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But the argument isn't that by getting rid of Trident you'd remove the second strike capacity, it is suggested instead that the second strike role could be filled by  naval forces with nuclear armed cruise missiles instead.
This would be completely unfeasible for the simple reason that naval task forces cannot be hidden - at all - and can hence easily be targeted by a first strike. They are not credible second strike weapons. Neither are airborne free fall bombs, cruise missiles or really anything except submarine launched missiles.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 06:52:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Rubbish, if you deploy cruise missiles on random ships, then you have to destroy every naval unit, to guarantee lack of attack. An entire navy, (including non balistic subs) is not easily targeted, you're then talking about hitting moving targets. on top of that why are sub launched cruise less credible than ICBMs?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 09:33:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's impossible to hide naval units, especially in this age of satellite recon. The fact that they're moving at 30 knots is not really relevant when they're hit by a nuclear missile travelling at 1000-10000 knots.

It's not like the Royal Navy has that many ships, and even fewer which have or could be given the capability to carry missile with a range long enough to hit their very distant targets. The ships would have to be specially built to carry big enough missiles, and such modifications would radically reduce their conventional capacity. Which is why there are dedicated vessels to carry these weapons, namely nuclear missile submarines.

The problem with cruise missiles is that they have short range, at best 1000 km, while Trident clocks in at 7360 km.

If you for example wanted to reach Moscow, the entire nuclear armed Royal Navy surface force would have to be stationed in the Gulf of Finland... With Trident, you can reach even Vladivostok or Beijng practically while lying at the quay in Faslane, or at least from positions in the Norwegian sea.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 10:10:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, Trident II has a range not of 7360 km but of 11000 km.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 10:14:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
7000 miles?

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 10:15:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's what Wikipedia says.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 10:19:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
just wondering where the mistake came from :-)

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 10:20:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems that Trident I has the shorter range.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 10:31:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What I mean is that 7000mi = 11000km...

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 10:35:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I got that too. ;)

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 10:40:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well The Tommahawk cruise missile has a listed range of 2500km, which would, assuming Moscow as a target, allow  a launch from several hundred miles the far side of Ireland, not just in the  gulf of Finland.

The fact that the missiles have a 1000 to 10,000 knots speed is truely irrelevent, whereas the 30 knots of the ships is highly relevant, You have a roughly 15 minute flight time from launch to impact, so youre looking at trying to destroy something that will be somewhere random within a 7 1/2 NM radius, even with large warheads, thats not an easy job.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 10:37:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, alright, I'd forgotten Tomahawk completely. But the fact of the matter still is that if a target can be seen, it can swiftly be destroyed by nuclear weapons.

You are also arguing from the point that the first strike would be launched solely from missile silos inside Russia, while the task force might just as well be destroyed by nuclear torpedoes or AShM fired from hunter submarines shadowing the surface vessels, or from strike aircraft.

The only way to avoid a nuclear strike is by not being targeted by it.


Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 10:46:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes definitely, if you can have enough ships close then and targetted or enough missiles thrown at the target (depending on warhead size) then this all goes out of the window.  But if you're moving in to attack every UK fleet ship, then that in itself will be an obvious act inviting a retaliatory strike,

I was only arguing on the basis of missiles launched from silos on the basis of flight speeds you were quoting

The only way to avoid a nuclear strike may be to not be targetted by it,  but Strategic Missiles have a horendously high failure rate, you'd need to be certain that you would kill every possible retaliating ship. This lack of certainty is where deterrence lies.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 11:06:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not true deterrence, because while the enemy can't be completely sure he'll knock out all your launchers, you can't be sure enough of your launchers will survive either.

Unless you have subs.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 11:21:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Its still deterrence, it's just not MAD enough.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 11:26:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Could a cruise missile actually lift the weight of a MIRV warhead?
by Xavier in Paris on Thu Jul 16th, 2009 at 06:25:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tomahawks were built to carry a single 200 kT warhead. Or to put it another way, the conventional Tomahawk carries a 450 kg ordnance while a single warhead in a MIRV weighs a few hundred kg. So in short, no. You could of course build a bigger cruise missile with a higher range and payload, but then you might just as well get an ICBM.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 01:34:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
this is what i was thinking. Furthermore, i believe that nuclear warheads are quite sizeable, which would mean that a cruise missile based detterrence would not really be considered serious.

I remember some information on the topic during the north corea crisis: they have missiles, they have nuclear bombs, but they don't have (seemingly) nuclear bombs on missile.

by Xavier in Paris on Fri Jul 17th, 2009 at 02:49:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Although I'm still not clear what eliminating a second strike would achieve.

So you take out the UK's entire deterrent and a few cities. Taking out London and maybe Birmingham and Manchester would be enough to put the UK back a century, because so many business and government records, communication systems and infrastructure management systems are based there.

Food deliveries would stop almost instantly, emergency rations would last a few months at the outside, and the UK would be dead as a country. Even without bombing the other cities, you'd lose anything up to 75% of the population over the next year or so.

So - then what? Even if there's enough of a government left to surrender formally, are you going to march in an occupy what's left, and create a new government? Why would anyone bother?

The Soviets had ideological momentum, so it wasn't completely impossible to imagine them wanting to invade Europe and the UK.

Modern Russia, not so much, except as an act of machismo and political spite. Likewise for China.

Iran, India, Pakistan, and NK might all want to try, but they wouldn't have the resources to launch a decapitation first strike - they'd go straight for the cities.

So really if Trident has a purpose at all, it's as a revenge weapon, guaranteeing retaliation against these second and third rate players. And they'd be just as vulnerable to a cruise-launched bomb run as they would be to an SLBM, so the submarine-launched angle starts to look slightly unconvincing.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 11:28:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Furthermore, while you need a really big bomb to create a 5 psi overpressure within 7.5 nm (say 10-20 megaton) you can much more easily throw half a dozen or a dozen 100 kT devices sprinkled over the general area. Given that modern missiles are MIRV'ed, you still only need a single missile.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 10:50:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The US and the Soviets had thousands of missiles at the peak of the cold war. They still have thousands of warheads.

Even if every ship in the fleet was dispersed in a random pattern, it would be trivially easy to organise precise targetting. You can solve the movement problem by boxing each ship's current position with multiple warheads.

Stealth subs and space launchers are the only defence against this.

Space launchers are officially banned, but I would be hugely surprised if that meant that there weren't any in orbit.

The problem is reliable command and communication. You want to make sure that a second strike happens after reliable first strike notification, even if the first strike takes out your main HQ - but also that you don't launch a first strike by accident just because someone's radio tunes into Radio 1 instead of the emergency launch code channel.

I'm not sure what kind of failsafes are used in C&C. It probably isn't a simple problem.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 10:24:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can have a second strike capability by detecting a first strike before impact. How many countries could strike the UK undetected? Maybe the US using only B2s?

Of course this requires having a number of fixed and mobile land-based platforms on constant hairtrigger alert, which may not save all that much money.

I'm unsure how cruise missiles would work out for strategic warheads. I'm thinking they don't.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 09:35:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well what makes a warhead "Strategic"?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 09:48:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Its designed use against population centers.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 10:15:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's an interesting but rather arcane debate which was played out in the 70's or the 80's. At the time it was considered that small battlefield nukes were considered tactical while big ones fired at cities and missile complexes were strategic. After the debate people understood that the differnce between a tactical and strategic device is not the size, but the reason why it is used.

Hence, a 1 megaton bomb dropped on a Soviet motorised infantry division is a tactical strike, while a 10 kT device droppen on the Kremlin is most definitely a strategic strike.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 10:18:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wikipedia: Weapon of mass destruction
During the Cold War, the term "weapons of mass destruction" was primarily a reference to nuclear weapons. At the time, the US arsenal of thermonuclear weapons were regarded as a necessary deterrent against nuclear or conventional attack from the Soviet Union (see Mutual Assured Destruction), and the euphemism "strategic weapons" was used to refer to the American nuclear arsenal.

...

An additional condition often implicitly applied to WMD is that the use of the weapons must be strategic. In other words, they would be designed to "have consequences far outweighing the size and effectiveness of the weapons themselves".[24] The strategic nature of WMD also defines their function in the military doctrine of total war as targeting the means a country would use to support and supply its war effort, specifically its population, industry, and natural resources.

(my bold)

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 10:23:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a funny definition of WMD's, as if I understand the quote right chemical or nuclear weapons which are used as combat weapons in the field are not considered WMD. For example chemical weapons during WW1, or the hundreds (or thousand!) of tactical nukes NATO would probably had to use all over West Germany if the Russians ever would have come pouring through the Fulda Gap.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 10:26:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That sounds terribly like the CIA overestimation of Soviet capability, that pouring through the Fulda Gap line. The problem with definition speaks of the differences in nuclear stratergy and theory between the US and USSR, the US thinking that the military use of tactical weapons was possible, the USSR seeing (Probably correctly) that once the first was used, whatever brake the politicians had on the situation was off and things were going to go very badly, very quickly.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 11:23:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Pentagon strategists and neocon loonies are still blabbering about "usable nukes".

The peak-to-trough part of the business cycle is an outlier. Carnot would have died laughing.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 11:33:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Im sure we'll always have someone wanting to use them, its probably something along the lines of the "You have to use them to prove you are willing, otherwise your enemies might become convinced that you wouldnt and then their deterrent value is 0" justification.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 11:38:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Tripwire was always about using 'massive retaliation' as a NATO response to a conventional USSR invasion. Battlefield nukes were always a footnote.

The problem with Tripwire is that it has never completely gone away. It took a long time before proportional response was taken seriously as an alternative. And we still have idiots trying to get Georgia into NATO, with the inevitable outcome that the entire nuclear-tipped alliance will become involved in local Russian politics.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 11:36:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Massive retaliation was phased out and replaced by Flexible Response in the 60's.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 11:41:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's 'cause we're a Christian Nation, and Jesus said that it is easier to nuke through the eye of the needle.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Sat Jul 18th, 2009 at 08:45:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Except that doesn't really fit with with the Soviet lack of the western conventional vs. nuclear view. Soviet doctrine called for an immediate use of nuclear weapons in support of the ground forces offensive.

Thousands of weapons were to be used in the initial strike at the dawn of the invasion. As many as two hundred(!) were reserved for strikes against Swedish targets.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 11:38:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
well thats what I was saying, about the soviets lack of conventional/nuclear view  and battlefield/strategic too (But the Soviet Invasion intention was a Laughable CIA invention)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jul 15th, 2009 at 11:45:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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