Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 08-05-2019, 06:51 PM
by-tor's Avatar
by-tor is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Portland, Oregon
Posts: 988

Will Hypersonic weapons destabilize MAD with viable Nuclear first strike opportunity?


Hypersonic Missiles are defined as "weapons that travel faster than Mach 5 (~3,800mph) and have the capability to maneuver during the entire flight." They have "enhanced maneuverability and (a) smooth flight path, which is much harder to track than that of traditional missiles."
https://missiledefenseadvocacy.org/m...onic-missiles/

"Missiles and rockets have long been able to go hypersonic; space shuttles and ICBMs, for instance, both fly at hypersonic speeds, sometimes as high as mach 20 or 24 (mach 25 is the upper limit). However, they only do so for a short period of time. ..... Technology is now being developed that will allow sustained hypersonic flight."
https://www.businessinsider.com/hype...efenses-2018-2

Russia (Mach 20), China (Mach 10) and the US (Mach 20) are all developing them but (if it is to believed) the US is only developing them for conventional warheads. If true, that seems kind of naive.

"The arrival of such fast weaponry will dangerously compress the time during which military officials and their political leaders — in any country — can figure out the nature of an attack and make reasoned decisions about the wisdom and scope of defensive steps or retaliation."

And "Within the next decade, these new weapons could undertake a task long imagined for nuclear arms: a first strike against another nation’s government or arsenals, interrupting key chains of communication and disabling some of its retaliatory forces"
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/19/m...-missiles.html

I am wondering if this will upset MAD doctrine and lead some military planners to believe that nuclear first strike is a preferable option.

As an anti-ship weapon, hypersonic missiles seems to put naval vessels at considerable risk at the very least.

But perhaps I am wrong and there is nothing to worry about. What is your opinion?
  #2  
Old 08-05-2019, 07:59 PM
Ravenman is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 26,298
I tend to think that the weapons do not do anything to fundamentally change the balance of terror with respect to nuclear Armageddon.

Yes, the timelines for response are shorter, which magnifies the risk of miscalculation. However, the capability of the weapons also basically assure that retribution from one’s enemy will be effective. To the extent that deterrence relies on the ability to impose overwhelming costs, both through the means to do so and the intentions to, then hypersonic weapons still maintain that.

In one way, hypersonic weapons could be stabilizing: for the next twenty years or so, the various missile defense systems are inadequate to deal with them, which probably further emphasizes deterrence.

However, none of that alters my opinion that the beat option for humanity is complete and irreversible nuclear disarmament under strict and effective international control.
  #3  
Old 08-05-2019, 08:17 PM
Velocity is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 14,917
As long as there are ballistic-missile subs, the USA can ride out a first-strike and an adversary has to think twice.
  #4  
Old 08-05-2019, 08:20 PM
Foggy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: San Francisco, CA
Posts: 2,189
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ravenman View Post
However, none of that alters my opinion that the beat option for humanity is complete and irreversible nuclear disarmament under strict and effective international control.
We're doomed.
  #5  
Old 08-05-2019, 08:23 PM
DPRK is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2016
Posts: 3,515
Is this issue related to the recent scrapping of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Missiles treaty? There is always the Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine (which relies on certain assumptions), but I don't see how bringing tactical nuclear weapons back into the theatre can do anything but decrease stability and increase the possibility of nuclear escalation, even accidental.
  #6  
Old 08-05-2019, 09:00 PM
DinoR is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2014
Posts: 3,612
Quote:
Originally Posted by DPRK View Post
Is this issue related to the recent scrapping of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Missiles treaty?
Not really.

INF only prohibited land based missiles in a certain range band. Hypervelocity weapons with the range to strike strategic airbases or missile fields from ground bases are a real potential. They wouldn't have been prohibited by INF. Sea or air based hypervelocity missiles would have also been permitted under INF. The warning time issue for MAD in the OP exists even if INF was still in place. In some ways that reduced warning time is the same issue INF tried to address. The INF solution doesn't prevent the problem, though, thanks to improving technology.

Also, China wasn't a party to the INF. It was a bilateral treaty between the US and the Soviet Union/Russia. Since INF was implemented China has developed and fielded a number of both conventionally and nuclear armed ballistic missiles that were prohibited to both the US and Russia under INF.

INF addressed a two party problem for the situation at the time. We now face a three party problem with new tech.
  #7  
Old 08-05-2019, 09:08 PM
AK84 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 16,208
Quote:
Originally Posted by DinoR View Post
Not really.

INF only prohibited land based missiles in a certain range band. Hypervelocity weapons with the range to strike strategic airbases or missile fields from ground bases are a real potential. They wouldn't have been prohibited by INF. Sea or air based hypervelocity missiles would have also been permitted under INF. The warning time issue for MAD in the OP exists even if INF was still in place. In some ways that reduced warning time is the same issue INF tried to address. The INF solution doesn't prevent the problem, though, thanks to improving technology.

Also, China wasn't a party to the INF. It was a bilateral treaty between the US and the Soviet Union/Russia. Since INF was implemented China has developed and fielded a number of both conventionally and nuclear armed ballistic missiles that were prohibited to both the US and Russia under INF.

INF addressed a two party problem for the situation at the time. We now face a three party problem with new tech.
That, and it was a one sided treaty. It abolished a class (land based BM & CM) where the USSR had a major advantage while keeping a class where the US had it (sea & air based system and tactical aircraft).

In the last 30 years that advantage had disappeared.

And a Pacific threat which did not exist in 1987, arose.

Last edited by AK84; 08-05-2019 at 09:10 PM.
  #8  
Old 08-06-2019, 02:19 PM
by-tor's Avatar
by-tor is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Portland, Oregon
Posts: 988
Quote:
As long as there are ballistic-missile subs, the USA can ride out a first-strike and an adversary has to think twice.
That brings up an interesting question. If a new technology developed that could detect subs reliably, could a hypersonic nuclear missile take out the sub before it launches?
  #9  
Old 08-06-2019, 02:30 PM
Velocity is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 14,917
Quote:
Originally Posted by by-tor View Post
That brings up an interesting question. If a new technology developed that could detect subs reliably, could a hypersonic nuclear missile take out the sub before it launches?
Maybe, but I imagine submarine tactics would change accordingly. Subs might patrol deeper ( to cushion the blow), always move irregularly (even if you know where the sub is, when you launch, the sub could be 10 miles away from the impact point - unless you have a continuously guided missile with updates)

Last edited by Velocity; 08-06-2019 at 02:31 PM.
  #10  
Old 08-06-2019, 03:43 PM
XT's Avatar
XT is offline
Agnatheist
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: The Great South West
Posts: 35,259
Quote:
Originally Posted by by-tor View Post
That brings up an interesting question. If a new technology developed that could detect subs reliably, could a hypersonic nuclear missile take out the sub before it launches?
You are proposing using a hypersonic missile to be launched from an enemy silo, and be able to track, in real time, a sub several hundred feet below the surface that might be going to fire it's missiles and guide it in so you could nuke the ocean in the hopes it would destroy the sub? I suppose it's possible, but I don't think these things work the way you think they do. This would be similar to the Chinese or Russian carrier killer missiles, which have never been tested in anything like a combat scenario, and who have really long and complex kill chains...but harder, since you aren't even talking about a carrier but a sub under the ocean.

It would be easier, if you could in fact track subs in real time, to get the data to your own attack boats than to try and do it with a hypersonic ballistic missile, nuclear or not.

As to the OP, I basically agree with Ravenman. It doesn't really do much to destabilize MAD, but it does increase the risk of a fuckup or mistake happening. Even with hypersonic weapons you still will see them launch, and still have time to launch your own, more conventional systems with old fashion ballistic missiles that will still do the job. I don't think that, regardless of who has it, it will do more than render more conventional anti-missile systems obsolete and narrow the window of when you have to launch a retaliatory strike, so it really just means that MAD is even more likely.
__________________
-XT

That's what happens when you let rednecks play with anti-matter!
  #11  
Old 08-06-2019, 04:21 PM
Wesley Clark is offline
2018 Midterm Prediction Winner
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 22,153
With the nuclear triad aren't we able to fire nukes even if these weapons hit land based targets? I know it mentions knocking out military communications abilities, but I was under the assumption that a nuclear plane or submarine could still fire w/o needing direct orders after a first strike.
__________________
Sometimes I doubt your commitment to sparkle motion
  #12  
Old 08-06-2019, 04:43 PM
Velocity is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 14,917
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wesley Clark View Post
With the nuclear triad aren't we able to fire nukes even if these weapons hit land based targets? I know it mentions knocking out military communications abilities, but I was under the assumption that a nuclear plane or submarine could still fire w/o needing direct orders after a first strike.
I would guess that they're technologically capable of firing on their own, but that they'd want to see/hear orders first. The submarine would probably still hear the news that America had been nuked, one way or another - maybe at that point the captain can freelance and nuke Russia/China on his own.

No U.S. equivalent of the Letters of Last Resort, though.
  #13  
Old 08-06-2019, 05:32 PM
HurricaneDitka is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 13,983
I believe even the land-based nuclear silos are designed to withstand all but direct or very nearby nuclear strikes. so even if you have nuclear-tipped hypersonic weapons, and they're really accurate, you're still going to need about 1 per nuclear silo you wish to disable. And of course, even at hypersonic speeds, they can launch before impact if the order is given with sufficient warning.
  #14  
Old 08-06-2019, 09:14 PM
Lord Feldon's Avatar
Lord Feldon is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Central Ohio
Posts: 6,502
I don't really get the hype. The other nuclear powers already have faster weapons that we already can't reliably shoot down (the gliding hypersonic things go slower than a regular ballistic missile re-entry vehicle, because they use some of the energy to gain a little bit of maneuverability). I'm sure there's a whole consortium of defense contractors that will benefit from a new arms race, though.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 08-06-2019 at 09:18 PM.
  #15  
Old 08-06-2019, 10:23 PM
sps49sd is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 461
Quote:
Originally Posted by by-tor View Post
...Missiles and rockets have long been able to go hypersonic; space shuttles and ICBMs, for instance, both fly at hypersonic speeds, sometimes as high as mach 20 or 24 (mach 25 is the upper limit). However, they only do so for a short period of time...
https://www.businessinsider.com/hype...efenses-2018-2
Underlining mine.

Business Insider sounds clueless. Ballistic missiles travel very fast for most of their trajectory. Maybe someone was thinking they are under power for a short time?
  #16  
Old 08-06-2019, 10:47 PM
MichaelEmouse's Avatar
MichaelEmouse is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 7,295
The odds are low that the US would be able to take out enough Russian nukes to make the Russian nuclear response acceptable to US decision makers. Nuclear warfare has long been about overwhelming the enemy with enough nukes that they can't possibly catch 'em all and just 1 nuke can kill millions of people. The fear exposed in the OP likely comes from Russian concerns/paranoia about the West which they've had for at least a century now.

Hypervelocity weapons could be useful for conventional strikes, though. Anti-air missiles could greatly benefit from it since they're going after something that moves fast. For tactical strikes, it could be very effective, especially if your opponent uses a lot of non-autonomous weapons since high speed means you can hit first even if you fired at the same time and taking out the guidance platform will make enemy non-autonomous missiles dumb. For strategic strikes, the main advantage I see is that they combine Mach 5+ speed with staying at much lower altitude than the kind of ballistic missiles that travel at Mach 20+. If your opponent relies mainly on ground/sea-based sensors, moving at lower altitude will greatly decrease the effective range of enemy sensors. Illustration: https://imgur.com/z7D4Nwk


Since someone mentioned submarines, what kind of effective radius do nukes have underwater at typical submarine depths?
Has someone attempted to leave nuke missile silos/drones underwater, waiting to be activated?
  #17  
Old 08-06-2019, 11:23 PM
Velocity is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Posts: 14,917
Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelEmouse View Post
Has someone attempted to leave nuke missile silos/drones underwater, waiting to be activated?
That's the basis of Russia's new Poseidon nuclear drone.
  #18  
Old 08-07-2019, 12:05 AM
MichaelEmouse's Avatar
MichaelEmouse is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 7,295
Quote:
Originally Posted by Velocity View Post
That's the basis of Russia's new Poseidon nuclear drone.
Thank you. That torpedrone and the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9M730_Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile sound either like WWII Wunderwaffen or Red Alert units.
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 06:58 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright © 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017