Thermonuclear weapon a new generation can dramatically reduce the threshold of applicability of nuclear weapons and upset the current strategic balance
In July, the Israeli army used the so-called anti-bunker bombs during operations against militants of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement. At the same time, traces of enriched uranium were found in soil samples taken from bomb craters. At the same time, it was found that the radioactive decay of fission fragments was not accompanied by gamma radiation and the formation of the cesium isotope 2006, and the level of radiation, high inside the craters, at a distance of several meters from them was reduced by about half.
The possibility is not excluded that in South Lebanon Israel used nuclear weapons (NW) of a new generation. It could be delivered to Israel from the United States specifically for its testing in combat conditions. Experts also suggest that such weapons have already been used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The absence of explosion products with a long period of disintegration, as well as an insignificant radioactive contamination of the area, suggest that so-called “clean” thermonuclear ammunition could be used in southern Lebanon.
It is known that the existing thermonuclear charges do not provide a noticeable localization (both in time and in area) of the scale of radioactive contamination of the environment, since the work of their secondary site is initiated by the fission reaction of heavy nuclei, the result of which is the long-term radioactive contamination of the area.
Until now, it was the latter circumstance that guaranteed a high threshold for the use of any types of current nuclear weapons, including small and ultra-low-power nuclear weapons. Now, if the results of independent examinations correspond to reality, we can speak about the emergence of new thermonuclear ammunition, the presence of which in service sharply reduces the psychological threshold of applicability of nuclear weapons.
At the same time, “pure” thermonuclear ammunition does not currently fall under the restrictions of any of the existing international treaties and formally, under the conditions of its use, are at the same level as conventional high-precision weapons (WTO), significantly exceeding the latter in destructive power.
Among specialists, there is not yet a single point of view on how far the United States and other leading foreign countries have progressed in the process of developing "pure" thermonuclear ammunition.
Meanwhile, indirect evidence that in the conditions of strict secrecy work on their creation is already underway in the United States, are the results of practical activities of the current US administration to reform its strategic offensive forces (SNS).
The plans to create a new generation of thermonuclear ammunition are also evidenced by the efforts being made by the UK to change the existing structure of their strategic nuclear forces (SNF) and to deploy a new research infrastructure to study the problems of thermonuclear fusion.
The American leadership was the first among the leading foreign countries to realize that both the current “dirty” strategic nuclear weapons and the conventional WTO, which was much talked about during the discussions about the need to move to the concept of “non-nuclear deterrence” as soon as possible, do not allow imposed on strategic forces.
First of all, this concerns the guaranteed destruction of strategic highly protected and deeply deeper targets (FARC) of the enemy, as well as the neutralization of the chemical and biological components of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
New American Nuclear Strategy
An analysis of the new nuclear strategy adopted in 2002 of the USA shows that the “clean” thermonuclear weapon plays the role of the cornerstone of the promising American strategic triad.
The main provisions of the new US nuclear strategy are set out in the Nuclear Posture Review; hereinafter referred to as the “Review ...” for short, presented to the US Congress 2002 in January.
In this concept paper, the need to develop and adopt a new generation of nuclear weapons is justified as follows.
"... A modern nuclear arsenal, still reflecting the needs of the cold war period, is characterized by low firing accuracy, limited re-targeting capabilities, high power of nuclear warhead charging devices, mine-based, ground-based and sea-based ballistic missiles with individual targeting, low-level ability to hit buried goals, "therefore" ... a nuclear strategy based solely on the capabilities of strategic offensive nuclear forces cannot s deterrence of potential enemies, which the United States will face in the XXI century. "
Further, in the "Review ..." the basic requirements for nuclear weapons of a new generation are formulated: "... giving modern nuclear forces new capabilities should ensure: defeat of threatening objects, such as highly protected and buried targets, carriers of chemical and biological weapons; detection and destruction of mobile and mobile targets; improving the accuracy of fire; limiting collateral damage in the use of nuclear weapons. "
The "Review ..." also states that "the provision of such capabilities through intensive research and development and the deployment of new weapon systems is an imperative requirement when creating a new triad."
As can be seen, in the presented concept of the development of US nuclear forces, one of the key requirements for new types of nuclear weapons is the limitation of collateral damage in their application.
Since the fusion reaction in "pure" thermonuclear munitions must be initiated by an energy source, an alternative to fission reactions, the key point of their development is the replacement of the existing atomic "fuse" with a powerful and compact "detonator".
At the same time, the latter should have energy sufficient to initiate a fusion reaction, and in terms of its weight and size characteristics “fit” into the head parts of the existing delivery systems.
It can be expected that the main damaging factors of the new nuclear weapons will be instantaneous gamma-neutron radiation, a shock wave, and also light radiation. In this case, penetrating radiation, which is a consequence of the radioactive decay of fission fragments, will be relatively insignificant.
Some experts believe that, first of all, new thermonuclear weapons will be used to equip high-precision guided missiles and bombs. Moreover, its capacity can be varied from units to hundreds or more tons of TNT equivalent.
This will allow the use of "clean" thermonuclear weapons to selectively destroy enemy targets located both in open areas (including mobile ballistic missile systems) and airborne defense centers without fear of long-term radioactive contamination of the ground.
In connection with the absence of radioactive fallout, land units will be able to operate in the territory subjected to nuclear weapons strikes, according to estimates, already in 48 hours.
When new types of ammunition are used to destroy the VZSZTS, including the storage of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, neutron and gamma radiation, arising directly at the time of the explosion, will be almost completely absorbed by the layers of soil adjacent to the explosion site.
According to expert estimates, for the destruction of meters at a depth of more than 300 meters, the RFZZZ will need to create thermonuclear ammunition with a capacity of the order of 100 CT or more.
It is expected that such munitions will have sufficiently large destructive capabilities to guarantee neutralization of enemy ballistic missile warheads equipped with WMD. At the same time, undermining the CW PR over its territory, even at low altitude, will not lead to a significant radioactive contamination of the environment.
The new structure of the American strategic forces
Let us now consider in more detail those changes that should occur directly in the structure of the American SNA.
Currently, the US SNA triad consists of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) and strategic bomber aircraft aviation (SBA), which are armed with about 6000 "dirty" nuclear warheads (YBZ).
The new American nuclear strategy involves the creation of a qualitatively different strategic triad instead, which will include:
- nuclear and non-nuclear strategic offensive weapons;
- active and passive strategic defensive weapons;
- updated military, research and industrial infrastructure.
The listed components of the new triad must be integrated into a single whole by an improved system of communications, control, intelligence and adaptive planning.
The first (shock) component of the new strategic triad, in turn, will consist of two small triads: the triad of forces of "global strikes" and the old triad of reduced number of SNA.
Global strike forces are planned to be deployed on the basis of SBA aircraft (including part of the current aviation component of the US SNA), multi-purpose nuclear submarines (APL) and surface ship carriers of sea-based cruise missiles (SLCMs), as well as parts of the ICBM and SLBMs from the SNA.
It is expected that in the arsenal of the "global strike" forces the WTO will consist of both conventional and nuclear ("pure" nuclear weapons) equipment.
The existing triad of the SNA under the Treaty on the Reduction of Strategic Offensive Potentials will undergo a radical reduction. By 2012, 17002200 operational deployed nuclear warheads will be on its armament. The remaining YABZ will be transferred to active or passive reserve.
The operational management of both of the shock components of the new strategic triad is currently entrusted to the United Strategic Command (USC) of the US Armed Forces.
Based on the tasks assigned to USC USCF and the United Command (US) forces of the US Armed Forces in the forward zones, it can be assumed that the forces of "global strikes" will be used for operational pre-emptive strikes against strategic enemy targets at any point on the globe, as well as for combat operations in regional conflicts.
The nuclear forces of the old triad of the SNS, in service of which the existing types of strategic nuclear weapons will remain, will continue to fulfill the tasks of strategic nuclear deterrence. In the event of a radical change in the military-political situation, they will be used to inflict "anti-force" or "anti-value" nuclear-missile strikes on the most important strategic targets of the enemy, which primarily considers Russia and China.
The second component of the US strategic triad will also consist of two components: shock (active) forces intended for operational destruction of enemy missile systems in their positional areas, as well as missile defense forces to intercept launched ballistic missiles and their warheads (passive forces).
In 2003, the United States denounced the Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems. This circumstance allows them to proceed to the unlimited development, testing and deployment of anti-missile systems of any class with the placement of their components both in the United States and abroad.
The new thermonuclear munition fits well into the plans for the creation of the third component of the American strategic triad, the renewed defense infrastructure.
According to the plans of the American leadership, it is called upon to promptly carry out the development, testing, production and adoption of promising offensive and defensive systems, including nuclear ones, in response to any emerging threats.
At present, a powerful testing base has been deployed in the USA to study the problem of thermonuclear fusion in three different directions. There is no doubt that this base will be used not only in the interests of the industrial development of thermonuclear energy, but also for the creation of new thermonuclear charges.
So, in the Livermore Laboratory. Lawrence (California) to simulate nuclear tests created the world's most powerful laser thermonuclear facility (LTU) NIF (National Ignition Facility), capable of realizing the temperatures and pressures observed in nature only in the center of stars. The total cost of the installation is estimated to be 2008 3,3 billion.
For the same purpose, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (NewMexico) and the Air Force Research Laboratory (Kirtland Air Force Base) use the Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) unit.
In order to study the physical processes with high energy density in the national laboratory "Sandia" (Albuquerque) a powerful generator of electrical impulses, the so-called "Zmachine", is being upgraded.
Creating new types of nuclear weapons is impossible without nuclear testing. For this reason, the Bushamordi administration refused to re-nominate the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty to the US Senate for ratification.
Thus, being outside the legal field of this treaty, the United States has provided itself with the opportunity to implement any nuclear testing program at any time convenient for itself.
In parallel with the conduct of scientific research, the United States is actively pursuing measures to reduce from 36 to 12 months the readiness of the test site in Nevada to resume underground nuclear explosions.
Preventive Nuclear Strike Strategy
In 2005, the United States made important changes to its use of nuclear weapons strategy.
In accordance with the concept of "preventive strikes," better known as the "Bush Doctrine," the US armed forces received the right to deliver preventive nuclear strikes to countries in peacetime that could threaten the national security of the United States or its allies.
It should be particularly emphasized that this doctrine also provides for the possibility of returning to the US Navy (primarily to surface combat ships and submarines) the carriers of tactical nuclear weapons shot in 1991.
It should be added that in the United States, the deployment of a strategic Ohio-class attack system based on nuclear submarines (SSGNs) equipped with Block IV Tomahawk cruise missiles, which are the best means of delivery to the targets of the new nuclear facility, is almost complete.
According to its tactical and technical characteristics, the Slave-to-Militar-Smelter "Tomahawk" Block IV is the most advanced cruise missile of this class. The maximum range of its flight now is 2800 km. The rocket is capable of patrolling around the target for 2 hours for its search or supplementary exploration. By equipping the SLCM with a satellite communication channel, it is also possible to retarget the rocket in flight.
Up to each of the Ohrio-type SSGNs up to 154 SLCMs can be placed on each.
In 2006, the United Kingdom (following the United States) began a cardinal review of its nuclear deterrence doctrine.
At present, the UK's strategic nuclear forces are made up of four Vanguard submarines, each of which is equipped with 16 ballistic Trident 2 missiles with split warheads. The current nuclear forces of Great Britain seem to be an outdated model of confronting modern nuclear threats and more in keeping with the realities of the Cold War than today. An alternative to the existing Vanguard system will be a weapons system deployed on the basis of submarines equipped with nuclear cruise missiles. It is emphasized that in the interests of complying with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, warheads for cruise missiles must be developed by the UK independently, and not obtained from the United States.
The UK has already started refitting its multi-purpose submarines into carriers of the Tomahawk SLCM Block IV modified.
The submarine "Trafalgar" was the first boat in the British Navy, capable of launching data missiles. On the boat were installed the latest fire control system SLCM "Tomahawk" (TTWCS), developed by the American company "LockheedMartin", and two-way satellite communication system TSN (Tomahawk Strike Network), designed to retarget the SLCM of this modification in flight.
The presented version of the development of the strategic nuclear forces of the UK is not something new. Back in the middle of 1970x. The British Department of Defense has been studying the issue of adopting US Tomahawk-type SLCMs with nuclear equipment into their armaments. However, in 1979, for a number of reasons, the British government rejected this option in favor of the current Vangard-type SSBNs with the Trident2 SLBMs.
In parallel with the development of the nuclear doctrine of nuclear deterrence in the UK, a number of nuclear infrastructure development programs are underway, which may be required to create nuclear weapons designed to equip the new component of the British strategic nuclear forces.
At the same time, the United Kingdom (like the United States) is concentrating its efforts on creating a test base aimed at studying the problem of thermonuclear fusion. In this regard, it is expected that after the United States "clean" thermonuclear ammunition will appear soon in service with the updated British SNFs.
In the summer of 2005, at a meeting of the ad hoc committee on defense of the House of Commons of the British Parliament, it was announced that the research center for the development of nuclear weapons in the UK would be expanded. In the city of Aldermaston (Berkshire), construction of a LUT worth about one billion pounds sterling has begun and an additional job application has been announced for this center for 2008 of more than 1 thousand specialists.
According to the press, after the launch of the new LTU Orion, it should ensure the reconstruction of the physical processes occurring in the nuclear reaction conditions. Without going beyond the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, to which the United Kingdom is a party, the LUT will also be used to test elements of the nuclear weaponized missile complexes being developed.
Thus, it can be assumed that in the near future, the UK will focus on creating a new strategic nuclear "dyad", which will consist of four VANGARD-type SSBNs with the Trident 2 SLBMs and several Trafalgar-type SSGNs equipped with Tomahawk SLCMs. with "clean" thermonuclear ammunition.
SSGNs of the Vanguard type will be in service with the updated British SNF, at least until 20202025, when the life span of the Trident2 ballistic missiles expires.
It is estimated that the UK could spend around 20 billion pounds on the creation of a new strategic "dyad".
In conclusion, one should pay attention to one important circumstance. In the case of the successful development of nuclear weapons of a new generation, the United States and the United Kingdom acquire significant military-technical superiority in the field of strategic weapons. The current "dirty" strategic nuclear weapons, by and large, becomes unnecessary for them.
In this regard, it is necessary to be prepared for the fact that the United States and Great Britain, relying on the thesis about the threat of world civilization from the side of "dirty" nuclear weapons, can take the initiative to ban it all. At the same time, only “pure” thermonuclear weapons, in which ~ 99% energy should be released in fusion reactions, will have to remain in service with nuclear countries.
It is clear that thermonuclear ammunition, which is now the basis of the strategic weapons of the nuclear powers, will not meet such high requirements.
Thus, using controlled international organizations, the United States and the United Kingdom can put a kind of scientific and technological barrier before the other members of the nuclear club. It may be, for example, international obligations on the development and adoption for service of exclusively thermonuclear warheads with fragmentation activity of less than one percent.
This will require from the other nuclear states the urgent creation of a powerful research, production and test base, huge financial and time costs.
At the same time, the existing military-technical groundwork in the field of "clean" thermonuclear weapons will allow the United States and Great Britain to acquire unilateral military-political advantages for quite a long time.
- The United States and the United Kingdom are actively developing a new generation of nuclear weapons, the use of which allows for the limitation of collateral damage. In this regard, they have begun a fundamental reform of the structure and composition of their strategic nuclear forces, as well as the forms and methods of combat use of these forces.
- New nuclear weapons are outside the legal framework of all existing international treaties related to the development, testing, proliferation or use of nuclear weapons.
- The adoption of a new generation of nuclear weapons can significantly reduce the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons and virtually level the difference between them and the general-purpose WTO in terms of combat use.
- The Russian Federation urgently needs to take adequate measures to strengthen its domestic deterrent potential.
Information and analytical publication "Aerospace Defense", article "Clean" thermonuclear weapons: myth or reality? ". Published with the permission of the publisher.
Author: Alexander Kotomin, Colonel, Doctor of Technical Sciences, Senior Researcher, Deputy Head of the Department of the 2 Central Research Institute of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
Valery Kretinin, State Prize Laureate of the Russian Federation, Honored Scientist of the Russian Federation, Doctor of Technical Sciences, Professor, full member of the Academy of Military Sciences, Leading Researcher at the 2 Central Research Institute of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
Andrei Shushkov, lieutenant colonel, head of the laboratory of the 2 Central Research Institute of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation