May 29, 2006

Pentagon Wants Rapid-Strike Conventional-Warhead Trident
— Ace

Sounds like a damn good idea.

The Pentagon is seeking congressional approval for development of a new weapon able to strike distant targets an hour after they are detected, a newspaper reported on Monday.

The International Herald Tribune said the weapon would be a non-nuclear version of the submarine-launched Trident-2 missile and be part of a president's arsenal when considering a pre-emptive attack.

The report quoted military officials as saying it could be used to hit terrorist camps, enemy missile sites, suspected caches of weapons of mass destruction and other urgent threats.

General James Cartwright, head of the U.S. Strategic Command, said the system would allow U.S. forces to attack targets conventionally and precisely and "limit the collateral damage".

The Pentagon would like the system available in two years, the report said.

Why haven't they done this already? Cruise missiles are nice and all, but they have teeny-tiny little warheads. You can put a much bigger explosive load on top of a Trident.

But the program has run into resistance from lawmakers concerned it could increase the risk of an accidental nuclear war. Under the Pentagon plan, both non-nuclear and nuclear-tipped variants of the Trident-2 missile would be loaded on the same submarines.


"It would be hard to determine if a missile coming out a Trident submarine is conventional or nuclear," the Rhode Island Democrat said.

What a shock that resistance comes from Democrats.

Well, Mr. Reed, here's the thing: stealth fighters and stealth bombers can also carry nuclear weapons. Indeed, they were designed with that mission in mind. And yet we do not shy away from using some of our best first-strike planes in combat simply because they could carry nukes, and someone could get the wrong idea.

Why would Russia assume that a ballistic missile sub is launching a nuclear weapon, when they know the sub also carries conventional-warhead tridents? Wouldn't they sort of realize that's it's far more likely a conventional weapon is being launched?

And why would they then attack us with nuclear weapons, just because we may or may not be launching nuclear weapons against a third country?

The Left's attempt to cast themselves as The Company of the Fearless sure doesn't squre very much with their constant fretting.

Posted by: Ace at 09:03 AM | Comments (26)
Post contains 385 words, total size 3 kb.

1 Democrats . . representing America's enemies since 1968.

Posted by: adolfo velasquez at May 29, 2006 09:21 AM (7lq0v)

2 It would be hard to determine if a missile coming out a Trident submarine is conventional or nuclear," the Rhode Island Democrat said.

Maybe if we paint the non-nuclear ones Volvo Safety Orange that would clear things up.

Just a thought.

Posted by: BumperStickerist at May 29, 2006 09:23 AM (PcDvW)

3 I'm all for a bigger conventional stick, but this is a tough one.

With regards to fighters carrying both non and nuclear weapons, a country such as Russia or China, or any country that has its own nuclear arsenal, (think N. Korea) has a much larger window to decide if they are threatened.

A missile launch from a Trident off the Florida coast could be a nuclear attack to any country who fears one or wants to call it one as a pretext to start something themselves (think N. Korea again). There is no way at all to know where that missile is destined for.

Imagine if Russia or China were to field the same weapon. Now imagine what it would be like to be at NORAD if a launch occured.

A special signature may sound like an answer, but who would trust it?

Posted by: Rich at May 29, 2006 09:27 AM (Izsn/)

4 While I understand Rich's objections, I'm sure this is the kind of thing that will be used infrequently to say the least, probably with some kind of communication to Russia and China 10min before launch or so.

It's a very important weapon to have in my opinion, but don't Trident ICBM's cost like $500 mil a piece?

Posted by: Jason at May 29, 2006 09:32 AM (gNw0L)

5 Actually is $30.9 mil, or so wikipedia says.

Posted by: Jason at May 29, 2006 09:34 AM (gNw0L)

6 They're going to have to do something special with the guidance package if this is going to work. Cruise missiles (e.g BG-109 Tomahawk Land Attack Missile) use a mix of TERPROM/INS/DSMAC and latterly GPS (in Block III+) to get CEP down to the few metres level. Ballistic missile warheads have never had this sort of accuracy, because when you've got a 475kT W88 warhead (or eight of 'em on a Mk5 re-entry vehicle), then a CEP of 100–120m is ample, even against buried structures. It's not true to say that warload on a cruise missile is small compared to an ICBM. Re-entry vehicles weigh less than half a ton total. The standard Bullpup warhead on a TLAM is 1000lb. The issue is flight time, not yield.

I think they'd be better off adapting something like the B-61 Mod 10 tactical bomb which you can dial-a-yield from 80kT (kill a small city) down to 0.3kT (kill a terrorist village). Airbursts with a micronuke would cause very little residual fallout, blast and thermal would be short range, and the prompt radiation would kill enemies within hours even if they were under cover. What's not to like?

Posted by: David Gillies at May 29, 2006 09:42 AM (RC1AQ)

7 I wouldn't trust wiki on this Jason. It is quite possible that someone is fighting the military industrial complex by editing wiki pages. I have no idea if they are, it just seems like one of the pointless things our activist friends on the left would spend time doing.

Posted by: Mike S. at May 29, 2006 09:44 AM (hI/OI)

8 Just to be clear.

I would love to see a successfull application of this type of weapon. I just can't see how we get beyond the fact that once a launch takes place, nobody, even with a 10 minute heads up, really knows for sure what's on the Trident.

This is a case of not being able to use tactical nukes on Iran because of everything the word nuclear brings to mind, in spite of the fact that it is probably the correct weapon for the situation.

Instead we will use a nuclear platform to fall back on delivering a conventional weapon, but send the whole world into Defcon 1.

Posted by: Rich at May 29, 2006 09:47 AM (Izsn/)

9 I'm trying to see it from Russia's strategic forces perspecitive. They can't see B-2 bombers, probably can't see stealthy cruise missiles either. The first sign of an attack on their country would be loss of contact with their northern sub bases, loss of contact with their command structure, their nuclear subs start sinking. Basically, the first sign that they are at war with the U.S. would be the destruction of most of their warfighting potential.

Which means -- there has to be enough left over to send our way to keep that MAD thing going.

When the watch commander sees the thermal signature of a Trident launch, he'll probably think to himself: "I'm alive, therefore that bird isn't coming our way."

Posted by: Tubealloy at May 29, 2006 10:37 AM (ffmrc)

10 Between the cost, dual purpose problems... Hope it isn't just the Navy trying to find a gold plated bullet to keep itself relevant.

Posted by: Cutler at May 29, 2006 10:39 AM (05vwR)

11 Oh, yeah, and if Russia isn't spending some of that goey oil money on high-quality human intelligence over here in the West, then Putin isn't as smart as he looks.

Posted by: Tubealloy at May 29, 2006 10:43 AM (ffmrc)

12 The other difference with a fighter or bomber deployment is that it isn't deployed over Russian or Chinese airspace. If it was, then they'd get fidgety real quick. When the Trident pops up out of the water, things aren't quite clear that quickly where that thing is going. It has to travel to its destination, and in that time, they're sitting there thinking, "Comrade, is this the shit?"

When - if - they see one of our stealth birds, they're thinking, "Holy shit! It's right on top of us." Not that it doesn't bother me that you can always bet your bottom dollar it'll be a Democrat who, when faced with the questions of how to protect our country, first says, "But what would Kofi do?"

And Tubealloy: They never paid Alger Hiss or the Rosenbergs much. You don't have to pay the left much to betray the country. They're already sympathetic to the cause.

Posted by: grayson at May 29, 2006 11:11 AM (3Vh45)

13 If and when we ever use such a thing, I doubt there will be much doubt in anybody's mind who we're aiming for. It'll be because we're at war with somebody.

For example, if America goes to war with Iran, and the Russians and the Chinese see a trident going up, they'll assume we're shooting at Iran; it's pretty unlikely that we'd try to start a nuclear war with them on the side.

Posted by: sandy burger at May 29, 2006 11:37 AM (loL5+)

14 I have to go with Reed on this one: it's an extraordinarily stupid idea. There are other ways of solving this problem.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 29, 2006 11:49 AM (+rSRq)

15 Not that I ever claimed I wasn't extraordinarily stupid, but I don't see why this is such a bad idea. Since we have now announced to the world that our subs may be launching non-nuclear Trident missles, nobody can claim that they mistakenly thought a nuke was on the way. If they wanted to use that excuse they could make that claim on any incoming bomb or missle. I don't see why we would not want to make one of our most stealthy fighting machines even more capable.

Posted by: JackStraw at May 29, 2006 12:08 PM (rnOZq)

16 I like the tech. I see how it could be useful from time to time - but it's too dangerous. Consider that Yeltsin came uncomfortably close to NUKING us in 1995 over a Norwegian weather rocket. And the Russians HAD advance notification of the launch - the word wasn't passed on to the Russian radar sites.

( sources differ on how close Yeltsin came to pushing the button. This is a situation where you take the worst-case-scenario as the one to plan around)

Posted by: Arthur at May 29, 2006 12:35 PM (ybeje)

17 Yeah, we definitely need more weaponry.

I see you assholes are still just as dumb, dumb, dumb as you ever were.

Oh, well...impeachment will help.

Posted by: Mike at May 29, 2006 03:30 PM (Gddcx)

18 Too many lily livered demacrats running around like chickens with their heads cut off what a bunch of cowards we dont need thesee wussies

Posted by: spurwing plover at May 29, 2006 05:30 PM (M9D/B)

19 Yeah, we definitely need more weaponry.


Peace through superior firepower has always been my motto.

Something like a swarm of Sat released tungsten fleschettes would be pretty cool and cheap. Newton does the driving and anything in a quarter square mile or so becomes swiss cheese. Enviro-safe too.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at May 29, 2006 05:37 PM (gf5iT)

20 I agree that this is a bad idea...nuclear deterrent shouldn't be a mixed message, and all sides should follow similar thinking.

Now, what we could do is to have a dedicated "conventional trident" sub broadcast a signal at all times to nculear powers so they could track it and know that any launch from that boat wouldn't be a nuke...but again, would you trust the russians or chinese in the same way?

Nope. Therefore don't do this. Maybe you could deploy them on land in an allied non-nuclear country like Italy.

Posted by: Aaron at May 29, 2006 06:03 PM (DAssA)

21 First off, welcome back, Mike. This blog has been entirely too sane around here without you.

It sure seems to me like this is a job for a short range ballistic missile, not an intercontinental ballistic missile. We don't need to be able to hit anywhere in the world in an hour's notice. There are spots we might like to hit like that, but we know where they are (Hint: Iran and North Korea) so you just park a couple of subs out there close to those targets with short range missiles on them. Then you get the advantage of a short flight time combined with the advantage of not looking like an intercontinental launch and starting a nuclear war.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward at May 29, 2006 07:23 PM (rTTky)

22 Hi, Mike.

So, in a thread about weapons, you want to talk about impeaching the president? Nice to see that you consider impeaching the president more important than fighting the terrorists who have killed over 3,000 American citizens.

And, yes, we do need more weapons. We always, always without exception, need more weapons. Why? Because liberals like you keep getting us into wars.

This is kind of a cool idea, maybe it would be better to do it as a ship-launched weapon. That way, we preserve the subs as dedicated nuke forces, and the ship would be the non-nuclear option.

Posted by: BattleofthePyramids at May 29, 2006 08:15 PM (HJGBF)

23 Once again, the dork/expert divide causes disagreement at Ace of Spades HQ

Posted by: Jay at May 29, 2006 08:47 PM (rD+kE)

24 BAD idea on a trident, for the reasons listed...

But how about a land based launch system? A Minuteman 3 set up specifcally for such a mission, with the missile and the tube itself being made incapable of projecting nukes. This way, the START treaty would allow inspection of said facility, and any launch from THAT HOLE would be safe.

Posted by: Yogimus at May 30, 2006 02:07 AM (0BLsA)

25 Tubealloy seems to think that our war-starting policy is to attack first and declare hostility later. As if we now approve of the sneak-attack mode that we so reviled at Pearl Harbor.

If we decided to engage Russia or China, the way they would know about it is that we would tell them. In the absence of that, a missile launch would be assumed to be directed at some target we've already expressed concern about.

Posted by: Roy at May 30, 2006 06:17 AM (2XXia)

26 I've been in favor of something like this for a while. We already have the ICBMs and SLBMs. So we cut back on the nukes (1,000 or so is enough to waste anybody) and put 'conventional' warheads on the leftover birds. It shouldn't be that hard to add GPS guidance for precision targeting. Yeah, it's only, say, 1000 kg of HE. If you're standing where it lands, it might as well be a megaton. And an xxBM can deliver that warhead anywhere in the world in what, 15 minutes? No prepositioning required, no air defenses to beat, no aircrew at risk. Expensive? Well, I wouldn't produce new boosters for this, but why not use the ones we've already got?

Posted by: Rich Rostrom at May 31, 2006 06:32 PM (n/CHn)

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