Last Saturday, 7 November, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter spoke at the National Defense Forum at the Reagan Library with an extensive speech on major issues in the international arena and Pentagon’s plans to counter new threats. Some of the minister’s theses can be interpreted in a variety of ways, including as the first evidence of an impending arms race. The fact is that, in addition to international politics, Carter touched on the topic of confronting a military threat and creating new weapons.
The main statement of E. Carter, which attracted the most attention, concerns Russia and the world order. In his opinion, it is Russia that is the main threat to the order existing on the planet. As an example, the minister mentioned “aggression” against Ukraine (according to the official US version, Russia participates in the Ukrainian civil war), as well as other actions that do not suit foreign countries. In this regard, according to Carter, the Pentagon is currently searching for ideas and solutions that will help counteract unfriendly Russian actions.
Separately, the Minister touched upon the topic of Russian nuclear weapons and its roles in world order. According to Carter, Russia is currently “rattling nuclear weapons,” which makes it necessary to ask questions about the plans of the Russian leadership in the field of strategic stability. In addition, the US minister doubts whether the Russian government respects the existing rules regarding the non-use of nuclear weapons.
After such accusations, E. Carter was forced to make a reservation. According to him, the United States does not want a new cold war, not to mention an open conflict with Russia. Nevertheless, he noted the intention to defend his interests, to defend his allies, and to maintain the existing world order, the main threat to which is Russia.
According to E. Carter, Russia is engaged in undermining stability in Europe and the Middle East. Over the past few years, it has "violated the sovereignty" of Ukraine and Georgia, as well as intimidating the Baltic countries. In addition, Moscow launched an operation in Syria, which contributes to the deterioration of the situation and the extension of the civil war. Because of this, the United States has to take measures to deter Russian aggression, as well as reduce the threat to itself and its allies.
The American minister notes that in response to the Russian “nuclear saber rattling”, the United States is taking some measures related to the development of the armed forces, primarily the nuclear triad. The United States is engaged in the modernization of the naval, air and ground components of strategic nuclear forces. Due to such programs, it is planned to increase the combat capability of the corresponding part of the armed forces responsible for nuclear deterrence.
Carter said that the Pentagon is investing in a number of critical areas that are a relevant response to Russian "provocations." These areas include the Minister unmanned systems, the project to create a promising long-range bomber, electronic warfare systems, cyber systems, as well as electromagnetic railguns, lasers and other amazing technologies that he can not describe.
How to understand?
Ashton Carter argues that the United States does not want to enter into a new cold war with Russia. Nevertheless, some actions of the US military and political leadership can be considered evidence of preparations for an arms race. Moreover, this is how one can interpret some of the statements of the head of the Pentagon. He first mentions Russian projects, and then talks about American programs that are the answer to them. Approximately the same thing was based on the Cold War arms race.
How fair are the assessments of Carter’s statements as the first evidence of a new arms race — time will tell. Much more interesting at the moment are his statements regarding promising American developments, which should be symmetrical or asymmetric responses to Russian "provocations." The list, called the Minister, is small, but still worth consideration. In one of his phrases, the official mentioned several interesting directions in the development of military technology, attracting the attention of both American and foreign specialists.
As one of the "trump cards" in the confrontation with Russia, the American minister called unmanned technology. Indeed, the United States is one of the leaders in this area. They have a large number of different types of UAVs, designed to solve a wide range of tasks. This technique is used to conduct reconnaissance at various levels, and is also capable of striking at enemy targets. UAVs have firmly taken their place in the structure of the armed forces and are unlikely to lose it.
The development of drones continues, and there are certain successes in this matter. For example, great hopes are being placed on the Northrop Grumman X-47B drone project. The developments on this project will be further used to create a promising multi-purpose deck UAV that can replenish aviation groups of aircraft carriers. To date, the X-47B have demonstrated the ability to automatically fly, the ability to take off and land on an aircraft carrier, as well as receive fuel from a refueling machine without operator control.
Long Range Bomber
Mentioning the project of a promising long-range bomber, E. Carter is referring to the program LRS-B (Long-Range Strike - Bomber). At the end of October, the Pentagon completed an analysis of two proposals submitted to the tender for the development of this project, and chose a contracting company to develop a new aircraft, and then launch its mass production. By decision of the military, the specialists of Northrop Grumman will create a new project. The union of companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin remained without an order, but a few days ago it announced its intention to achieve a review of the results of the competition. According to some reports, the company "Boeing" and "Lockheed-Martin" intend to appeal to the value of their own and competing project, urging the military in the greater profitability of their own proposals.
Almost all information about the LRS-B project is still under secrecy. Over the past few years, fragmentary data has been published on the technical requirements for a new aircraft, but over time, they could have changed, which is why previously announced information should have lost its relevance. According to unconfirmed data, you want to create and build a subsonic heavy long-range bomber, the design of which will be used so-called. stealth technology.
The LRS-B bomber will have to overcome the enemy's air defense, and then strike conventional and nuclear weapons on key targets. This requires minimal visibility, long range and the ability to refuel in flight. In the future, the possibility of creating an unmanned modification of a bomber is not excluded. Such a UAV will be able to show higher performance in comparison with the manned version and, as a result, will have greater potential.
The timing of the LRS-B project has not yet been clarified. In addition, even existing plans have already been adjusted several times. Thus, the date of announcement of the winner of the competition has been shifted for several months. In addition, protest from Boeing and Lockheed Martin could lead to a new timing shift. As a result, the date of the first flight and the timing of the first deliveries to the troops remain unknown.
New American electronic warfare systems are quite an interesting topic. Over the past few months, a number of statements have been voiced about the ambiguous situation in this area. Some foreign experts recognized the advantages of Russia in the field of EW facilities, and also complained about the backlog of American developers of such equipment. For example, in the summer of this year, Lori Bakhut, the former head of the EW US Army Service, said that the United States has a powerful intelligence system and can listen to anything. At the same time, however, the American capabilities for disabling enemy communications are only one tenth of the Russian potential in this area.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that the United States is working in this direction and achieved some success. So, at the end of the last decade, the full-scale operation of Boeing EA-18G Growler deck-mounted electronic warfare aircraft began. These aircraft are designed to ensure the full combat operation of strike deck aircraft. Their task is to suppress the enemy’s communications equipment and jamming to counter radar stations. In 2011, the Growlers took part in a real armed conflict for the first time.
Since the middle of the last decade, the American companies General Atomics and BAE Systems have been working on the creation of a promising rail gun. Due to the use of Lorenz's force, such a weapon is in theory capable of accelerating a projectile up to speeds of several tens of kilometers per second. Such indicators have not yet been achieved, however, the existing successes can demonstrate the prospects of such weapons.
Back in 2008, the American industry showed an experienced rail gun with muzzle energy at the level of 10 MJ, which allowed it to accelerate the projectile to a speed of more than 2500 m / s. Two years later, a sample was demonstrated with muzzle energy up to 33 MJ. A little later, BAE Systems began testing its own version of the rail gun, which after a number of modifications can be used in practice. After equipping this tool with a set of necessary equipment, such as automatic supply of ammunition or a cooling system of working bodies, one can consider the possibility of its use in practice.
Currently, rail guns are considered as promising weapons for warships of new projects. According to calculations, with a muzzle energy of the order of 32 MJ and a projectile mass of about 2,5-3 kg, shooting at a distance of up to 150-180 km is possible. With a further increase in the main parameters of the gun, the firing range increases. Another positive quality of such weapons is the possibility of using light and compact ammunition that does not need relatively large shells with a propelling charge. However, in this case there is a need for an appropriate power supply and placement of a number of specific units.
Earlier it was claimed that in the second half of this decade, an experienced rail cannon could be installed on one of the American ships, after which it would begin testing. In addition, it was said about the desire of the Pentagon to arm such guns promising destroyers of the project Zumwalt. By the middle of the next decade, it is planned to achieve muzzle energies of the order of 60-65 MJ. Thus, it is quite possible that the tests of the first high-grade ship rail guns will begin in the next few years. Nevertheless, the complexity of the program and the repeated shifts of the deadlines force the US military to restrain its optimism.
New development or arms race?
You can admit that Ashton Carter was right. The United States does have several promising defense programs that can be a response to “Russian provocations.” American engineers are creating new UAVs, electronic reconnaissance and electronic warfare, as well as other technology, including those previously encountered only in science fiction. Certain successes at this stage allow the US military to look into the future with optimism, and also to remind about their military potential in statements concerning the international situation.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that the latest statements by the US Secretary of Defense and other words of high-ranking officials can be interpreted in a variety of ways. For example, hints and direct statements about new projects can be perceived as veiled threats to a potential adversary. At the same time, Carter stresses that the United States does not want to start a new cold war, not to mention an open armed conflict. In this case, the threat can be attributed to an attempt to contain a potential enemy, but in general the whole situation looks ambiguous and controversial, including because a high-ranking official can be accused of inconsistency.
Statements about new projects can also be a warning: foreign partners and potential adversaries are reminded that the US military power will grow, which is why friendly or at least neutral relations with them should be maintained. Those who will not follow these "tips" will have to enter into open confrontation or a new cold war. In addition, promising US projects will force the other side of such a conflict to intensify the development of its defense industry and armed forces. It is hardly worth reminding how exactly the military buildup is called, with an eye on the actions of a potential enemy.
As a result, Ashton Carter’s recent speech leaves an ambiguous impression. On the one hand, a high-ranking official claims that Washington does not want a new cold war and an arms race. On the other hand, his theses look ambiguous and can lead to specific conclusions.
According to official statements, no one wants a new global confrontation, similar to what happened a few decades ago. Nevertheless, despite this, officials continue to read out speeches in which there are ambiguous or even aggressive attacks in the direction of certain states. It cannot be ruled out that such “double standards” will eventually lead to the beginning of a new Cold War, which, according to the official version, is not needed by anyone.
On the materials of the sites: