Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD)

sferrin

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One air force general noted astutely that if the US removes ICBMs from inventory, a percentage of the bomber force will have to be put on permanent nuclear alert again, which would probably require a significantly larger force of aircraft than currently planned as well as increased maintenance and readiness costs associated with that.

I'd like to correct the USAF general's statement.

If the USAF wants to retain the slice of the budgetary pie it has now in regards to nuclear forces if it retires the ICBM force, it will have to put most of the bomber force back on nuclear alert, in order to keep X number of nuclear warheads under USAF control, lest that money go somewhere else, like two more Columbia-class SSBNs.
The notion that getting rid of our ICBM for somehow makes us safe makes my head hurt. It absolutely, 100% DOES NOT MATTER, if they could drop a nuke right through the silo lid. What it does is raise the guaranteed cost to any potential adversary. In other words, it makes it LESS likely a war would even start.
 

sferrin

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Are you saying you believe siloed ICBMs are an obsolete strategic deterrent?
Some people think the only factor to consider is how difficult something would be (in theory) to destroy. Ask yourself if China would be more likely to get away, scott free, with sinking an SSBN vs destroying an equal number of warheads in an ICBM field.
 

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Are you saying you believe siloed ICBMs are an obsolete strategic deterrent?
Some people think the only factor to consider is how difficult something would be (in theory) to destroy. Ask yourself if China would be more likely to get away, scott free, with sinking an SSBN vs destroying an equal number of warheads in an ICBM field.
The silos are vulnerable argument always skips over the “needing 400-800 warheads landing inside CONUS” part. It would be much more likely an adversary would consider 2-10 warheads on a couple or three bomber bases and maybe a few dozen [conventional] Tsirkons at our Boomers in port.

Even if that leaves us a couple subs at sea what exactly do we do when the other side still with 1540 warheads left (and maybe China joins that side as well) to our 80-120 says stand down or we hit 1540 cities [I’m exaggerating for effect]

Now we’ve lost maybe only 50k-100k killed in the first scenario do we risk 100M-200M more just to strike back?
 

sferrin

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Yep. It's so OBVIOUSLY a bad "argument". The only thing better than ICBMs in silos is mobile ICBMs, and wouldn't you know it, EVERYBODY else building ICBMs is doing just that. But if the US were to suggest mobile ICBMs the screeching would be heard on the moon.
 

sferrin

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Clearly we need to reconsider the need to replace the MMIII. /sarc
 

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One air force general noted astutely that if the US removes ICBMs from inventory, a percentage of the bomber force will have to be put on permanent nuclear alert again, which would probably require a significantly larger force of aircraft than currently planned as well as increased maintenance and readiness costs associated with that.

I'd like to correct the USAF general's statement.

If the USAF wants to retain the slice of the budgetary pie it has now in regards to nuclear forces if it retires the ICBM force, it will have to put most of the bomber force back on nuclear alert, in order to keep X number of nuclear warheads under USAF control, lest that money go somewhere else, like two more Columbia-class SSBNs.
The notion that getting rid of our ICBM for somehow makes us safe makes my head hurt. It absolutely, 100% DOES NOT MATTER, if they could drop a nuke right through the silo lid. What it does is raise the guaranteed cost to any potential adversary. In other words, it makes it LESS likely a war would even start.

When dealing with large issues like this; it's important to keep in mind intra-service politics.

If we retired all 450 of our Minutemen now, we could easily make up the numbers by uploading our Trident SSBNs back to something approaching their 14 x RV maximum throw weight capability -- and it wouldn't really cost anything, other than the costs involved in reloading the Tridents at King's Bay Georgia, and marginal costs from having more W88 warheads "in the wild." because the Trident SSBN force is already "paid for", both in communications, dockyards, nuclear plants, etc.

The fact that the USAF General said "We'll have to have a good portion of our bomber force back on alert again" instead of that option makes it clear his statement is all about maintaining the USAF's budgetary slice of pie.
 

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Some people think the only factor to consider is how difficult something would be (in theory) to destroy. Ask yourself if China would be more likely to get away, scott free, with sinking an SSBN vs destroying an equal number of warheads in an ICBM field.

If you're sinking a purely strategic weapons platform (SSBN), you've already stepped way over the line -- on top of the 150+ dead from the sinking.

A far more realistic attack vector on SSBNs is to have a robotic USV deploy a small limpet mine onto a SSBN while it's in port. The damage to the hull would keep it from submerging for years, and the "Get away with it" factor is much higher vs sinking a SSBN at high sea.
 

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The silos are vulnerable argument always skips over the “needing 400-800 warheads landing inside CONUS” part. It would be much more likely an adversary would consider 2-10 warheads on a couple or three bomber bases and maybe a few dozen [conventional] Tsirkons at our Boomers in port.

Why do we need to have 400-800 warheads land in CONUS? What point does that serve, other than provincialism to let the USAF maintain an ICBM force? The fallout from 400~ warheads landing on the ICBM force would be many times more lethal than the warheads themselves.

By contrast warheads on bomber bases would be much cleaner as the enemy only needs to aim for maximum radius of 5 PSI overpressure.

Even if that leaves us a couple subs at sea what exactly do we do when the other side still with 1540 warheads left (and maybe China joins that side as well) to our 80-120 says stand down or we hit 1540 cities [I’m exaggerating for effect]

There are 14 x Ohio SSBNs, and if we use the 1/3 rule of thumb, that leaves us with 4 at sea at any one time. At 24 missiles per boat, that's 96 SLBM, and if we ignore New START and reload them to their full throwweight of 14 x RVs, that's 1,344 nukes we can throw back.

That doesn't also count that there would be a few more SSBN that would be in port or returning/transiting to their operational areas fully loaded and they'd be capable of firing their missiles either pierside or from where they are now. At 336 warheads per SSBN, that's a bunch more we can add to the tally.

In closing, I'd like to point out that:

1.) The smallest nuclear weapon we know of can fit within a 155mm artillery shell and that's well within the range of SDB I/II; so a single B-2 Spirit or B-21 Raider could carry 200~ nuclear weapons.

2.) We have about 40 x heavy penetrating bombers sitting around doing nothing, now that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are other. Re-Nuclearise the Bones.

3.) BGM-109G Gryphon...what can we do better now with 40 years' advancement in avonics, airframe, and powerplant?
 
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RyanC

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Yep. It's so OBVIOUSLY a bad "argument". The only thing better than ICBMs in silos is mobile ICBMs, and wouldn't you know it, EVERYBODY else building ICBMs is doing just that. But if the US were to suggest mobile ICBMs the screeching would be heard on the moon.

Also pay attention to what the USSR Russia is doing:

Nuclear powered cruise missiles with intercontinental range (9M730 Burevestnik)
Nuclear powered torpedoes with intercontinental range (Poseidon Torpedoes)
Hypersonic Gliders (Avangard) for existing ICBMs

2 out of 3 are designed to sidestep ABM completely, while 1 out of 3 is designed to present an extremely difficult "live" maneuvering target profile to ABM systems versus conventional "dead" RVs.
 

sferrin

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Yep. It's so OBVIOUSLY a bad "argument". The only thing better than ICBMs in silos is mobile ICBMs, and wouldn't you know it, EVERYBODY else building ICBMs is doing just that. But if the US were to suggest mobile ICBMs the screeching would be heard on the moon.

Also pay attention to what the USSR Russia is doing:

Nuclear powered cruise missiles with intercontinental range (9M730 Burevestnik)
Nuclear powered torpedoes with intercontinental range (Poseidon Torpedoes)
Hypersonic Gliders (Avangard) for existing ICBMs

2 out of 3 are designed to sidestep ABM completely, while 1 out of 3 is designed to present an extremely difficult "live" maneuvering target profile to ABM systems versus conventional "dead" RVs.
Mobile ICBMS (in production) - Check
Silo-based ICBMs (in production) - Check
A MONSTER ICBM in service with its replacement in development - Check.

I am paying attention. Those weapons you pointed out are in ADDITION to their ICBMs. If anything you've strengthened the case for land-based ICBMs.
 

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Mobile ICBMS (in production) - Check
Silo-based ICBMs (in production) - Check
A MONSTER ICBM in service with its replacement in development - Check.

I am paying attention. Those weapons you pointed out are in ADDITION to their ICBMs. If anything you've strengthened the case for land-based ICBMs.

Many of them are replacements for obsolete Cold War equipment.

That superheavy ICBM -- the RS-28 Sarmat, is a replacement for the SS-18 SATAN, the newest of which dates back to 1988.

Likewise, the RS-24 Yars is a replacement for the earlier SS-25 system from the 1970s to 1980s.

This BTW, is another strike against delusional arms controllers -- they believe that if we do X, then our opponent will do Y as well.

For example, we withdrew all 50 of our Peacekeepers in the early 2000s and abandoned superheavy ICBMs in the 1980s with the retirement of Titan II; but did the Soviets (and later Russians) react the way arms controllers said they would, with reciprocal retirements?

Nope!

Which is why everything arms controllers write should be torn up and used as toilet paper.

You'll note that I'm calling for different approaches to our current strategic situation, rather than mirror imaging everything the Russians do.

For example, my first post in this thread back in 2014 had this commentary on GBSD back during the definition phase when they assumed a 2030 in-silo emplacement date:

Just in time for laser defenses to be deployed operationally.

More to the point, equations are going to change as soon as Elon Musk and SpaceX make it possible to put 70 tonnes into orbit for like $5M.

What could we do with 70,000 kg in orbit every month? Rods from God now feasible?
 

bobbymike

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The silos are vulnerable argument always skips over the “needing 400-800 warheads landing inside CONUS” part. It would be much more likely an adversary would consider 2-10 warheads on a couple or three bomber bases and maybe a few dozen [conventional] Tsirkons at our Boomers in port.

Why do we need to have 400-800 warheads land in CONUS? What point does that serve, other than provincialism to let the USAF maintain an ICBM force? The fallout from 400~ warheads landing on the ICBM force would be many times more lethal than the warheads themselves.

By contrast warheads on bomber bases would be much cleaner as the enemy only needs to aim for maximum radius of 5 PSI overpressure.

Even if that leaves us a couple subs at sea what exactly do we do when the other side still with 1540 warheads left (and maybe China joins that side as well) to our 80-120 says stand down or we hit 1540 cities [I’m exaggerating for effect]

There are 14 x Ohio SSBNs, and if we use the 1/3 rule of thumb, that leaves us with 4 at sea at any one time. At 24 missiles per boat, that's 96 SLBM, and if we ignore New START and reload them to their full throwweight of 14 x RVs, that's 1,344 nukes we can throw back.

That doesn't also count that there would be a few more SSBN that would be in port or returning/transiting to their operational areas fully loaded and they'd be capable of firing their missiles either pierside or from where they are now. At 336 warheads per SSBN, that's a bunch more we can add to the tally.

In closing, I'd like to point out that:

1.) The smallest nuclear weapon we know of can fit within a 155mm artillery shell and that's well within the range of SDB I/II; so a single B-2 Spirit or B-21 Raider could carry 200~ nuclear weapons.

2.) We have about 40 x heavy penetrating bombers sitting around doing nothing, now that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are other. Re-Nuclearise the Bones.

3.) BGM-109G Gryphon...what can we do better now with 40 years' advancement in avonics, airframe, and powerplant?
You are actually agreeing with what I posted. I’m saying an adversary would have to attack CONUS with 400-800 high yield warheads to hope to eliminate our ICBMs. That would be a much harder decision than 2-10 low yield against our bomber bases.
 

sferrin

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Mobile ICBMS (in production) - Check
Silo-based ICBMs (in production) - Check
A MONSTER ICBM in service with its replacement in development - Check.

I am paying attention. Those weapons you pointed out are in ADDITION to their ICBMs. If anything you've strengthened the case for land-based ICBMs.

Many of them are replacements for obsolete Cold War equipment.

That superheavy ICBM -- the RS-28 Sarmat, is a replacement for the SS-18 SATAN, the newest of which dates back to 1988.

Likewise, the RS-24 Yars is a replacement for the earlier SS-25 system from the 1970s to 1980s.

As I'm sure you're aware, our NEWEST ICBM was built in 1977 (when the last one rolled off the line). So yes, what you're saying is exactly my point. Russia is building multiple types of ICBMs to replace their "older" stuff. China is building multiple types as well.
 

Josh_TN

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One air force general noted astutely that if the US removes ICBMs from inventory, a percentage of the bomber force will have to be put on permanent nuclear alert again, which would probably require a significantly larger force of aircraft than currently planned as well as increased maintenance and readiness costs associated with that.

I'd like to correct the USAF general's statement.

If the USAF wants to retain the slice of the budgetary pie it has now in regards to nuclear forces if it retires the ICBM force, it will have to put most of the bomber force back on nuclear alert, in order to keep X number of nuclear warheads under USAF control, lest that money go somewhere else, like two more Columbia-class SSBNs.
The notion that getting rid of our ICBM for somehow makes us safe makes my head hurt. It absolutely, 100% DOES NOT MATTER, if they could drop a nuke right through the silo lid. What it does is raise the guaranteed cost to any potential adversary. In other words, it makes it LESS likely a war would even start.

When dealing with large issues like this; it's important to keep in mind intra-service politics.

If we retired all 450 of our Minutemen now, we could easily make up the numbers by uploading our Trident SSBNs back to something approaching their 14 x RV maximum throw weight capability -- and it wouldn't really cost anything, other than the costs involved in reloading the Tridents at King's Bay Georgia, and marginal costs from having more W88 warheads "in the wild." because the Trident SSBN force is already "paid for", both in communications, dockyards, nuclear plants, etc.

The fact that the USAF General said "We'll have to have a good portion of our bomber force back on alert again" instead of that option makes it clear his statement is all about maintaining the USAF's budgetary slice of pie.
I disagree, because that is *always* something the US could do as soon as New START expires, while you are discounting uploading MM3s with two more warheads each as well. And presumably the next ICBM will have more room for a larger warhead bus.

Again: keeping a missile in a silo is always, missile per missile, cheaper than building a nuclear submarine and training nuclear engineers to operate it.
 

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If we retired all 450 of our Minutemen now, we could easily make up the numbers by uploading our Trident SSBNs back to something approaching their 14 x RV maximum throw weight capability -- and it wouldn't really cost anything, other than the costs involved in reloading the Tridents at King's Bay Georgia, and marginal costs from having more W88 warheads "in the wild." because the Trident SSBN force is already "paid for", both in communications, dockyards, nuclear plants, etc.
Problem here, is that if you need to increase your nuclear force past Trident max capacity - for example, in case of nuclear limitation treaty collapse - it would took a lot of time and money to build additional submarines.
 

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If we retired all 450 of our Minutemen now, we could easily make up the numbers by uploading our Trident SSBNs back to something approaching their 14 x RV maximum throw weight capability -- and it wouldn't really cost anything, other than the costs involved in reloading the Tridents at King's Bay Georgia, and marginal costs from having more W88 warheads "in the wild." because the Trident SSBN force is already "paid for", both in communications, dockyards, nuclear plants, etc.
Problem here, is that if you need to increase your nuclear force past Trident max capacity - for example, in case of nuclear limitation treaty collapse - it would took a lot of time and money to build additional submarines.
I don't understand the drive to pigeonhole our nuclear forces into SSBNs, honestly don't.
 

sferrin

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If we retired all 450 of our Minutemen now, we could easily make up the numbers by uploading our Trident SSBNs back to something approaching their 14 x RV maximum throw weight capability -- and it wouldn't really cost anything, other than the costs involved in reloading the Tridents at King's Bay Georgia, and marginal costs from having more W88 warheads "in the wild." because the Trident SSBN force is already "paid for", both in communications, dockyards, nuclear plants, etc.
Problem here, is that if you need to increase your nuclear force past Trident max capacity - for example, in case of nuclear limitation treaty collapse - it would took a lot of time and money to build additional submarines.
I don't understand the drive to pigeonhole our nuclear forces into SSBNs, honestly don't.


Because it's a bad idea. Those trying to do it either have ulterior motives (not good ones) or believe the only thing that matters is how vulnerable they think a silo is compared to a tube on an SSBN.
 

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I think he was just playing Devil's Advocate there while making the point that not all the ICBM force should be silo-based.
 
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Problem here, is that if you need to increase your nuclear force past Trident max capacity - for example, in case of nuclear limitation treaty collapse - it would took a lot of time and money to build additional submarines.

The same can be said for silos -- a LOT of land was moved to build them; and much of the old Minuteman infrastructure (the other 450-500 silos we built for a force of 1000 MM) that we had paid for long ago in the 1960s was imploded to comply with arms control treaties.
 
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RyanC

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As I'm sure you're aware, our NEWEST ICBM was built in 1977 (when the last one rolled off the line). So yes, what you're saying is exactly my point. Russia is building multiple types of ICBMs to replace their "older" stuff. China is building multiple types as well.

The newest ballistic missile we have is the Trident D-5 -- the last set of 24 missiles was procured in FY2012 LINK

That begs a question...since we know that Trident has range equal to Minuteman II, why not simply switch to a unified ICBM/SLBM force? Problems I can see with that are the need to dig new silos -- Trident II is 2.11m vs MMIII's 1.68m.

Trident D-5 is also 59 tonnes vs RS-24 Yars' 49.6 tonnes; which means that making it road mobile might be a problem.

EDIT: Peacekeeper was deployed in existing MM silos; and it was 2.3m in diameter. So why are the USN and USAF not working together on a common missile?
 
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bobbymike

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As I'm sure you're aware, our NEWEST ICBM was built in 1977 (when the last one rolled off the line). So yes, what you're saying is exactly my point. Russia is building multiple types of ICBMs to replace their "older" stuff. China is building multiple types as well.

The newest ballistic missile we have is the Trident D-5 -- the last set of 24 missiles was procured in FY2012 LINK

That begs a question...since we know that Trident has range equal to Minuteman II, why not simply switch to a unified ICBM/SLBM force? Problems I can see with that are the need to dig new silos -- Trident II is 2.11m vs MMIII's 1.68m.

Trident D-5 is also 59 tonnes vs RS-24 Yars' 49.6 tonnes; which means that making it road mobile might be a problem.
Assuming the D5 will be cold canister launched the existing MMIII silos can accommodate that diameter.

I don’t know the difference specifically but Trident has a 1.1 class solid propellant and MMIII is 1.2 less energetic and less sensitive to shock.

Members here might know more or please correct if I’m inaccurate
 

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You are actually agreeing with what I posted. I’m saying an adversary would have to attack CONUS with 400-800 high yield warheads to hope to eliminate our ICBMs.

Or 400 to 800 x Conventionally Armed Intercontinental Cruise Missiles aiming at the silo doors themselves with 500 to 1,000 lb shaped charge warheads.

Over the decades, the force structure required to destroy a target set of 500 x 1000 PSI hardness silo-based missiles has gone down and down:

1961 - Titan I force vs 500 silos: 9,500 missiles needed.
1966 - Minuteman II force vs 500 silos: 3,000 missiles needed.
1970+ - Minuteman III force vs 500 silos: 500 missiles needed (3 RV per silo)
2000+ - Trident II D-5 force vs 500 silos: 36 missiles needed (1 RV per silo)

Silos made sense from 1960-1985, due to a whole clutch of factors, some of which I've mentioned in prior posts:

1.) Geolocating enemy silos accurately was a nation-state level task -- this is no longer true.

2A.) Accuracy of weapons; both in the navigational and terminal phase was bad enough to preclude conventional methods of attack -- this is no longer true.

2B) The big advantage of silo based missiles -- accuracy -- has largely been negated by advances in technology enabling mobile missiles (whether rail/road or submarine based) to have accuracy roughly equal to fixed launch sites, with minimal preparation before launch.

(That was a big one for Minuteman in the old days; because the location of each silo was known and continental drift could be accounted for -- they were able to launch in a minute, as opposed to taking around 15-20 minutes to perform navigational fixes for mobile platforms. Additionally, road/rail mobile systems needed geolocated/surveyed positions to take fixes from; which could be detected through satellites and targeted ahead of time)

But in the end, what I think effectively drove a stake into the heart of fixed missiles was Bush's withdrawal and nullification of the ABM Treaty in the early 2000s.

Fixed missiles' trajectories are very well known and can be calculated -- there's only so many paths a missile launched from a specific spot in North Dakota can take if it's path must terminate in downtown Moscow or Cheylabinsk.

ABM assets such as radars and interceptors can then be preferentially deployed against the threat tracks from the major ICBM fields in CONUS.

For all the crying of "decoys are cheap and fool ABM systems!" by the arms controllers, Russian military R&D shows otherwise; because why else would hypersonic gliders be developed, when they reduce the amount of warheads a heavy ICBM can deploy from about 10~ to only 1 or 2 hypersonic gliders?

Same thing with the nuclear powered 9M730 Burevestnik Intercontinental Cruise Missile and Poseidon Intercontinental Torpedo.

You don't do those if you're confident of your "cheap" decoys and chaff enabling you to sneak RVs past ABM defenses.

Extremely mobile ballistic missiles, such as those carried on submarines or on aircraft, allow the attacker to orient their launch trajectories so they can preferentially fly through weak defense sectors, something not possible for fixed sites in North Dakota.

That would be a much harder decision than 2-10 low yield against our bomber bases.

Something I think you are missing sight of here is that silo basing isn't about protecting the population of a country -- the population play the role of expendable bystanders who must die to protect the missiles.

See attached photo.
 

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sferrin

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Or 400 to 800 x Conventionally Armed Intercontinental Cruise Missiles aiming at the silo doors themselves with 500 to 1,000 lb shaped charge warheads.

Do you honestly believe such an attack wouldn't be recognized for what it was and the missile long gone before they arrived?

Something I think you are missing sight of here is that silo basing isn't about protecting the population of a country -- the population play the role of expendable bystanders who must die to protect the missiles.

Well that's not true at all. How would killing citizens protect missiles? (Also, if you think citizens wouldn't be a target in ANY WW3 scenario anyway I have a bridge for sale.) Land based ICBMs reduce the likelihood that a war would start at all because raises the stakes for the ATTACKER.
 

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Or 400 to 800 x Conventionally Armed Intercontinental Cruise Missiles aiming at the silo doors themselves with 500 to 1,000 lb shaped charge warheads.

Do you honestly believe such an attack wouldn't be recognized for what it was and the missile long gone before……
I didn’t know how to succinctly address that, thanks Scott. Oh and those cruise missiles apparently launched from Russia would take what, 12 hours to hit?
 

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Stealthy intercontinental cruise missiles with supersonic terminal attack profiles are well within current technological capabilities. Not to mention that during the 1990s, there was serious study into deploying both UAVs and cruise missiles from satellites in low earth orbit (and interest in the latter capability at least probably began during the 1980s).
 

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Stealthy intercontinental cruise missiles with supersonic terminal attack profiles are well within current technological capabilities. Not to mention that during the 1990s, there was serious study into deploying both UAVs and cruise missiles from satellites in low earth orbit (and interest in the latter capability at least probably began during the 1980s).

You'd have to launch them, hundreds of them, and hope they wouldn't be detected for hours. If it were that easy Russia and China would be doing it. In any case that a silo could be destroyed is not at question. (And almost doesn't even matter.) For an adversary to take them out they'd have to launch an attack on the continental US. That would not go without a significant response.
 

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Stealthy intercontinental cruise missiles with supersonic terminal attack profiles are well within current technological capabilities. Not to mention that during the 1990s, there was serious study into deploying both UAVs and cruise missiles from satellites in low earth orbit (and interest in the latter capability at least probably began during the 1980s).

You'd have to launch them, hundreds of them, and hope they wouldn't be detected for hours. If it were that easy Russia and China would be doing it. In any case that a silo could be destroyed is not at question. (And almost doesn't even matter.) For an adversary to take them out they'd have to launch an attack on the continental US. That would not go without a significant response.
A thousand pound warhead carrying cruise missile with a 10-12k km range would weigh what and be how big? Also how close would a 1000lb conventional warhead have to get, after a 10k km journey to destroy a hardened ICBM silo?
 

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Stealthy intercontinental cruise missiles with supersonic terminal attack profiles are well within current technological capabilities. Not to mention that during the 1990s, there was serious study into deploying both UAVs and cruise missiles from satellites in low earth orbit (and interest in the latter capability at least probably began during the 1980s).

You'd have to launch them, hundreds of them, and hope they wouldn't be detected for hours. If it were that easy Russia and China would be doing it. In any case that a silo could be destroyed is not at question. (And almost doesn't even matter.) For an adversary to take them out they'd have to launch an attack on the continental US. That would not go without a significant response.
A thousand pound warhead carrying cruise missile with a 10-12k km range would weigh what and be how big? Also how close would a 1000lb conventional warhead have to get, after a 10k km journey to destroy a hardened ICBM silo?

With terminal guidance distance flown is almost irrelevant. These days they could put the penetrator right through the silo lid.
 

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