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LOOKING AHEAD

June 21, 2007 (the date of publication in Russian)

Maxim Kalashnikov

THE CHALLENGE OF VULNERABILITY

How to safeguard security from the first nuclear strike?

Nowadays, on the background of the new Russia-NATO tensions, state officials more often demonstrate their concern over the national nuclear missile potential. It is frequently declared that the situation in this sphere is not misgiving. In fact, things are more troublesome than it appears at the first glance. In order to maintain the status of a nuclear power throughout the next decade, Russia needs a large-scale organizing effort. That is not just a matter of additional investments. As a matter of fact, we again arrive at the necessity of building up a modernized deterrence potential – which requires fulfillment of new five-year development plans.

 

OLD FACILITIES EXHAUSTED

With the USSR's disintegration, one of the major missile-producing facilities, Yuzhmash, found itself beyond the Ukrainian border. As Ukraine is getting more and more involved into NATO plans, Russia has got only one facility to rely upon – namely, the solid-fuel missile producing plant in Votkinsk. This enterprise is now supposed to carry out implementation of the whole array of new construction tasks, including the uni- and trimodular version of the Topol M system, as well as the submarine-borne Bulava missiles and theater ballistic missiles for the Iskander system.

Is the Votkinsk Plant able to fulfill all these tasks? The plant's equipment is largely morally outdated. After years of scarcity of government defense orders, the company had to adjust its facilities for production of gas extraction machinery. An even more serious problem lies in the collapse of the company's former partners within the production chain.

In the Soviet period, Votkinsk assembled 45 missiles per year; in the 1990s, the output sharply declined. The last "record" was achieved in 1997, when the enterprise produced 10 Topol-M systems. In the following years, the output waned again. In 2008-2009, it is not going to exceed 7 systems per year. Since 1991, only forty-five samples of Topol – the last USSR's inter-continental design – were produced.

Given the contemporary disruption of the production chain, the Votkinsk Plant is unable to raise its output over 10-12 systems per year. Construction is impeded with lack of indispensable parts. For this reason, the current capacity does not permit to produce more than 125 systems by year 2017, while the requisite amount ranges between 300 and 400.

Meanwhile, the same plant is to produce new submarine-borne ballistic missiles of Bulava type. (Today, it is yet in the process of testing). The first submarine of the 955 Borey series, "Yury Dolgoruky", requires 12 missiles. Two of the following sister ships are supposed to carry 16 missiles each. By 2017, the military forces need 4-5 more submarines. Therefore, the total required amount comprises 108 SLBMs. Add 20% for training, scientific research, testing purposes. The total requirement in Bulava systems thus reaches 140.

 

INVESTMENTS ALONE WON'T HELP

The technological decline of the Votkinsk enterprise, resulting from the liberal reforms of the 1990s, poses a dilemma: either to produce land-based Topol M, or Bulava missiles. In the former case, the Strategic Missile Forces are going to be denuded; in the latter case, the submarine fleet would be disarmed. Meanwhile, the possibility to transfer the order does not exist either.

At the face of a new round of Russia-NATO confrontation, the problem of degradation of the military industrial complex emerges to the utmost. Under the current circumstances, it is even technically complicated to implement the strategically correct idea of withdrawal from the 1987 INF Treaty. It is true that IBRMs could serve as a perfect counterbalance to NATO's superiority in other armaments, and as a base for high-accuracy strategic and conventional missile forces. However, mid- and small-range missiles can be built up only on the base of a "shortened" Topol M. The only question is where to place this order.

The view that the problem may be solved just by means of additional investment is very naive. This logic of 1990s is now unusable. Beside financial support, the military industry needs a painstaking organizing effort, involving technological re-equipment of the Votkinsk Plant, its expansion, revival of the cadre potential, and reconstruction of the productive chain. This endeavor should correspond with the new philosophy of modern deterrence forces, in the framework of a comprehensive revitalization programme for the degraded military industrial complex – which, in its turn, should become an element of a new five-year plan of economic development.

As a matter of fact, the Russian Federation is facing the same challenge as Stalin's USSR of the late 1940s. The national industry requires general economic planning, involving huge investments. Otherwise, a multitude of reasonable initiatives will never be implemented, and Russia, becoming a nuclear dwarf with ensuing implications, will become an object of derision among NATO states.

 

THE MENACE OF A BEHEADING STRIKE

In the next decade, Russia will face a menace of NATO's decapitating strike. Inefficient deterrent forces can be destroyed right at the site of deployment, and the remaining missiles obliterated in the air by means of novel land- and space-based ABM. Unfortunately, most of the nuclear submarines are laid up at the piers and can be wrecked with the first strike.

Russia is facing the necessity of a complete renovation of the strategic missile forces. This renovation should suggest the peculiar features of new-era wars, while the development of the nuclear missile potential itself is to become a locomotive for civil industry.

The Russian Federation has got a lot of Achilles heels in its defense system. It is equally true about the strategic missile complex's command and control system and the deterrent forces. In case new space-based weapons (and US high-accuracy nuclear-tipped strategic missiles) destroy Russia's top political leadership, there would be nobody to authorize a nuclear strike. The national communication system is vulnerable due to its centralized design, as the project of a network cable communication design, initiated yet in the times of the USSR, has never been implemented. The same is true about the Zveno ("Link") system of airborne command posts. The Perimeter satellite system (with a satellite launched eastward from Ivanovo Region by an SS-17 missile) is defunct. The communication equipment of nuclear submarines is very vulnerable, requiring semi-surfacing once in several hours. The first strike could destroy also the Navy's communication units, based in Russia and Belarus. Meanwhile, the US Navy's acoustic system far exceeds the relevant Russian facilities, permitting Russian submarines to be covertly followed.

Next day, the potential adversary may acquire heavy combat laser-equipped aircrafts. They will be able to cross the Barents Sea and eliminate Russian submarine-based missiles at the spot – also because a submarine is able to launch them only one after another. Before this happens, an enemy aircraft, following the laser device, may wreck the submarine by a torpedo.

Given today's condition of ABM systems, the defense line may be disrupted by a flock of stealth bombers of the novel B-2 Spirit type. These bombers can be also used for scenting-out of the political leadership and strategic missile systems.

Russia's early-warning ABM complex is similarly degraded. Today, it is not capable of large-scale surveillance of the ocean, from where a sudden strike on the old silo-based missiles could be delivered. Thus, a nuclear attack may be undetected before the first explosions.

 

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?

Therefore, development of new Deterrence Forces of 2010s requires a new system of management. Options like super-wideband radio and NZ-aerial communication should be envisaged. Unfortunately, these designs are discussed only in narrow scientific circles and teams of enthusiasts, though such kinds of facilities are also crucial for low-cost development of a general telecommunication network. Actually, it is expedient to revive the Soviet-time Link program.

In the naval sphere, it is necessary to implement the Delta acoustic super-low frequency systems of Bros. Leksin design. They enable detection of even most silent submarines, the Leksin equipment exceeding US analogues.

The number of mobile Topol-Ms, equipped with 15 missile hangars, should be increased by 300-400 by any means. Only this number would provide a real guarantee from the first decapitating strike.

It is equally necessary to initiate the build-up of the national echelon of space defense, in the framework of a new priority national project. That should be not just an ABM system but a reconnaissance echelon, designed for early warning. Russia also has to envisage a strike echelon with war orbit stations and space-based cruise attack fighters, to be used also as space transport systems, reducing costs for commercial low earth-orbit spaceflights.

Today, a collision with NATO forces seems highly improbable. However, contemporary history disproves folkways of the possible and impossible. Quite recently, a NATO attack on Yugoslavia appeared unbelievable, as well as a US invasion in Iraq. A global war may be started under any pretext. The example of Belgrade illustrates that a trouble-free European country may acquire a status of a "target nation" within months. We have to be prepared to counter an assault. Meanwhile, defense objectives can't be reached without a radical revision of industrial policies, without massive investments into revival of national industry on the base of a new system of economic planning. Safeguarding of Russia's security will inevitably require a new comprehensive technological modernization.


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