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Defense against Hypersonic Glide Vehicles

bobbymike

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Trident

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Very well argued. Although aware of the interplay between missile defences and deterrence, I hadn't quite processed the fact that it was in no small part the presence of the ABM Treaty which enabled the US and USSR to later contemplate reductions in their offensive arsenals.

Makes the successful 11th-hour extension to New START all the more remarkable and encouraging in the current political climate.

 

Josh_TN

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It seems unlikely the US pulls back from missile defense with the advent of hypersonics and the large scale deployment of intermediate range missiles by China. Also the verification would be incredibly hard - basically every Aegis ship at this point could be an ABM system (most actually do not have that upgrade for the moment, but any given one could). I think weapons proliferation will be here to stay, most especially because I think China sees every advantage to outbuilding its opponents and sees no reason to limit its capability to do so.

NewSTART only got extended because the US isn't producing any warheads or delivery systems and the Russians are struggling to replace theirs one for one at the moment. By 2026, likely neither side will have an interest in maintaining the treaty unless China enters it as well.
 

Trident

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It seems unlikely the US pulls back from missile defense with the advent of hypersonics and the large scale deployment of intermediate range missiles by China.

Yes, to a certain extent the cat is out of the bag. But I don't think anybody is advocating totally abandoning missile defence (least of all Russia, with its own active system), only binding limits. As for hypersonics, intercontinental range HGVs are treaty-accountable according to Russian thinking (and, without prompting, they put their money where their mouth is in putting up Avangard for inspection)*.

Also the verification would be incredibly hard - basically every Aegis ship at this point could be an ABM system (most actually do not have that upgrade for the moment, but any given one could). I think weapons proliferation will be here to stay, most especially because I think China sees every advantage to outbuilding its opponents and sees no reason to limit its capability to do so.

Absolutely - Aegis BMD is probably the single biggest issue! Bigger than the limited number of GBI, but that's a self-inflicted wound by the US - there was no shortage of warnings on the implications, going all the way back to the USA 193 interception more than 10 years ago. On China's outbuilding approach, to what extent is that driven by the missile defence problem? Which came first? Considering their previous restraint on strategic nuclear deterrence, there are strong indications that this is a reaction to exogenous pressures, not a premeditated strategy.

By 2026, likely neither side will have an interest in maintaining the treaty unless China enters it as well.

... and limits on missile defence could be the very carrot which compels them to consider it. The failed Trump admin "efforts" (if they can be dignified with the term) were singularly lacking in any incentive for China to join. BTW, in 2026 it'll have to be an entirely new agreement anyway - the extension option in New START was a one-shot deal by design.

* Part of me wonders whether there is a somewhat nefarious, if extremely amusing, angle to this proactive and fairly surprising move. Some US experts have argued that they prefer a future treaty to NOT encompass hypersonics, so it won't constrain conventional deployment options. So by stealing a march with Avangard, Russia could conceivably have killed two birds with one stone: ensured the continued viability of their deterrent in the face of expanding US missile defences, and set a precedent that makes future US weapons of this type treaty-limited! That would add a whole new dimension to the damage caused to the US by its leaving the ABM Treaty.
 
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Josh_TN

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I think China is rethinking its entire nuclear and ballistic missile posture and I think US ABM systems are a relatively secondary concern (as compared to the Russians who have always had a nearly irrational fear of ABM weapons). I think China has war gamed out a conventional conflict with the US and realized they lose every escalation cycle that doesn't involve at least a draw. At any given moment there are a probably a couple hundred cruise missiles on naval platforms within range of their coast line, and every effort to extend the fight to US regional installations increases the likelihood that a US counter strike targets production facilities and other vulnerable economic/military infrastructure. Escalating to a nuclear exchange similarly boxes them in to a devastating war they can't win. I think they will seek to achieve nuclear parity regardless of what the US or Russia does so that any future conflict with the US can be on even terms.

As for the Russians and Avangarde, I think they did that not to lump hypersonics into future treaties as much as to keep the US in NewSTART. I doubt even Biden would agree to a treaty that left an entire class of deployed strategic weapons outside its purview*. The fact that the Russians wanted NewSTART makes me assume that while the US doesn't have any nuclear weapons in production, it has sufficient warheads in storage to rapidly re MIRV such that the Russians would not want a return to that posture. I don't know if this means they have fewer strategic weapons in storage or a similar number but maintained in worse condition, or some other deployment problem (spending even more money while recapitalizing the deterrence force?), but they have always made it clear they wanted to return to NewSTART.

* To some extent Poseidon/Status 6 would come under 'uncontrolled strategic weapon', but these are effectively second strike weapons with a very limited target set and slow delivery, even when the type becomes operational.
 

In_A_Dream

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I think China is rethinking its entire nuclear and ballistic missile posture and I think US ABM systems are a relatively secondary concern (as compared to the Russians who have always had a nearly irrational fear of ABM weapons). I think China has war gamed out a conventional conflict with the US and realized they lose every escalation cycle that doesn't involve at least a draw. At any given moment there are a probably a couple hundred cruise missiles on naval platforms within range of their coast line, and every effort to extend the fight to US regional installations increases the likelihood that a US counter strike targets production facilities and other vulnerable economic/military infrastructure. Escalating to a nuclear exchange similarly boxes them in to a devastating war they can't win. I think they will seek to achieve nuclear parity regardless of what the US or Russia does so that any future conflict with the US can be on even terms.

As for the Russians and Avangarde, I think they did that not to lump hypersonics into future treaties as much as to keep the US in NewSTART. I doubt even Biden would agree to a treaty that left an entire class of deployed strategic weapons outside its purview*. The fact that the Russians wanted NewSTART makes me assume that while the US doesn't have any nuclear weapons in production, it has sufficient warheads in storage to rapidly re MIRV such that the Russians would not want a return to that posture. I don't know if this means they have fewer strategic weapons in storage or a similar number but maintained in worse condition, or some other deployment problem (spending even more money while recapitalizing the deterrence force?), but they have always made it clear they wanted to return to NewSTART.

* To some extent Poseidon/Status 6 would come under 'uncontrolled strategic weapon', but these are effectively second strike weapons with a very limited target set and slow delivery, even when the type becomes operational.
I mean China still feels like the can achieve a Political victory via Military force RE: Taiwan without a huge backlash from the US. As long as this ignorant thinking proliferates in the upper echelons of the CCP & PLA, they are in for a harsh awakening. I don't know what assumptions they are operating under but the American people wouldn't tolerate such an attack against US forces in the region, independent of sentiment of the US political establishment.
 

Josh_TN

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I think China is aware of the repercussions of open conflict with Taiwan and that's why there isn't open conflict with Taiwan.
 

sferrin

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Until China's nukes are included the US unilaterally hamstringing itself is insane.
 

In_A_Dream

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I think China is aware of the repercussions of open conflict with Taiwan and that's why there isn't open conflict with Taiwan.
They are not yet in a position to do so economically or militarily, the 2030 timeline that's provided by defense analysts would be more favorable as China continues on its path towards Hegemonic leadership.
 

Trident

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I think China is rethinking its entire nuclear and ballistic missile posture and I think US ABM systems are a relatively secondary concern (as compared to the Russians who have always had a nearly irrational fear of ABM weapons).

Not so sure about that. Russia's arsenal is still sufficiently larger that it has considerably more margin for accommodating BMD. And it is beginning to field a weapon (Avangard) which outflanks current US defences - there's every reason to expect the Russians to be *less* worried than China.

As for the Russians and Avangarde, I think they did that not to lump hypersonics into future treaties as much as to keep the US in NewSTART. I doubt even Biden would agree to a treaty that left an entire class of deployed strategic weapons outside its purview*.

Possible. If the intention is to set a precedent on hypersonics, they are certainly keeping mum about it! But bearing in mind their previous harsh criticism of US CPGS efforts and how such a move runs counter to stated US aims in strategic arms control, it cannot be discounted IMHO.

I don't know if this means they have fewer strategic weapons in storage or a similar number but maintained in worse condition, or some other deployment problem (spending even more money while recapitalizing the deterrence force?), but they have always made it clear they wanted to return to NewSTART.

I suspect it's money - conventional wisdom has the Russian stored arsenal larger IIRC. It is certainly interesting though to note that the US has FAR more upload potential than typical New START critics (who tend to act like it's a uniquely Russian capability) like to acknowledge!

* To some extent Poseidon/Status 6 would come under 'uncontrolled strategic weapon', but these are effectively second strike weapons with a very limited target set and slow delivery, even when the type becomes operational.

It's more prosaic than that - Poseidon (and the other novel delivery systems) simply have no chance of going on alert before the New START extension expires, so were irrelevant to the issue.
 

tequilashooter

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I sort of follow the purpose of the ABM and Start treaty, but is there one(or there should be one) for lets say sending a megawatt powered nuclear satellite that is EW capable like the Ekipazh that might target our satellite tracking projects? There was some paranoia of what Russia sends to space without disclosing what they sent.
 

In_A_Dream

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I sort of follow the purpose of the ABM and Start treaty, but is there one(or there should be one) for lets say sending a megawatt powered nuclear satellite that is EW capable like the Ekipazh that might target our satellite tracking projects? There was some paranoia of what Russia sends to space without disclosing what they sent.
1967 Outer Space Treaty
 

Josh_TN

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I sort of follow the purpose of the ABM and Start treaty, but is there one(or there should be one) for lets say sending a megawatt powered nuclear satellite that is EW capable like the Ekipazh that might target our satellite tracking projects? There was some paranoia of what Russia sends to space without disclosing what they sent.
1967 Outer Space Treaty
I don't think that bans nuclear power, just nuclear weapons. The US orbited the SNAP series of satellites and the Soviets orbited numerous RORSATs which also had a nuclear power reactors (and not just RTGs). In fact I believe two of those reactors failed to boost into grave yard orbits and fell back to earth, at least one breaking up over (and contaminating) Canada.

It would be obvious if any satellite was nuclear powered; the IR signature would be massive.
 

Josh_TN

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I don't know if this means they have fewer strategic weapons in storage or a similar number but maintained in worse condition, or some other deployment problem (spending even more money while recapitalizing the deterrence force?), but they have always made it clear they wanted to return to NewSTART.

I suspect it's money - conventional wisdom has the Russian stored arsenal larger IIRC. It is certainly interesting though to note that the US has FAR more upload potential than typical New START critics (who tend to act like it's a uniquely Russian capability) like to acknowledge!


Regarding warheads, I think the US has ~4500 in various states of storage in the enduring stockpile in various states of assembly (I think even a few B53s are retained dismantled for 'planetary defense') . It wouldn't shock me if Russia had even more. But it might be the case that the US has a much larger number of serviceable warheads that could be easily reloaded. There were something like 2700 W76s made and only ~450 are deployed. If a large number of those got the Mod 1 upgrade, then they are not only recently refurbished but also likely have a hard kill/first strike capability with the smart fuse upgrade. Presumably the deMIRVed W78s are also in serviceable condition. Along with bring fifty unused MMIII silos back online, the US could probably increase its deployed ICBM force by 950 warheads and its SLBM force by similar number of W76s. Not sure to what extent the Russians can upload their missiles.
 

In_A_Dream

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I sort of follow the purpose of the ABM and Start treaty, but is there one(or there should be one) for lets say sending a megawatt powered nuclear satellite that is EW capable like the Ekipazh that might target our satellite tracking projects? There was some paranoia of what Russia sends to space without disclosing what they sent.
1967 Outer Space Treaty
I don't think that bans nuclear power, just nuclear weapons. The US orbited the SNAP series of satellites and the Soviets orbited numerous RORSATs which also had a nuclear power reactors (and not just RTGs). In fact I believe two of those reactors failed to boost into grave yard orbits and fell back to earth, at least one breaking up over (and contaminating) Canada.

It would be obvious if any satellite was nuclear powered; the IR signature would be massive.
Not nuclear power, no, but the weaponization of space.
 

Josh_TN

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I sort of follow the purpose of the ABM and Start treaty, but is there one(or there should be one) for lets say sending a megawatt powered nuclear satellite that is EW capable like the Ekipazh that might target our satellite tracking projects? There was some paranoia of what Russia sends to space without disclosing what they sent.
1967 Outer Space Treaty
I don't think that bans nuclear power, just nuclear weapons. The US orbited the SNAP series of satellites and the Soviets orbited numerous RORSATs which also had a nuclear power reactors (and not just RTGs). In fact I believe two of those reactors failed to boost into grave yard orbits and fell back to earth, at least one breaking up over (and contaminating) Canada.

It would be obvious if any satellite was nuclear powered; the IR signature would be massive.
Not nuclear power, no, but the weaponization of space.
I haven't read it, but I thought it specifically banned placing nuclear weapons in space, not ASAT warfare.
 
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