On August 17, 1973, US Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger unveiled the concept of decapitation as a new basis for US nuclear policy. For its implementation, it was supposed to achieve a gain in flight time. The priority in the development of nuclear deterrence tools shifted from the strategic triad to medium and shorter range weapons. In 1974, this approach was enshrined in the fundamental documents on the US nuclear strategy.
Throughout the Cold War, the United States tried to achieve military superiority over the USSR with an obvious determination to move into the "hot" phase when it was achieved. As the USSR quickly became a nuclear power, victory over it became impossible to achieve without crushing the Soviet nuclear shield. As we have already reviewed earlier, do not create the USSR as soon as possible nuclear weapons, The United States would implement one of its plans: Chariotir, Fleetwood, SAK-EVP 1-4a or Dropshot, and would arrange for our country genocide, which was not equal to stories of humanity. It is unlikely that within the framework of one article it will be possible to cover all the US attempts to break nuclear parity, but we can try to single out the most significant of them.
The period of the USSR. Caribbean crisis
The events, later named the Caribbean crisis, are a clear example of the US attempt to achieve the possibility of delivering the first decapitation blow on the USSR, even before the formation of the official concept of such.
PGM-19 "Jupiter" ballistic missiles deployed by the United States in Turkey allowed the United States to deliver a surprise strike to the USSR. The Jupiter ballistic missile flight range was about 2400 km, the circular probable deviation (CWO) of the warhead was 1,5 kilometers with a thermonuclear warhead power of 1,44 megatons.
The short preparation time for the launch, which was about 15 minutes, and the short flight time due to its close proximity to the borders of the USSR, allowed the United States to launch the Jupiter ballistic strike with its first decapitating strike, which could significantly undermine the USSR’s military-industrial power and provide US victory in the war.
Only harsh actions of the USSR, in the form of the deployment of the R-12 and R-14 BRDS in Cuba, as well as the threat of an imminent nuclear war, forced the United States to sit at the negotiating table, which resulted in both the withdrawal of Soviet missiles from Cuba and the American Jupiter BRDS from Turkey.
The period of the USSR. BRSD "Pershing-2" and KR "Tomahawk"
It is believed that the Pershing-2 ballistic missile was a response to the Soviet Pioneer RSD-10 missiles with a range of up to 4300-5500 km, capable of hitting targets in Europe. Perhaps this was the official reason for the deployment of the Pershing-2 ballistic missile in Europe, but rather it is a response to the concept of a decapitation strike by US Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, mentioned at the beginning of the article. By the way, the development of the Pershing-2 BRDS and the Pioneer BRDS began in 1973 alone.
In contrast to the Pioneer anti-aircraft missile system, which can be considered a classic deterrent weapon, the Pershing-2 anti-aircraft missile system was originally designed to destroy highly protected objects, such as communication and control bunkers, highly protected missile silos, for which high demands were placed on it in terms of airborne warheads .
The winning company, Martin-Marietta, created a high-tech two-stage solid propellant rocket with throttle engines that allow a wide range of flight ranges to be changed. The maximum range was 1770 km. The Pershing-2 BRDS warhead was a maneuvering monoblock with a variable power of 0,3 / 2 / 10/80 kilotons. To destroy highly protected buried objects, a nuclear charge penetrating 50-70 m was developed. Another factor ensuring the defeat of protected point targets was the KVO of the warhead, which is about 30 meters (for comparison, the KVO of the RSD-10 Pioner warheads was about 550 meters). High accuracy was provided by an inertial control system and guidance system on the final section of the trajectory using the radar map of the area recorded in the memory of the on-board computer of the rocket.
The flight time of the Pershing-2 BRDS warhead to the objects located in the center of the European part of the USSR was only 8-10 minutes, which made it the weapon of the first decapitation strike, which the leadership and armed forces of the USSR simply could not react to.
Another weapon deployed by the United States in Europe was the Tomahawk cruise missiles. Unlike ballistic missiles, the Tomahawk missiles could not boast of short flying times. Their advantage was the stealth of the launch, as a result of which they would not be detected missile attack warning system (SPRN), low-altitude flight path with an envelope of terrain, making it difficult to detect the Tomahawk missile defense by means of air defense USSR, as well as a fairly high accuracy of hit, with a CVT of about 80-200 meters, provided by an inertial navigation system in the complex (ANN) with a terrain correction system TERCOM.
The missile’s flight range was up to 2500 kilometers, which made it possible to choose its flight route, taking into account the bypass of known air defense zones. The power of the thermonuclear warhead was 150 kilotons.
Ground launcher Ground-Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) and Tomahawk
It can be assumed that during a sudden decapitation strike, the Tomahawk missile strike would have been hit first from land and underwater carriers. At that time, the USSR did not have over-the-horizon radars capable of detecting such small-sized targets. Thus, there was a likelihood that the launch of the Tomahawk Kyrgyz Republic would go unnoticed.
The launch of the Pershing-2 ballistic missile system could be inflicted in such a way that the targets of the Tomahawk KR and the warheads of the Pershing-2 ballistic missile system would be hit almost simultaneously.
Like the flu virus, which is not particularly dangerous for a healthy body, but extremely dangerous for an immune system with weakened immune systems, Pershing-2 and Tomahawk KRs are not too dangerous for a state with powerful, effectively functioning armed forces, but it is extremely dangerous in that case if there are gaps in the defense of a potential victim of aggression: non-working radar, inefficient air defense system, disoriented and uncertain leadership in their decisions.
At the end of the 80s of the XNUMXth century, the US leadership could not fail to note the weakness of the Soviet nomenclature, readily signing disarmament treaties, and the air defense forces demoralized after the situation with the South Korean Boeing and the incident with Matthias Rust.
One can only speculate in the format of an alternative story how the fate of the USSR would have developed under a different leader
In such circumstances, the United States could well have decided to deliver a sudden advance strike in the hope that no one would dare or have time to “press the button”. Judging by the fact that the nuclear third world war did not start at that time, the United States considered that there could still be people capable of “pressing a button” in the USSR.
The period of the Russian Federation. Invisible aircraft and fast global strike
The collapse of the USSR led to a landslide reduction in the capabilities of the armed forces, including strategic nuclear forces (SNF). Only a huge margin of safety, laid down in the Soviet period in people and equipment, made it possible to maintain nuclear parity with the United States in the late nineties and early XNUMXs.
Nevertheless, the USA did not abandon the idea of delivering a nuclear attack on Russia. As during the Cold War, nuclear strike plans were developed: the “Unified Comprehensive War Plan” SIOP-92 with 4000 nuclear weapons, SIOP-97 2500 targets, SIOP-00 3000 targets, of which 2000 92 goals in the Russian Federation. The SIOP plan, which was being developed just at the time when the new Russian leadership was kissing their gums with American "friends", was especially touching.
From a certain point on, the “decapitating” strike actually changed to a “disarming” one. The reason for this was that in the modern world even an insignificant part of the Soviet / Russian nuclear arsenal is capable of causing unacceptable damage to the United States, therefore, destroying the country's leadership and only part of its nuclear potential is not enough, it is necessary to strive for the almost complete destruction of the enemy’s nuclear potential.
At the time of the collapse of the USSR, top-secret aircraft development programs were completed in the USA, implemented with the widespread use of technologies to reduce the visibility of military vehicles in the radar and infrared ranges - the so-called "stealth" technology. Contrary to popular belief, the so-called invisible planes are not completely invisible to enemy air defenses. The main objective of the stealth technology is only to reduce the detection range and reduce the likelihood of damage, which in itself is extremely important.
If we consider the situation in the context of the stagnation of Russian air defense in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the United States could well count on the use of strategic stealth B-2 bombers as one of the means for destroying Russia's strategic nuclear forces also weakened by the restructuring.
Strategic stealth bomber B-2
It can be assumed that in the wake of the euphoria from the victory in the Cold War, the United States was too optimistic about the degradation of the Russian armed forces. Of course, under the conditions of functioning developed and effective air defense, even aircraft made using the stealth technology are unsuitable as a weapon for delivering a sudden disarming strike.
On the other hand, the situation was different, and the B-2 bombers could well be used to search for and destroy the remnants of the Russian strategic nuclear forces - Topol mobile ground missile systems (PGRK). What could it look like? New START-4 treaty on further reduction in the number of warheads to 700-800 units, carriers to 300-400 units, decommissioning of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) UR-100N UTTKh "Stiletto" and R-36M "Voevoda" ("Satan" ») Without extending the terms of their operation, decommissioning of nuclear submarines with ballistic missiles (SSBNs), without the arrival of new ones. In a word, everything that can happen to the armed forces in the absence of political will and normal funding. And then, with a decrease in the capabilities of the Russian strategic nuclear forces below a certain threshold, the United States could well risk playing Russian roulette.
Understanding that stealth aircrafts and non-nuclear-powered cruise missiles could not be achieved even with weakened Russian strategic nuclear forces, in 1996 the United States began to work out the concept of a fast global strike (Prompt Global Strike), BSU. The BSU’s weapons were to be ICBMs and / or SLBMs (ballistic missiles of submarines) in non-nuclear (as stated) equipment, planning hypersonic warheads and hypersonic cruise missiles.
Rapid Global Strike Weapon
A modification of the Trident II SLBM with high-precision non-nuclear warheads was considered as a conventional ICBM.
The main candidate for the role of the planning hypersonic warhead was the DARPA Falcon HTV-2B project.
The concept of the planning hypersonic warhead Falcon HTV-2V
As a hypersonic cruise missile, the Boeing X-51A Waverider, launched from B-52 bombers or other carriers, was considered.
Prototype Hypersonic Boeing X-51A Waverider
From a technical point of view, the BSU concept was hardly a significant threat to domestic strategic nuclear forces. It is unlikely that a non-nuclear warhead, even a high-precision one, will be able to hit ICBMs in protected mine launchers (silos). And from the point of view of the BSU implementation, problems arose - the Trident II non-nuclear SLBMs from the point of view of a missile attack warning system (SPRN) look the same as in nuclear equipment, respectively, their launch can become the reason for launching a full-scale nuclear retaliatory strike. When developing hypersonic gliding warheads and cruise missiles, serious difficulties arose, and therefore, these complexes have not yet been implemented.
Nevertheless, the leadership of the Russian Federation paid close attention to plans for the deployment of weapons within the framework of the BSU concept and demanded that ICBMs and SLBMs be taken into non-nuclear equipment when calculating the number of carriers under the START-3 treaty, as well as carriers in nuclear equipment.
If the Russian Federation were given a slack in the issue of BSU, the United States could well have tried to “accustom” the Russian Special Purpose Ballistic Missile System to regular non-nuclear ballistic missile launches, and later use this to launch a disarming strike against Russia, of course, not with conventional, but with nuclear warheads.
The period of the Russian Federation. After the collapse of the INF Treaty
A new milestone in the preparation of the United States for a sudden disarming strike was the withdrawal from the treaty on limiting the deployment of short and medium-range missiles (INF Treaty). The reason was an alleged violation by Russia of the provisions of this agreement regarding exceeding the maximum firing range of 500 km by one of the missiles of the Iskander operational-tactical missile complex (OTRK), in particular, it is a 9M729 ground-based cruise missile. The comments of the Russian Federation that the ground-based vertical launching installations (UVP) of MK.41 from the missile defense system (missile defense), located in Poland and Romania, are suitable for launching the marine version of the Tomahawk missile launcher.
The official reason for the US to withdraw from the INF Treaty is the KR 9M729 of the Iskander complex in a container
Poorly aligned with the provisions of the INF Treaty, US development of ballistic target missiles, as well as test ground launches aviation AGM-158B cruise missile with a range of 1000 kilometers. There are contradictions between the USA and the Russian Federation according to the classification of long-range unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The secondary reason for the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty is the fact that China is not its member. Most likely this is really an attempt to kill two birds with one stone at once - to put pressure on the PRC and create conditions for the implementation of the scenario of delivering a sudden disarming strike against Russia and China.
Why is an exit from the INF Treaty beneficial for the US? Two main reasons can be distinguished:
1. Ensuring minimum flying time for missiles, which is fully consistent with the concept of a decapitation (disarming) strike of August 17, 1973, US Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger.
2. Reducing the number of targets potentially affected by the strategic nuclear forces of the Russian Federation and China in the United States, by increasing the number of potential targets in the countries of Europe and Asia.
What weapons can be implemented as part of the updated doctrine of a sudden disarming strike?
First of all, this is a new generation of medium-range ballistic missiles. Initially, they will be developed in a non-nuclear version and most likely will be deployed in Europe under the pretext of retaliatory action on the deployment by Russia of the Iskander OTRK. The promising SLBM will be uniquely designed from the very beginning with the possibility of placing a nuclear charge on it.
The key requirement for the new SLBM is likely to be to ensure minimum flying time. This can be implemented in one of two ways (or in two versions at once) - the most gentle path of the missile or the use of planning hypersonic warheads similar to those created in the framework of the Russian Avangard program.
In particular, a promising ballistic missile with a range of about 2000-2250 kilometers is being created as part of the Strategic Fires Missile program. Presumably, the new BRDS will be equipped with a planning hypersonic warhead. By the way, the image of a missile under the Strategic Fires Missile program resembles the Pershing-2 BRDS, maybe it will be the re-incarnation of Pershing-3 at a new technological level?
Image of Strategic Fires Missile launcher and missiles
Within the framework of the BSU program, a promising hypersonic weapon is being developed, literally - Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW). Work on AHW overlaps with the DARPA and US Air Force program to develop the said HTV-2 planning combat unit. Tests under the AHW program have been underway since 2011, and the program itself is considered more realistic than the HTV-2.
Image from the presentation of the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon
It can be assumed that medium-range SLBMs with characteristics similar to ground-based systems can be created on the basis of SLBMs. The fundamental difference between the RF Armed Forces and the USSR Armed Forces in this matter is that the Soviet Navy could well prevent the U.S. Navy from delivering a medium-range ballistic missile strike from a distance of 2000-3000 km, and for the Russian Navy this task is most likely impossible.
With a high probability, the project of the Boeing X-51A Waverider hypersonic missile, also developed as part of the BSU program, will be implemented.
Tests of the Boeing X-51A Waverider hypersonic missile
An additional element of a sudden disarming strike can be stealth AGM-158 JASSM / AGM-158B JASSM ER cruise missiles. The range under development of the JASSM XR may exceed 1500 kilometers. As mentioned earlier, AGM-158 JASSM missiles can be launched from ground launchers. The United States JASSM missiles are not only actively purchasing themselves, but they are also arming their allies. Almost all U.S. military aircraft, including F-158E, F-15, F / A-16, F-18 fighters and B-35B, B-1 and B-2 bombers, should be carriers of the AGM-52 JASSM family of missiles.
The low visibility of the AGM-158 JASSM family missiles can significantly reduce the range and probability of their detection by over-the-horizon radar SPRN RF.
Subtle cruise missile AGM-158B JASSM ER
A more exotic solution may be orbital maneuvering strike platforms, the possibility and conditions of which we considered in the article “The militarization of space is the next step of the United States. SpaceX and orbiting lasers ». Active orbital maneuvering technologies in the United States are being actively tested with the help of the Boeing X-37 orbital test ship capable of quickly changing the orbit altitude in the range of 200-750 km.
Boeing X-37 Orbital Test Ship
However, even without orbital strike platforms in the next 5-10 years, the United States is likely to receive a number of products listed above that will allow a sudden disarming strike with a flight time of less than ten minutes, and possibly less than five minutes, which is significant threat to strategic stability.
Of organizational methods, “buildup” can be applied - creating a series of threatened situations that the Russian Federation can consider as preparation for a strike, but stopping them at a certain stage. The task is to make such situations familiar and raise the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons. In terms of meaning, this is like giving false alarm at a military base every other day, and in a month no one will pay attention to it.
It must be understood that the appearance of weapons to carry out a sudden disarming strike will not mean its guaranteed use, just as Pershing-2 missiles were not used. Obviously, the US is creating opportunity to inflict such a blow, and then they will wait for a convenient the situation for its application, which may not occur.
It should also be noted that the appearance of similar weapons (hypersonic missiles and ballistic missiles) in the Russian Federation does not bear any significant additional advantages in terms of nuclear deterrence, since the systems considered are first-strike weapons and ineffective as deterrence weapons.
Worst of all, what seems to be available opportunity delivering a sudden disarming strike can turn the head of American politicians (the illusion is more dangerous than reality), who will begin to act more aggressively, which, in turn, can lead to uncontrolled development of the situation and escalation of the conflict up to a full-scale nuclear war.
We will talk about the role that the missile defense system (missile defense) plays in preparing for a sudden disarming strike, in the next article.