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; EXPERT OPINION
THE «RED LINE»
Five leading research institutes in Germany dealing with the issues of peace have recently published a joint report noting that a new surge of arms race might be more dangerous than that of the Cold War years. The United States, which accounts for approximately half the global defense expenses, is the initiator of the race. «A spiral of mutual distrust has been activated, feeding the desires to strengthen the national security,» -German researchers state. In this context they have approached the German government with a requirement to oppose the US plans to deploy a BMD system in Eastern Europe, because such an antimissile umbrella would only trigger a new dangerous round in armed confrontation in the world.
The German researchers' report was published shortly after Dmitry Medvedev warned the United States that Russia would be forced to take adequate measures toward it in a response to the deployment of a US BMD system in Europe. And a bit later there was a slew of news on Moscow's plans to deploy its strategic bombers in some Latin American countries. The Russian officials denied the news after a while. But, as the saying goes, there is no smoke without fire, and the news kicked up a row. «If they did it (i.e. deployed the bombers somewhere in the southern underbelly of the US - A.M.), I think we should stand strong and indicate that is some¬thing that crosses threshold, crosses a red line for the United States,» said General Norton Schwartz, the US Air Force's chief of staff, at a hearing in Congress. And further: «We will call on the Russians not to consider this measure.» It turns out so: when the US crosses a red line near the western borders of Russia this is normal, whereas Russia's appeals to the Americans to change their mind can be merely ignored.
The truth is that the deployment of Russia's strategic bombers at Cuban or Venezuelan air bases will hardly pose a real threat to the US since they are large and easily detectable targets. However, the moral pressure not only upon the military, but also on the civilians in the United States would surely be extremely great.
Among the countermeasures that Russia may undertake in response to the US antimissile fence nearby its home, are also the deployment of the Iskander precision theater missile systems with ballistic and cruise missiles in the Kaliningrad region, and transfer of the Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers with precision-guided weapons to forward airfields. Yes, the Iskanders and Backfires are an effective weapon that, if employed, will give someone few chances of survival. But it would be directed against the US allies in NATO, rather than the United States itself which basically doesn't care about the fate of its partners in the alliance.
There are also other variants to take the US military down a peg or two. For instance, Colonel General Victor Yesin, former chief of the Main Staff of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces (SMF), Vice President of the Russian Academy of Security, Defense and Law Order Issues, said that our country could develop orbital ballistic missiles «able to reach the US territory via the South Pole bypassing the US BMD bases». At one time the Soviet Union renounced such systems under the START-1 Treaty.
However, the orbital ballistic missiles are a very costly pleasure, they will have to be redeveloped, and it remains still unknown whether they will survive attacks by future space-based directed-energy weapons. Another variant mentioned by General Yesin looks much more acceptable and involves «equipping the Topol-M ICBMs with hypersonic maneuvering warheads, deployment of a great number of jammers reducing the efficiency of BMD components tens times, as well as shortening the boost phase of ICBMs.» The year 2004 saw the first successful tests of a Topol-M missile with a hypersonic maneuvering warhead. And this variant looks as one of the most promising counter-measures.
As is known, all eggs are not placed in one basket. And the security of our country is certainly a matter of greater importance. The more so the key element of adequate countermeasures must involve a qualitative increase in the level of threat to the territory of the United States itself and to the life of the population of that country.
Therefore, the traditional deterrents (SMF, naval strategic nuclear forces, and strategic bombers) need to be supplemented by new unconventional or as currently referred to as asymmetric ones. In addition, such weapons should be sufficiently simple and cheap whenever possible. Diesel-electric submarines powered by auxiliary air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems and equipped with small stealthy short- and medi¬um-range ballistic missiles, having extremely short time of flight to tar¬get, may become a variant of such a system. All current and future BMD facilities will simply have no time to respond to their launch properly.
Naval versions of the Land Forces' Iskander or Oka theater missiles with a range of 280 to 400 km will serve as a basis of such a weapon system. Blasting off from a sub¬merged submarine, they will be capable of punching any BMD system from a «pistol» distance.
The high capabilities of Russia's Iskander are well known. Specifically, Uzi Rubin, a former director of the Israeli Missile Defense Agency, who headed Israel's Arrow missile defense system, thinks that the Iskander boasts built-in countermeasures allowing it to defeat western BMD systems. According to the Israeli expert among such countermeasures provided for by the Russian designers are active maneuvering at the boost and terminal phases, a low trajectory, and a low radar signature achieved by using appropriate mate¬rials. A naval variant of the Iskander, especially if fired in salvo, will give missile countermeasures no chance.
Why is this variant preferred? Look at a map of the United States. The majority of big cities in the country are located along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts or near these water areas. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Norfolk, Miami, New Orleans, and Houston in the east of the country, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego in the west are easily accessible targets for such missiles.
Why do diesel-electric AIP-equipped submarines have to carry such missiles? Nuclear attack sub¬marines are very expensive, and it is better to use them to defend our own strategic missile nuclear-powered submarines against the enemy in their operational patrol areas. They are also the excellent platforms for firing long-range cruise missiles. Compared to them, AlP-equipped submarines are several times cheap¬er being superior to them in a num¬ber of characteristics, primarily in noisiness. Suffice it to say that the US Navy failed to reliably detect the Swedish submarine Gotland equipped with a Stirling AIP plant during two years of intensive tests conducted in the US. Recently, similar tests were carried out with the Italian fuel-cell AIP submarine Salvatore Todnro. The result, too, proved discouraging for the US Navy.
Unfortunately, in the 1990s Russia lost its leading position in the field of ship air-independent propulsion systems. The development activities in this sphere were actual¬ly curtailed due to the lack of fund¬ing. For instance, we are currently 15 to 20 years behind Germany in fuel-cell AIP units.
However, Russia still leads the world and even holds monopoly on auxiliary nuclear powerplants (ANPP) that serve as compact ship-borne powerplants generating electrical current for motors. In the mid-1980s, the K-68 diesel-electric sub¬marine (later redesignated B-68), equipped with cruise missiles, underwent refit to Project 651E designed by the Lazurit Central Design Bureau. During the refit work the 9th container compartment with a 600-kW VAU-6 ANPP was installed below the 8th compartment. The boat tests yielded excel¬lent results. The continuous sub¬merged range has increased from 350 miles at an economic speed of 2.8 knots using storage batteries to almost 7,000 miles at an economic speed of 4 knots using the ANPP.
In the late 2007, the Project 20120 test submarine B-90 Sarov, developed by the Rubin Central
Design Bureau for Marine Engineering, was taken out of its slipway at the Sevmash Shipyard. It is a general-purpose testbed intend¬ed for testing new samples of weapons and military equipment. In July this year the boat completed its trials and on August 7 was handed over to the Navy. According to some sources, it can be fitted with a low-capacity auxiliary nuclear power-plant. If this is the case, one can say that Russia has entered a new phase of underwater shipbuilding. Ten to twelve submarines equipped with short-range ballistic missiles will be needed for continuous patrol near the west and east coasts of the United States. Considering those in transfers, at bases and under repair, approximately 30 such boats will be required. Given their relatively low cost, the number doesn't look too large. Here it is appropriate to recall that in 1955 alone - a mere ten years after the destructive war ended -the USSR built over 70 diesel-electric submarines.
The appearance of diesel sub¬marines armed with short-range ballistic missiles near the coast of the United States is like a pistol placed to head. In such a situation everyone would feel uncomfortable, to put it mildly. The US will have to radically revise its naval strategy, whereas its naval ships scattered all over the world will have to be pressed to the coasts of North America in order to somehow reduce the threat level. But the efficiency of such efforts will still raise doubts.
Will Russia cross the red line, deploying its sub¬marines off the US coast? It certainly will. Washington and Moscow will have to find mutually acceptable solutions at the negotiating table to prevent this happening.
National D E F E N S E 11/ 2009