Archive for the 'Russia' Tag
Have been a bit sparing of late on posting here and at homeplate, in large part because the day job(s) have been demanding their pound (more like tens of pounds) of flesh. And developments appear to promise a major surge on one front in the next few weeks, so we’ll take advantage of the relative calm afforded during the next day or two to catch up on some previously reported events. Today — Russia and some updates on the PAK-FA and Bulava SLBM…
Russia: Putin Pledges 30 Billion Rubles for Fine-tuning PAK-FA
Russia’s fifth generation fighter program began roughly the same time as the US’ effort that yielded the F-22A, according to Russian sources. Delays stemming from defense and industry reform and economic slowdown in the wake of the breakup of the Soviet Union drew out the program. Cul-de-sacs beginning with the Berkut and later the MiG 1-44 added further delay until Sukhoi was back in charge of the project with the PAK-FA proposal. Taking the occasion during a recent demonstration/test flight (16th since first flight in January?), Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin identified about 90B rubles (руб) (~ US$ 3.3B ) in development funding for the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI), the Aircraft Construction Center at Zhukovsky and the PAK-FA. 60B руб is to go for building three additional tunnels at TsAGI and another 11B руб to the new center to be constructed at Zhukovsky. The former will be spread out in installments over the next several years, the new center is slated for completion around the end of 2012.
As for the PAK-FA — I think the expression in the photo above bespeaks volumes. As the US has discovered in the prolonged gestation periods for the F-22 and now the F-35 with commensurate rising production costs, the ticket for entry into the 5th generation fighter program is indeed an expensive one. Despite happy-talk about the PAK-FA being “two and a half and three times less than of its foreign counterparts” it is still too expensive for the Russian economy. Over 30B руб has been expended thus far on PAK-FA development and it is still sans the 5th gen engines necessary for all aspect stealth and a good bit of development remains on the weapons system. Even with the promise of another 30B руб forthcoming, much like the F-35, the PAK-FA will be heavily reliant on outside funding to come close to meeting any kind of production numbers. India has stepped to the plate, offering cash but also demanding a healthy portion of the early production, demanding 250 aircraft by 2017. And those are to be two-seaters.
Despite the acclaim the PAK-FA has received, as an expensive sink-hole in the Russian re-armament program, it has garnered its fair share of domestic criticisms:
Independent analysts give an overall negative forecast for the national rearmament program. The country has virtually wasted the 20 years which have passed since the break-up of the Soviet Union, said Anatoly Tsyganok, head of the Moscow-based Center for Military Forecasts.
Not a single new tank or fixed-wing aircraft has been developed since 1991, with only one helicopter being developed and used. “Fifth-generation planes are very expensive. Comparing total costs, Russia and the United States spend approximately the same amounts on their development and production,” Tsyganok told the paper. (Nezavisimaya Gazeta – translated)
Calvin Coolidge once waspishly commented on the high price of aircraft by asking why not buy one airplane and let pilots take turns flying it. With the advent of triple-digit million dollar fighters, we may be reaching such a point and it is evident that the US isn’t the only nation happening upon this circumstance. But, as far as the Russian leadership is concerned, for now at least the PAK-FA is flying, the same cannot be said about an even more vital element in the national defense plan, the Bulava SLBM…
Bulava SLBM to Resume Test Flights in August 2010
A recent interview with the former commander of the Soviet and Russian Navies, Admiral Vladimir Chernavin (translated), was revealing on several fronts insofar as the much troubled Bulava is concerned. Of first note was the fact that it appears testing of the Bulava will resume earlier (August 2010) than previously reported (November 2010 at earliest). At the time of the previous announcement in May, it was stated that a production run of three identical missiles was required before the next round of tests began – whether the earlier date is a reflection of that requirement being dropped or discovery of the root cause of the series of failures (particularly with the liquid-fueled third stage*) remains to be seen. Perhaps after having seen the head of the Strategic Missile Forces get sacked after less than a year on the job over probable readiness issues, Navy and industry found renewed enthusiasm for a more aggressive schedule.
The Bulava and its development trials and travails have served as a poster child for a larger view of a Russian defense industry that increasingly is finding it difficult to meet the demands for new forces while adjusting to the post-Soviet era. Consolidation has struck the industry as hard, if not harder, than its US counterpart. In his interview, ADM Chernavin pointed to the need for a replacement for the Sineva SLBM (ed: R-29RMU/RSM-54 Sineva/SS-N-23 SKIFF). The Sineva, while an exceptional missile in service (duration and capability — the last test launch was to its full 11,547 km range) is also a completely liquid-fueled missile, utilizing exceptionally dangerous hypergolics, which present a hazard to the boat and crew as well as demanding special care in materials selection and construction to avoid/contain any leakage. The drawbacks of hypergolics (ed. research and work on, I would note, have been part of the reason behind the paucity of posts – SJS) are the chief reason all US ICBMs and SLBMs as well as all new Russian ICBMs are solid-fuel. An earlier attempt at a solid-fuel SLBM, the R-39 (NATO: SS-N-20 Sturgeon) brought forth a 10-warhead missile, but one that was exceptionally heavy, with a launch weight of 90 tons. A follow-on to the R-39, the R-39UTTH “Bark“ suffered three consecutive failures in its first stage in early testing and was canceled. The Bulava followed in part, because the institute building it was also building the Topol-M land mobile ICBM and figured to gain efficiencies in development and production by emphasizing commonality between the two.
Chernavin points to the beginning of problems when the Bulava designers learned that, surprise, submarines move whereas the Topol, while a mobile missile, is fixed in place for launch. Compounding the flawed foundation decision-making was a series of cost- and schedule decisions to speed up the development process and shaving tests. The lead designer of the missile, Yury Solomonov, points the finger at Russia’s defense industry in general:
“I can say in earnest that none of the design solutions have been changed as a result of the tests. The problems occur in the links of the design-technology-production chain,” Solomonov said in an interview with the Izvestia newspaper published on Tuesday.
“Sometimes [the problem] is poor-quality materials, sometimes it is the lack of necessary equipment to exclude the ‘human’ factor in production, sometimes it is inefficient quality control,” he said.
The designer complained that the Russian industry is unable to provide Bulava manufacturers with at least 50 of the necessary components for production of the weapon. This forces designers to search for alternative solutions, seriously complicating the testing process.
That and evident quality control problems have led to a test program with between 1 to 5 (depending on whom you are talking to) successes in 12 launch attempts. However, with nothing else even on the drawing boards and a new class of SSBNs designed such that the Bulava is the only missile they can take, the die has been cast. Chernavin underscores this state of affairs with a verbal shrug and dose of fatalism, noting so much effort has already been spent that eventually “they will force it to fly” (“Но, уверен, «Булаву» все-таки заставят летать”).
* Why a liquid third stage? That is the post-boost vehicle (PBV) that carries the MIRVs — a liquid-fuel engine allows controlled start/stops to precisely maneuver the PBV as it releases the MIRV payload.
(crossposted at steeljawscribe.com)
“During the inspection, the crew found seven Kalashnikov guns, handguns of various brands, aluminum ladders for ascending aboard, navigation equipment, including the satellite one, reserve tanks with fuel, and a big amount of empty cartridge cases,” a Russian Defense Ministry source told the news agency.”
Now, a video has started circling the internet showing the boarding and destruction of the Somali vessel. Interestingly, the Russian Marines use English to speak to the Somalis, a practice previously seen the video of the Dutch operation.
[Apologies for my inability to embed the video]
You may recall that when the PAK-FA first took flight earlier this year a quick analysis was run on these pages and those over at my home page with a note that more granular analyses would surely be forthcoming. One of the first out of the box was over at the Air Power Australia site, and was pretty eyebrow raising in it’s own right. This past week Byron passed along an even more detailed analysis, all from open source material, that had come his way:
(Stephen Trimble over at The DEW Line notes that Markov and Hull have done work for Institute for Defense Analyses in the past, but this brief may be an independent effort).
In addition to the usual host of subjects – comparison with the only other 5th gen fighter currently flying, the F-22, for one; there are some interesting and perplexing elements to the design. For starters there is the matter of the split canopy (slide 33) with a structural member down the center of the canopy. The embedded radar antennas in the cheeks and wing leading edges are notable, but not novel as it is alleged the F-22 has embedded sensors around the aircraft. However, a multi-band capability (X-band AESA in the nose and fixed L-band in the cheeks and wings) offers greater operational flexibility and complicates counter-measures planning.
As pointed out earlier, the engines appear to lag the rest of the airframe, but even at that, with German technical assistance (see slide 40) presumably for improvements in the R&D side of the house with targets of efficiency and service life of the engine, the engines should prove sufficient from a performance, if not stealth (see slide 65). Closer to the F-35 in that regard than the F-22.
The fact that of the run of 500, 250 are Russian and the other 250 are to be a two-seat variant for India is worth noting from a resources standpoint (e.g., FMS to India is required to bring the project to fruition, just like the F-35 requires it’s share of international sales), though one wonders how much technological access the Indians will be given. This is not a small consideration as technology sharing is a bone of contention between the US and it’s F-35 partners, especially where software for the weapons system is concerned. Makes one wonder if a partnership had been entered with Japan and/or Australia what the production cost offsets might have been as well as potential for moving on to a 2nd and 3rd generation F-22.
That technology can range from the exotic, like a potential plasma energy capability which would allegedly function to break the lock of hostile AAM’s (see slides 18 & 67) to what looks to be a breakthrough in stealth coatings. The latter, if true, is perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the aircraft because of the implications it carries, not just for the PAK-FA, but generation 4.5 fighters like the Su-35. Stealth coatings have been a major time and materials cost factor for operational aircraft. The B-2 required special climate control hangers for maintenance on its coatings and one of the charges against the still-born A-12 was the beating its coatings would take in the at sea environment on a carrier. If the Russians have indeed turned the corner on a material that provides a 10x reduction in RCS, is substantially thinner (and thereby, lighter), durable in the field and can be applied to generation 4.5 aircraft, that raises the stakes considerably for Western air forces confronting opponents operating aircraft like the Su-35 updated with this material. One needn’t look too far to find a near-peer competitor that would have significant interest in applying this to their own fleet of indigenously produced gen 4/4.5 fighters and what that in turn would allow them to put into place from an operational standpoint.
Still, there are only a handful of prototypes and full flight testing is supposed to begin later this month. It is a long road from the CAD/CAM boards to the flight line and as we have found out time and again with the F-117, B-2, F-22 and now with the F-35 that unforeseen issues arise during testing (like avionics cooling – a real bedevilment for stealth aircraft) that force design changes and production delays. One also wonders given the current state of industry in Russia if they will be capable of producing the numbers indicated and within the time-frames evidently agreed to.
Well — they aren’t calling it the Prague Treaty per se — yet. But the post-START Treaty is scheduled to be signed in Prague later this spring and represents some pretty major changes in the arms control world and respective stockpiles of the US and Russia:
The White House
Office of the Press SecretaryFor Immediate Release March 26, 2010
Key Facts about the New START Treaty
Treaty Structure: The New START Treaty is organized in three tiers of increasing level of detail. The first tier is the Treaty text itself. The second tier consists of a Protocol to the Treaty, which contains additional rights and obligations associated with Treaty provisions. The basic rights and obligations are contained in these two documents. The third tier consists of Technical Annexes to the Protocol. All three tiers will be legally binding. The Protocol and Annexes will be integral parts of the Treaty and thus submitted to the U.S. Senate for its advice and consent to ratification.
Strategic Offensive Reductions: Under the Treaty, the U.S. and Russia will be limited to significantly fewer strategic arms within seven years from the date the Treaty enters into force. Each Party has the flexibility to determine for itself the structure of its strategic forces within the aggregate limits of the Treaty. These limits are based on a rigorous analysis conducted by Department of Defense planners in support of the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review.
- 1,550 warheads. Warheads on deployed ICBMs and deployed SLBMs count toward this limit and each deployed heavy bomber equipped for nuclear armaments counts as one warhead toward this limit.
- This limit is 74% lower than the limit of the 1991 START Treaty and 30% lower than the deployed strategic warhead limit of the 2002 Moscow Treaty.
- A combined limit of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.
- A separate limit of 700 deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.
- This limit is less than half the corresponding strategic nuclear delivery vehicle limit of the START Treaty.
Verification and Transparency: The Treaty has a verification regime that combines the appropriate elements of the 1991 START Treaty with new elements tailored to the limitations of the Treaty. Measures under the Treaty include on-site inspections and exhibitions, data exchanges and notifications related to strategic offensive arms and facilities covered by the Treaty, and provisions to facilitate the use of national technical means for treaty monitoring. To increase confidence and transparency, the Treaty also provides for the exchange of telemetry.
Treaty Terms: The Treaty’s duration will be ten years, unless superseded by a subsequent agreement. The Parties may agree to extend the Treaty for a period of no more than five years. The Treaty includes a withdrawal clause that is standard in arms control agreements. The 2002 Moscow Treaty terminates upon entry into force of the New START Treaty. The U.S. Senate and the Russian legislature must approve the Treaty before it can enter into force.
No Constraints on Missile Defense and Conventional Strike: The Treaty does not contain any constraints on testing, development or deployment of current or planned U.S. missile defense programs or current or planned United States long-range conventional strike capabilities.
I will be the first to admit (along with many others it seems in the arms control community) to still trying to intuitively puzzle out the “separate” and “combined” limits, but bigger picture see somethings of interest:
a) This is a “build-down” treaty, not one designed to forestall future developments (e.g., throw weight breakouts, air launched ballistic missiles, etc.) which speaks volumes to the current and future states of the strategic programs of the US and Russia.
b) For the US — B-1’s, SSGNs , conventional ballistic missiles (aka Prompt Global Strike) and missile defenses (both the ground-based BMDS and the forthcoming PAA) are off the books. Russia ends up with a less obtrusive inspection/verification regime and a requirement for only 5 telemetry exchanges per year (per SECDEF Gates at the press briefing).
c) Empty launchers apparently won’t be counted – unlike START. Bombers weight in the overall equation is lessened (as some commentators have pointed out, almost Reagan-esque as his assertion was the slower bombers weren’t as much of a threat as the missiles).
d) Though each bomber counts as one warhead — each bomber also counts as one delivery vehicle, which acts to limit temptation to build a large fleet of bombers armed with cruise missiles (that and the current state of air defenses). On the future of the bomber force as an element of the traditional nuclear deterrent triad, an interesting and recent paper by the Mitchell Air Power Institute on what shape the deterrent force should take (Triad, Dyad, Monad?) asserts that:
(The) US Department of Defense should pursue an ICBM/SLBM Dyad as it moves to reshape its nuclear force posture at lower warhead levels. Essentially, the US is already moving in this direction: the ICBMs and SLBMs remain robust, with modernization scheduled and funded, but the aging ALCM calls into question the value of the B-52 fleet, while the modernized but very small B-2 force is assuming a niche role. In short, the United States will soon field a de facto nuclear Dyad.
and that for the near term the United States should
leverage the strengths of the ICBM and SLBM forces while minimizing the weaknesses of the nuclear-capable bomber as that leg of the Triad is phased out. Prudent decisions about nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles for the future—under arms control ceilings limiting deployed weapons and launchers—demand deliberation within a framework of deterrent attributes and stabilizing outcomes such as offered here. We believe a Dyad of modernized ICBMs and SLBMs will provide for strategic nuclear deterrence and stability in the years ahead, while allowing and encouraging needed investments in long-range conventional strike.
All of which, along with the release of the NPR and expected forthcoming debate over PGS, should provide interesting fodder for deliberations over the size and shape of the US strategic deterrent force in the coming years.
I’ll continue turning over the whole numerical relationships — and hopefully we’ll have the actual treaty text to review and add insight in the near future. In the meantime, it is a good sign that Sen Lugar (R-Ind.) has voiced his approval on the treaty which I hope will be subject to a through, dispassionate review as it goes to ratification this summer More, definitely more, to follow.
(crossposted at steeljawscribe.com)
Two items of note for today’s summary — France may be seriously studying missile defense and Russia’s at it again (re. European Phase Adaptive Approach – PAA).
Parlez-vous la Défense de Missile Balistique ?
A recent 65-page study on BMD, written by three members of Parliament at a think tank linked to the National Assembly (“Defense et Strategie”) argues for France committing to building, or at least contributing to a BMD system to counter the growing threat from nations hostile to Europe (in general) and France (in particular). The authors, members of leading centrist parties, assert that the threat will grow over the next 15 years, especially from the likes of Iran, and (and this is a new argument) that a BMD is necessary to strengthen France’s nuclear deterrent. In doing so, they also acknowledge that the political will to move forward is lacking in France and Europe (surprise!) and is an attitude that they seek to change.
It is also perhaps worth noting that it was the Obama Administration’s decision to press with the PAA over the former GBI-centric system the Bush Administration had planned that pushed the authors into the study. The reason? Their view that an American-led system and architecture establishes American industry as a threat, or ‘double risk’ for Europe — double since the Europeans and NATO have yet to devise a comprehensive BMD policy in line with 21st Century threats and if one country equips itself with an American C2 system, it must, perforce, equip itself entirely with compatible US parts.” Note that the Japanese don’t seem to mind with the incorporation of Aegis BMD into their cruisers and establishing joint development for elements of the SM-3 system. The rub, of course, is as the report goes on to say, that the lack of a BMD system would leave European companies blocked from accessing certain export markets. Sort of like the ones cruise missiles like the EXOCET have been pitched to. That worked out well for all involved (cf. USS Stark).
Obligatory snark about export sales and French aspirations to industrial prominence aside, the study is significant in that it acts as both another venue voicing concern over Iran’s long-range missile progress (no one but the most ardent partisan would argue the French are sock puppets for the US, especially where maters of intelligence are concerned) and it may well be a bellwether signal that Europe proper may be moving off the dime in terms of serious consideration of ballistic missile defense on the Continent. One method suggested would be the formation of industrial partnerships to develop a European BMD based on France’s current highly advanced technology and cited the ASTER missile system as an example.
This will be a most interesting topic to follow for any one of a number of reasons. As anyone who has worked with/in NATO will attest, gaining consensus for action is the key for success, be it in planning or operations. But in the world of missile defense, one of the hardest things to accomplish is establishing a sound architecture for command and control of the system. Hard enough when only one or two countries or AORs are in play, and almost Stygian where the defended area encompasses many borders and nations. Seams abound and where seams and gaps reside, ballistic missiles readily fill. In no small degree this is one of the major challenges Navy faces as it moves down the four-phase PAA for the defense of Europe with sea- and shore-based Aegis BMD/SM-3 integrated with TPY-2 and THAAD batteries. Perhaps in the interest of integration and economy, France ought to look closer at what the US has already accomplished with international partners like Japan, Israel, Britain, Spain and the Dutch across a variety of programs and capabilities.
(note: the study may be found here: http://www.christopheguilloteau.com/actualite1.htm)
In the meantime, Russia continues to work a campaignof disinformation, hoping to disrupt and thwart the deployment of BMD in Europe…
Iran No Threat to USA, Europe ‘In Foreseeable Future’ – Russian Foreign Minister
In an article in today’s Ria Novosti, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took a direct shot at the US’s proposed missile defense plan for Europe and the US:
“It is evident that Iran currently poses no threat to the U.S. and European countries… At the moment, Iran has no missiles capable of striking Europe, let alone the U.S., and is unlikely to develop [such missiles] in the foreseeable future,” Lavrov said.
Pressing the point, in another article he surfaced a concern that the US has repeatedly, since the days of the GBI deployment, detailed to the Russians is not the case:
U.S. officials admit that the missile defense system in Europe might be able to hit Russian inter-continental ballistic missiles by 2020. (ed. Note – it was said at the time that phase 4 would have a limited capability against some ICBMs – the US has never made the statement Lavrov attributes – SJS)
“The U.S. administration says its global missile shield program is not directed against Russia. However, our conclusions on the true potential of the future missile defense system should be based on specific military and technical factors, not on words,” Lavrov said.
“We will not accept a state of affairs when a missile defense system poses a threat to Russia’s nuclear deterrence potential,” he went on.
The question one must ask — is Lavrov playing a “bad cop” to Medvedev’s “good cop” (and that is stretching it given Medvedev’s comments re. linking missile defense with the follow-on START treaty) where his rhetoric is merely used to address the home audience’s concerns, or, are we seeing a glimpse of Putin’s approach when he ceases being the power behind the throne and assumes the full mantle of national leadership as many expect when he is eligible once again? If the latter, then this Administration is going to have its hands full. Caution in dealing with our European allies, especially with Poland and the like, is the watchword. After unilaterally changing direction on one missile defense plan for Europe and the US by the switch from GBI’s to the PAA (and, for the record, I thought this was a proper shift) – another such shift that reduces or places additional limits in any way on the planned system will have negative consequences for perceived US leadership on the Continent.
We can expect that the Russians will continue to press this issue relentlessly – and our leadership, especially State and DoD had better be ready to just as relentlessly push-back.
Votkinsk Machine Building Plant.
Located about 8.5 km to the east of the birthplace of Pytor Illyich Tchaikovsky, in the Russian Federation Republic of Udmurtia, is an industrial facility whose name, in typical Soviet fashion, obscures the products made there. It is a name unfamiliar to most outside of the arms control, intelligence or strategic planning communities, yet promises to figure prominently in the upcoming finalization and ratification of the START I follow-on treaty.
Because up until December 2009 (expiration of START I) the US maintained a relatively robust inspection and verification outpost at the portal to the facility. At one time or currently in production at this facility were/are the:
- Pioneer (INF: RSD-10 DoD/NATO: SS-20 Sabre) mobile IRBM,
- RT-2PM Topol (START: RS-22 DoD/NATO: SS-25 Sickle) road mobile ICBM,
- RT-2PM2 Topol-M (START: RS-12M2 DoD/NATO: SS-27) and
- the 9K720 Iskander-M (DoD/NATO: SS-26 Stone) SRBM
All solid-fuel, mobile missiles designed by the Moscow Thermotechnical Institute for production at Votkinsk.
Mobile Missiles and Inspection Regimes
As part of the INF Treaty and later, START I, an intrusive inspection regime was established to provide and facilitate onsite inspection of production facilities and deployments by both the US and the Soviet Union (later Russian Federation). Given Votkinsk’s central role in producing the most difficult missiles to monitor for treaty “breakout” reasons, the US established a monitoring facility manned by Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) employees and contractors to monitor missile production via inspection of production units passing through the portal. Perimeter inspection, via a concrete road around the perimeter of the facility, was also conducted to ensure portal inspection wasn’t being thwarted. Indeed, inspection under the INF Treaty included passing units through a cargo inspection facility to be x-rayed to ensure that the banned SS-20 was not being hidden in the mobile launch canisters used for the SS-25. Upon the completion of destruction of the last SS-20, that facility was decommissioned.
Where mobile missiles are concerned, a rigorous, verifiable inspection regime is a must. It has been said that a long-term collection effort to create a sound intelligence base and target familiarity is essential for missile monitoring in peace or targeting during war1 – hard experience learned by the US following SCUD-hunting in Desert Storm. An example of that kind of rigor is found in the Mobile ICBM provision (Article VI) of START I:
1. Deployed road-mobile launchers of ICBMs and their associated missiles shall be based only in restricted areas. A restricted area shall not exceed five square kilometers in size and shall not overlap another restricted area. No more than ten deployed road-mobile launchers of ICBMs and their associated missiles may be based or located in a restricted area. A restricted area shall not contain deployed ICBMs for road-mobile launchers of ICBMs of more than one type of ICBM.
2. Each Party shall limit the number of fixed structures for road-mobile launchers of ICBMs within each restricted area so that these structures shall not be capable of containing more road-mobile launchers of ICBMs than the number of road-mobile launchers of ICBMs specified for that restricted area.
3. Each restricted area shall be located within a deployment area. A deployment area shall not exceed 125,000 square kilometers in size and shall not overlap another deployment area. A deployment area shall contain no more than one ICBM base for road-mobile launchers of ICBMs.
4. Deployed rail-mobile launchers of ICBMs and their associated missiles shall be based only in rail garrisons. Each Party shall have no more than seven rail garrisons. No point on a portion of track located inside a rail garrison shall be more than 20 kilometers from any entrance/exit for that rail garrison. This distance shall be measured along the tracks. A rail garrison shall not overlap another rail garrison. (more)
and Article XI (Inspections):
14. Each Party shall have the right to conduct continuous monitoring activities at production facilities for ICBMs for mobile launchers of ICBMs to confirm the number of ICBMs for mobile launchers of ICBMs produced. (emphasis added)
Concern, however is growing that the above provision (continuous monitoring) may not be part of the START follow-on treaty currently being finalized between US and Russian negotiators.
Late in 2009 hints about a major concession on the part of the US began to emerge, both in the general press and in the arms control blogsphere. In essence, in Nov 2008 the bush Administration presented a proposal to Russia (one year out form expiration of START) that rolled back the verification regime under START I to a more informal one that dropped monitoring while allowing verification visits to “START sites.” The rationale behind this approach evidently lays in a change in focus — away from launchers and towards deployed warheads themselves. It appears some form of this approach has been accepted by the Obama Administration now if the following item from a Ria Novosti from earlier this month:
Russia will submit new ballistic-missile test data in exchange for a U.S. agreement not to monitor mobile missile production. Russian presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko and negotiators claim that while technical discrepancies remain, the document could be signed in March or April.
A White House spokesperson said Russia had agreed to provide telemetry data on new intercontinental ballistic missile tests under the new treaty, and that the START-I Treaty which expired in December 2009 included a similar clause. The United States undertakes not to monitor production of ballistic missiles at the Votkinsk Engineering Plant in the Republic of Udmurtia, Russia. U.S. inspectors were permanently based at the plant under the START-I Treaty.
So — in order to get an agreement, negotiators agreed to a Russia providing something that was already part of START I (telemetry data) while foregoing a critical means of monitoring mobile missile production? Some will argue that 15+ years of data collection alleviates the need for maintaining the portal monitoring. The article goes on to note that while a signing may be set for Prague sometime in the spring (ignoring the irony of linking Prague and spring) the really difficult part will be getting ratification in the US Senate.
Indeed, that nut may be a tough one to crack, but not for the necessarily obvious reasons. Jeffery Lewis, over at ArmsControlWonk has some interesting analysis based on Senator Lugar’s comments at the Strategic Weapons in the 21st Century conference. In essence, Lugar, who has been an important presence and force in the post-Cold War arms control world, has weighed in with his concern:
I have been a strong advocate for extending START I verification procedures. Unfortunately, a choice was made to informally act in the spirit of the treaty after its expiration on December 5, 2009, rather than to extend it by formal agreement. I am hopeful that a successor for START I will be successfully concluded in the coming months and that it will contain strong verification procedures.
Lugar, a moderate, is generally not regarded as a partisan firebrand, but the gist of his remarks had better give the Administration pause to consider its approach to ratification of a START follow-on treaty. On the one hand, refusal to ratify the treaty (and here I note that again, we have not seen the final draft) would play into the Russian’s hands as they clearly wanted the intrusive monitoring stopped. A post-START world absent a follow-on treaty would enable the Russians to pursue a changes to their land-mobile force without having to provide the US telemetry on new or modified missiles (e.g., the RS-24 a MIRV’d Topol-M).
On the other hand, agreeing to dropping the intrusive inspection and monitoring at the chief production facility for mobile ICBMs and SRBMs may have been the price the Administration was willing to pay to keep the Russians from arguing a quid-pro-quo between providing ballistic missile telemetry and the US providing telemetry from its missile defense tests. This item has been particularly a complaint on Putin’s part for the better part of the past half-year. The assertion lacks substance though when one considers the handful of GBIs that constitute the BMDS vs. even the new lower limits of 1100 launchers per side reportedly agreed to under the new format. The only other interceptor with an counter-ICBM capability, the SM-3 Blk IIb is a paper design only and won’t see IOC until mch later in the decade.
It remains then to see (a) what the final wording of the new treaty offers and more importantly, (b) how the Administration justifies the negotiating position it took if the START I monitoring provisions are not included. If it isn’t included, and if there are no apparent provisions that balance the lack of that monitoring (and clear delineation from the Administration why), then mustering 67 votes for ratification may well be a bridge too far.
Not like we haven’t been down that road before either…
(cross-posted at http://steeljawscribe.com)
As more video and still footage becomes available, some thoughts are emerging. First observation is that clearly this is just a flying prototype that focuses on the airframe and not much else for a 5th gen fighter:
Alexander Golts, an independent military analyst, said the T-50 is running on old engines, and the only major technological breakthrough was designing the airframe making the jet more difficult for radars to spot, in keeping with its U.S. counterpart.
Still, the basic airframe will define certain things that carry over to the production bird. More observations, video and imagery over at the homepage…
(via Ria Novosti)
Generally speaking, the preferred direction for a ballistic missile, especially a sub-launched one is UP
Six launch failures is also not career enhancing – at least its not off to the Gulag in the New Russia …
Several items on the docket today:
If at first you don’t succeed…
Despite five failures in 10 trials, Russia’s Defense Ministry is planning to complete a series of Bulava tests and put the ICBM into service by the end of 2009.
“Considering that we must ensure reliable performance characteristics of the [Bulava] missile, we have decided to raise the number of additional test launches to five, if everything goes well,” Vladimir Popovkin said.
Popovkin, who is visiting the Russian exposition at the IDEF-2009 arms show in Turkey, said that a faulty detail caused a test launch failure in December last year, and that the on-board systems would undergo additional ground testing in June-July prior to the next test launch.
At the same interview, it was revealed that sea trials of the Yury Dolgoruky, Russia’s first Borey class strategic nuclear submarine, are due to start in the summer, and two other Borey class nuclear submarines – the Alexander Nevsky and the Vladimir Monomakh – are currently under construction at the Sevmash shipyard. They are expected to be completed in 2009 and 2011 respectively. Russia is planning to build a total of eight submarines of this class by 2015.
According to press reports, the star-crossed Bulava SLBM will go into serial production “soon” – most probably after the next test flight. There is one more test shot scheduled for sometime later this month (after 21 Dec) after which it is anticipated that the new SLBM will be declared operational. Nine tests of the SS-27 derived, solid-fueled SLBM have been attempted with between 4-6 failures in the test series. Tentatively given the NATO designation SS-NX-30, the Bulava, as we have documented here previously, along with the a new-class SSBN (led by the Yuri Dogoruky) are the replacements for the Typhoon and its R-39 missiles. Shorter and wider than the R-39, the Bulava would not be able to be backfitted to earlier SSBNs (save one highly modified Typhoon used as a test bed) and further failures would put the Russian sea-based missile leg at risk as there were no other missiles in development.
17 December update: If open press from Russia is to be believed, 2009 will see an even more ambitious testing program with 13 strategic missile launches planned – five of which are test launches of new missiles. Besides the Bulava IOC noted above, early next year will also see the first operational deployment of the RS-24, a MIRV’d land-mobile missile derived fromt he Topol-M and set to replace the SS-18 and SS-19 silo-based missiles. Some sources have linked the Bulava’s guidance/payload section to use on the RS-24 to enable up to palcement of 10 MIRVs onboard.
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