Current Nuclear Weapons Development

sferrin

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But the sub launched missile isn't any more stealthy than the air launched missile, so again I'm not seeing the benefit. Why not just buy more air launched missiles instead?
Because people can see a bomber coming but not a sub. Therefore less reaction time. I think sub-sonic cruise missiles are a relatively poor delivery mechanism in the modern age anyway. Hypersonic weapons are the way forward.
I'd argue that if your air launched missile has a 2000km range, no one is going to see it coming anyway. What is the functional difference between a B-52 or a sub launching a cruise missile a couple hundred miles off the coast of a country like Russia or China?
A sub can sit out there for weeks at a time undetected. Also, if you're using the B-52, you have to USE the B-52. Maybe you want it for other things.
 

Josh_TN

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But the sub launched missile isn't any more stealthy than the air launched missile, so again I'm not seeing the benefit. Why not just buy more air launched missiles instead?
Because people can see a bomber coming but not a sub. Therefore less reaction time. I think sub-sonic cruise missiles are a relatively poor delivery mechanism in the modern age anyway. Hypersonic weapons are the way forward.
I'd argue that if your air launched missile has a 2000km range, no one is going to see it coming anyway. What is the functional difference between a B-52 or a sub launching a cruise missile a couple hundred miles off the coast of a country like Russia or China?
A sub can sit out there for weeks at a time undetected. Also, if you're using the B-52, you have to USE the B-52. Maybe you want it for other things.
If it's an SSN, it has all of a dozen VLS tubes for all missions. A B-52 can carry twenty any given sortie. How hard would it be to simply have a couple B-52s on airborne alert like the bad old days if a crisis warranted it? That would be the equivalent of 3+ SSNs on station even if we assume they all carry nothing but nukes in their VLS. Unless the intent is to fill up the SSGNs with nukes to actually have some kind of persistent, tangible capability, I don't see the point of having an entire new missile program for the minimal redundancy a few nukes on an SSN will provide. And I personally think the SSGNs VLS tubes need to be retained for conventional weapons.
 

sferrin

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But the sub launched missile isn't any more stealthy than the air launched missile, so again I'm not seeing the benefit. Why not just buy more air launched missiles instead?
Because people can see a bomber coming but not a sub. Therefore less reaction time. I think sub-sonic cruise missiles are a relatively poor delivery mechanism in the modern age anyway. Hypersonic weapons are the way forward.
I'd argue that if your air launched missile has a 2000km range, no one is going to see it coming anyway. What is the functional difference between a B-52 or a sub launching a cruise missile a couple hundred miles off the coast of a country like Russia or China?
A sub can sit out there for weeks at a time undetected. Also, if you're using the B-52, you have to USE the B-52. Maybe you want it for other things.
If it's an SSN, it has all of a dozen VLS tubes for all missions. A B-52 can carry twenty any given sortie. How hard would it be to simply have a couple B-52s on airborne alert like the bad old days if a crisis warranted it? That would be the equivalent of 3+ SSNs on station even if we assume they all carry nothing but nukes in their VLS. Unless the intent is to fill up the SSGNs with nukes to actually have some kind of persistent, tangible capability, I don't see the point of having an entire new missile program for the minimal redundancy a few nukes on an SSN will provide. And I personally think the SSGNs VLS tubes need to be retained for conventional weapons.
You're seriously suggesting matching the persistence of an SSN with an airplane?
 

bobbymike

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Again to repeat for the purposes of defining the weapon you need clear language.

It may be perfectly valid to “perceive or believe or think or imagine” a weapon to be tac-stra-tac-tac-strategic but it would be then impossible to have a productive discussion.
 

Desertfox

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Just because someone else is screwing up doesn't mean we have to screw up as well.
I wouldn't say the DF-21 and DF-26 are screwing up.
They definitely have that potential. Note that their employment does reduce risk a bit. You can afford to "ride out" a potential nuclear strike against say a CBG. You can not afford to "ride out" a massed TLAM-N strike. Therefore, the ambiguity of a DF-21 attack on a CBG is significantly less destabilizing than the ambiguity of a massed cruise missile strike on say China proper. This is primarily a China problem, since Russia will respond with nukes to a massed cruise missile strike independent of the US even having nuke capable cruise missiles.

Basically, ambiguous Chinese/Russian weapons can not threaten US nuclear retaliatory capabilities, while ambiguous US weapons can threaten both China and Russia's retaliatory capabilities. Hence the likelyhood of a conventional strike being mistaken for nuclear is a higher possibility if the US uses an ambiguous weapon system.

Note also that with ballistic missiles its easier to determine their target and therefore whether they are likely to be be using nukes or not. While its a lot harder to determine what a target is for a cruise missile (also an issue with HGVs).
 

Josh_TN

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You're seriously suggesting matching the persistence of an SSN with an airplane?
I'm seriously suggesting it wouldn't be particularly difficult to do that with a pair of B-52s for a limited amount of time during a major crisis. It was done for years on end in greater than squadron strength, back in the day. And I'm saying that unless you intend to tie down the SSGNs with this new mission, that those two bombers will have more warload than any number of SSNs that were just hanging out off a peer competitor's coast with nothing better to do.
 

sferrin

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You're seriously suggesting matching the persistence of an SSN with an airplane?
I'm seriously suggesting it wouldn't be particularly difficult to do that with a pair of B-52s for a limited amount of time during a major crisis. It was done for years on end in greater than squadron strength, back in the day. And I'm saying that unless you intend to tie down the SSGNs with this new mission, that those two bombers will have more warload than any number of SSNs that were just hanging out off a peer competitor's coast with nothing better to do.
I think maybe you're missing the point. Having them means you can put them on 20 SSNs or none. You can fill an SSGN or not. You can park a couple somewhere "just in case" or not. What do you think Russia would do if you had a couple B-52s on 24/7 alert 200 miles off their coast? Never mind. It's obvious we have different opinions. I'm not going to change your mind and you're not going to change mine. Like I said earlier, agree to disagree.
 

Forest Green

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I'm seriously suggesting it wouldn't be particularly difficult to do that with a pair of B-52s for a limited amount of time during a major crisis. It was done for years on end in greater than squadron strength, back in the day. And I'm saying that unless you intend to tie down the SSGNs with this new mission, that those two bombers will have more warload than any number of SSNs that were just hanging out off a peer competitor's coast with nothing better to do.
Except for the fuel required to do that. You'd also need many B-52s for persistence. And I'm really not sure a B-52 can carry more war load than a sub, never seen a B-52 carry 24 Trident D-5s for instance.
 

Forest Green

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They definitely have that potential. Note that their employment does reduce risk a bit. You can afford to "ride out" a potential nuclear strike against say a CBG. You can not afford to "ride out" a massed TLAM-N strike. Therefore, the ambiguity of a DF-21 attack on a CBG is significantly less destabilizing than the ambiguity of a massed cruise missile strike on say China proper. This is primarily a China problem, since Russia will respond with nukes to a massed cruise missile strike independent of the US even having nuke capable cruise missiles.

Basically, ambiguous Chinese/Russian weapons can not threaten US nuclear retaliatory capabilities, while ambiguous US weapons can threaten both China and Russia's retaliatory capabilities. Hence the likelyhood of a conventional strike being mistaken for nuclear is a higher possibility if the US uses an ambiguous weapon system.

Note also that with ballistic missiles its easier to determine their target and therefore whether they are likely to be be using nukes or not. While its a lot harder to determine what a target is for a cruise missile (also an issue with HGVs).
I think a massed cruise missile strike on China would be extremely destabilising anyway, and I'm not where the evidence is to suggest they'd respond differently to Russia, seems to just be a big assumption. Last I looked AGM-86s carry the same risk anyway - nuclear and conventional.

So you mean if the US sent say a massive AGM-86 strike from a B-52, or a massive flock of B-2s loaded with a bunch of, "don't know, can't see bombs."

Yeah, it's an issue with any type of MARV, which is going to be an issue in the future anyway, so ambiguity is already here to stay whether we like it or not. Territorial waters are only like 12nm, so what if Russia parks one of those could be a 100MT nuke little subs at 12.01nm? How's that for ambiguity? Does the INF or any other nuclear treaty even make sense with that kind of threat in existence?
 

Archibald

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I think they still have a long way to go before they reach anything like strategic parity.

China presently has parity... with France and Great Britain - numbers of nukes below 500.
Do they really intend to go the full Russia / USA arsenal, that is - 1500 active nukes and 6000 total ? (rough numbers from memory)
 

Josh_TN

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I'm seriously suggesting it wouldn't be particularly difficult to do that with a pair of B-52s for a limited amount of time during a major crisis. It was done for years on end in greater than squadron strength, back in the day. And I'm saying that unless you intend to tie down the SSGNs with this new mission, that those two bombers will have more warload than any number of SSNs that were just hanging out off a peer competitor's coast with nothing better to do.
Except for the fuel required to do that. You'd also need many B-52s for persistence. And I'm really not sure a B-52 can carry more war load than a sub, never seen a B-52 carry 24 Trident D-5s for instance.
I was referring to SSNs carrying cruise missiles, not SSBNs. Nothing comes close to an SSBN deterrence wise, IMO.
 

Josh_TN

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I think a massed cruise missile strike on China would be extremely destabilising anyway, and I'm not where the evidence is to suggest they'd respond differently to Russia, seems to just be a big assumption. Last I looked AGM-86s carry the same risk anyway - nuclear and conventional.
The CALM version was retired a year or two ago, so the only AGM-86s left are nuclear. But I doubt anyone can tell the difference between an AGM-158 and 86 on radar, so it is likely a moot point.
 

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Forest Green

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I was referring to SSNs carrying cruise missiles, not SSBNs. Nothing comes close to an SSBN deterrence wise, IMO.
I'm sure SSNs are only limited by VLS tubes assuming they can't be reloaded at sea. You can actually fire them from torpedo tubes too like the UK does though. Weight wise I'm sure they can carry way more than a bomber could hope to take off with. The latest Russian SSNs can carry 30-40. There were ones that carried 24 P-700s, you'd never get that on a bomber.
 

Josh_TN

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Virginia could carry twenty+ as well as a dozen in the VLS. But only if you made it useless for any non nuclear strike role. In actual practice it seems unlikely they’d carry more than several, unless you want to dedicated boats to nuclear cruise missiles.
 

zen

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Building missile silos doesn't mean you have real missiles in them....

But it does mean you have to assume they do.

Rather like building bunkers doesn't mean you have to put stuff in them. Let alone actually move personnel there in an emergency.
But if your attacker wants to hit your command and control.....then they cannot assume empty bunkers.

Now of course the clever part with an array of missile silos is you could use a few for real missiles.....
 

Forest Green

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Building missile silos doesn't mean you have real missiles in them....

But it does mean you have to assume they do.

Rather like building bunkers doesn't mean you have to put stuff in them. Let alone actually move personnel there in an emergency.
But if your attacker wants to hit your command and control.....then they cannot assume empty bunkers.

Now of course the clever part with an array of missile silos is you could use a few for real missiles.....
Silos aren't that cheap to build plus China have introduced ICBMs with 12 MIRVs on top of existing MIRV'd ICBMs with MIRVs.

Here's a breakdown. Their missile number is well over 260 even without accounting for MIRVs.

So that's 478 nuclear-equipped missiles carrying 260 warheads. >100 with >5,500km, 12 years ago before they built all the silos and before the DF-41.

Virginia could carry twenty+ as well as a dozen in the VLS. But only if you made it useless for any non nuclear strike role. In actual practice it seems unlikely they’d carry more than several, unless you want to dedicated boats to nuclear cruise missiles.
They carry about 50 total (either torpedo or missile), so you can fill that however you like and refill at food/rest stops.
 

zen

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Silos aren't that cheap to build
Relatively they are.
Cheaper than alternatives like having fewer silos all of which are targeted by both Russia and the USA.

Britain's bunkers included those that ceased to actually have any function bar that of soaking up Soviet RVs in any exchange.
The Relative cost of a bunker or silo compared with the cost of the many missiles and their nuclear warheads targeted at them is a favourable one.
 

Josh_TN

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We also are assuming that every one of those silo looking objects is in fact a full tube. For all we know any number of them could be concrete caps with nothing under them.

I think it’s fair to say we don’t know how many warheads China has in open source and have no way of confirming or disproving official estimates.
 

Forest Green

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Relatively they are.
Cheaper than alternatives like having fewer silos all of which are targeted by both Russia and the USA.

Britain's bunkers included those that ceased to actually have any function bar that of soaking up Soviet RVs in any exchange.
The Relative cost of a bunker or silo compared with the cost of the many missiles and their nuclear warheads targeted at them is a favourable one.
We also are assuming that every one of those silo looking objects is in fact a full tube. For all we know any number of them could be concrete caps with nothing under them.

I think it’s fair to say we don’t know how many warheads China has in open source and have no way of confirming or disproving official estimates.
Perhaps, but there's like a 99.9% probability it's much more than 260 and 0.1% probability that it isn't. Looking at the data, that was true even 12 years ago before these few hundred silos and new DF-41s emerged.

Also IIRC one problem that keeps surfacing, whether about the Peacekeeper of future ICBMs, is the cost of building new silos vs re-using old ones. By inference, it really can't be that cheap.
 

zen

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I think we can agree that 260 is very unlikely to be the current total or the sustainment number and that the Chinese have more in each measurement.
But how much more.....?
 

Desertfox

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A properly built and hardened silo is expensive, a decoy silo OTOH can be done far cheaper. China's nuclear strategy is different than the US, Russia, or even France and Britain, so for all we know they may be fine with 260 warheads. Don't assume they will mirror the US, they have their strategy and they will stick to it, whether it makes sense to us or not.
 

Josh_TN

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The US is probably going to have to presume that the Chinese arsenal is in fact growing and respond accordingly once New START expires and warheads and missiles are back in production. It will be interesting to see how Russia behaves; it is currently trying to maintain parity on a much smaller budget and that situation if anything likely will degrade further in the future. The US could more or less double its Trident warheads and more than double its MM3 warheads once the treaty ends. Does Russia have a similar number of warheads in storage for its missiles? Presumably its missiles similarly lightly loaded to allow for additional warheads?
 

Forest Green

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A properly built and hardened silo is expensive, a decoy silo OTOH can be done far cheaper. China's nuclear strategy is different than the US, Russia, or even France and Britain, so for all we know they may be fine with 260 warheads. Don't assume they will mirror the US, they have their strategy and they will stick to it, whether it makes sense to us or not.
260 is a joke figure. It's like claiming that China abides by the INF Treaty without being a signatory.

The US is probably going to have to presume that the Chinese arsenal is in fact growing and respond accordingly once New START expires and warheads and missiles are back in production. It will be interesting to see how Russia behaves; it is currently trying to maintain parity on a much smaller budget and that situation if anything likely will degrade further in the future.
Yeah, a much smaller budget.
 

Josh_TN

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Going back to my question concerning the uploading of weapons, it looks likely that Russia could increase its strategic warhead count by roughly a thousand once New START ends. In comparison, I think the US could upload by roughly 500-550 W78s (assuming ~200 Mk21 RVs cannot be uploaded and an additional 50 MMIII are brought online) and 800+ W76s.

 

zen

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looks likely that Russia could increase its strategic warhead count by roughly a thousand once New START ends.
On the current examples of Russian 'storage', the likelihood that aging nuclear warheads manufactured during the 70's and 80's are viable is a highly questionable assertion.

Bit I'm sure the paperwork looks exemplary.
 

Josh_TN

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looks likely that Russia could increase its strategic warhead count by roughly a thousand once New START ends.
On the current examples of Russian 'storage', the likelihood that aging nuclear warheads manufactured during the 70's and 80's are viable is a highly questionable assertion.

Bit I'm sure the paperwork looks exemplary.
The Russian arsenal is largely newer (post Soviet) weapons outside some early model Torpol and the SS-18, along with a handful of of SS-19 used for Avangarde. Were enough newer warheads made/remanufactured for all of the Torpol-M and Yars to be fully loaded? I don't know, but it seems perfectly likely. I certainly wouldn't gamble that the extra capacity of the Russian ICBM fleet *couldn't* be uploaded. But in any case, it looks like the US could match any short-medium term deployments by Russia.
 

sferrin

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looks likely that Russia could increase its strategic warhead count by roughly a thousand once New START ends.
On the current examples of Russian 'storage', the likelihood that aging nuclear warheads manufactured during the 70's and 80's are viable is a highly questionable assertion.

Bit I'm sure the paperwork looks exemplary.
The Russian arsenal is largely newer (post Soviet) weapons outside some early model Torpol and the SS-18, along with a handful of of SS-19 used for Avangarde. Were enough newer warheads made/remanufactured for all of the Torpol-M and Yars to be fully loaded? I don't know, but it seems perfectly likely. I certainly wouldn't gamble that the extra capacity of the Russian ICBM fleet *couldn't* be uploaded. But in any case, it looks like the US could match any short-medium term deployments by Russia.
Even the oldest one is newer than the newest Minuteman 3.
 

Forest Green

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Going back to my question concerning the uploading of weapons, it looks likely that Russia could increase its strategic warhead count by roughly a thousand once New START ends. In comparison, I think the US could upload by roughly 500-550 W78s (assuming ~200 Mk21 RVs cannot be uploaded and an additional 50 MMIII are brought online) and 800+ W76s.

Well all the Trident D-5s are only half loaded at the moment, so it could increase that by 288 x 4 = 1152. Unless they go with the 12 warhead option, then double that.
 

Josh_TN

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I think the Ohio's have four tubes permanently de-mil'd with concrete ballast, so the max would 280 tubes minus any boats in overhaul. But yeah, more or less a rough doubling of D-5 warheads. I hedged downward a bit because presumably some missiles will remain down loaded to allow for more operational flexibility, especially those armed with W76 mod 2.

EDIT TO ADD: is it definitely confirmed that D5 can carry 12 W76? I've seen it reported both ways. I assume some confusion is due to the W88 being an option and also reported as having up to eight warheads per bus, despite being a significantly larger RV. But I've never seen it definitely settled either way.
 
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zen

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Were enough newer warheads made/remanufactured for all of the Torpol-M and Yars to be fully loaded?
It's not just remanufacture, it's regular sustainment that is key.
And the answer is potentially that no one actually can answer with certainty.
 

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China and Russia have large active warhead production lines. While the US wants a 50 pit capacity by 2030 they have Rocky Flats at the height of the Cold War
 

Desertfox

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The US has plenty of current unused pits. You don't need a large pit production capability when you have thousands of nukes and pits lying around.
 

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I think the Ohio's have four tubes permanently de-mil'd with concrete ballast, so the max would 280 tubes minus any boats in overhaul. But yeah, more or less a rough doubling of D-5 warheads. I hedged downward a bit because presumably some missiles will remain down loaded to allow for more operational flexibility, especially those armed with W76 mod 2.

EDIT TO ADD: is it definitely confirmed that D5 can carry 12 W76? I've seen it reported both ways. I assume some confusion is due to the W88 being an option and also reported as having up to eight warheads per bus, despite being a significantly larger RV. But I've never seen it definitely settled either way.
This is what I found. Currently 240 Trident D-5s, so that would agree with 12x20 missiles. Total compatible active warheads available is 1920 - 384 W88, 25 W76-2 and 1,511 W76-1. 400 MMIII, with 8 warheads - 200 W87 and 600 W78. Note 18 - Currently 1,400 warheads deployed on ballistic missiles (ICBMs and SLBMs), which could theoretically therefore be increased to 2,720 very easily. 2,000 reserve warheads and 1,750 awaiting retirement.

 

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