Evolution of the nuclear triad: prospects for the development of the ground component of the Russian strategic nuclear forces

Evolution of the nuclear triad: prospects for the development of the ground component of the Russian strategic nuclear forces
Evolution of the nuclear triad: prospects for the development of the ground component of the Russian strategic nuclear forces
Anonim
Image
Image

As we pointed out in previous materials, throughout recent history, the United States has sought to break nuclear parity with the USSR (Russia). If they had their plans, it is highly probable that we would not have had the opportunity to discuss the consequences of this. There are well-founded fears that the United States is now actively considering scenarios of gaining a unilateral advantage in the field of strategic weapons for the final solution of the “Russian question”.

The first milestone in this matter is the withdrawal of the United States from the treaty on intermediate and shorter-range missiles, thanks to which weapons can be created and deployed to deliver a surprise disarming strike. Such weapons are necessary so that the missile attack warning system (EWS) of Russia does not have time to react, as a result of which the retaliatory strike will be disrupted, and the retaliatory strike will be significantly weakened - thousands of warheads will turn into hundreds, or even tens.

The second milestone is the US withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. In the medium term, the United States could deploy a missile defense system capable of, in theory, intercepting thousands of warheads. Such a system is guaranteed to be able to intercept hundreds of warheads, even taking into account the use of anti-missile defense means.

Image
Image

How can Russia's Strategic Nuclear Forces (SNF) evolve in order to provide a guaranteed retaliatory strike in the medium term, for example, in the period from 2030 to 2050?

How many nuclear charges and their carriers are needed?

At the end of the previous article on the topic, the words of the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Scientific and Engineering Development Richard Deloyer, said by him in the era of the Cold War and the SDI program, that in the conditions of an unrestricted build-up of Soviet nuclear warheads, any anti-missile system will be inoperative. However, our nuclear arsenal is now limited by START III, which will expire on February 5, 2021.

So how many nuclear charges are sufficient? At the height of the Cold War, the USSR and the United States collectively had more than 100,000 nuclear warheads. At the same time, at present, the total number of charges in the USSR and the USA is an order of magnitude less - about 10,000 pieces.

Evolution of the nuclear triad: prospects for the development of the ground component of the Russian strategic nuclear forces
Evolution of the nuclear triad: prospects for the development of the ground component of the Russian strategic nuclear forces

What criteria affect the number of charges we need to retaliate? It is precisely the response, since the response-oncoming one may not take place due to the US delivering a sudden disarming strike with medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) or hypersonic missiles with an approach time of about 5-10 minutes, which may not be enough for an early warning system to react.

There are two main criteria: the number of charges that will survive when the enemy delivers a sudden disarming strike, and the number of charges that will then be able to overcome the missile defense system and inflict unacceptable damage to the enemy. A sufficient number of charges is disproportionately related to a sufficient number of carriers - 1500 warheads on 1500 carriers are 3 times more difficult to destroy with a sudden disarming strike than 1500 warheads on 500 carriers. Accordingly, the type of carrier also partly determines the vulnerability of the warheads to the missile defense system.

Based on this, we will try to first determine the optimal type of delivery vehicles for ground, air and sea components of strategic nuclear forces, based on their resistance to a sudden disarming strike.

Ground component of strategic nuclear forces

We examined the capabilities and effectiveness of the air component of the strategic nuclear forces in detail in the article The Decline of the Nuclear Triad? Air and ground components of strategic nuclear forces. In short, it can be summarized that the capabilities of the ground-based component of the strategic nuclear forces in their current form will gradually decrease. The exponential development of the enemy's satellite groupings will allow him to track in real time mobile ground missile systems (PGRK) of the Topol and Yars type, and possibly also combat railway missile systems (BZHRK), in the event that the latter are still will be developed and adopted. Given the lack of resistance to nuclear attack in mobile complexes, their fate becomes unenviable. At the same time, ICBMs located in stationary highly protected mines can be destroyed during a sudden disarming strike by high-precision warheads with a nuclear warhead.

How can the terrestrial component evolve? Let's consider mobile complexes first

Mobile complexes: PGRK and BZHRK

In order to ensure high secrecy of the PGRK, and, accordingly, to ensure survival after a sudden disarming strike by the enemy, their appearance should become indistinguishable from any civilian, widespread technology. First of all, we are talking about heavy-duty long vehicles. This decision is most justified, since it was previously worked out within the framework of the PGRK 15P159 "Courier" theme with the 15Zh59 rocket.

The MAZ-6422 truck tractor with the MAZ-9389 semi-trailer was considered as one of the possible carriers of ICBMs within the framework of the PGRK 15P159 "Courier" theme. The range of ICBMs of the Kurier PGRK was supposed to be over 10,000 km.

Image
Image

Such a complex is quite capable of getting lost among the many thousands of trucks on a million kilometers of Russian roads, even despite the continuous tracking from satellites in real time.

Image
Image

At the end of 2019, the RF SNF includes 18 Topol-M PGRK and 120 Yars RS-24 PGRK. Accordingly, it can be assumed that to replace them, it will be necessary to deploy about 150-200 PGRK of the "Courier" type. If there are three warheads per ICBM, the total number of nuclear warheads (nuclear warheads) on them will be about 450-600 units.

The situation with the BZHRK is more complicated. Despite the huge length of Russian railways, it will be easier to track the train (railway) leaving the base than one or more trucks. In addition, it is likely that enemy reconnaissance structures can lay specialized reconnaissance and signaling devices (RSP) in the ground next to the railway, capable of detecting signs of a nuclear charge in the railway train - for example, weak radioactive radiation, or specific vibration of the ground due to suspension features, electromagnetic radiation. It is much more difficult to implement the same on public roads due to their much greater ramification compared to railways.

Image
Image

On the other hand, the railroad track is better controlled and maintained compared to public roads i.e. bookmarks can be detected, destroyed or changed in a timely manner. The train itself can accommodate several dozen ICBMs + auxiliary units and guard forces, which makes it comparable in combat power to a nuclear submarine with ballistic missiles (SSBN).

The article Strategic conventional forces: carriers and weapons considered the possibility of creating a BZHRK in non-nuclear equipment, designed to deliver massive strikes with precision weapons with a non-nuclear warhead. The best option would be to create a version of the BZHRK, in which the chassis of wagons - carriers of weapons, security cars, thermal electric locomotives, navigation, communications, and so on - could be unified. The enemy's detection of BZHRKs with ICBMs will be significantly difficult for the enemy if a similar number of BZHRKs with high-precision conventional carriers are deployed.

The projected BZHRK "Barguzin" supposedly had to have 14 cars, of which only three had to be with ICBMs.

Image
Image

The mass of the Yars ICBM is about 47 tons; for a promising missile, this mass may be even less. The carrying capacity of modern railway cars is on average 70 tons - most likely this will be enough to accommodate an ICBM and a lifting and launch device for it. The total mass of such a freight car is about 100 tons. Since the beginning of 2017, 88,700 trains weighing from 6,000 to 8,050 tons and 3,659 trains weighing more than 8050 tons have been carried through the Russian Railways network.

Image
Image

According to another source, a standard railway train can include up to 110 freight cars, on average about 75 cars, which is quite correlated with the above data on the mass of cars and railway trains.

To increase the effectiveness of camouflage, the BZHRK in terms of the number of cars should be comparable to the most common railway trains. Even if about half of the 75-car train will be auxiliary, this is up to 35-40 ICBMs per train. 3 warheads per missile - there will be 105-120 nuclear warheads per BZHRK. 10 trains will have 350-400 carriers or 1050-1200 nuclear warheads.

Of course, an increase in the number of carriers on one BZHRK increases the risk of their destruction by the first strike, but here you can draw an analogy with SSBNs. If it makes sense for SSBNs to reduce the size to reduce the likelihood of its detection, then it is logical to disguise the BZHRK as freight trains that are most widespread, and these are freight trains consisting of 75 cars. To reduce the visibility of the BZHRK, auxiliary cars can be masked, for example, fuel cars as tanks for acid, security and control cars as hopper-type freight cars. At the base point or nodal points of the route, it is possible to redo the cars to distort the radar and optical signature of the BZHRK.

Image
Image

What are the main disadvantages of PGRK and BZHRK? First of all, this is the fact that the enemy's lack of information about their location will lead to the logical assumption that they are hidden in places where trucks and trains are concentrated, which, in turn, may be located near large settlements. Thus, there is a risk of exposing the civilian population to a sudden disarming enemy strike, which in any case will be delivered using nuclear warheads.

Image
Image

The second drawback is the reduced anti-terrorist security, and for the PGRK based on trucks, there is also an increased risk of an ordinary car accident. However, these issues can most likely be resolved due to the competent organization of routes, special security and the presence of rapid response teams.

Mine missile systems ICBM

The main advantage of silo-based ICBMs is their almost complete invulnerability to conventional weapons. At least from the existing one. Theoretically, in the distant future, the destruction of protected mines with non-nuclear kinetic warheads launched from space from maneuvering orbital spacecraft or using hypersonic weapons can be realized. But such weapons are unlikely to be created in quantities capable of posing a threat to strategic nuclear forces in the next few decades.

Image
Image

What does this tell us? Yes, that, taking into account the treaties on the limitation of strategic offensive arms, and the deployment of all nuclear weapons of the Russian strategic nuclear forces in highly protected mines, at the rate of 1 nuclear warhead per 1 carrier, it becomes impossible for the United States to deliver a sudden disarming strike. To do this, they must concentrate their entire nuclear arsenal at a distance of no more than 2000-3000 km from the locations of Russian mines with ICBMs (to ensure a surprise strike), and spend all their operatively deployed nuclear units on its destruction. It should be borne in mind that to destroy one ICBM with a probability of 0.95, two W-88 charges with a capacity of 475 kilotons are required. However, in the presence of missile defense, the United States can take a risk and use one W-88 warhead per ICBM in a mine, with a probability of hitting 0.78.

Image
Image

Of course, no one will go for it. Even if we assume that not all the mines will be hit, and some of the Russian missiles will be able to take off, but they will be intercepted by the US missile defense system, there is a far from zero risk that a nuclear strike on the disarmed USA will be inflicted by the same China, which will understand what will be next after Russia. target. There is really one trick that the US can resort to. For example, within the framework of the treaty (START-IV?), Deploy carriers with a reduced number of warheads, and then increase their number at the expense of the return potential - nuclear warheads located in storage facilities.

Based on this, in order to increase the survivability of the Russian strategic nuclear forces in the face of the threat of a sudden disarming strike, the US strategic nuclear forces must have more targets than they can cover with their warheads. How to implement this?

One of the ways is to create a unified YARS-type ICBM, which will be the same for mines, PGRK and BZHRK. Something like a missile of the "Courier" complex at a new technological level

The number of nuclear warheads on a promising ICBM should be no more than three, and ideally one nuclear warhead per one carrier. In the second case, the place of two nuclear warheads should be taken by heavy false targets, including active means of breaking through missile defense. Unfortunately, in the end it all comes down to the cost of creating the media. Still, the difference between 500 ICBMs with three nuclear warheads and 1500 ICBMs with one nuclear warhead will be noticeable, not to mention large ratios.

Another way is to implement measures to create an excessive number of silo launchers (silos). At the same time, one ICBM with three nuclear warheads should have two spare operating silos, with all means of protection. One could argue that it will be prohibitively expensive? This is an open question, since the prices for ICBMs, nuclear warheads and silos are not known for certain, then everything has to be considered with a certain degree of assumption. After all, silos for ICBMs is an extremely long-term investment.

Image
Image

Reserve silos should be located at a distance excluding their defeat by one enemy nuclear submarine. Installing ICBMs in silos or changing silos should be carried out under the cover of smoke screens containing aerosols that impede the operation of optical, thermal and radar means of enemy satellite reconnaissance.

Reserve silos do not have to be empty. They can accommodate appropriately modified launchers (PU) of anti-aircraft missiles or missile defense missiles, which in this case will be fully protected from conventional weapons. From time to time, a "game of thimbles" can be carried out, with the rearrangement of containers with anti-missiles and ICBMs from mine to mine, under the cover of a smoke screen, which will further confuse the enemy's reconnaissance.

Image
Image

The next factor of unmasking should be false mines, which are a complete visual imitation of the silo cover. To ensure the concealment of their essence, the construction of both real mines and false mines should be carried out in a similar way, for example, under pre-fabricated hangars, while it is necessary to simulate the movement of special equipment and the movement of personnel.

What should all this lead to? To the fact that the United States with a high probability will not be able to find out in which of the mines the real ICBM is located, even if over time they will be able to weed out the false mines. And this means that in order to destroy 900 nuclear warheads on 300 Russian ICBMs with a probability of 0.95, the United States will have to spend 600 nuclear warheads, in case they know for sure a silo with a real ICBM. Or 1800 nuclear warheads, in case they cannot determine which of the three reserve silos is the ICBM at the moment. The presence of false mines will make the task of delivering a surprise disarming strike even more difficult.

How will START IV be respected in terms of the number of deployed charges, if any? We negotiate with the United States the areas of basing. Only one or two roads lead to each area; at the entrance, the United States can control the number of missiles and warheads within the framework of the treaty - they can even put a stationary post. And in the most closed area, they have nothing to do, which will keep the intrigue with the placement of ICBMs in a particular mine.

What most likely does not need the ground component of the Russian strategic nuclear forces is heavy missiles to replace the RS-20 ICBM Voevoda (Satan), that is, the RS-28 Sarmat ICBM currently being developed. Complex, expensive, with a large number of nuclear warheads on one ICBM, they will be a priority target for the United States in the course of delivering a surprise disarming strike. According to RBC, the insurance of one launch of the Topol or Yars ICBM is about 295 thousand rubles, and the insurance of one launch of the promising Sarmat ICBM will cost more than 5.2 million rubles. Even taking into account the fact that the Sarmat ICBM is a new development, and the insurance rates for it are probably overstated, the difference by 18 times is impressive. Hopefully, in terms of the cost of the products themselves, the difference between the Yars ICBM and the Sarmat ICBM will not be so colossal.

Image
Image

conclusions

Speaking about the ground component of the strategic nuclear forces, it can be assumed that the maximum probability of withstanding a sudden disarming strike will have ICBMs in highly protected silos, provided that one nuclear warhead will have one carrier (ICBM), or the real position of an ICBM with three nuclear warheads is unclear due to construction of reserve and false mines, as well as the subsequent rotation of ICBMs between reserve mines under the cover of camouflage means. The most practical solution would be to place two nuclear warheads and one heavy missile defense breakthrough on one ICBM, with at least one reserve silo for each ICBM. In this case, it is possible in the shortest possible time to increase the nuclear potential by 1/3 by placing on the ICBM a return potential - the third nuclear warhead.

The mobile ground-based component of the strategic nuclear forces can remain in demand only if a PGRK is created that is indistinguishable from civilian trucks. At the same time, the risks regarding the PGRK in any case will be higher, since if its location is disclosed, it can be destroyed by both nuclear and conventional weapons, as well as reconnaissance and sabotage groups, which is almost impossible for ICBMs in highly protected silos.

The creation of a BZHRK is an even more risky task, since the railway network is much less ramified and extended compared to the road network. In addition, trains of 75 cars are optimal from the point of view of secrecy. On the one hand, this allows them to carry about 35-40 ICBMs with 105-120 nuclear warheads, which makes the BRZhK comparable in firepower to SSBNs, on the other hand, it allows the enemy to cover the same 105-120 nuclear warheads with just one of its nuclear warheads. And the visibility in the radar range of a railway train of 75 cars may be too high, which will allow the enemy to track the BZHRK in real time immediately after leaving the base. Also, a blow to the BZHRK can be inflicted by conventional forces and / or reconnaissance and sabotage groups of the enemy.

Based on the foregoing, we can conclude that the most promising deterrent, in terms of the ground component of the strategic nuclear forces, should be promising unified solid-propellant ICBMs in protected silos, with an excessive number of deployed reserve silos. Their relative amount in the ground-based component of the strategic nuclear forces can be 80-95%.

In reserve mines, anti-missiles should be placed to defeat the space echelon of the enemy's missile defense and early warning system.

The second element of the ground-based component of the strategic nuclear forces should be PGRK disguised as trucks, which will be extremely difficult to track even with promising satellite reconnaissance means capable of operating in real time. The missile of a promising PGRK should be unified with ICBMs placed in silos. Their relative amount in the ground component of the strategic nuclear forces can be 5-20%.

The basis of a single unified ICBM for the ground component of the Russian strategic nuclear forces can be a product based on the 15Zh59 missile, which is being developed within the framework of the theme for the creation of the 15P159 Kurier PGRK.

Popular by topic