three countries will return to the negotiating table.
On the positive side all three have sufficient capability to inflict mortal wounds on the others. Deterrence has not been undermined.
More worrying for all three is the presence of possible nuclear weapon states who don't care if their people and cities are annihilated.
such as India(
 

TomcatViP

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The higher the orbit, the lesser the speed on that orbit:

iu
 

Flyaway

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This is much ado about nothing. FOBS delivers less payload than an equivalent ICBM, and HGVs deliver less payload than equivalent ICBMs. Pair the two together and you significantly reduce the payload you can deliver per missile. Since the US ABM system can't deal with current MIRVed Chinese systems, this doesnt buy them anything they don't already have at a significant cost in payload. All it buys you is uncertainty about the target, which you dont really want in nuclear war since it is quite destabilizing.
I imagine it’s more a deterrence option like carrying the threat to take out US base on Guam should China decide to invade Taiwan.
 

stealthflanker

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Any possibility for a conventional mission ? e.g anti carrier task ?

The unlimited range of FOBS is basically allows the launcher to be not constrained by geographic position.
 

trose213

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The orbit is lower than an ICBM apogee and LEO orbital speed is faster. De-orbit means the glide vehicle applying a directional thrust towards the Earth. Therefore the distance travelled is less and the speed is faster.
Because of Delta-V, so unless it has a magic de-orbitting propulsion system, it's going to take a considerable amount of time and force to put it on an intercept path.
 

Josh_TN

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FOBS is a lot slower because it has to reach orbit and then de-orbit.
FOBS is a lot faster than an ICBM strike.

Only if you assume an out of atmospheric detonation. Not sure even then, honestly. But a de orbit and atmospheric glide by an HGV is definitely slower than an ICBM. And much slower than a depressed trajectory Trident.
 

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Any possibility for a conventional mission ? e.g anti carrier task ?

The unlimited range of FOBS is basically allows the launcher to be not constrained by geographic position.
Depend on its accuracy, but I'd say that using orbit-capable ICBM for conventional strikes is not exactly cost-efficient. Target that validate such attack most likely validate tactical nuke also.
 

Dilandu

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With recent developments, I'm just left with an impression that the Russians and the Chinese are surprisingly insecure about their respective nuclear forces being able to overcome current U.S. ABM systems (or at least near future ones), be it for a "de-escalatory" or a more MADdening scenario. No-one seems to publicly profess much faith in said systems repelling anything but basically smallish rogue states acting out of desperation, after all. On the other hand Chinese and Russian public arguments/protestations over U.S. ABM installations and systems (not least in the context of arms control agreements) have always been reflective of their own disingenuousness about their own intentions or them developing and deploying actual nuclear weapons and/or ABM capabilities.
Both Russia and China are concerned about the possibility of US disarming strike supported by ABM's to dealt with remaining weapon counter-attack. Lets not forget: US have multiple allies and military bases surrounding both Russia and China, while there are no Russian or Chinese military bases in direct proximity of USA. The threat is, that US could install first-strike weapons on allied territories and attack fast enough, so the retaliation arsenal would be decimated - and could be handled by ABM defenses.
 

Forest Green

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Only if you assume an out of atmospheric detonation. Not sure even then, honestly. But a de orbit and atmospheric glide by an HGV is definitely slower than an ICBM. And much slower than a depressed trajectory Trident.
Can't see how a de-orbit from 150km is going to be slower than a ballistic descent from 1200km, especially when the FOBS item is travelling faster to begin with. The RVs could apply radial thrust towards the Earth and as mentioned in the other thread (some posts from which should probably be merged with this one) a HGV does not have to glide, it can invert and pull down towards the target. And, the warhead bus from a FOBS is an OBS and could be disguised and launched on any civil LV, then it's game over.

Because of Delta-V, so unless it has a magic de-orbitting propulsion system, it's going to take a considerable amount of time and force to put it on an intercept path.
Only has to have enough radial thrust on the RVs to bring it into the upper atmosphere, the HGV then inverts and pulls down towards the Earth aerodynamically.
 
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To my mind, China's main accomplishment here beyond the furtherment of the ongoing antagonistic rhetoric is to make all of their LEO launches targets forever-more. I expect to see some SM-3 ASAT demos in the near future. I don't really see China fielding more than a few show-and-tell units as too many would provoke an..... unfortunate destabilization. Even if their wildest dreams came true and they knocked out the majority of the US land-based deterrent in a first-strike, the SSBNs would certainly ensure they wouldn't be around to gloat. The smartest move is still not to play.
 

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Because an ICBM never achieves orbit, it comes down faster than a FOBS system. FOBS has to do a deorbit burn if we’re taking about hitting a terrestrial target and the fuel on the orbiter is going to be minuscule compared to the energy of the booster. This would be easier with a graphic, but a system going to orbit puts more energy in a roughly horizontal plain with regard to the earths surface while the ICBM is more vertical.
 

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To my mind, China's main accomplishment here beyond the furtherment of the ongoing antagonistic rhetoric is to make all of their LEO launches targets forever-more. I expect to see some SM-3 ASAT demos in the near future. I don't really see China fielding more than a few show-and-tell units as too many would provoke an..... unfortunate destabilization. Even if their wildest dreams came true and they knocked out the majority of the US land-based deterrent in a first-strike, the SSBNs would certainly ensure they wouldn't be around to gloat. The smartest move is still not to play.

You seem to be assuming a priori that this development is about gaining a first-strike opportunity. Why? It's just as plausible to think it is intended to ensure precisely that the smartest move remains not to play in the face of open-ended US missile defence deployment. Certainly that was the rationale when the USSR developed its FOBS.

This is much ado about nothing. FOBS delivers less payload than an equivalent ICBM, and HGVs deliver less payload than equivalent ICBMs. Pair the two together and you significantly reduce the payload you can deliver per missile. Since the US ABM system can't deal with current MIRVed Chinese systems, this doesnt buy them anything they don't already have at a significant cost in payload. All it buys you is uncertainty about the target, which you dont really want in nuclear war since it is quite destabilizing.

It also hedges against a future break-out deployment of US missile defences. Currently having the ability is one thing, but when that status can be threatened at short notice, having a similarly short-term response sitting on the shelf is bound to feel reassuring.

As for which is faster, I don't quite see the point of a FOBS unless you take advantage of it to go the long (though not necessarily the longest) way round. Sure, probably faster along the shorter great circle route than a MET ICBM trajectory, but why not go for a DT shot then? Also faster, also harder to detect but cheaper - comes with a payload penalty, but so does going orbital. And if you launch the other way, the distance is going to be sufficiently longer that the relatively moderate speed difference won't compensate, FOBS should take longer to reach the target.
 
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Opportunistic Minnow

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It's just as plausible to think it is intended to ensure precisely that the smartest move remains not to play in the face of open-ended US missile defence deployment. Certainly that was the rationale when the USSR developed its FOBS.
I believe I intimated that as a possibility with the use of the phrase "show-and-tell" i.e. demo units.....and by pointing out their use in a first strike being most probably ultimately futile.......

ETA: Isn't it all "a priori" (had to look that up). How many nuclear exchanges did I miss?
 
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There is a precedent, yes but are you certain that China rigidly adheres to it? While the precedent may well be instructive, I believe it imprudent to claim to know the mind of one's opponent based on the actions of others a generation or more ago.

Whether it is a first-strike weapon or a counter-strike weapon, a deterrent or a bargaining chip is irrelevant. The threat must be honoured.
 

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The Chinese have increased nuclear/conventional weapons production this past few months. tensions have risen.... i dont think this will turn out very good for the world. when they fine tune this weapon and mass produce it they can designate a city or military installation for one or two of these to destroy and launch 30-70 of these without warning. this is something they dont want to do. we will come back. we always have and always will. however if their intentions are to keep this weapon as a "Counter Strike" weapon or a defense weapon then thats their choice. but the amount of warheads will be alarming.
 

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Because an ICBM never achieves orbit, it comes down faster than a FOBS system. FOBS has to do a deorbit burn if we’re taking about hitting a terrestrial target and the fuel on the orbiter is going to be minuscule compared to the energy of the booster. This would be easier with a graphic, but a system going to orbit puts more energy in a roughly horizontal plain with regard to the earths surface while the ICBM is more vertical.
The RV itself would do a radial burn after being ejected from the FOBS bus (which is pointed radially downwards) via a cold launch. The RV then uses DACT to re-orientate to an appropriate direction for re-entry. By applying thrust in the radial direction inline with gravity and with zero drag, very little thrust would be required. The FOBS bus would only need enough thrust to stabilise the cold launch. By doing this the RV could come down at a similar angle to an ICBM RV only faster. Combine that with the fact that the FOBS system gets to the RV launch point faster (due to putting more energy in the horizontal plane) than an ICBM reaches its apogee.
 

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There is a precedent, yes but are you certain that China rigidly adheres to it?

No, and I didn't claim to be completely certain.

While the precedent may well be instructive, I believe it imprudent to claim to know the mind of one's opponent based on the actions of others a generation or more ago.

Hence the reference to considering the context. While I can't be sure, the parallels here suggest a similar motivation today. As a non-historical corroboration, Russia has actually made it plain that the FOBS capability planned for the future heavy ICBM Sarmat is intended to defeat missile defences for assured retaliation. To me this implies the past second-strike rationale reads across to the present situation and is more likely to apply than a first-strike oriented concept.

Whether it is a first-strike weapon or a counter-strike weapon, a deterrent or a bargaining chip is irrelevant. The threat must be honoured.

As Desertfox already pointed out, by which measure has this development materially changed the threat though? The US used to be held at risk by Chinese nukes before. As with the Russian Avangard HGV, in terms of the alternatives available to deal with a perceived BMD threat to the viability of the retaliatory capability this isn't even a particularly destabilizing option to choose.
 

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Both Russia and China are concerned about the possibility of US disarming strike supported by ABM's to dealt with remaining weapon counter-attack. Lets not forget: US have multiple allies and military bases surrounding both Russia and China, while there are no Russian or Chinese military bases in direct proximity of USA. The threat is, that US could install first-strike weapons on allied territories and attack fast enough, so the retaliation arsenal would be decimated - and could be handled by ABM defenses.

The U.S. (and its allies) are half-hearted at best in developing ABM capabilities, there's a profound understanding of both the enormous costs involved and the utter idiocy of an opportunistic, unprovoked first nuclear strike. Even in the case of a hypothetical nuclear war "win" (i.e. the adversary somehow conceding defeat or being utterly annihilated without getting one warhead shot into the U.S. mainland) the world would still have to deal with the fallout and other consequences of at least tens of explosions, unilateral as they might initially be, for decades and centuries to come. Perceptions are different of course and I'm reminded of the former Warsaw Pact's designs (that came to light after the cold war) of nuking basically every major Western European city on their way from the Fulda Gap to the Atlantic, something that shocked veteran NATO officers who were planning on somewhat more civilized/less genocidal scenarios.

Hardly a cost-free proposition at the best of times, not to speak of having to forsake any pretense of human rights or a rules based society. Do you realize at all how far the "west" would have to drift from its current governance and way of life for something like that to be even possible? To say that there's no appetite in having to deal with something like that is an understatement - even if the U.S., NATO, AUKUS and whomever did somehow suddenly manage a near fool-proof missile defense, and thus "escalation dominance". Putin, Xi and their strategists are either deluded or projecting their own desires and intentions (given the opportunity) onto the "west" if they're pushing such a narrative (and having pushed billions or even trillions of their and their elites' wealth - and lavish lifestyles - onto the international market). Of course there's also the motivation to consolidate their domestic powers and nuclear weapons do tend to have the effect of adding to the risk (even just the challenge of trying to keep track of fissile material in times of chaos is a deterrent in itself) of trying to depose an autocrat.

There are further layers of projection here: the Chinese vehicle was launched on a Long March rocket, hardly a very realistic first- or second strike platform. The vehicle itself has all the makings of a "FOBS" but as with orbital vehicles in general they can of course be ambiguous and claim a dual-use misunderstanding (as they have). In the context of China's other nuclear and strategic investments (e.g. the new silo fields) it can be safely assumed that at the very least they're keeping the option open.
 

Dilandu

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The U.S. (and its allies) are half-hearted at best in developing ABM capabilities, there's a profound understanding of both the enormous costs involved and the utter idiocy of an opportunistic, unprovoked first nuclear strike.
Yes, but you can't blame Russia or China for being worried about that possibility.

Perceptions are different of course and I'm reminded of the former Warsaw Pact's designs (that came to light after the cold war) of nuking basically every major Western European city on their way from the Fulda Gap to the Atlantic, something that shocked veteran NATO officers who were planning on somewhat more civilized/less genocidal scenarios.
Considering that US 1950s strategic plans for war with USSR consisted of nuking more than a 1000 targets, including literally every single Soviet population center of any noticeable size (essentially a near-total genocide) I could only recommend you to be more skeptical about "shock" of NATO officers.

To say that there's no appetite in having to deal with something like that is an understatement - even if the U.S., NATO, AUKUS and whomever did somehow suddenly manage a near fool-proof missile defense, and thus "escalation dominance".
Well, since US demonstrated exactly zero desire to cooperate with Russia or China on the matter of deescalation, all those talks is essentially meaningless. It would be rather simple for US not to provoke Russia by agreeing to let Eastern Europe stay neutral out of NATO. It was rather obvious, that Russia would see Eastern Europe countries NATO membership as existential threat to Russia vital interests. And it's rather obvious, that if US did not give it approval, no NATO enlargement toward the Russia would happens.

So sorry, but with US demonstrating no desire to avoid stepping on Russia/China toes, I fail to see why shouldn't we be prepared for a possibility of more inadequate American actions.
 

uk 75

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With recent developments, I'm just left with an impression that the Russians and the Chinese are surprisingly insecure about their respective nuclear forces being able to overcome current U.S. ABM systems (or at least near future ones), be it for a "de-escalatory" or a more MADdening scenario. No-one seems to publicly profess much faith in said systems repelling anything but basically smallish rogue states acting out of desperation, after all. On the other hand Chinese and Russian public arguments/protestations over U.S. ABM installations and systems (not least in the context of arms control agreements) have always been reflective of their own disingenuousness about their own intentions or them developing and deploying actual nuclear weapons and/or ABM capabilities.
Both Russia and China are concerned about the possibility of US disarming strike supported by ABM's to dealt with remaining weapon counter-attack. Lets not forget: US have multiple allies and military bases surrounding both Russia and China, while there are no Russian or Chinese military bases in direct proximity of USA. The threat is, that US could install first-strike weapons on allied territories and attack fast enough, so the retaliation arsenal would be decimated - and could be handled by ABM defenses.
All the more reason to get arms control talks going. Iskanders in Kaliningrad are first strike weapons if you are NATO.
Russia has SSBNs but China's are pretty basic so they have more reason to worry.
 

Dilandu

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All the more reason to get arms control talks going.
Unless US and EU change their position and would be willing to actually negotiate - not just chanting "you are bad, you must obey us, but we wouldn't do anything in exchange" - those talks would lead to nothing. The difference between the modern and Cold War situations is, that during Cold War both sides actually negotiated: they recognized each other interests, and tried to find some common ground between them.
 

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Yes, but you can't blame Russia or China for being worried about that possibility. ...

This veers farther from the subject than a Chinese hypersonic glider could so I'll leave this by just stating that I hardly could be in more disagreement here. It is too bad that the unfettered financial, social, media and organizational access and influence China and Russia have enjoyed around the world for the past three or so decades has not brought about a better mutual understanding, aligning of interests or, indeed, for them has amounted to (in your words) "exactly zero desire to co-operate" on the part of the "west". We'll just have to contend with that reality, then. I hope other venues than this can serve as better conduits to further explore and resolve these wider issues.

All the more reason to get arms control talks going. Iskanders in Kaliningrad are first strike weapons if you are NATO.
Russia has SSBNs but China's are pretty basic so they have more reason to worry.

It's early days of course as China's presumptive Fractional Orbital Bombardment System is not anywhere near a declared capability and, in fact, may never be. We're ways away from anything resembling a "trust but verify" policy with them and it seems more unlikely a prospect than with the Soviet Union. In a sense I suspect these old/new weapons are devised just so that they can later be "symmetrically disarmed" without much of a cost in terms of actual capabilities. On the other hand the Soviet Union actually deployed FOBS, ungainly, marginal and even unreliable as it then was:


(FOBS, Quest, the history of spaceflight quarterly vol 7, no 4, Spring 2000, Asif A. Siddiqi; via ArmsControlWonk)
 
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I'm just going to quote Vipin Narang's (Frank Stanton Professor of Nuclear Security and Political Science, MIT, Nonresident Scholar at Carnegie Endowment Nuclear Policy Program) Twitter thread on the subject here because at the moment can't think of anything to add:

Vipin Narang said:
1/ At some point in the past several years, China woke up and decided it needed to compete with the US on nuclear weapons in ways it hadn’t for decades previously. It is investing in a lot more survivability and a lot more penetrability. Why?

2/ I doubt it is because China seeks to conduct a bolt out of the blue first strike against the US. That would be suicide. Because SSBNs.

3/ Instead I lean toward another hypothesis: China estimates that the risk of a conventional war with the US is higher now than ever, and it needs to stalemate the US at the nuclear level—escape US nuclear coercion—in order to open space for more aggressive conventional options.

4/So the take home risk with all these developments isn’t the risk of nuclear war with China—though that obviously goes up—but the risk of a really nasty conventional war where China unloads its massive arsenal of conventional missiles in theater w/o fear of US nuclear escalation

5/ This isn’t a new logic. This is, in fact, exactly the stability-instability paradox. China is seeking to shore up its side of strategic stability in order to potentially open up greater offensive options at the conventional level, in a war it starts or one that comes to it

6/ And I always have more confidence in my views when they agree with (at)ProfTalmadge. We didn’t even coordinate this time ;)

View: https://twitter.com/NarangVipin/status/1451018534490976261
 
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