Tag Archives: Nuclear Weapons

Ukraine vs Russia: How Much Success is Too Much Success? Or…

…the risks of becoming “Dizzy with Success“, as Stalin put it. Extracts from two opinion pieces at the NY Times “Sunday Review”:

1) By a frequent contributor to the London Review of Books:

America and Its Allies Want to Bleed Russia. They Really Shouldn’t.

By Tom Stevenson

Mr. Stevenson is a journalist specializing in energy, defense and geopolitics who reported from Ukraine during the first weeks of the war.

…The U.S. secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin, has said the goal is “to see Russia weakened.” The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said Ukraine is defending “democracy writ large for the world.” Britain’s foreign minister, Liz Truss, was explicit about widening the conflict to take in Ukrainian territory annexed by Russia, such as Crimea, when she spoke of evicting Russia from “the whole of Ukraine.” This is both an expansion of the battlefield and a transformation of the war.

…Negotiations between Ukraine and Russia were always fraught but contained moments of promise. They have now stalled completely. Russia bears its fair share of responsibility, of course. But European channels to Moscow have been all but severed, and there is no serious effort from the United States to seek diplomatic progress, let alone cease-fires.

When I was in Ukraine during the first weeks of the war, even staunch Ukrainian nationalists expressed views far more pragmatic than those that are routine in America now. Talk of neutral status for Ukraine and internationally monitored plebiscites in Donetsk and Luhansk has been jettisoned in favor of bombast and grandstanding.

The war was dangerous and destructive enough in its initial form. The combination of expanded strategic aims and scotched negotiations has made it more dangerous still. At present, the only message to Russia is: There is no way out. Though President Vladimir Putin did not declare general conscription in his Victory Day speech on May 9, a conventional escalation of this kind is still possible.

Nuclear weapons are discussed in easy tones, not least on Russian television. The risk of cities being reduced to corium remains low without NATO deployment in Ukraine, but accident and miscalculation cannot be discounted. And the conflict takes place at a time when most of the Cold War arms control agreements between the United States and Russia have been allowed to lapse.

A weakened Russia was a likely outcome of the war even before the shift in U.S. policy. Russia’s economic position has deteriorated. Far from a commodity superpower, its undersized domestic industry is struggling and is dependent on technology imports that are now inaccessible.

What’s more, the invasion has led directly to greater military spending in second- and third-tier European powers. The number of NATO troops in Eastern Europe has grown tenfold, and a Nordic expansion of the organization is likely. A general rearmament of Europe is taking place, driven not by desire for autonomy from American power but in service to it. For the United States, this should be success enough. It is unclear what more there is to gain by weakening Russia, beyond fantasies of regime change.

Ukraine’s future depends on the course of the fighting in the Donbas and perhaps the south. The physical destruction of the east is already well underway. Ukrainian casualties are not insignificant; estimates of the number killed and wounded vary widely, but it is certainly in the tens of thousands. Russia has destroyed whatever sense of shared heritage remained before the invasion.

But the longer the war, the worse the damage to Ukraine and the greater the risk of escalation. A decisive military result in eastern Ukraine may prove elusive. Yet the less dramatic outcome of a festering stalemate is hardly better. Indefinite protraction of the war, as in Syria, is too dangerous with nuclear-armed participants.

Diplomatic efforts ought to be the centerpiece of a new Ukraine strategy. Instead, the war’s boundaries are being expanded and the war itself recast as a struggle between democracy and autocracy, in which the Donbas is the frontier of freedom. This is not just declamatory extravagance. It is reckless. The risks hardly need to be stated.

2) And by the “Sunday Review’s” house conservative:

There Are Two Endgames in Ukraine. Both Carry Big Risks.

By Ross Douthat

Opinion Columnist

Our success…yields new strategic dilemmas. Two scenarios loom for the next six months of war. In the first, Russia and Ukraine trade territory in small increments, and the war gradually cools into a “frozen conflict” in a style familiar from other wars in Russia’s near abroad.

Under those circumstances, any lasting peace deal would probably require conceding Russian control over some conquered territory, in Crimea and the Donbas, if not the land bridge now mostly held by Russian forces in between. This would hand Moscow a clear reward for its aggression, notwithstanding everything else that Russia has lost in the course of its invasion. And depending on how much territory was ceded, it would leave Ukraine mutilated and weakened, notwithstanding its military success.

So such a deal might seem unacceptable in Kyiv, Washington or both. But then the alternative — a permanent stalemate that’s always poised for a return to low-grade war — would also leave Ukraine mutilated and weakened, reliant on streams of Western money and military equipment, and less able to confidently rebuild…

There is…[a] scenario…in which…the stalemate breaks in Ukraine’s favor. This is the future that the Ukrainian military claims is within reach — where with sufficient military aid and hardware they are able to turn their modest counteroffensives into major ones and push the Russians back not just to prewar lines but potentially out of Ukrainian territory entirely.

Clearly, this is the future America should want — except for the extremely important caveat that it’s also the future where Russian nuclear escalation suddenly becomes much more likely than it is right now.

We know that Russian military doctrine envisions using tactical nuclear weapons defensively, to turn the tide in a losing war [emphasis added, see post noted at the bottom of this one]. We should assume that Putin and his circle regard total defeat in Ukraine as a regime-threatening scenario. Combine those realities with a world where the Russians are suddenly being routed, their territorial gains evaporating, and you have the most nuclear-shadowed military situation since our naval blockade of Cuba in 1962.

I’ve been turning over these dilemmas since I moderated a recent panel at the Catholic University of America with three right-of-center foreign policy thinkers — Elbridge Colby, Rebeccah Heinrichs and Jakub Grygiel. On the wisdom of our support for Ukraine up till now, the panel was basically united. On the question of the war’s endgame and the nuclear peril, however, you could see our challenges distilled — with Grygiel emphasizing the importance of Ukraine’s recovering territory in the east and along the Black Sea coastline in order to be plausibly self-sufficient in the future, but then the more hawkish Heinrichs and the more cautious Colby sparring over what our posture should be in the event that rapid Ukrainian advances are met with a Russian tactical nuclear strike.

That question isn’t the one immediately before us; it will only become an issue if Ukraine begins to make substantial gains. But since we are arming the Ukrainians on a scale that seems intended to make a counteroffensive possible, I sincerely hope a version of the Colby-Heinrichs back-and-forth is happening at the highest reaches of our government — before an issue that matters now on academic panels becomes the most important question in the world.

That post:

Public Russian Nuclear Weapons Use Doctrine–Willing to go First if Necessary

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

How Rapidly, How Much should US Commit to Hypersonics? What about Defence? Information and Command and Control?

(Caption for image at top of the post: “Hypersonic missile defense raises key questions for lawmakers on investment, the Congressional Research Service says. (Graphic by the Center for Strategic and International Studies).”)

Further to this post,

Not a lot of Hypersonics for US Air Force?

an article by a leading defence journalist at Breaking Defense (if only Canada had even a semblance of specialized defence media but just no market on assumes):

Congressional researchers identify key questions in America’s hypersonic race

Congressional Research Service report could shape lawmaker questions on hypersonics at next hearing, from funding to command and control issues.

By   Theresa Hitchens

The bottom-line question for Congress about Pentagon plans for hypersonic missile defense is whether the approximately $250 million being spent by the Pentagon to develop systems — a sum that potentially could balloon into the billions over time — is warranted by either the threat or the current status of US technologies to counter them, according to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service.

“Is an acceleration of research on hypersonic missile defense options both necessary and technologically feasible? Does the technological maturity of hypersonic missile defense options warrant current funding levels?” the CRS report, “Hypersonic Missile Defense: Issues for Congress” asks.

In particular, the report from the independent congressional think tank points to concerns about the capability of current military command and control (C2) networks and decision-making processes to ensure fast enough response [emphasis added] — a problem that is supposed to be addressed by the Defense Department’s Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) strategy that, as of today, remains to be substantiated.

The brief report [PDF], published in late January, does not attempt to answer those question or others it identified, but it could frame lawmakers’ inquiries of top military officials next time they appear for hearings about plans to counter to hypersonic threats.

Targeting What Threats?

Over the past year or so, there has been a growing debate within the Defense Department about the balance between spending on defense against adversary hypersonic missiles and offensive hypersonic weapons being developed by the US military services [emphasis added].

Key congressional and US military leaders have been increasingly apoplectic about Russian and especially Chinese progress in developing long-range hypersonic missiles — including those that could possibly carry nuclear weapons [see this post: “US Joint Chiefs Chairman over-hyper over PRC’s FOBS Hypersonics? (note UPDATE)“].

The CRS report notes that Russia “reportedly fielded its first hypersonic weapons in December 2019, while some experts believe that China fielded hypersonic weapons as early as 2020.” The US isn’t expected to field its own hypersonic weapon until next year, despite some $2.5 billion in current investment in offensive systems by the various military services [see this post: “US Services’ Hypersonics Progress–Army looks like Fielding First“].

Victoria Samson of Secure World Foundation and a long-time missile defense analyst suggested that in the race to catch up, the US isn’t fully considering how it’s running the race.

“I get the sense that a lot of what is driving US interest in it is that China and Russia are working on their own program,” Samson told Breaking Defense. “Of course what peer adversaries are investing in should be a consideration for US officials, but it should not be the sole driver [emphasis added], and the United States does not need to do a one-for-one type of investment strategy.”

The skepticism isn’t just outside government. In September Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said he wasn’t “satisfied with the degree to which we have figured out what we need for hypersonics — of what type, for what missions.”

There are additional complications in decision-making due to the fact that hypersonic missiles can be configured to carry both nuclear and conventional missiles — including the ever-thorny political issues around nuclear deterrence [see this post: “US Nuke Hypersonics?“]. This makes it somewhat difficult to determine where exactly investments should be made. 

Though the CRS report notes the fiscal 2020 defense authorization act compels the Missile Defense Agency to “develop a hypersonic and ballistic missile tracking space sensor payload,” that agency is actually bound by law to constrain its targeting capabilities to only nuclear threats from rogue states North Korea and Iran [emphasis added]. Thus, if the rationale for increased spending on new hypersonic missile defense systems is to counter their not-so-impressive capabilities, rather than those of Russia or China, then that raises issues around whether such programs as MDA’s Glide Phase Interceptor are warranted.

On the other hand, if, as others argue, the real threats are from conventional Chinese and Russian hypersonic missiles that can be used against tactical assets like ships at sea and overseas bases, then perhaps instead investment by the military services in non-strategic defenses and offensive hypersonic missiles of their own are more important [emphasis added]. But those efforts also face a number of unanswered questions.

For example, it is unclear that DoD has a strategy, plan and/or capabilities to coordinate salvos of long-range strike weapons, including offensive hypersonic missiles, being developed by the various military services to target Chinese and Russian launch facilities [emphasis added–need a hyper SIOP?] as part of their plans for future all-domain operations. Those development programs already have piqued inter-service rivalry.

Command And Control: A Missing Linchpin

Another pointed question from the new report: “Does DOD have the enabling capabilities, such as adequate command and control architectures, needed to execute hypersonic missile defense?”

Lawmakers should be quizzing Pentagon leaders, the report suggests, about whether DoD’s multiple and stovepiped missile defense C2 systems used by MDA, the military services and the battlefield commanders at the various combatant commands can process data quickly enough allow timely response [emphasis added].

CRS’s analysis quoted from a 2019 issue brief from the American Foreign Policy Council.

That brief stated [PDF]:

“The development of complete countermeasures to offset the hypersonic threat will likely require not only detection capabilities, but also a hybrid approach of kinetic interceptors and other non-kinetic means as well as an entire new command and control architecture capable of processing data quickly enough to respond to and neutralize an incoming hypersonic threat – a far cry from the current reality.”

This problem also was flagged by the Missile Defense Project of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in its February study, “Complex Air Defense: Countering the Hypersonic Missile Threat.”

CSIS found that the speed and data ingestion capacity of current computer processing systems underpinning current C2 networks are already unable to handle the vast amounts of data coming in from various sensor platforms [emphasis added], nor can they adequately share that information in time for commanders to make decisions.

“The speed of hypersonic weapons leaves little time for computing a fire control solution, communicating with command authorities, and completing an engagement,” the CSIS reported explained. However, the study found that current computer systems simply can’t handle the job.

“Presently, various combatant commands cannot process the substantial majority of collected radar, flight test, or shared intelligence data—challenges that motivated the Department of Defense’s Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) program,” the report said.

There also is a need for software-based decision-making tools powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning to assist commanders in visualization of the threats in near-real time and speed decision-making about responses, CSIS noted — tools for which combatant commanders, led by Northern Command head Gen. Glen VanHerck [he’s dual-hatted as NORAD commander, see below], already are clamoring.

While MDA is working on to modernize its own Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications (C2BMC) network, senior MDA officials also have been clear that JADC2 will be critical to hypersonic missile defense.

But so far, not so much progress has been made in developing and implementing the kind of modern data-sharing standards and platforms foundational to JADC2. Part of that problem is reluctance by the individual services to move away from their own bespoke (and expensive) C2 networks.

Related posts:

Rethinking and Remaking North American Defence, or, a Revolution in NORAD Affairs? How, er, Proactive?

NORAD Commander puts Hypersonic and North Warning System Cats amongst Trudeau Government’s Pigeons

US Air Force Should Play Better with other Services on Hypersonics

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Ukraine: Don’t Leave Bad Vlad Putin No Way Out

That’s the message of this piece by conservative columnist at the NY Times–here’s the second part of the column:

How to Stop a Nuclear War

By Ross Douthat

…several implications for our strategy right now. First…even if you believe the United States should have extended security guarantees to Ukraine before the Russian invasion, now that war is begun we must stick by the lines we drew in advance. That means yes to defending any NATO ally, yes to supporting Ukraine with sanctions and weaponry, and absolutely no to a no-fly zone or any measure that might obligate us to fire the first shot against the Russians.

Second, they mean that it’s extremely dangerous for U.S. officials to talk about regime change in Moscow — in the style of the reckless Senator Lindsey Graham, for instance, who has called on a “Brutus” or “Stauffenberg” [see here] to rid the world of Vladimir Putin. If you make your nuclear-armed enemy believe your strategy requires the end of their regime (or very life), you are pushing them…toward the no-choice zone…

Third, they imply that the odds of nuclear war might be higher today than in the Soviet era, because Russia is much weaker. The Soviet Union simply had more ground to give up in a conventional war before defeat appeared existential than does Putin’s smaller empire — which may be a reason why current Russian strategy increasingly prioritizes tactical nuclear weapons in the event of a conventional-war retreat [see post noted at end of this one].

But if that makes our situation more dangerous, it also should give us confidence that we don’t need to take wild nuclear risks to defeat Putin in the long run. The voices arguing for escalating now because we’ll have to fight him sooner or later need to recognize that containment, proxy wars and careful line-drawing defeated a Soviet adversary whose armies threatened to sweep across West Germany and France, whereas now we’re facing a Russian army that’s bogged down outside Kyiv.

We were extremely careful about direct escalation with the Soviets even when they invaded Hungary or Czechoslovakia or Afghanistan, and the result was a Cold War victory without a nuclear war. To escalate now against a weaker adversary, one less likely to ultimately defeat us and more likely to engage in atomic recklessness if cornered, would be a grave and existential folly.

That post:

Public Russian Nuclear Weapons Use Doctrine–Willing to go First if Necessary

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Indian Nuke Ballistic Missiles–Canisterization and MIRVing: First Strike Implications vs Pakistan

Further to this post,

Indian Nuke Use vs Pakistan and the PRC–no first, or, Maybe first after all? Against which?

The whole matter of Indian nuclear weapons doctrine deserves quite a bit more attention in the West than it gets since:

1) the confrontation between India and fellow nuclear state Pakistan over Kashmir goes on endlessly as one the world’s most inherently scary powder kegs (to use the old-fashioned phrase, see post here) and;

2) direct military confrontation between India and PRC in the Himalayas now simmers in the background after coming close to a boil last summer (see articles here and here)…

now a piece at The Federation of American Scientist by two who know their nukes:

India’s Nuclear Arsenal Takes A Big Step Forward

By Matt Korda and Hans Kristensen • December 23, 2021

On 18 December 2021, India tested its new Agni-P medium-range ballistic missile from its Integrated Test Range on Abdul Kalam Island [photo at top of this post is from story here]. This was the second test of the missile, the first test having been conducted in June 2021.

Our friends at Planet Labs PBC managed to capture an image of the Agni-P launcher sitting on the launch pad the day before the test took place.

Following both launches of the Agni-P, the Indian Government referred to the missile as a “new generation” nuclear-capable ballistic missile. Back in 2016, when the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) first announced the development of the Agni-P (which was called the Agni-1P at the time), a senior DRDO official explained why this missile was so special:

“As our ballistic missiles grew in range, our technology grew in sophistication. Now the early, short-range missiles, which incorporate older technologies, will be replaced by missiles with more advanced technologies. Call it backward integration of technology.”

The Agni-P is India’s first shorter-range missile to incorporate technologies now found in the newer Agni-IV and -V ballistic missiles, including more advanced rocket motors, propellants, avionics, and navigation systems.

Most notably, the Agni-P also incorporates a new feature seen on India’s new Agni-V intermediate-range ballistic missiles that has the potential to impact strategic stability: canisterization. And the launcher used in the Agni-P launch appears to have increased mobility. There are also unconfirmed rumors that the Agni-P and Agni-V might have the capability to launch multiple warheads [emphasis added].

Canisterization

“Canisterizing” refers to storing missiles inside a sealed, climate-controlled tube to protect them from the outside elements during transportation. In this configuration, the warhead can be permanently mated with the missile instead of having to be installed prior to launch, which would significantly reduce the amount of time needed to launch nuclear weapons in a crisis [emphasis added]. This is a new feature of India’s Strategic Forces Command’s increased emphasis on readiness. In recent years, former senior civilian and military officials have reportedly suggested in interviews that “some portion of India’s nuclear force, particularly those weapons and capabilities designed for use against Pakistan, are now kept at a high state of readiness, capable of being operationalized and released within seconds or minutes in a crisis—not hours, as had been assumed.”

If Indian warheads are increasingly mated to their delivery systems, then it would be harder for an adversary to detect when a crisis is about to rise to the nuclear threshold. With separated warheads and delivery systems, the signals involved with mating the two would be more visible in a crisis, and the process itself would take longer. But widespread canisterization with fully armed missiles would shorten warning time. This would likely cause Pakistan to increase the readiness of its missiles as well and shorten its launch procedures––steps that could increase crisis instability and potentially raise the likelihood of nuclear use in a regional crisis [emphasis added]. As Vipin Narang and Christopher Clary noted in a 2019 article for International Security, this development “enables India to possibly release a full counterforce strike with few indications to Pakistan that it was coming (a necessary precondition for success). If Pakistan believed that India had a ‘comprehensive first strike’ strategy and with no indication of when a strike was coming, crisis instability would be amplified significantly.”

For years, it was evident that India’s new Agni-V intermediate-range missile (the Indian Ministry of Defense says Agni-V has a range of up to 5,000 kilometers; the US military says the range is over 5,000 kilometers but not ICBM range) would be canisterized; however, the introduction of the shorter-range, canisterized Agni-P suggests that India ultimately intends to incorporate canisterization technology across its suite of land-based nuclear delivery systems, encompassing both shorter- and longer-range missiles. While Agni-V is a new addition to India’s arsenal, Arni-P might be intended––once it becomes operational––to replace India’s older Agni-I and Agni-II systems.

MIRV technology

It appears that India is also developing technology to potentially deploy multiple warheads on each missile. There is still uncertainty about how advanced this technology is and whether it would enable independent targeting of each warhead (using multiple independently-targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs) or simply multiple payloads against the same target [emphasis added].

The Agni-P test in June 2021 was rumored to have used two maneuverable decoys to simulate a MIRVed payload, with unnamed Indian defense sources suggesting that a functional MIRV capability will take another two years to develop and flight-test. The Indian MOD press release did not mention payloads. It is unclear whether the December 2021 test utilized decoys in a similar manner.

In 2013, the director-general of DRDO noted in an interview that “Our design activity on the development and production of MIRV is at an advanced stage today. We are designing the MIRVs, we are integrating [them] with Agni IV and Agni V missiles.” In October 2021, the Indian Strategic Forces Command conducted its first user trial of the Agni-V in full operational configuration, which was rumored to have tested MIRV technology. The MOD press release did not mention MIRVs.

If India succeeds in developing an operational MIRV capability for its ballistic missiles, it would be able to strike more targets with fewer missiles, thus potentially exacerbating crisis instability with Pakistan. If either country believed that India could potentially conduct a decapitating or significant first strike against Pakistan, a serious crisis could potentially go nuclear with little advance warning [emphasis added]. Indian missiles with MIRVs would become more important targets for an adversary to destroy before they could be launched to reduce the damage India could inflict. Additionally, India’s MIRVs might prompt Indian decision-makers to try and preemptively disarm Pakistan in a crisis.

India’s other nuclear adversary, China, has already developed MIRV capability for some of its long-range missiles and is significantly increasing its nuclear arsenal, which might be a factor in India’s pursuit of MIRV technology. A MIRV race between the two countries would have significant implications for nuclear force levels and regional stability. For India, MIRV capability would allow it to more rapidly increase its nuclear stockpile in the future, if it so decided––especially if its plutonium production capability can make use of the unsafeguarded breeder reactors that are currently under construction.

Implications for India’s nuclear policy

India has long adhered to a nuclear no-first-use (NFU) policy and in 2020 India officially stated that there has been no change in its NFU policy. Moreover, the Agni-V test launch in October 2021 was accompanied by a reaffirmation of a “’credible minimum deterrence’ that underpins the commitment to ‘No First Use’.”

At the same time, however, the pledge to NFU has been caveated, watered-down, and called into question by government statements and recent scholarship. The increased readiness and pursuit of MIRV capability for India’s strategic forces could further complicate India’s adherence to its NFU policy and could potentially cause India’s nuclear adversaries to doubt its NFU policy altogether [emphasis added, note the post quoted at the start of this one].

Given that Indian security forces have repeatedly clashed with both Pakistani and Chinese troops during recent border disputes, potentially destabilizing developments in India’s nuclear arsenal should concern all those who want to keep regional tensions below boiling point.

Background Information:

*“Indian Nuclear Forces, 2020,” FAS Nuclear Notebook, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 2020.

*Status of World Nuclear Forces, Federation of American Scientists

And a very relevant September post on the Pakistan situation:

Pakistan Continuing to Nuke Up

What with India also being a nuclear power, the endless Kashmir confrontation, and now the Pakistan-backed Taliban in charge in Afghanistan, one continues to believe the subcontinent may be the most dangerous place in the world (Taiwan aside perhaps [and now Ukraine getting up there]). One trusts the US has workable plans to take out Islamabad’s nukes if the country looks like going full Islamist itself…

A bit of historical background with a link to the Indian subcontinent:

Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds" | Know Your Meme

‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds’. The story of Oppenheimer’s infamous quote

The line, from the Hindu sacred text the Bhagavad-Gita, has come to define Robert Oppenheimer, but its meaning is more complex than many realise

The first detonation of a nuclear device conducted on July 16 1945 was a result of the Manhattan Project which...
The first detonation of a nuclear device, conducted on July 16, 1945 was a result of the Manhattan Project which Oppenheimer led Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

UPDATE: On the other hand about Oppenheimer and the Trinity test:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Here’s Looking at NORAD/NORTHCOM’s Way Ahead, or, Deterrence and Punishment

(Note second comment for another relevant SLCM map–how much ASW done off western coast of North America? Radar detecting capabilities vs cruise missiles?)

Further to this May 2021 post,

NORAD (and NORTHCOM) Thinking Offense of some sort vs Russian Threats–what does Canadian Government Think?

a few excerpts below from a paper by two very knowledgeable professors at the University of Manitoba, published in Strategic Studies Quarterly (Volume 15 Issue 4 – Winter 2021) of the Air University of the US Air Force.

The paper highlights the pretty urgent need to upgrade NORAD’s detection and defence capabilities, together with US Northern Command, to handle notably increased threats from Russia stemming from technological advances (cruise missiles, hypersonics) and greater resources for them. And then there is the PRC on the rise…Surely working towards defensive denial against some types of attacks beats relying almost completely on punishment? (Though the nature of punishment may be partially shifting in this cyber world.)

North America’s Imperative: Strengthening Deterrence by Denial

Andrea Charron

James Fergusson

In today’s threat environment, adversaries can hold the continent hostage unless leaders can bolster its deterrence posture. Rather than deterrence by punishment, however, the focus of NORAD, USNORTHCOM, and the Canadian Joint Operations Command must be on deterrence by denial and increasing the costs of actions by adversaries should they pursue an attack on North America…

This analysis briefly examines the strategic logic underpinning the need to modernize North American defense, focusing primarily on NORAD and deterrence by denial. It is vital that structural changes to the North American deterrence posture, including necessary investments, are made to alter adversarial perceptions so that North America cannot be held hostage. Beyond the need to modernize NORAD’s early warning and defense control capabilities to meet the new threat environment, both countries must modernize NORAD—the organization—and rethink the importance of protecting the North American homeland…

Defense

Alongside detection, defense is the second capability component of a credible North American denial deterrent. As with detection, existing gaps may affect adversary and North American (Canada and the United States) deterrence calculations. Several stand out in the traditional defense domains. Assuming Canada agrees on a CF-18 replacement and given the presence of US anti- cruise missile interceptors, the question becomes whether intercept density relative to NORAD’s assigned assets is sufficient to defend against cruise missile threats.

NORAD is also looking at existing northern forward operating loca-
tions and other possible locations farther south to meet maritime threats and potentially provide some form of layered defense. Additionally, there is a recognized requirement for in- flight refueling capabilities, and the deployment of anti-cruise missile point defenses must be considered. These factors strongly suggest more resources need to be dedicated to the air defense component of North American deterrence and then integrated into the detection side of the equation [emphasis added, esp. by Canada].

Maritime Complexity

…major surface combatants (including the future Royal Canadian Navy combat vessel) need to deploy sufficient anti- cruise missile air defenses [vs SLCMs launched from Russian subs and surface ships–see this post: “US Navy Talks Up Steps it’s Taking vs Russian Subs/Cruise Missiles in North Atlantic–why not Royal Canadian Navy? (Note Norway UPPESTDATE)“–and note image at top of the post], and these defenses need to be integrated into NORAD’s air defense assets. At a minimum, the role of maritime assets must be fully integrated into NORAD exercises to bolster North American deterrence requirements…

Conclusion

From the perspective of North American homeland defense and security, the current CANUS command structure and capabilities are locked into an exclusive deterrence-by-denial posture. Punishment as an alternative is not an option, which does not mean that an adversary does not confront a credible punishment threat. Rather, the punishment threat and thus punishment capabilities reside elsewhere and are exclusively American [emphasis added–but US thinking seems working towards giving NORTHCOM/NORAD a role in punishment, see this post: “Rethinking and Remaking North American Defence, or, a Revolution in NORAD Affairs? How, er, Proactive?” ]. The question then is whether the CANUS part of the equation is adequately structured and resourced to present a credible denial threat to an adversary. Arguably, an adversary could be dissuaded from directly threatening or attacking independent of a punishment threat conceived of as a last resort.

Importantly, any adversary, regardless of perceptions of denial credibility, cannot ignore or simply discount punishment given the reality of US strategic conventional and military capabilities. Of course, as a psychological theory designed to alter adversarial thinking and calculations, it is extremely difficult to know or predict how an adversary thinks and responds to a deterrence posture. Perhaps, then, what is more significant is how North American decision makers think about their own credibility. It is here that the North American conundrum resides.

The North American component of the US- led Western global deterrence posture should exist as the central deterrence hub such that an adversary does not perceive it as a vulnerability that could be exploited to deter US- led responses to regional challenges. Yet it is questionable whether US and Canadian decision makers even think in these terms about the homeland.

Both arguably remain fixated on the overseas components, with North America as an afterthought despite the rhetoric…The American view is that neither Russia nor China would dare strike North America due primarily to its overarching military superiority and last-resort strategic punishment capabilities. The Canadian view is really a nonview. Essentially, Canada does not really think in deterrence terms because it lacks the capabilities to deter credibly and because deterrence is an American responsibility, with Canada helping and warning where it can…

The basic answer is to alter deterrence thinking in North America. Structural changes, including necessary investments, to the North American deterrence [by denial] posture must be made to alter adversary perceptions so that North America cannot be held hostage [emphasis added]

These changes are obviously easier said than done. Despite the best efforts by senior NORAD and USNORTHCOM officials to communicate this message [see this March 2021 post: “US NORTHCOM Thinking pre-emptively vs Russian Cruise Missiles, Leaving NORAD a Backwater?“], it may take an unexpected overseas regional challenge resulting in a major crisis in which the lack of North American denial credibility comes to the fore. Unfortunately, by then, it may be too late. The need to refocus on denial is paramount.

Andrea Charron
Dr. Andrea Charron is an associate professor of international relations and director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the home of Canada’s NORAD headquarters.

James Fergusson
Dr. James Fergusson is a professor of international relations and deputy director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba. His latest book is Beyond Afghanistan: An International Security Agenda for Canada (2016)…

Thus a major thrust of the paper’s arguments is that, besides the clear need to modernize NORAD, along with NORTHCOM, to deal with threats to North America at the strategic level, those defences must also be capable of deterring, and if not handling effectively, more limited strikes against North America (conventional or even nuclear) in support of military operations elsewhere aimed at convincing the US to give up resisting those operations.

In that context note this bit from a 2015 post:

NORAD Note: Russian Bomber (with cruise missiles) Strikes in Syria

…Moscow’s bomber force remains a traditional component of its nuclear triad, but also forms a useful element in its quest for conventional deterrence, conferring the ability to reach out and touch the U.S. or NATO allies at great range…

Meanwhile the US in putting increasing pressure–including publicly by the dual-hatted USAF four-star general commanding NORAD and NORTHCOM–on PM Trudeau’s government to start committing to serious and funded actions on upgrading NORAD–a post:

NORAD Commander puts Hypersonic and North Warning System Cats amongst Trudeau Government’s Pigeons

One hopes some senior bureaucrats and, gasp, maybe a few ministers are at least briefed on the professors’ paper. Dream on, eh?

These tweets illustrate the current government’s continuing er, lackadaisical approach to NORAD (Mr Trudeau has been prime minister for over six years):

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

RAND Corp. on Managing Increasingly Fraught US Relations with PRC, Russia

A new RAND report, commissioned by the US Army, in my view (amongst other things) warn against putting too much effort into a hypersonics arms race with the PRC and Russia and cautions the army about trying too hard to find a major forward role vs the PLA.

Here is the “Research Synopsis”:

Stabilizing Great-Power Rivalries

by Michael J. Mazarr, Samuel Charap, Abigail Casey, Irina A. Chindea, Christian Curriden, Alyssa Demus, Bryan Frederick, Arthur Chan, John P. Godges, Eugeniu Han, et al…

The consensus inside and outside the U.S. government is that the international system is headed for a renewed era of intense and sometimes bitter competition among leading states. The objective of this research was to assess the emerging strategic competitions between the United States and both China and Russia, examine the approaches most likely to preserve long-term stability in these competitions, and draw implications for Army capabilities and posture. To this end, the authors reviewed existing literature on rivalries, identifying variables strongly associated with stability and instability, and, based on that research, developed a framework for assessment of such rivalries. They then applied this framework to historical cases of bilateral rivalries to identify the most important factors. Finally, they leveraged this work to assess the current state of U.S.-Russia and U.S.-China relations. Their assessment suggests that there are serious grounds for concern about the stability of both the U.S.-Russia and U.S.-China rivalries. While certain contextual factors, such as mutual strategic vulnerability, will remain buffers of conflict, many of the warning signs for instability are clearly visible, and the future seems likely to be even more volatile. The report offers recommendations for the U.S. government and the U.S. Army, in particular, to manage this challenging new era of competition. One overarching theme identified is that to ensure stability—and avoid war—the policy response to this intensified great-power competition should be nuanced and go beyond merely bolstering capabilities to counter rivals [emphasis added, hypersonics anyone?].

Research Questions

1. What can international relations theory and the history of great-power rivalries tell us about the key drivers of stability and instability in relations among leading states?

2. What is the state of the two key rivalries—with Russia and China—that the United States faces today?

3. What policies are required for the United States to maintain stability in its rivalries with China and Russia?

4. What are the implications for the U.S. Army as it adjusts for a period of intensified rivalries with Russia and China?

Key Findings

Stable Rivalries Are Associated with a Number of Key Factors

*Stable rivalries are defined by two key characteristics: the mutual acceptance of a shared status quo and a resilient equilibrium to absorb shocks and weather discontinuities.

*Historical and theoretical analysis suggests that stability is a function of the conditions that underlie the stability of a rivalry, including both contextual and policy factors and the key strategic perceptions of the rivals.

The U.S.-Russia and U.S.-China Rivalries Show Dangerous Signs of Instability

*The vast majority of the key factors that were assessed for this report are driving both the U.S.-China and U.S.-Russia rivalries toward instability rather than stability.

*The sole stabilizing factors at the moment relate to the mutual possession of deterring military power and the potentially devastating consequences of any conflict [emphasis added, not very cheering–a related post: “US Nuke Use at Non-Strategic Level (in context of Russian–maybe–doctrine “Escalate to De-escalate”“]].

The United States Has Policy Options to Stabilize These Rivalries

*The United States could seek to stabilize one or more of these rivalries if it chose; it has many potential policy options to do so.

*These options range from symbolic status-granting steps to more concrete crisis-management and confidence-building measures.

Recommendations

*Consider the unintended effects of military capability decisions. The deterrent effect of capability decisions is only half of the equation. When making decisions about posture or capability development, the United States should also consider their effects on stability [see posts below on hypersonics].

*Take seriously the need to develop formal and informal rules of the road. Historical evidence highlights the importance of rules and agreements to stabilize rivalries.

*Shape the international system to magnify its constraining effects. U.S. policy should seek to sustain and, where possible, deepen the set of norms and institutions the United States has helped create since 1945, which have served as a stabilizing ballast in the international system by making international status contingent on some degree of restraint [I’m not sure the US is in a position any more to effect such “shaping” policy–though The Blob may well think otherwise].

*Seek opportunities for mutual transparency, notification, and arms control. These formal agreements would go beyond the rules of the road mentioned earlier to limit the deployment of new capabilities and create mechanisms to reduce uncertainty [emphasis added, cannot hurt to make serious efforts].

*Look for ways to grant rivals increased status in exchange for creating a trade space for arrangements that would serve U.S. interests and enhance stability. If the United States is willing to offer signifiers of status in, for example, international institutions, it could both create a trade space for achieving other goals and reduce the incipient instability of the two rivalries [of course all depends on how far such appeasement–not necessarily a dirty word–goes and what is conceded, in what fashion].

*The U.S. Army will serve the nation’s interests most effectively if it continuously thinks in terms of stabilizing the rivalries rather than merely providing capabilities to threaten the adversary [see two posts at bottom below}.

Table of Contents

*Chapter One Introduction: Anticipating an Era of Great-Power Rivalry

*Chapter Two Theoretical Foundations: Understanding Rivalry

*Chapter Three Theoretical Foundations: Understanding Stability

*Chapter Four Case Study: The Anglo-German Rivalry, 1871–1913

*Chapter Five Case Study: The Sino–Soviet/Russian Rivalry, 1950–2001

*Chapter Six Case Study: The Cold War, 1947–1989

*Chapter Seven The Emerging U.S.-Russia Rivalry, 1991–2019

*Chapter Eight The Emerging U.S.-China Rivalry, 1996–2019

*Chapter Nine Overall Findings and Implications for the U.S. Army

Posts noted above:

US Nuke Hypersonics?

US Joint Chiefs Chairman over-hyper over PRC’s FOBS Hypersonics? (note UPDATE)

US Services’ Hypersonics Progress–Army looks like Fielding First

Western Pacific, or, US Army vs US Marines for Missions, Part 2

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Another Four Star US Air Force General put Public Defence Pressure on Canada (about NORAD)–in 1963

I guess what goes around comes around when a Canadian government won’t do its defence bit to a US administration’s satisfaction–when all else fails have a USAF four star go public in Ottawa.

First a post yesterday:

NORAD Commander puts Hypersonic and North Warning System Cats amongst Trudeau Government’s Pigeons

Then the goings-on in 1963, again with a NORAD angle:

Bomarc Missile Crisis

The CIM-10B Bomarc was the world’s first long-range, nuclear capable, ground-to-air anti-aircraft missile. Two squadrons of the missile were purchased…by the Canadian government in 1958. This was part of Canada’s role during the Cold War to defend North America against an attack from the Soviet Union. Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s refusal to equip the missiles with nuclear warheads led to a souring of Canada’s relationship with the United States {Diefenbaker led a Progressive Conservative government and was pro-British with an anti-American tinge; the Liberal party of the day was the opposite–autres temps, autres mœurs]

When announcing their purchase, Diefenbaker had failed to mention that they would only be effective if tipped with nuclear warheads; the fact that they would not became public in 1960. The Diefenbaker government then found itself under attack by those who believed that American nuclear weapons were needed in Canada to meet the country’s defence obligations and to keep Canadians safe. Meanwhile, others argued that nuclear weapons should never be allowed in Canada and should, in fact, be abolished altogether…

The nuclear weapons controversy split Diefenbaker’s Cabinet. Secretary of State for External Affairs, Howard Green, argued against placing nuclear weapons in Canada. Minister of Defence Douglas Harkness, on the other hand, supported arming the Bomarc missiles with nuclear weapons and allowing Canadian forces stationed in Germany to have access to American nuclear weapons if needed.

In January 1963, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander General Lauris Norstad said in a press conference in Ottawa that because Canada was not deploying nuclear weapons to its troops in Germany, nor equipping Bomarc missiles with nuclear warheads, it was failing in its obligations to its allies [emphasis added, more on Gen. Norstad here]. In February 1963, Defence Minister Douglas Harkness resigned.

…The [nuclear weapons} question became an important issue in the April 1963 federal election…..{Liberal leader] Pearson campaigned on equipping the Bomarc missiles with nuclear weapons. He also argued that providing Canadian troops in Europe with American nuclear weapons was an essential part of Canada’s NORAD and NATO obligations. Diefenbaker argued that housing American nuclear weapons in Canada would be dangerous and represented a breach of Canadian sovereignty.

The nuclear weapons question and Diefenbaker’s handling of the issue were major factors in the Liberals’ victory in the election. As prime minister, Pearson fulfilled his campaign promise; on 31 December 1963, the Bomarc missiles in Ontario and Quebec were affixed with American nuclear warheads…

Now clearly General Norstad’s intervention was only one, relatively minor, amongst the factors that led to Diefenbaker’s defeat. It was however part of a concerted effort by Kennedy administration to have the sitting Canadian prime minister defeated in the 1963 election–two articles on the subject:

How John F. Kennedy helped Diefenbaker lose an election

JFK secretly sent electoral agents into Canada to help elect the Liberals

Not that the Biden administration would do anything similar. An important factor in 1963 was that Diefenbaker and Kennedy loathed each other–see “10 reasons why ‘Dief the Chief’ and JFK hated each other“.

More on Prime Minister Pearson and Canada’s once having a nuclear weapons role at this post:

The Great Canadian Traditional Peacekeeping Myth vs Nuclear Weapons

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

War (What Is It Good For?), US Section

A retired US Marine colonel argues that the US, especially its military, must see beyond the goal of decisive victory in wars (last failure Afghanistan, more here) and start focusing on how military force can actually achieve desired policy objectives. Especially against major powers. After all is that not supposed to be what war is for? Clausewitz. See. And beware or fancy-schmancy thinking about nuke use. Excerpts from an article at the magazine, Proceedings (October 2021), of the US Naval Institute:

The Elusive Quest for Victory in War

The mission of the U.S. military might be better described as fighting and succeeding in the nation’s wars.

By Colonel Thomas C. Greenwood, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)

…Conceptualizing war in terms of winners and losers, rather than achievement of more modest political objectives, risks strategic overreach and ignores warfare’s historical trend toward gray inconclusiveness.3

Moreover, emotional terms such as victory and defeat can distract strategists and Pentagon planners from grappling with the complexities of war between nuclear adversaries: why it might occur, how it should be fought, and for what ends. The wrong mental model—nostalgic images reminiscent of the iconic 1945 surrender ceremony on board the USS Missouri (BB-63) [photo at top of the post]—can create false expectations and undermine popular support when use of force proves necessary. In short, victory and defeat trivialize why nations seek to limit war and strive to ensure that conventional conflicts do not escalate into nuclear conflagrations.

… the U.S. armed forces are more often used for humanitarian relief, peacekeeping operations, forward presence, state-building, promoting democracy, counterinsurgency, and counterterrorism than fighting existential threats requiring an adversary’s unconditional surrender. At least for now, wars of annihilation have become the exception rather than the rule. This is a positive development for mankind and may explain why nuclear weapons use is anathema. Nonetheless, discussion of war termination beyond a simplistic construct of winners and losers has failed to gain traction. There are a number of possible reasons why this is so, and several things can be done about it.

What Are We Fighting For?

One of war’s many paradoxes is that nations cannot achieve postwar objectives if their armed forces make a habit of losing battles and campaigns; however, winning them does not automatically translate into strategic success. The more protracted a conflict becomes, the easier it is to focus on the clash of opposing forces instead of the political objectives, or ends,for which the conflict is being waged…

As casualties and costs mount, senior leaders quite rightly reassess the value of the object for which they are fighting. Unfortunately, the metrics they use are often tactical in nature and focus on the number of enemy troops killed, bombs dropped, and cities captured instead of on other substantive prerequisites and strategic enablers necessary to achieve their political goals. The body count in Vietnam received more attention than the legitimacy and effectiveness of Saigon’s central government. In the second Iraq War, postconflict stabilization was an afterthought compared to how rapidly coalition forces liberated Baghdad…ensuring military action remains strategically intentional will present a perennial challenge…

Deterrence Dynamics

Today’s policymakers face three geostrategic imperatives: to avoid a major conventional war with China and Russia; to identify opportunities to cease hostilities while preserving U.S. national interests should conflict occur (frequently called “off-ramps”); and, most important, to reduce potential catalysts for escalation that could motivate adversaries to cross the nuclear threshold first.10 Theory-of-victory hyperbole clashes with all three by presenting a zero-sum approach for trying to prevent war and limiting escalation after conflict breaks out. Victory rhetoric also reflects a general disregard for nuclear deterrence dynamics.

Nations acquire nuclear weapons to protect themselves against regime change and existential defeat.11 Retaining second- (and possibly third-) strike nuclear response options means any adversary foolish enough to violate the nuclear taboo must be prepared to suffer devastating nuclear counterattacks. Mutually assured destruction restrains nuclear adversaries and has made deterrence by denial both credible and effective for more than 75 years. (That deterrence theory may be eroding is a different issue.12)

Advocates of brinkmanship and controlling escalation by fighting a limited nuclear war (i.e., embracing a “cost-imposition strategy” that seeks to punish an enemy with increasing levels of pain) overlook the primary incentive that dissuades great powers from crossing the nuclear threshold in the first place—confidence they can achieve an acceptable outcome to an ongoing conventional conflict without using weapons of mass destruction.13 The less favorable the outcome to one party, the more that side will be incentivized to cross the nuclear threshold.14 Signaling an intent to “double down” and “win” pushes deterrence dynamics in an unhelpful direction, which could inadvertently escalate a conflict. This is especially true if adversaries fear the United States is on the cusp of initiating conventional strikes to destroy their nuclear command-and-control systems and second-strike retaliatory capabilities. In short, this approach could trigger a “use it or lose it” mentality that spirals out of control.15

The emergence of dual-capability weapon systems (armed with conventional or nuclear warheads) and the continued improvement of conventional missile technology, especially highly maneuverable hypersonics, will make it more difficult to identify the nature of incoming attacks.16 This increases the risk decision-makers could misconstrue a conventional attack for a nuclear strike. It also explains why any future conventional war between major powers will naturally become a “competition over the limits of violence,” as both sides race to convince each other of their commitment to avoid escalation and find an off-ramp.17

The March to Success

in a big war between nuclear adversaries, for one side to prevail and “win” in a classical sense the threat or use of nuclear weapons is a virtual given. This hidden assumption about nuclear escalation is problematic. Moreover, when strategists do invent a scenario story, it is often heavily biased in favor of U.S. forces, exaggerating their positive impact and—most damning of all—underestimating adversaries’ ability to deny the United States its war objectives…

Use the F-Word

…while developing a theory of success will likely be a useful part of the military planning process, it will be insufficient—unless it is complemented with the F-word: Failure.

Assessing how a military plan can fail to achieve the desired and often murky political end state gives planners a feedback loop that can help strengthen the plan before it is approved and implemented. The loop works in two ways. First, for every major possible cause of failure planners identify, they can attempt to devise a remedy or mitigation. Next, planners can assign levels of risk to help senior political and military leaders decide which course of action or operational plan has the most promise to succeed…

Achieving Strategic Coherence

adopting a new lexicon that focuses on success instead of victory will help planners more carefully define the ends, ways, and means they will use to limit conflicts [emphasis added]. This approach should spawn a deeper appreciation across the national security community for the stark differences between fighting nonstate actors—who thus far have posed no existential threat to the U.S. homeland—and nuclear-armed adversaries capable of generating apocalyptic effects at almost any time and place.

British military historian Hew Strachan reminds us that Clausewitz believed

“the ultimate purpose of war was for peace. . . . The aim was to create a military situation sufficiently favorable to give relative advantage in the negotiation of peace. The destruction of the enemy’s armed forces or the seizure of his territory were not the aims of the war but the means to opening the door to its cessation.“24

U.S. military schools, diplomatic training courses, and midcareer executive education programs should continue to educate national security professionals about the adverse consequences of conflating means and ways with political ends. More important, the war aims (political objectives) the U.S. armed forces seek to accomplish using force must be crafted with a clarity that can come only from a thorough grasp of history, a mastery of critical-thinking skills, and lengthy public service careers that require engagement in constructive civil-military discourse—in which strategic wisdom is valued at least as much as tactical finesse and battlefield prowess.

Colonel Thomas C. Greenwood, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)

Colonel Greenwood is a research staff member at the Institute for Defense Analyses, a federally funded research and development center that works primarily with the Department of Defense. He was an infantryman who commanded the 15th MEU, served as director of the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and survived assignments in the Pentagon and on the National Security Council staff.

A relevant post from 2020:

Does US Lose Non-Nuclear War with China? Part 2

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

The song, although I disagree with the “absolutely nothing”:

The “Multilateral Force Lullaby”, or, a Proposed NATO Nuclear Deterrent Set to Song

Tom Lehrer was a superb American musical satirist of the 1960s (the great age of satire in both the US and UK)–this excerpt from a blog at the London Review of Books may suggest he had some background relevant to the biting piece that follows:

They’re playing our song

Jeremy Bernstein

Tom was in principle working on his thesis [at Harvard}. He published a couple of technical papers but in 1955 he was drafted into the army and served for two years. He was assigned to the National Security Agency. I once asked him what he did there and the only thing he would say was that NSA stood for ‘No Such Agency’. He also spent some time at Los Alamos. When he got out he went back to graduate school although by this time he had begun serious touring with his songs. He never got his second degree but he began teaching at MIT…

That NATO Multilateral Force never materialized, a brief account here. Now the lullaby, brought back to my attention by a friend a while ago:

Plus some more background on the Multilateral Force (MLF), from the NY Times in December 1964:

Multilateral Force Or Farce?

Throughout the Western alliance a controversy has been raging around the initials M. L. F. They stand for Multilateral Force—the name given a United States proposal to share control of nuclear weapons among the NATO powers. The idea, calling for a fleet armed with Polaris missiles and manned by citizens of various nations, has just been given fresh endorsement by President Johnson [back in those days a lot more people put periods in acronyms]…

I remember reading about the MLF at the time and thinking it a rather fanciful, if not fantastic, concept: “The United States’ MLF proposal consisted of twenty-five surface ships resembling merchant-type vessels. Each ship would carry eight Polaris A-3 missiles”. Yep.

And the conclusion of a fuller piece on Tom Lehrer at Nature:

Tom Lehrer at 90: a life of scientific satire

Andrew Robinson celebrates the high notes in the mathematician’s inimitable musical oeuvre…

As for his songs, their vigour, concision, melodic variety and humour never stale. Although Lehrer is absurdly omitted from the Encyclopaedia Britannica (unlike his friend, the lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim), his scathing creations remain one of the most original — not to mention mathematically elegant — bodies of artistic work to come out of the United States in the twentieth century.

One cannot but conclude that those were, at the very least, cleverer times. The MLF, at least, aside.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Theme song, “Don’t Let’s Be Beastly To The Germans:

US Navy Talks Up Steps it’s Taking vs Russian Subs/Cruise Missiles in North Atlantic–why not Royal Canadian Navy? (Note Norway UPPESTDATE)

From the start of a 2020 post:

…one notes the US Navy is certainly taking those submarines seriously in public; so why does the Royal Canadian Navy stay largely mute? Why does our Navy not highlight an anti-submarine warfare mission (ASW) in the North Atlantic (its focus with NATO during the Cold War)?

US Navy’s Revived 2nd Fleet Revving-up for Another Possible Battle of the Atlantic, with the Russian Navy’s Subs [note the “Comments”]

Since then I don’t think I’ve seen a word from the RCN or the Canadian Forces specifically about their role in countering this serious, growing threat that the US perceives (the RCAF is also fully involved with its CP-140 patrol planes). Those cruise missiles approaching North America from the east are also a threat that NORAD must deal with. Our silence is all the more striking as both the UK and Norway are highlighting their ASW missions vs Russian subs in the High North on their side of the pond and off their coasts–from 2019: “UK & Norway Reinforce Commitment for Joint ASW Ops in North Atlantic“.

Yet crickets from Canada. And that NATO ASW mission is the single most import one for the RCN’s planned 15 new frigates (whenever they get built). Meanwhile the lastest trumpeting from the US Navy at US Naval Institute News:

Navy Creates New Atlantic Destroyer Task Group to Hunt Russian Submarines

By: Mallory Shelbourne

The Navy has created a new task group on the East Coast to ensure it has ready destroyers that can deploy on short notice to counter the Russian submarine threat in the Atlantic Ocean.Task Group Greyhound – which officially declared initial operational capability on Sept. 1 – is a force-generation model for destroyers that is embedded within the Navy’s Optimized Fleet Response Plan.

The plan is to take destroyers that have recently completed deployments and are awaiting maintenance availabilities and make them ready for training and operations in the Atlantic.

Greyhound is “designed to provide the fleet with predictable, continuously ready and fully certified warships,” Rear Adm. Brendan McLane, the commander of Naval Surface Force Atlantic, said in a Monday ceremony aboard USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116) in Mayport, Fla.

“The ships will be ready to accomplish the full range of missions – including tracking Russian undersea activity in the Atlantic and maritime homeland defense for our nation [emphasis added].”

The task force shares a name with the 2020 surface warfare movie “Greyhound,” in which a collection of allied destroyers defend a North Atlantic convoy from German U-boats.

USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) – which recently completed several years forward-deployed in Rota, Spain and is now based in Mayport – and Thomas Hudner are the first destroyers to become part of the task group. USS The Sullivans (DDG-68), which is currently deployed with the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group, will join the task group in January when it returns. USS Cole (DDG-67) and USS Gravely (DDG-107) will become part of Greyhound next year when Donald Cook begins its maintenance period…

The creation of the new task group comes as the Navy has refocused assets and efforts on the Atlantic region due to Russia’s undersea capability. The service formally reestablished U.S. 2nd Fleet, which covers the North Atlantic and East Coast, in 2018 amid concerns over Russian submarines operating in the waters [emphasis added].

The Russian Navy has developed next-generation attack submarines armed with long-range land-attack [cruise] missiles with ranges of 1,000 miles or more [emphasis added, Yasen-class of sub a particular concern, those missiles could have nuke warheads, some could be hypersonic].

The ships will be based out of Mayport and Norfolk, Va., and the task group is set for full operational capability by June 2022…

“The strategic threat to the homeland has entered a new era and our key competitors have deployed and continue to advance a range of capabilities to hold the homeland at risk,” McLane said…

And from another story:

The Navy has acknowledged for several years now that Russians submarines are increasingly slipping through the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom (GIUK) Gap and operating on this side of the Atlantic. That acknowledgement spurred the standup of U.S. 2nd Fleet, which was meant to coordinate anti-submarine warfare efforts across the Atlantic and in conjunction with the Italy-based U.S. 6th Fleet. It also spurred the standup of Submarine Group 2 that Davies leads — where he is dual-hatted as the deputy 2nd Fleet commander, raising the profile of sub-hunting missions to the fleet level…

The mystery of Canada’s silence only deepens for me. The Americans and NATO, especially the UK and Norway, must wonder too.

UPDATE: NATO’s new Allied Joint Force Command Norfolk (VA.), headed by the USN admiral in command of US Second Fleet, also highlights the new USN ASW effort using the same USNI News story as this post (JFC Norfolk doesn’t mention Russia itself but the story sure does):

UPPERDATE:

Russia test-fires new hypersonic missile from a nuclear submarine

A prospective Russian hypersonic missile has been successfully test-fired from a nuclear submarine for the first time, the military said Monday.The Russian Defense Ministry said that the Severodvinsk submarine performed two launches of the Zircon cruise missile at mock targets in the Barents Sea.It first test-fired Zircon from the surface, and then launched another missile from a submerged position in the White Sea.

The launch marked Zircon’s first launch from a submarine. It previously has been repeatedly test-fired from a navy frigate, most recently in July.Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Zircon would be capable of flying at nine times the speed of sound and have a range of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles). Putin has emphasized that its deployment will significantly boost Russian military capability [so subs would have to approach pretty close to North America to launch].

Officials said Zircon’s tests are to be completed later this year and it will be commissioned by the Russian navy in 2022…

UPPESTDATE: Unlike Canada, even Norway is willing to specify Russian cruise missiles sub threat–at Aviation Week anjd Space Technology:

Norway Outlines Defense Plans Amid Military Overhaul

In mid-November, Norway accepted its first of five Boeing P-8 Poseidons, making the country the first operator of the modern maritime-patrol aircraft on the front line with Russia as it deploys more advanced and capable submarines. Specifically, the new Severodvinsk-class cruise-missile sub “demands our attention” and requires Norway to field new capabilities to hunt quiet subs [emphasis added], Norway’s defense attache, Maj. Gen. Odd-Harald Hagen, tells Aviation Week.Norway is spending 11 billion krone ($1.23 billion) to replace its fleet of five Lockheed P-3C Orions and two Dassault Falcon 20s. The P-8s will be operated by 333 Sqdn. at Evenes Air Station in the north of the country.

The base is also home for quick-reaction F-35As, where operations began in September. As of mid-November, Norway has received 31 of its planned 52 F-35As [emphasis added].

Canada, for its part, is still years away from receiving the first new fighter for the RCAF:

Ottawa declines Boeing’s bid to replace Canada’s aging fighter jet fleet

…the first plane {now only F-35A and Saab Gripen left in competition] set to be delivered in 2025.

The last plane isn’t scheduled to arrive until 2032 — at which point the CF-18s will have been around for 50 years.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds