Archive for the 'Russia' Tag
Russia has saved the world from loose WMD before; in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, Russia arranged the Lisbon Protocols with Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus to systematically destroy or return massive nuclear stockpiles. If only Syria had the stability of post-Soviet chaos. If the Syrian “Lisbon Protocol” fails and the regime collapses, the presence of WMD is a guarantor of intervention, most likely by the US.
The Russian arrangement is not yet official and may be Assad’s play for time. The chemical weapons are potentially more powerful against the US than rebels. Likely, a reality causing Secretaries Kerry and Hagel to eschew the term “regime change” is that the danger of Syria’s chemical weapons (CW) to the US increases as Assad teeters. Though rightfully loathed, Assad and his men secure their CW and have so far resisted handing party favors to associates.
As the regime crumbles, CW facilities may find themselves overwhelmed or guards shifted to critical fronts, doors open to terrorists or unscrupulous brokers. Though some argue we do not have a dog in Syria’s fight, a whole henhouse is under threat if those dogs break loose. There are only three likely solutions if a Russian deal fails:
Political Agreement: If only all parties could agree to a two-part plan to stop murdering one another and share power. Guards stay on post, conflict ends, and world moves on after the noble work of aiding refugees. The rump of Assad’s regime keeps its pulse and constant pressure to the switch. Unfortunately, with parties whose non-negotiable point is that the opponent “die”, and multiple Al-Qaeda (AQ) militias, this seems nigh impossible.
Russian Military Operations: Russia is a big fan of Syria. Russia has a naval presence in the country and a large portion legitimacy and energy policy invested in the management of the regime. Russia would like to keep Syria’s CW from groups connected to their own domestic extremistss. Most cynically, with very public domestic problems, military operations to save the world from CW seem a likely move for President Putin. In the words of Orwell, “War is Peace.”
Russia has particular advantages in their contact with Assad’s regime. They likely could access exact locations for the regime’s CW in a pinch. The world has no high standard for Russian intervention, so a sting operation to grab or destroy the vast stores of CW without any follow-on reconstruction would not be shocking to the global community. This also serves as a guise for direct military support for regime survival.
That said, Russia has managed the Syria narrative well and knows the US could not abide Assad’s weapons falling to extremists. Russia has enjoyed the umbrella of security provided by primarily US operations against extremists in the Middle East and likely has no desire to get bogged down or gain unwanted attentions. Russia is still just “a” rather than “the” “Great Satan.” It would likely leave the mess to the final and least pleasant option:
American Intervention: In a conflict with too many “thems” and not enough “us’s”, the fog of Syria’s war is thick. Unfortunately, nothing is unclear about the peril of loose CW or the peril of a necessary US military response.
Boots: The number and location of all weapon sites remains a mystery, requiring resources spent in the search phase of “seek and destroy” operations. The time or scale necessary also removes the critical element of surprise. A lengthy chain of smaller operations warns enemies to secure weapons at un-sanitized sites while they still can. A massive simultaneous operation would strain an already creaking military budget and drop the US fully into the war, leaving the US in control of large swaths of territory and people it could not just leave to extremists.
Strikes: Dead suffocated civilians, lack of verification, and PR for terrorists lies at the end of an aerial campaign. Though the US has invested in weapons that can neutralize chemical weapon stockpiles, most leave a large margin of error or have almost as toxic byproducts. The explicit refusal to consider striking Assad’s chemical weapon stockpiles should be evidence enough of the unsavoriness of such an operation.
Unfortunately, loose CW is not an option in a war-torn hellscape crawling with groups who have plotted against US interests and citizens for over two decades.
Though an embarrassing stolen march, the Russian deal is the US’s best chance is to avoid Syria. Nonetheless, US policymakers must plan for the worst while stumbling upon the best. The US must accept the real-world possibility of Assad’s collapse and subsequent unlocking of Pandora’s Chemical Box; many rightly desire to have nothing to do with the conflict, but while we may not be interested in Syria, Syria is very interested in us.
This article was originally posted at CIMSEC.
* Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace The Bad Old Days
Get out your white suit, your tap shoes and tails
Let’s go backwards when forward fails
And movie stars you thought were alone then
Now are framed beside your bed
Don’t throw the pa-ast away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again
– Peter Allen, ‘Everything Old is New Again
There was a point, a decade or so ago (OK, maybe two decades back), when I thought some of my bete noirs, like medium- and intermediate range ballistic missiles and long-range cruise missile-armed supersonic bombers were going to go skulking off into that not-so-gentle night. Alas, it appears not so:
A move by Russia to sell its production line of Tu-22M3 long-range bombers to China for US$1.5 billion to China was confirmed by the US-based US-China Economic and Security Review Commission two years ago and the bomber’s name will be changed to the Hong-10, reports the state-run China News Service … The Hong-10, whose components will all be produced in China with the exception of the engine, is expected to fly in the second half of next year, and the country will produce 36 aircraft in the first batch to be delivered to the air force. One of world’s fastest long-range bombers which can also carry atomic weapons, the plane can cover the South China Sea, East China Sea and even the western Pacific. Sources here and here.
So now, along with pondering MRBMs that may be the Pershing II re-incarnated, alongside bulked up Badgers, we have the prospect of the Backfire being introduced into the increasingly volatile mix that constitutes the Far East Theater. Mah-velous. Previously rebuffed in the late 80’s/early 90’s by the Russians who didn’t want to upset the balance of forces in theater, the Chinese evidently closed the deal in 2010 to domestically produce up to 36 Tu-22M3 Backfires (Domestic designation: H-10) with the engines to be supplied by Russia – an agreement all the more curious because of the very real anger the Russians have (had?) over the Chinese knock-off production of the Su-27SK that formed the basis of the J-11 family and the navalized J-15 without paying the attending license-fees.
While it is easy to wave the “game changer” flag, the appearance of the H-10 in the region, especially in terms of coverage in the SCS and as a possible LACM platform for strikes against Guam, will be cause for more concern and an additional complication in the “Pacific pivot.” Already, H-6’s and H-6K’s running around the region with a variety of sub- and supersonic cruise missiles are cause for concern, and now, just as in the ‘Good/Bad Old Days’ the appearance of the Backfire on the stage once again places a premium on our ability to reach out and touch at long ranges, the archer before he has the option to shoot his arrows – rebuilding the Outer Air Battle as it were, but in an updated form to handle an updated threat and under conditions we didn’t necessarily have to face in the Cold War. It also means stepping up our training and putting renewed emphasis on countering the reconnaissance-strike complex that would support the H-6/H-10 (and ASBMs for that matter) – time to get serious about OPDEC, EMCON and a host of other TTPs we became very practiced with during the 80’s but have let atrophy over the years. Oh, and did I mention the need for some really, really good AEW? 😉
And do-on’t throw the past away
You might need it some other rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again
When everything old i-is new-ew a-again
Crossposted at steeljawscribe.com
Just when you thought that the ARCTIC SEA piracy story couldn’t get any weirder, comes news via Fairplay of an arrest warrent being issued in the case, for the former head of Estonian Intelligence:
The decision to put out an international warrant over the hijacking of the timber carrier Arctic Sea in August 2009 stemmed from Erik Niyles Kross’s refusal to answer a Russian summons for questioning in December.
Kross, former head of Estonian intelligence, has been charged with planning and directing the month-long pirate takeover.
Arctic Sea had been under way off Sweden’s Baltic coast when nine Russian and Latvian men took the vessel. They were convicted of piracy in Moscow and Arkhangelsk and given stiff prison terms – after reportedly naming Kross as the mastermind.
Estonia’s government has said that Russian prosecutors are welcome to interrogate Kross in Talinn. The 4,706dwt ship later found and taken back by the Russian Navy off Cape Verde. – Fairplay
Just why would the former head of Estonian Intelligence want to hijack a ship full of timber? Maybe he’s crazy? Given his involvement, maybe there is something to the rumors that the ship was carrying something much more interesting than just timber. I can understand Mr. Kross’s refusal to travel to Russia for questioning. However, he can’t be feeling much safer sitting in nearby Estonia. I suspect the level of danger he is in depends on what he knows and how embarrassing it is to the Russian Government.
One question I would like answered is just where the ‘hijackers’ were planning to take the ship. They did not appear to be taking the vessel anyplace when the Russians arrived. Apparently, thanks to Russian threats, the crew is still not talking.
Surely this is not the final chapter.
Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
– Winston Churchill
That is one of the things that makes Russia a great topic.
Join fellow USNI Blogg’r EagleOne and me, Sunday 13 FEB from 5-6pm EST as we discuss Russia for the full hour with our guest, Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg, Senior Analyst at CNA, an Associate at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and author of the book Minority Ethnic Mobilization in the Russian Federation
If an hour isn’t enough, you can follow his lastest thoughts on Russian Military Reform at his blog or review his list of publications here – but make sure and block out time to join us live as we cover where Russia stands in the 21st Century and how its domestic politics, demographics, the rise of China, and the evolution of its relationships with its near abroad will challenge this important nation.
If you can join us live, pile in with the usual suspects in the chat room during the show where you can offer your own questions and observations to our guests. If you miss the show or want to catch up on the shows you missed – you can always reach the archives at blogtalkradio – or set yourself to get the podcast on iTunes.
A USNI Article by Vice Admiral Jerry Miller, USN (Ret) is currently being linked by the Drudge Report.
President Barack Obama was outmaneuvered by the Russians and should have abandoned the New START negotiations instead of seeking a political victory, says former nuclear plans monitor Vice Admiral Jerry Miller, USN (Ret).
“The Obama administration is continuing a dated policy in which we cannot even unilaterally reduce our own inventory of weapons and delivery systems without being on parity with the Russians,” Miller told the U.S. Naval Institute in Annapolis, Md. “We could give up plenty of deployed delivery systems and not adversely affect our national security one bit, but New START prohibits such action – so we are now stuck with some outmoded and useless elements in our nuke force.” – Read the rest at ‘Obama was outmaneuvered by Russians on START’
For me it makes no sense to complete such an agreement with the Russians when they are working overtime to enable other bad actors around the world, such as the Iranians and just recently Venezuela. Back in 2008 I wrote an article noting a number of points why it was OK to stop paying off Russia in regards to it’s nuclear weapons given that the payback was pretty pitiful. These points are still relevant today:
1. At the moment, those most likely to steal a nuclear weapon from Russia are probably the same groups who are most likely to detonate a nuke inside Russia. Remember that Russia has a terrorist problem in Chechnya and they have struck inside Russia proper. Careless accountability puts Moscow at as much if not more risk for a nuclear attack than any Western country. Also, there is much less risk of being caught getting a nuke to Moscow than trying to move it halfway across the planet to get it to US soil. As a bonus, international stupidity has awarded Russia the Olympics games. So in addition to having Moscow as a target, terrorists might just as well target Sochi Olympics with the goal of wiping the city (and everyone in it) from the map.
2. Russian Nuclear scientists. Paying this money provides many of these scientists with support, but probably keeps them either idle or doing busy work that they have no interest in. A US Government study had already suggested that work from some of these scientists directly benefited the Iranian nuclear program. (See: US Assistance to Russia Funding Iranian Nukes) With all the calls around the globe for new nuclear plants, how about letting these nuclear experts move abroad and help the world increase its nuclear power generating capacity. If it takes aid money to facility the shift, then that is probably money much better spent than it is now.
3. Speaking of the Iranians, while the US is paying to secure existing Russian nukes, the money does nothing to prevent Russia from teaching the Iranians to build their own. This has included not only the supply of scientists, but also equipment, machinery and raw nuclear material. So while they are not passing whole nukes out the door, they are essentially sneaking out nukes in pieces.
Iran’s first nuclear plant in the southern city of Bushehr, which is being constructed in cooperation with Russia, is expected to become operational later on in 2008.
In December 2007, Russia began delivering 82 tons of nuclear fuel to the Bushehr plant, under the supervision and subject to the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The United States, Israel and their European allies allege that the enriched uranium provided by the Russians could be used to produce weapons-grade substances, and accuse Iran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of pursuing a military nuclear program. – Hurriyet
Putin and Ahmadinejad – Each the other’s most Useful Idiot
4. Russia has already used nuclear material in an attack, littering Europe with radioactive material in the process, exposing thousands of travelers to the nuclear radiation in the process.
Vladimir Putin should be known throughout the world as “Putin the Poisoner.” His signature act — the action that defined Putin’s character for all the world to see — was the radioactive poisoning of KGB turncoat Alexander Litvinenko in London, using polonium-210. The kicker is that you can’t just buy polonium-210 at your local chemical supply store. You can only get it if you have a nuclear weapons industry, because there you need it to start a nuclear chain reaction. It’s a super-tricky substance to control. Putin’s assassins left their traces all over London. Chemically, Po-210 is 250,000 times more toxic than hydrogen cyanide. But the Russians have always favored overkill. – American Thinker
5. Russia and the former Soviet States are still littered with unsecured nuclear material:
Another DOE effort that has been upended by the local violence is the tracking of abandoned radioisotope thermal generators (RTGs) – thousands of highly radioactive strontium and caesium powered batteries that were placed throughout remote portions of the Soviet Union as navigational beacons and power sources.
These sources have fallen into decrepitude, and much of the paperwork on their whereabouts and conditions were lost with the Soviet Union’s fall. The RTG units are frequently dismantled for valuable scrap metal by scavengers. More troubling, the strontium and caesium sources also go missing.
The DOE-led effort to isolate, dismantle and dispose of these forgotten facilities “will, for the time being have to be shelved,” said a DOE source in a telephone interview. – Bellona
Georgian interior ministry officials maintain that much of the nuclear material they stop can be traced directly to Russian sites, largely in Siberia. But, complained on official in an interview with Bellona Web Tuesday, the Russians are satisfied to leave these clean up efforts to Georgia, and will rarely take responsibility for Russia nuclear material ending up in the hands of Georgian law enforcement.
“To say that we are intercepting materials that come from Russia, and have the Russian’s admit it, means that the Russian sites are not as secure as they want the world to believe,” said the Georgian interior ministry spokesman, who, citing the current violence requested anonymity. – Bellona
6. Russia itself is a threat to nuclear material stockpiles:
“Russia will say that they will secure these radioactive sources, but the truth is they are as liable to take them as any smuggles we have apprehended,” said the Georgian interior ministry official in an email interview on Monday. – Bellona
You can bet that material stolen by the Russians will not end up in any facility subject to US-paid security.
7. Finally, the money spent securing Russian nukes will do nothing to prevent Russia’s access to the weapons. As it is, there are two recent stories noting either Russian movement of nuclear weapons or their suggestion of re-deploying them.
LONDON- Russia is considering arming its Baltic fleet with nuclear warheads for the first time since the cold war, warned senior military sources late August 17.
The Sunday Times wrote that under the Russian plans, nuclear warheads could be supplied to submarines, cruisers and fighter bombers of the Baltic fleet based in Kaliningrad. – The Baltic Times
Russia has inserted into Georgian territory two SS-21 “Scarab” short-range missile launchers. The only possible use for these in a conflict of this type is for delivery of tactical nuclear weapons. They are Russia’s insurance policy, deterring those who would come to Georgia’s aid to prevent it being torn asunder by the Kremlin’s war machine. – Irish Times
Russia no longer maintains a ‘no-first-use’ policy, and is considering re-deployment of tactical nuclear weapons. – American Chronicle
As recently as July, the newspaper Izvestia floated the idea that Moscow would station nuclear weapons in Cuba if the U.S. went ahead with the deployment of an antiballistic missile radar in the Czech Republic and interceptors in Poland. Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, chief of Russia’s strategic missile command, has openly spoken about aiming nuclear-tipped missiles at those two countries. Vladimir Putin has warned Ukraine that if it were to join NATO, “Russia will have to point its warheads at Ukrainian territory.” Not long before that, Mr. Putin cheerfully described a series of ballistic-missile flight tests as “pleasant and spectacular holiday fireworks.” – The Wall Street Journal
Then there is Russia’s threat to nuke Poland in response to Poland’s agreement to host American missile interceptors. Of course, they only agreed to host them in order to get their hands on some Patriot missile batteries all the better to shoot down Russian missiles and jets. Only Russia can get pissed off over military equipment that is useful only on the defender’s territory. Mainland Russia does not even border Poland. However, the Russian seaport of Kaliningrad, seized from the Germans at the end of WWII does border Poland. To make sure the Poles take the threat seriously, Russia is suspected of stockpiling many tactical nukes there. Those being weapons you toss into neighboring countries. So before you even think of listening to Putin bitching about the US ‘stirring things up’ by placing a couple defensive missiles in Europe (See: “Washington and Poland just moved the World closer to War”), consider that Putin has nukes already placed right in the center of Europe.
Russia has reportedly moved tactical nuclear weapons to a military base in Kaliningrad, an action that would contravene its apparent pledge to keep the Baltic region nuclear-free and could violate its 1991 commitment not to deploy tactical nuclear weapons. Russian officials have vehemently denied the allegations.
The move was first reported January 3 by The Washington Times, which cited unnamed intelligence sources and classified Defense Intelligence Agency reports, and stated that U.S. officials first became aware of the weapons transfers last June. Following initial press reports, U.S. news organizations reported senior U.S. officials as confirming that the Clinton administration believes Russia has moved tactical nuclear warheads during the past year to the isolated Russian region, which is located between Poland and Lithuania. – Arms Control Association, 2001
Of course the Russians promised not to do such a thing:
The presence of any stockpiled weapons in Kaliningrad would violate Russia’s apparent pledge to keep nuclear weapons out of the Baltics, and the more serious step of deploying tactical nuclear weapons would clearly violate its 1991 commitment. Russian officials have so far failed to clarify whether the Baltic outpost serves as a storage site for tactical nuclear weapons, although U.S. intelligence officials told The Washington Post that Russia used Kaliningrad as a depot for tactical nuclear weapons that were removed from naval vessels in the early 1990s. – Arms Control Association, 2001
The Administration’s cancellation of the anti-missile system that was going to be deployed in Poland and the now-confirmed lie that the Administration swore that the cancellation had nothing to do with Russia’s objection to the system puts doubt in my mind that the US has the will needed to put the Russians in check. We certainly should have the motivation to try and limit the threat that is Russia. One way to do that is of course to have them account for their past nuclear sins. A good way to do that is to push the Russians to do a better job cleaning up after their own nuclear waste. As you can see from the extract examples above, it is an issue that they defer to our allies to handle. That is something that should change. The Russians should want to remove this waste from their environment. This is not the case because ‘the West’ is climbing over each other to do this for them.
Is this new START program going to stop the Russians from helping our enemies gain nuclear strike capability? I think not. My opinion however matters little. However, it is interesting to note the Vice Admiral’s comments on this matter fit with my own opinion. Unfortunately, this does not bode well for the actual results of this Treaty against what is being promised.
When Russia planted a flag on the Arctic Ocean seabed in August 2007, it was in part, political theater meant to cement its claim to the region’s vast natural resources (especially mineral). Of course, such action served as a shot across the bow of the other states bordering the region, leading, among other actions, to a 2008 joint Canadadian-Danish geologic study that supports Canada’s claim to the Lomonosov Ridge as a natural extension of the North American continent and as such, a significant portion of the Arctic seabed. While the five nations with competing claims have agreed to work under UNCLOS through the aegis of the Arctic Council (founded in 1996), there has been an increase in military presence (primarily Russian) in recent months and something of an information campaign as well.
All of this is pretext to an event in the South China Sea that occurred earlier this summer – but only recently announced:
A Chinese submarine planted a national flag deep on the floor of the South China Sea during a test dive last month to reinforce China’s territorial claim, the boat’s designer said yesterday.
The State Oceanic Administration and Ministry of Science and Technology jointly announced yesterday that a Chinese scientific submarine with three civilian crew members had explored unknown terrain at a depth of more than 3,700 metres at the heart of the South China Sea. Before resurfacing, they planted a Chinese flag on the ocean floor.
The motivation of such as pretty clear:
“We were inspired by the Russians, who put a flag on the floor of the North Pole with their MIR [deep sea submarine],” said Zhao, an engineer at the China Ship Scientific Research Centre, who designed the hull of the submarine. “It might provoke some countries, but we’ll be all right. The South China Sea belongs to China. Let’s see who dares to challenge that.”
Brave words indeed from an engineer associated with the project (but one presumes they would not have made it into circulation without the tacit approval of the Chinese government) – but it doesn’t end there. Being as how there was nowhere near the Chinese coast to test the deep sea submersible’s operating depth of up to 7,000 meters (greater than the Russian Mir and similar Western subs, as claimed by the Chinese maker), it was tested close to the Philippines:
“The closer to Philippines, the deeper the sea. We will put down national flags all the way until we reach their border,” Zhao said. “And then we will go beyond and aim for the Mariana Trench.”
Oh yes — and one other “small” item all the way at the end of the article:
The Sea Dragon needs the support of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, according to Zhao. “The navy has escorted all our previous missions and I think they will continue to do so,” he said. “The further we go, the more we need guns to protect ourselves.”
Which itself, brings to mind something we noted in an earlier post…
The timing of the announcement and subsequent revelation in the open press (e.g., South China Morning Post – 27 August 2010 (registration/subscription may be required to read)) obviously follows on the heels of China’s assertion of sovereignty over the South China Sea. The rub of it is, however, that in so doing their goal of keeping the US marginalized and the other nations bordering the SCS divided becomes harder to obtain. The US has already stated that the competing clams over the resources in the sea and on the seabed of the SCS should be handled in a multi-lateral forum – one thinks something similar to the afore-mentioned Arctic Council, which would be anathema to the Chinese who, ironically enough, have obtained observer status on the Arctic Council. And that item, brings us back to the Arctic where China has asserted a right for access to the mineral wealth on par with the perimeter nations. Giving substance to the claim is a research station established in Norway and deployment of a Russian-built, nuclear-powered icebreaker on a semi-permanent basis.
So, here’s an observation — Russia has laid clam to a vast amount of the Arctic and may well end up with a majority share of said resources. Claim, however, is one thing, the ability to access and exploit another — and the current state of Russian industry and technology to exploit the mineral resources of the region is questionable. The US and Canada have the technological capability, but one wonders about the commitment of the US and the capacity of Canada – which leads us to look at a possible Russo-Chinese joint venture — hard currency for Russia from sales abroad of liquid and mineral resources and guaranteed access to same by a resource hungry China. All without any expectation of China stepping back from its increasingly aggressive posture in the SCS.
…things that make you go, hmmm…
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)