Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Catch me if you can - part 2

The potpourri continues:

Russia is planning to install Iskander missiles in Syria and its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, in a response to United States missile interceptors in Poland and U.S.-Israeli military aid to Georgia, an Israeli news agency reported on Monday. Russia is furthermore reported to plan arming warships, submarines and long-range bombers in the Baltic and Middle East with nuclear warheads. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni spoke out against the deployment of Russian missiles on Syrian territory. Admitting that Russia has “its own interests” in the Middle East, Livni added however that “no one has an interest in destabilizing the region.”

Ukraine is ready to cooperate with West on missile defense after Russia abrogated of an agreement with Ukraine on early warning and space monitoring systems in February.

Israel and the US have agreed to deploy a high- powered, early-warning missile radar in Israel. The radar will be manned by US-personnel and will be linked to a US satellite-based alert network. The new system will more than double Israel's early- warning system to 2,000 kilometers.

A National Research Council blue-ribbon panel of defense experts is recommending development and testing of a conventional warhead for submarine-launched intercontinental Trident missiles to give the president an alternative to using nuclear weapons for a prompt strike anywhere in the world. The panel recognized that the launch of a conventional SLBM could not be distinguished from a nuclear one and suggested several ways to mitigate it, but in the end it concluded that the benefits outweighed the risks. Conventional SLBM were described as "attractive in the near term".

The disarmament spokesman of the German co-governing Social Democratic Party (SPD) Rolf Muetzenich said the signing of the American GMD deal in Warsaw will further heat up the arms race. He urged to step up efforts to promote disarmament and arms control, if the US missile shield were to become a fixed component of American security policy. "Otherwise this could lead to military threats which could even go beyond the Cold War," the lawmaker stressed.

Over at the Arms Control Wonk Joshua took up the discussion about the origin of the Iranian Ashura missile. Is it Iranian-made? Is China the source? And what about India?

For those of you who have time at their hands can find a 49-page report on “Sea-Based Ballistic Missile Defense - Background and Issues for Congress” (dated August 11) over at the OpenCRS site.

Catch me if you can

Once again I have to catch up with the events of the recent days. So let’s start with India, which is again BrahMos-dominated:

The Indian army has ordered an additional batch of BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles from the Russian-Indian BrahMos Aerospace joint venture, the company's CEO said without disclosing the exact size of the order. However, it was announced that the order was worth US$2 billion. A senior defense official in India, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the deal was part of a long-term agreement between BrahMos and the Indian military. With this order the total order book for the BrahMos, including supplies to other countries, could reach $10 billion.

UPI Asia Online has an article about India boosting its air force at the Indo-Chinese border. Within the next four months, a first batch of eight Su-30MKI multi-role fighters will be positioned at the Tezpur Airp Base in the Indian state of Assam. India plans to outfit the fighters with the latest BrahMos air-to-ground supersonic missiles. The serial production of these cruise missiles is planned to start after the completion of field trials next year, a top official here said.

Indian promotional materials indicate guidance improvements to the BrahMos over the original design.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Russia's reprisal options

There was no need to wait long until we get some “options” how Russia might react to the conclusion of the US-Polish agreement. RIA Novosti came up with an article by Yury Zaitsev, who is an academic adviser at the Russian Academy of Engineering Sciences. He writes that:

Russian missile defense systems will not be able to distinguish missile interceptors launched from Polish territory from ballistic missiles. Any launch of an interceptor will automatically result in retaliation, and not only at the interceptor deployment site.
This direct threat to Poland has to be seen in the light that Russia mentioned earlier that it could direct its missiles toward Poland in case it should decide to host the interceptor base.
Russia does not want to be dragged into another arms race, but it should not ignore the emerging threats. Its most obvious reply to the U.S. missile defense deployment would be equipping its Topol-M missiles with supersonic maneuverable warheads, using jammers, and reducing the boost phase of Russian missiles. It is also important to equip the armed forces with new MIRVed missiles.
Both ideas are not new. For some background information on the maneuverable warhead check the Missilethreat website. Russia is already working on MIRVed versions of the Topol-M, which are labeled RS-24. It is expected to complete the RS-24 flight tests program with the two launches scheduled for this year and, if the tests are successful, begin deployment of RS-24 in 2009.
Russia could also revive its program to develop global missiles, which could be put into near-Earth orbits and directed at enemy territory while bypassing missile defenses.
This is also a revamped idea: in the 1960’s the Soviet Union came up with the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS). After launch an ICBM would go into a low Earth orbit and would then de-orbit for an attack. The clear military benefits of this program were that the missile had no range limit and the orbital flight path would not reveal the target location. While the FOBS program did not constitute a breach of the Outer Space Treaty, the program was phased out in January 1983 in compliance with the SALT II agreement, which explicitly banned fractional orbital missiles. However, the Reagan Administration withdrew from SALT II in 1986 after accusing the Soviets of violating the pact. Therefore there are currently no international obligations that ban Russian from reanimating FOBS.
[Russia] could also deploy Iskanders, with a range of up to 500 km, there. Initially any missiles in Kaliningrad would be strictly non-nuclear, but they could be equipped with nuclear warheads when Poland hosts the interceptors.
The frequent readers of my blog know that this idea is around for a while. Considerations exist to not only deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad but also in Belarus. Back in November 2007 Minsk has announced that the missile brigade, which will be equipped with Iskanders, will be deployed in the Mogilev Region, which is near the Russian border. This would mean that the US-interceptor-base at Redizikowo Pomorskie would be out of range, namely roughly 860km away which significantly exceeds the range of 280km of the Iskander-E (export) version. Only an updated version of the Iskander could put the interceptor base into reach but this would at the same time constitute a breach of Russia’s MTCR obligations. Back in May 2007 Sergej Ivanov said in an interview after an R-500 missile test that Russia will definitely not infringe its international MTCR obligations but the extension of the Iskander missiles’ range for Russia’s own purposes is a different issue.

Yury Zaitsev came up with another recommendation for Moscow how to formulate the sought “adequate response”:
[…] reducing the number of strategic offensive arms enhances the role of missile defense systems [and] therefore, Russia should keep an adequate nuclear deterrent in the next few decades, which must become one of the most important military and political tasks.
This is no surprise either. The importance of the Russian nuclear forces was stressed quite often in the recent time. The START I treaty will expire on 5 December 2009 and the SORT-of Moscow Treaty only regulates the number of warheads deployed by 31 December 2012. This is also the day on which the treaty loses all force. From that day on Russia will not be obliged to limit its nuclear arsenal in the future unless any follow-up agreements will be concluded. However, the technical and financial means for a major nuclear weapon expansion are not given. As examples serve the slow pace of the deployment of Topol-M missiles and the numerous failed tests of the Bulava missile. One option, of course, would be MIRVing existing missiles, as already mentioned above.

These are of course all worst-case options but as things are now there is no reason to be overly optimistic that Russia and the United States will find a negotiated solution any time soon. Probably a severe plunge in the oil-price would help but this is equally unlikely to happen soon.

UPDATE: Now we could hear the first nuclear threats in the direction of Poland. General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, a staunch supporter of Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, pointed out that Russian doctrine permitted the use of nuclear weapons 'against the allies of countries having nuclear weapons if they in some way help them.'

Friday, August 15, 2008

Irony and non-relatedness: Washington and Warsaw sign a GMD agreement

I love life – it is full of ironies. Read here about the latest episode: for a long time the Russian complains about the offensive nature of the two European bases of the U.S. GMD system could be heard everywhere. Russia strongly opposed the missile shield plan, which it says will undermine its nuclear deterrent and threaten its national security. It tried hard to thwart Washington’s plans using some small carrots and numerous huge sticks:

Russian officials earlier said Moscow could deploy its Iskander tactical missiles and strategic bombers in Belarus and Russia's westernmost exclave of Kaliningrad if Washington succeeded in its missile shield plans in Europe. Moscow also warned it could target its missiles on Poland.
After all this rumbling, Russia was now the main reason why Poland and the United States signed yesterday, August 14, a preliminary agreement to deploy 10 interceptors in Poland operated by US soldiers. Its tanks in Georgia gave a fresh impetus to the negotiations and led to their conclusion.

The agreement was reached after Washington had "given very serious consideration" to Warsaw's demands, i.e. it agreed to reinforce Poland's air defenses. According to the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Poland will receive 96 Patriot missiles which it can base “wherever it regards it to be of importance for its security”.

Defence Minister Bogdan Klich told the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita:
"We're also counting on the fact that getting Patriots would allow us discounts on other batteries and open the road to a more modern air defence system, like the THAAD."
In addition to that there will be two U.S. garrisons permanently based on Polish territory. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said in televised remarks that "the events in the Caucasus show clearly that such security guarantees are indispensable." But his Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has a different opinion: he said “this has nothing to do with Georgia […] We agreed this negotiating phase a week ago.” You can listen to a short interview with him here. White House and State Department officials also denied that the signing of the deal was linked to events in Georgia. I beg your pardon, not linked to Georgia? C’mon. Poland probably all of a sudden realized that it made a stupid mistake by not accepting the U.S. offer at the very beginning of the negotiation-marathon. The Russian tanks in Georgia in these days and back in 1968 in Prague during the Prague Spring are certainly not related to it at all.

Anyhow, the Russian senior State Duma member Gennady Gudkov said that the deal would further divide European countries into U.S. "vassals" and those pursuing more independent policies. It would be interesting to know if he had Georgia in mind as a shining example of an independent country when he made this comment.

Besides that there has been no factual response from Russia. Probably the threats of withdrawing from the INF treaty will be tabled again. The calls for deploying Iskander missiles in Belarus will also be heard again. Earlier this month Russian Ambassador to Belarus Alyaksandr Surikov noted that Russia will not return nuclear weapons to Belarus. However, this was back in the pre-agreement age. Only a symbolical step was taken so far: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is reported to have cancelled a scheduled visit to Poland shortly after the deal was announced. But probably this cancellation has nothing to do with this trip, too.

The deal still has to be ratified by Polish parliament, the Sejm and both countries’ governments. The US-Czech agreement which was signed on July 8 also awaits ratification. Officials say the interceptor base in Poland will be opened by 2012. The radar in Brdy, Czech Republic, is scheduled to be ready in 2014.

I am eager to get some updated polls to see if the attitude of the population of the two countries has change since the Russia’s Georgia adventure. Prior to that the percentage of Czechs and Poles who oppose the hosting of the GMD components was in the low 70’s.

Friday, August 8, 2008

BrahMos A La Playa

BrahMos Aerospace said it has developed two additional air and sub-surface variants of its BrahMos supersonic cruise missile. These versions come in addition to the four types India already possesses: ship-to-ship, land-to-land, land-to-ship and ship-to-land.

BrahMos Aerospace chief executive and managing director, Sivathanu Pillai, said that they are very close to the launch of the underwater version and the navy has to ready the requisite platform for the testing. I am curious to find out what kind of platform will be this time. Will India make use of its supersonic submarines or will they conduct the launch again from their underwater launcher positioned in the Bay of Bengal, from which they already launched their Sagarika back in February?

I already wrote in an earlier post about the air-version of the BrahMos. Domain-b provides now some additional insight. It reports that

the development systems were ready and the integrated test would be undertaken after mock firing. However, the launch of the air version and commercial production would take some time as certain structural modifications were yet to be made in the Russian-built Sukhoi aircraft.
Another news source quoted Sivathanu Pillai saying that “by 2009 trials for the air version of BrahMos will start and it will be ready for induction in the Air Force by 2012”.

Let’s continue with our one-man-show: Pillai said furthermore that the company would also take up BrahMos-2 project under a major expansion program to produce hypersonic missiles that could cruise at speeds of 5-7 Mach.

India is eager to speed up the production of the BrahMos. The recent acquisition of an assembly plant in the state of Kerala from Kerala Hightech Industries Ltd in addition to the main plant in Hyderabad, would allow the company to increase production to 50 BrahMos missiles a year and fulfill the army orders on schedule. You can certainly guess who spread this piece of information …. Sivathanu Pillai.

Please stay tuned for the next episode of our one-man-show "The best toys of Sivathanu Pillai".

Top image: Sivathanu Pillau (left) © The Hindu Businessline
lower infochart: © RIA Novosti

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Cobra crossed the finish line

India conducted its announced Nag-test with a delay of almost two weeks on August 5-6. The Nag missiles (Hindi for Cobra) were successfully fired on stationary and moving targets. writes:

Nag was fired from Namica, a dedicated missile carrier built by Bharat Electronics. The Nag is a two-stage solid propellant missile, and each Namica carries 12 missiles with eight in ready-to-fire mode.
The Indian army has reportedly ordered 443 Nag missiles and 13 Namicas to be put into service over the next three years. The Army is also on the verge of floating new tenders to induct another 4,000 Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM). Army needs these missiles in large numbers, which is evident by acquisition of 4,000 ATGM from Russia and France recently.

According to the Defense Technology News, the Nag will also have an airborne version named Helina to be fitted on the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter, which will be configured to carry eight missiles in two launchers. The Helina would have an extended range of eight kilometres and would be ready in two-and-half years.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

upcoming Indian missile defense test

India announced that it will take another step towards developing a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in the next few days. India conducted in November 2006 one exo-atmospheric interceptor test and in December 2007 an endo-atmospheric test. Both were successful. This time it is again an exo-atmospheric test in which India tries to intercept an MRBM in the 2,000 km range at an altitude of around 80-km. A combined endo-exo-atmospheric test is scheduled for September / October.

The Times of India quoted DRDO chief controller for missiles, V K Saraswat, who mentioned that the first component of the BMD system should be ready for deployment by 2011 or so, after several tests against a variety of missiles to ensure "a kill probability of 99.8%". Air Marshal AK Trikha comments these expectations n his read-worthy article “India’s Quest for Anti-Ballistic Missile Defence” in the Indian Defence Review:

However as seen so often before, DRDO community can not be faulted for suffering from any exaggerated sense of modesty.
If the turtles have finished their nesting and breeding by now, there should be no delays so we can see soon whether DRDO adjusts its deployment prediction or if he just “forgets” that he ever had such ambitious aims.

Cross-blogging: U.S. Missile Defense overview

Jeff referred in his Nukes of Hazard blog to the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation’s report “Missile Defense in Europe Falls to Next Administration”. The report provides a handy overview of the current state and the problems.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Russia's secretive missile test

Russia conducted on Friday a missile test that was unusually secretive. It was probably a R-29R SLBM. Read about the test over at Pavel Podvig’s Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces Blog.

UPDATE: Pavel reports that it was indeed a R-29R.

India goes clubbing

The Hindustan Times reports that India is on the verge of acquiring a strategic capability to strike land targets thousands of miles from its shores by inducting the Russian underwater launched Klub-S subsonic cruise missiles. These missiles will come as a goody together with the delivery of the Sindhuvijay, an Indian Navy Kilo-class submarine that was overhauled at the Russian Zvezdochka shipyard at the White Sea. The Klub-S is a high-precision missile that can be launched from standard torpedo tubes from a depth of 35 to 40 meters with a range of – according to the Hindustan Times - 275 sm.

The article continues by informing that the Klub-S is not the only new missile that India will get together with the upgraded Kilo-class, known as the Sindhughosh Class in Indian service:

Besides the land attack version, the subs are also coming armed with 3M-54EI anti-ship cruise missiles.

This is all in a tumble; let’s make some sense out of this: the Klub is an anti-sub and anti-ship cruise missile system (ASCM) that is sometimes referred to as the Club, Biryuza, Alpha and Alfa. Two modifications exist: Klub-S for submarines and Klub-N for surface vessels.

The crew of knows that:

Five types of missiles - 3M-54E, 3M-54E1, 3M-14E, 91RE1 and 91RE2 - have been developed for the Club ASCM. The Club-S can be armed with a 3M-54E or 3M-54E1 anti-ship missile, 3M-14E submarine-to-coast missile or a 91RE1 anti-submarine torpedo. The Club-N can be armed with a 3M-54E or 3M-54E1 anti-ship missile, 3M-14E submarine-to-coast missile or a 91RE2 anti-submarine torpedo.

The missiles come with the Kilo-class submarine, so we have the S-version of the Klub family. The range of allegedly 275sm can be corrected to 275kn. There is no Klub-missile with a range of 275sm and the export of such a missile would furthermore put Russia into breach of its MTCR obligations, because 275sm are more than 500km. Because the Hindustan Times brags about the “capability to strike land targets thousands of miles from its shores” we can assume that this missile is the 3M14-E LACM, the family’s land-attack version.

The second missile that was wrongly labeled “3M-54EI” by the Hindustan Times is the 3M-54E1 version of the Klub-S ASCM. This missile is the Russian equivalent of the Tomahawk and is almost identical in shape to the 3M14E. Because the missile is subsonic it must be the 3M-54E1, without the addition 1 it would be the supersonic version, which can only carry a 200kg warhead instead of the 400kg that can be delivered by the 3M-54E1 and the 3M-14E.

Those of you who want more details can have a look at “The Klub Missile Family” by the Defense Threat Information Group.

Ok, the missile riddle is solved. However, there is another piece of information in the screwed up Hindustan Times article that still makes me wonder:

Naval sources said Sindhuvijay will start sailing from the Russian shipyard located close to the White sea on August 5 and dock at Western Naval Command base in Mumbai a week later.
One week for more than 15.000km? This is not bad. According to the conventional wisdom the Kilo-class submarines have a speed of 25 knots = 46km/h. This sums up to 7728 km in a week of full speed ahead. So it seems that the Indian navy preferred to have supersonic submarines over having supersonic Klub missiles.

Picture © DTIG