Sufficiently known in the narrow "perinuclear" circles, but unknown to the general public in Russia and the USA, US problems with nuclear weapons complex (NWC), that is, the inability to produce new nuclear weapons and limiting the ability to maintain and modernize the arsenal, the other day once again reached the US Congress, so to speak, in public.
Strategic Admiral Cuts the Uterus
This time, Congressmen were hacked by the newly appointed one instead of General Hayten, Admiral Chase Richard, who had left for promotion (and abruptly ceased to “cut” even the cautious version of this very truth-womb). Admiral Richard, speaking to members of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the Congressional Armed Forces Committee (House of Representatives) regarding the budget request of the United States Department of Defense regarding strategic forces and nuclear issues in general, stated the following:
“If we don’t right now begin to invest energetically and smartly in our nuclear industry, then we will begin to consistently reach“ points of no return ”[on the nuclear topic]. I predict that this will happen first in our nuclear weapons complex, then in command systems and "control over nuclear forces, and finally, with the delivery vehicles of our nuclear triad."
He also warned that delays in funding key efforts to recreate nuclear production capabilities at least to a minimum could lead to the US
"it will be necessary to restore, and almost from scratch, over the course of several decades, both the infrastructure and competencies necessary for nuclear power and nuclear energy."
The admiral also added that when it comes to the "modernization" of the American nuclear triad, it is overlooked
"another scenario, in which everything will be different, and we will not do this."
Richard believes that in this case, the United States will have almost nothing left of what is now, and the capabilities of the strategic nuclear forces will drop to the level that is many times necessary to deter. Moreover, apparently, this is even without taking into account “new means and circumstances” (new Russian types of strategic weapons from the “March 1 weapon systems”, as they are often called).
“The whole triad will soon be close to the end of its service life. And either we will replace what we have, or we will be on the path of total disarmament, and in the face of growing threats.”
- considers the commander STRATKOM.
Speaking on condition of anonymity for one of the American military publications during a recent visit to the STRATCOM headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, military officials there identified FY27 through FY35 as a “danger zone” in which all key nuclear modernization projects will go online, as their existing heritage programs begin to decline.
Obtaining this period will be crucial, officials said, and delays, technical or due to funding problems, could trigger a chain reaction that will lead to a tough choice of what can and cannot be upgraded, whose service lives cannot be extended and what will go under cancellation, that is, under the knife.
What the Pentagon wants
The Trump administration has requested about $ 46 billion to finance nuclear programs in fiscal year 2021. This includes $ 28,9 billion for the US MoD, which finances delivery vehicle R&D, and the rest for the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Safety Agency (NNSA), which maintains, maintains nuclear weapons, and develops programs their modernization.
In the financial years 2021–2025, the Pentagon plans to spend at least $ 87 billion on nuclear modernization. According to a U.S. DoD certificate, this includes:
1. 24,9 billion dollars for the development and start of construction of nuclear submarines with ballistic missiles (SSBNs) of the Columbia type, so that the first of them goes on its first combat patrol in 2031. Previously, by the way, it was planned to introduce the first boat several years earlier, but the terms were constantly shifting, and the price was growing.
2. 24 billion dollars for investments in the nuclear forces control system, in particular, in communications and ASBU (an automated combat control system - just recently in Russia it was completely replaced by a new one in the strategic nuclear forces).
3. 22,6 billion dollars for a strategic bomber of a new generation, but of an old look (looking like a slightly modified and reduced B-2A) B-21 "Raider", with a date of commissioning in the second half of the 2020s, and most likely, and this period will move slightly.
4. 13,2 billion dollars for a new single-bay ICBM GBSD, which will begin to replace the ICBM Minuteman-3, with the date of commissioning of the first systems in 2029
5. $ 2 billion to replace the AGM-86V air-based cruise missiles (which were finally decommissioned last year), with new ALCMs, known as LRSOs in the region of the early 2030s.
6. 480 million dollars for the development of a new warhead for the Trident-2 SLBM of a new modification for the Columbia SSBN, called the W93 (Mk7). This charge is supplied as a new design, but it is immediately specified that the unit is new, but its design is based on the old one. In general, it was originally supposed to be called IW2 (Interoperable Warhead, "compatible warhead") and be a really new design, but it seems like something strange happened with the replacement of IW1 with W87-1. Americans, who assure that in the 30s will restore their technology for the production of new nuclear weapons to a minimum, may not be very sure about this. By the way, this "new BB of the old design", as it was dubbed in the media and the expert community, raises big questions on Capitol Hill, in the sense of whether it is needed at all, and its fate is completely unclear.
7. 187 million dollars for the adaptation of the F-35 fighter for the use of the B61-12 nuclear bomb, with the initial date of commissioning in 2024.
8. $ 48 million for an improved assembly of the tail kit for this newest B61-12 bomb and an unspecified amount for the modernization program itself, which once again "left to the right."
9. So far, the unknown amount for the development of a “new marine nuclear weapon with a nuclear charge”, which is still a program hanging in the air: in the Capitol, many do not want to hear about it, and the Americans can make a rocket, but the charges for it It will not be known when, but not very soon.
Why all this?
Why would this new STRATKOM commander open up so much? The simplest, but only partially correct explanation would be something like this: "Yes, he just wants Congress to allocate as much money as the military requested." Yes, of course he does. But it is not without reason that it catches up with horror, and if somewhere it overrides the edge, then a little. Problems with American nuclear weapons are known to those who are interested in the issue, and there is nothing surprising in the fact that the admiral put them in first place on the list of "points of no return." Indeed, the US nuclear arsenal is shrinking, and often shrinking, not because some type of ammunition is no longer needed, but because the facilities for servicing and reassembling are limited and much more valuable types of ammunition are in line. This has happened more than once in recent years.
And the admiral understands that the decline in numbers can, of course, be classified, as was recently done again in the United States, but it will not stop from this, and the pace may also increase. And you can end up at the bottom of the "nuclear pit" when there is no production yet, and there are no charges even for many of the delivery vehicles that are available, and for most of them. Moreover, there are supporters of such a reduction, both in the expert community and at the top, and even select the necessary theoretical base for their theory from the category of "we have few charges, but we don’t need any more." But this research is a topic for a separate material. In the meantime, it can be said that plans to restore production are already gradually “moving to the right,” and it is not a fact that this process will stop - after all, this has happened more than once before. What can I say about the unrealizability of the set extremely low bar, say, in 80 plutonium pit ditches per year, when the voices of experts are already heard, that by the mid 30s and thirty a year it would be nice to go out. So after all, the unfortunate modernization of the B61 of the old series in the B61-12 is again shifting by 2 years already, and the explanation that all because of some poor-quality capacitors there, which they are looking for a replacement (they are looking for a replacement for 2 years), somehow does not hold water. By the way, what kind of capacitors, why are they of poor quality? Have you bought them in China? In general, the USA is really complicated here.
It’s difficult to say why the admiral put the problems with strategic nuclear weapons control systems in second place - as far as the USA is concerned, fatal problems are somehow not expected. But, apparently, we are talking about the general obsolescence of a number of links in the existing management system. But it’s understandable why there are delivery vehicles on the list. Yes, despite the fact that the Minuteman-3 has been in the service of about half a century, but the obsolescence of the ICBM design allowed (such a technical paradox) it was quite simple to replace solid-fuel engines in stages, which would be impossible with modern technologies for manufacturing the stages - a whole replacement would be required . The missile is old, but the guidance system and the warhead itself in it are much more modern - inherited from the MX (although not all BBs on the Minutemans are from there now). Trident-2 can be considered one of the most outstanding SLBMs in the world, which has successfully passed the extension of its operational life and modernization work. But neither the ICBMs, nor the SLBMs of the USA do not become eternal from this, and even successful missiles, despite modernization, are the fruits of the time in which they were created. That is morally obsolete. And here, Admiral Richard is right: if you do not invest in the development of a replacement, one fine and not-so-distant day it turns out that the operation on the PSE, the extension of the service life, as we call it, and the Americans have the LEP - Life Extension Program, can no longer be but there’s no replacement. And such an option is possible, as well as the option of "rollback" to the distant past, not only in the number of charges and technologies for their production and maintenance, but also in terms of delivery methods. So the admiral of the paint, if he thickened it, is not very strong.
Money I grieve may not help
But there is one more point. The fact is that these problems will not be solved if the work is financed on time and on time, as Chaz Richard insists on this. Money is not everything. People and their competencies are far more important. Pour you at least a trillion, but if there is no sensible personnel, nothing will help. We ourselves have repeatedly faced this problem, getting out of the timelessness of the 90s. Americans, judging by a number of signs of a systemic crisis, for example, in the aircraft industry, are faced with this, too, although their reasons are completely different. And the same nuclear weapons are in a much worse condition. And it's not even about production. The point is the loss of a nuclear weapons culture. The same NNSA considers it not shameful to publish photosets from nuclear arsenals and service enterprises, where people rudely violate the holy of holies - the rules of work. Both for us and the Americans, the principles for carrying out the most important work with nuclear weapons are almost identical. Thus, in carrying out operations, personnel must have a strictly established form of clothing and appearance, and this is not an empty formality. The staff is obliged to work on any operation together - one works, the second reads the instructions to the first, the third controls each step (and all three - each other). That was the case with the Americans, and so with us. But the published photos and videos suggest that this is not happening now. Changed the regulations? Unlikely. There is no one to follow the order? Nobody cares? Then it is not surprising that strange cases like the B61 nuclear bomb occur, which for several years lay physically damaged in the arsenal, but successfully passed all routine inspections.
And if so with the service, then with the people in the production, and in the development, too, not everything can be in order. And no one knows what these people will earn and create for these requested amounts. So Admiral Richard is sounding the alarm for good reason, but it’s not a fact that, if he gets his way, it will certainly help.
In addition, there are enough opponents of these programs, who believe, for example, that it is possible to continue to limit ourselves to the eternal modernization and maintenance of existing charges. Or that you need to abandon ICBMs as the class and "legs" of the nuclear triad, moving on to the nuclear dyad. And there are enough of them on Capitol Hill. And, say, if a change of power occurs in the United States, or if Republicans lose control of the Senate, much of what is approved will be sequestered in the same way. Or for another reason, as this year the "record" budget was cut by programs in almost all types of US forces.