The weak spots of American “global strike” concept.
Originally appeared at Svpressa, translated by Comrade Korolyov exclusively for SouthFront
In the last few years in the media there is an active discussion about American Global Strike concept. To summarise, we have a very dangerous idea that endangers global security and threatens pretty much every country in the world. At the base of this idea is the statement, that high precision weaponry, in its destructive power, is as effective as nuclear weaponry, and, consequently, its usage can make any US enemy kneel.
But, is this really so? What is this Global Strike concept, and can one really bomb the enemy out of existance today? What kind of threat does the realisation of this strategy pose to Russia and her allies?
The concept calls for creation of an independent combat system that includes, apart from its own combat capabilities, intelligence gathering systems, HQ and communication posts, and electronic warfare systems.
The main component of strike systems is made of ground and sea based ballistic missiles in non-nuclear variation, and long range hypersonic missiles that will be carried by aircraft. In a long term perspective, usage of satellites is also considered.
Non-nuclear ballistic missiles are currently most suitable for Global Strike concept. They are highly accurate, don’t take long to be “delivered” and the warhead can travel at high speeds that can allow it to reach underground targets. The warheads’ carrying capacity can also allow it to carry various armaments including special drones.
But, there are certain conditions, that render the use of balistic missiles in non-nuclear variation quite problematic.
Firstly, the AA systems in Russia (and, in close perspective, possibly China) can classify a group launch of such missiles (and to successfully attack even a single Russian strategic location, you’ll need at least 2 or, better, 3 missiles) as a nuclear attack, which will automatically lead to a full-scale nuclear retaliation from the Russian Federation and total annihilation of all life on the planet.
Secondly, START treaties limit the total number of deployed ballistic missiles and don’t differentiate between a nuclear and a non-nuclear variation. Meaning, putting a conventional warhead on a ballistic missile will cost the US a nuclear ballistic missile, unless they break the treaty (which is highly likely, however).
Another important element is the prospective hypersonic X-51A missile. But, the trials were so far unsuccessful. Even though X-51A is not yet shut down, we can expect it appearing only in distant future, and its serial production – even further away.
So, in near and even distant future, we don’t expect any new weapon systems that will allow NATO (read: USA) to be able to reach the necessary operational effect if they go through with Global Strike.
Because of this, the US currently puts faith in naval, air cruise missiles (Tomahawk), strategic and naval aviation.
The cruise missiles that are currently used by the US Naval aviation (range up to 1600 km) guarantee a hit by a 340-350 kg warhead. This missiles can be used by all modern surface ships and submarines of the American fleet. On the 23 multipurpose “Los Angeles” class submarines there can be up to 12 such missiles.
About the same number can be carried by “Sea Wolf” class (3 submarines) and “Virginia” (9 submarines). According to the refitting program of “Ohio” submarines with “Tomahawk” missiles, there are 4 “Ohio” subs ready to carry 154 missiles. But, the program is closed. May be, this is due to the enourmous spread of a full rocket launch from these subs.
61 newest American destroyers of “Arleigh Burke” have Mk41 launch units with 96 “tubes” and 22 “Ticonderoga” missile cruisers have 122 “tubes” in similar launch units.
Altogether, the American ships can carry 4000 cruise missiles, and about 1000 – on submarines.
In reality, however, considering the necessity of using a part of surface ships as multipurpose vessels, and also the level of operational readiness of American ships, a maximum number of cruise missiles that can be launched from surface ships and submarines of the American navy is about 2500-3000.
Apart form the US Navy, American strategic bombers can also be outfitted with cruise missiles. Currently, USAAF has about 130 strategic bombers that can launch about 1200 cruise missiles. So, in total we have about 3700-4200 cruise missiles that can be launched in a single strike. Apart from the missiles, there can be up to 2500-3000 tactical and naval aviation aircraft that can be used to strike objectives up to 600 km behind a state border. These are undoubtedly formidable forces, and in absence of any effective resistance, they can destroy about 1000 important objects located on US-hostile soils.
However, will such a strike correspond to Global Strike concept? Obviously, not.
Firstly, this strike won’t be quick, because to prepare such an attack the Americans will use up to 2 months or more. During this time USA will need to strategically deploy their Air Force and Navy in the regions close to their targets, they will need to create logistics, gather intelligence about their prospective targets, so, overall, this won’t be a purely missile strike, it won’t be a Global Strike concept attack, it would be just your normal first missile-aviational strike.
Secondly, even though for small, and even medium sized countries, this strike can really mean the end of their existance, it won’t render them totally useless in resisting American ground, remaining air and naval forces. So, one way or another, as the resistance continues, USA will have to resort to traditional means of war. So, the strike only means something if it will be a large scale military operation which uses all American military power. And this means, that the strike won’t be quick or global. It will just be a textbook pre-invasional rocket attack.
Quite often many experts say that this strike is a big threat to Russia’s nuclear capabilities, destroying which will allow NATO to resort to “nuclear blackmail” in dealing with every single country in the world. This is the main purpose the Americans have thought the Global Strike concept up.
It is true, if Russia will take a passive stand and won’t adequately respond to American aggression, this strike will result in almost total destruction of Russian nuclear might. But, in reality, such a strike on Russia is highly unlikely.
Firstly, the US can decide to conduct such a strike against Russia only if the tensions rise very sharply and to a very very bad extend. This is only possible, if Russia’s patience runs out, the power will be assumed by political forces which are willing to openly conflict with the US. These people, if faced with defeat, will use nuclear weapons, even if it is a limited use, to preserve the Russian state. If the power in Russia is held by people who are ready to compromise and talk, the US won’t risk total nuclear annihilation of North America (it, admittedly, won’t care about Western Europe and other NATO countries) by launching an attack against Russia.
Secondly, this strike will be trumpetered by a long and hard threatening period, which will be long enough for Russia to prepare a response. And then, considering Russia’s military might, such an operation by American military is doomed.
Thirdly, the strike will last a few hours (computer simulations show 4-6 hours). This means, that in the first ten minutes, when the Kremlin realises the scale of the attack (if NATO manages to get the surprise factor), it can decide to conduct a full scale nuclear retaliation, and this will be during the time that most of Russia’s nuclear capabilities are still intact. This means, the US will provoke a nuclear war by conventional weapons. They (hopefully) won’t risk that, because Russian nuclear arsenal on its own is capable of total destruction of all life on the planet.
A totally different picture appears if we consider a limited strike on most important infrastructure objects and other strategic positions that will achieve a local success and will require small amount of weaponry.
In this case, there is no need for large, long preparations. The strike can be conducted by constant-readiness forces almost immediatly as the order comes in. This strike can be sudden not only in operational or strategic sense, but also in a tactical sense, because the missiles’ flights to their targets can be at low and extremely low altitudes outside the AA control zone.
But the speed, unexpectancy and globality of the strike (up to 60 minutes as per the concept) can be achieved only if in all vital regions of the world there will be American air and naval forces groups. And this means, that the US can only afford a few dozen cruise missiles for a strike.
These forces can destroy may be 1-2 big industrial plants, 2-3 military or state governing buildings, 1-2 field objects, such as a terrorist training camp or 1-2 scientific and research institutions.
So, currently (in in forseeable future) the concept is going to be able to solve only local tasks. Such as terminating an individual political activist or destroyng the leadership of some organisations (that are conveniently declared “Terrorist” prior to the strike), ridding some countries of capacity to conduct their development programs that the US considers (not in American interests), stopping scientific research in countries, the US considers dangerous for itself.
This is why we can say, that considering the existing situation, the concept is only useful for local targets and against countries that are incapable of attacking targets on US mainland, or don’t have protection guarantees from Russia (or another powerful country).