The U.S. Response To Putin’s Nuclear Provocations by Thomas Borgsmidt
During the couple of years Russia has been sending nuclear bomber not only with simulated attacks on non-Nato countries (notably Sweden), but also – if not infringing on Nato airspace – then behaving unbecoming to good airmanship and positively dangerously.
The Baltic nations has had the most press, but the nuclear bombers have been all over the globe:
- Round the north of Norway and southward towards Scotland and further down in the North Sea – all nice in international airspace.
- All the way, down to France and Cornwall.
- Even Alaska and Canada has been paid a visit – within the rules – barely.
This has been done with the whole catalogue of bombers Tu-160 (Blackjack), Tu-22M (Backfire), the venerable Tu-95 Bear and even the new Fullback (Su-34). The latter provoking a Norwegean F-16 pilot to swear loudly at the dangerous behavior.
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On other occasions, the posturing of Vladimir Putin has been cruder:
- The persistent holding on to a budget with considerable expansions of the defense budget in spite of – to put it mildly – a strained economy.
- The insistence that Russia will not allow itself to be a toothless and declawed teddy bear.
- The continued placing plans for Iskander-missiles in the Kaliningrad Oblast (Königsberg) bringing Warsaw – at the least – within nuclear range.
- The public promise of delivery to the Russian strategic arm of 50 new Topol ICBM’s within two years.
Here we are not considering the invasion of the Ukraine, nor the shooting down of a civilian airliner, nor the approach of a major war vessel into or near Australien waters (appropriately enough escorted by a sea going tugboat).
- There has also been submarine activity in the coastal waters near Stockholm.
- Submarine activity near Scotland, making Great Britain call on other Nato nations to assist in maritime aerial patrol.
The general Western reaction has been subdued slanted towards amazement that the Russians have actually been able to keep their antique collection in the air – albeit with considerable effort from aerial tankers and under scrutiny.
Otherwise the Russians seem genuinely confused at meeting fighters in Baltic airspace not only from the usual nations Norway, Holland, Belgium, Denmark and Poland, but also Portugal, Italy, Spain, Great Britain and Germany have put in an appearance to watch the parading of such rare birds. Finland regularly have their somewhat defanged F-18’s going intercepting in full afterburner at awkward positions. Sweden has gone as far as actually to activate another squadron – they probably have surplus they haven’t been able to peddle to unsuspecting Swiss and Austrians.
Personally, I have been waiting for an American response to what must be considered at threat to continental USA and not only putting new Nato members on full alert.
The first answer has come
This is along the lines of the responses to the Chinese aggressions where drones have been test flown off an aircraft carrier – with the possible inference that Chinese numerical superiority would matter little, as relatively cheap, armed pack mules would be able to take care of massive amounts of outdated technology.
DARPA is an agency under the Defense Department concerned with developing advanced technology with low probability of successful application, but in case of usefulness disproportionate effect. A sort of Gyro Gearloose-laboratory. A sort of unkind reference to the Mickey Mouse-cartoon character that has a lot of brilliant constructions that always – for one reason or another – are totally useless.
What really caught my attention was the “throw weight” of these satellites: 100 lb.
That made me google the weight of nuclear artillery shells – and quite right! I drew the same inference as a Russian intelligence officer would – provided he reads the paper (not just the comics section). A 155 mm nuclear artillery shell is/has indeed been in service. With a weight a whisker under 100 lb.
To call it advanced technology is perhaps an overstatement, as the F-15 has – oh, some 20 odd years ago -been tested as a launcher of antisatellite missiles as far as I know nothing really came of that. But then again I’m not privy to classified information.
The timeframe of an operational weapon within two years rather match the Topol announcement by Putin and it is strictly within the limits of credibility that some sort of modification to a GPS system and modern guidance additions to old-fashioned iron bombs could be realistic. But that is just me speculating.
There are perspectives to this:
- They are cheap as nuclear hardware goes: Meaning a swarm of vicious little satellites could descend upon Putins siloes. The nuclear charge is quite small (2 kT) but hitting squarely on the lid of silo would more than break the teacup of the launch team in the bunker beneath. The rocket probably wouldn’t fly very well – if at all – considering the problems the Russian have (had) making them fly without interfering with the aurea borealis of the arctic – quite spectacular – I’m told in Norwegian.
- As the position of silo-based missiles is known to the last yard – such constructions don’t go walkabout all by themselves. As to guidance accuracy there must be information available from anti-terrorist operations that indicates that it is not a problem – you actually remove the explosives from bombs to minimize collateral damage. There might be all sorts of practical problems in the application, but I don’t think the Defense Department is going to enlighten me or anyone else on that subject: No reason to make Putin reconsider a stupid investment – not until it has been irrevocably made.
- As to the ancient problem of the bomber-gab, the answer is: Who needs them to terminate sitting ducks? Will it work? We’ll let’s not tempt fate and find out. Putin is anything but calling the shots, teddy-bear, Tupolev-Bear or not – he sure loves being humiliated. The charge is quite small, so chances are that the fall-out will not be more serious than the usual mess Russians leave with their power plants – Tjernobyl in the Ukraine ring any bells? In a few hundred years the place might even be habitable if anyone should get the absurd idea of a spring-break in Siberia to accompany Senator McCain’s line of thought.
If it had only been this short video – somewhat made by Walt Disney – it just might have been the fantasies of a nut case past his prime, but there is other unsupported speculations to bolt on to the delirium fantasies.
The Russian flew the largest transport plane publicly in 1985 at the Paris Air Show: The An-124 (Condor in Nato parlance). There has been proposed all sorts of theories as to the purpose of airlifting 150 metric tons when the C-17 Globemaster III is contend with half of that. The Condor can lift a tank, but moving an armored battalion takes so many flights, that it easier to sail them in on a ferry – not to mention the trouble keeping a fuel and grenade guzzler like that supplied once it has left the airstrip.
The true purpose of the Condor is revealed in the fact that its nose wheels “kneels”. Now a Topol-M-missile is about 120 metric tons on its eight-axle vehicle. Strangely enough, there is a 120 metric tons winch on the Condor. That makes sense considering that axle no. 4 and 5 are “dead” – that is without traction. The loaded vehicle would not be able to enter the Condor plane unassisted as when the axle no. 5 gets over the ramp break the entire equipage will hang and seesaw like on a playground.
Let’s just assume that transporting road carried intercontinental strategic missiles is the real purpose of the Condor. I know this is unconfirmed speculation. Nevertheless, that would make the Condor an object of strategic interest to the USA.
Nato has had an agreement with the Ukraine about chartering 6 Condor aircraft – two of them stationed in Leipzig, Germany with the others on call with various notices. They have been extensively used by Nato’s European allies in various missions – f.i. Afghanistan.
The puzzling thing is that one landed on Billund Airport on March 3rd 2014.
Not especially surprising in itself, but it “got stuck” and left a couple of hours later without further ado.
There has been plans of re-engining it with CF6-80 engines, but officially, nothing has come of it.
Now it would be interesting to know what is going on in hangar 243 at Kastrup Airport in Copenhagen.
Let’s say somebody has been thinking ahead?
That leaves ICBM capable submarines
Well for years there has been oil-explorational activities on Greenland off the east coast as far north at 790. Oil exploration is something that can swallow a lot of money without any apparent effect – with not too many questions asked afterwards – except by naïve tree huggers anxious about the environment. Naïve because it does not enter their “little green minds” if such a venture had the remotest chance of ever turning a profit. Clearing away the arctic ice every year would add to the cost.
So let’s risk another insane guess: They have not been dumping hydrophones to find oil, but submarines.
The Danish arctic frigates of the Thetis class were reported for decades as being fisheries protection vessels. Considering the arming of the vessels: Poach fishing by long-range airplanes and submarines must be a serious problem – not to mention an environmental endangerment of polar bears (this wildlife gets monotonous!) – interfering with the love life of whales – no privacy for them either.
What would the USA pay for the delivery of the Russian bear de-clawed and de-fanged?