February 8, 2023
by Michael Snyder
It has been said that there are no winners in a nuclear war, but the Russians and the Chinese have been feverishly preparing to fight one anyway. When I was growing up, I was taught that nobody would ever dare start a nuclear war because both sides would fire their missiles and everyone would die. In those days the doctrine of “mutual assured destruction” was universally accepted in the United States, and once the Cold War ended our politicians saw no more need to upgrade our missiles or to develop cutting edge anti-missile technologies. Unfortunately, the balance of power has changed dramatically over the past decade. Russia and China have both made enormous leaps forward, and that puts us in a very precarious position.
In recent days, Republicans in Congress have been buzzing about a new report “from the top commander of U.S. nuclear forces” that says that China now has more launchers for land-based nuclear missiles than the U.S. does…
Top Republicans on Capitol Hill are raising alarms over news that China has surpassed the U.S. in its number of launchers for land-based nuclear missiles — and arguing for the U.S. to expand its own arsenal to keep pace.
Four GOP leaders on the House and Senate Armed Services committees said the revelation about China’s nuclear capability, made in a Jan. 26 letter from the top commander of U.S. nuclear forces, is a warning that Beijing’s arsenal is expanding faster than anticipated, though the U.S. still has more warheads and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
This wasn’t supposed to happen.
We all knew that the Chinese were upgrading their arsenal, but it turns out that they were even busier than we had anticipated.
In fact, they “have doubled their number of warheads in just 2 years”…
“The [Chinese Communist Party] is rapidly expanding its nuclear capability. They have doubled their number of warheads in just 2 years,” Rogers said at the outset of Tuesday’s hearing. “We estimated it would take them a decade to do that.”
I was stunned when I saw that.
The Chinese were not supposed to catch up with us that quickly.
Meanwhile, the Russians have developed a new intercontinental ballistic missile that is the most advanced in the world by a wide margin. It is called “the Sarmat”, and it is absolutely frightening…
The Sarmat is a three-stage, silo-based, liquid-fuel, heavy ICBM with a reported range of 18,000 kilometers. Dubbed “Satan II” by NATO, the missile is a Russian-built replacement of the Soviet-era SS-18 “Satan” ICBM, which is reaching the end of its life cycle. The Sarmat reportedly can carry a 10-ton payload consisting of 10-plus multiple independent reentry vehicles along with penetration aids used to evade missile defenses. Moscow says the new missile can also carry several Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles.
A single Sarmat can carry enough firepower to destroy an area the size of Texas.
If the Russians or the Chinese fire their missiles at us, can we shoot them down?
The answer is no.
In fact, a study that was just released concluded that our anti-missile defenses are so feeble that we couldn’t even do much “to stop a relative handful of old-fashioned North Korean ICBMs” from reaching their targets…
While the United States could do very little to stop a sky full of Russian or Chinese hypersonic boost-glide vehicles from finding their targets on American soil… it could do just as little to stop a relative handful of old-fashioned North Korean ICBMs from reaching those targets either.
And that’s not media sensationalism or journalistic hyperbole. A bit more than a month ago, a team of 13 physicists and engineers with the American Physical Society released a 54-page study exploring this very question, and they came to some disconcerting conclusions.
So on our side of the equation, “mutual assured destruction” still applies.
If our enemies fire their missiles at us, we will be in all sorts of trouble.
Unfortunately, the Russians have been working very hard to develop very sophisticated anti-missile systems.
Until the S-500 was developed, the A-135 was the best system that the Russians had for intercepting intercontinental ballistic missiles…
The A-135 was designed to intercept US intercontinental ballistic missiles as well as submarine-launched ballistic missiles. This anti-ballistic missile system has discrimination ability and can identify real re-entry vehicles from decoys and fake warheads.
The A-135 is superior to anything that we have, but it is far from perfect.
But now the S-500 is here.
It went into service last year, and there is no other system in the world that is even worth comparing to it. The following information about the S-500 comes from Wikipedia…
The S-500 is designed for intercepting and destroying intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well as hypersonic cruise missiles and aircraft, for air defense against Airborne Early Warning and Control and for jamming aircraft. With a planned range of 600 km (370 mi) for anti-ballistic missile (ABM) and 500 km (310 mi) for air defense, the S-500 would be able to detect and simultaneously engage up to 10 ballistic hypersonic targets flying at a speed of 5 kilometres per second (3.1 mi/s) to a limit of 7 km/s (4.3 mi/s). It also aims at destroying hypersonic cruise missiles and other aerial targets at speeds of higher than Mach 5, as well as spacecraft. The altitude of a target engaged can be as high as 180–200 km (110–120 mi). It is effective against ballistic missiles with a launch range of 3,500 km (2,200 mi), the radar reaches a radius of 3,000 km (1,300 km for the EPR 0,1 square meter). Other targets it has been announced to defend against include unmanned aerial vehicles, low Earth orbit satellites, space weapons launched from hypersonic aircraft, and hypersonic orbital platforms.
The system is mobile and has rapid deployability. Experts believe that the system’s capabilities can affect enemy intercontinental ballistic missiles at the middle and end portions of flight, but reports by Almaz-Antey say that the external target-designation system (RLS Voronezh-DM and missile defence system A-135 radar Don-2N) will be capable of mid-early flight portion interceptions of enemy ballistic missiles, which is one of the final stages of the S-500 project. It is to have a response time of less than 4 seconds (Compared to the S-400’s less than 10).
Sadly, the U.S. has not developed new land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles in decades. At this point, the backbone of our land-based arsenal consists of just 400 extremely outdated Minuteman III missiles. The following comes from the official website of the U.S. Department of Defense…
Up to 400 Minuteman III missiles make up the most responsive leg of the nuclear triad. America’s ICBM force has remained on continuous, around-the-clock alert since 1959. The Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program will begin the replacement of Minuteman III and modernization of the 450 ICBM launch facilities in 2029.
These Minuteman III missiles first went into service in the early 1970s, and the silos for these missiles can be found in the states of Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming…
In 1970, the Minuteman III became the first deployed ICBM with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV): three smaller warheads that improved the missile’s ability to strike targets defended by ABMs. They were initially armed with the W62 warhead with a yield of 170 kilotons.
By the 1970s, 1,000 Minuteman missiles were deployed. This force has shrunk to 400 Minuteman III missiles as of September 2017, deployed in missile silos around Malmstrom AFB, Montana; Minot AFB, North Dakota; and Francis E. Warren AFB, Wyoming.
Would you want to use a computer that was made in the 1970s?
If not, then why would we want to fight a nuclear war with missiles made in the 1970s?
If a nuclear war with Russia erupts, we will be sending 400 hopelessly outdated land-based missiles against the extremely sophisticated anti-missile systems that the Russians have now developed.
Are you sure that our missiles will get through?
Needless to say, our land-based missiles are only one-third of our “nuclear triad”.
Our strategic bombers are another leg of the triad. The B-52 bomber has been around for a long time, and it is capable of carrying nuclear weapons…
The B-52 is a long-range, heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions. It can carry nuclear or precision guided conventional weapons with worldwide precision navigation. The B-52 is slated to be in service beyond 2040.
Unfortunately, I wouldn’t count on B-52 bombers doing much, because they would get absolutely shredded by Russian anti-aircraft systems.
Our stealth bombers are much better choices…
The B-2 Spirit is a multirole stealth bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear weapons. The B-21 Raider will first supplement, then eventually replace, the B-2 beginning in the mid-2020s.
Of course if the Russians destroy our airbases in a devastating first strike from their subs before we can even get our bombers loaded and off the ground, this leg of the triad won’t be of much use either.
The final leg of our nuclear triad is made up of just 14 Ohio-class submarines…
Fourteen Ohio-class SSBNs make up the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad. Their stealth design makes finding an SSBN an almost impossible task, giving pause to potential adversaries. The Columbia-class SSBN program will begin to replace the Ohio-class SSBNs starting in the early 2030s.
As the Department of Defense has noted, these submarines are definitely “the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad”.
If the Russians nuke us, we should be able to send sub-based missiles back at them.
But once again, those missiles are outdated.
Right now, our Ohio-class subs are carrying Trident II missiles that first went into service in 1990…
The UGM-133A Trident II, or Trident D5 is a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), built by Lockheed Martin Space in Sunnyvale, California, and deployed with the American and British navies. It was first deployed in March 1990, and remains in service. The Trident II Strategic Weapons System is an improved SLBM with greater accuracy, payload, and range than the earlier Trident C-4. It is a key element of the U.S. strategic nuclear triad and strengthens U.S. strategic deterrence.
I believe that Trident II missiles are a more viable threat than Minuteman III missiles are, but they are still more than 30 years old.
Are you sure that our aging Trident II missiles will be able to get through the cutting edge anti-missile systems that the Russians have now developed?
By the way, the Chinese have been working very hard to develop sophisticated anti-missile systems as well.
Meanwhile, we continue to pretend that the doctrine of “mutual assured destruction” will magically save us even though the balance of power has fundamentally shifted.
As I have repeatedly warned my readers, we could soon find ourselves involved in wars with Russia and China at the same time.
Before we do that, perhaps we should take a really hard look at our own capabilities.
Many of the old paradigms no longer apply, and we are far more vulnerable than most people realize.
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