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  • US Prepares Strike on Iran

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on February 12th, 2006 (All posts by )

    US prepares military blitz against Iran’s nuclear sites

    ~The Daily Telegraph

    Related:
    Where the World Stands

    Interesting to see McCain described as the Republican front runner for 2008. McCain/Lieberman? That’d be an interesting ticket. Drive the wings on both sides completely nuts. Strong center and cross party appeal, obviously.

    More interesting perhaps, and certainly of more immediate relevance, is the article’s disclosure that submarine ballistic missiles are being refitted with conventional warheads. How odd. Why?

    Cons:

    1) Ballistic missiles are not known for their precision. According to the Directory of US Rockets and Missiles (not a DoD site), the circular error of probability for a Trident D5 warhead, which is the circular zone in which the weapon is likely to strike, is 300 meters (1000 feet or 1/5 of a mile) across. That is not precise. Of course, if you’re detonating half a megaton of thermonuclear hell in that zone, in essence giving birth to a small star there, it doesn’t matter. If, however, you’re detonating a 2000 lb warhead, it matters a lot. Missing by 500 feet is missing by a lot. Will this conventional warhead be finely maneuvering in its terminal phase? It would have to, in order to be effective. Optically guiding perhaps? GPS? Infrared imaging? Who knows. This speaks of years of development and I hadn’t heard a word about it until now. Interesting.

    2) Ballistic missiles like the Trident D5 are very, very expensive. That makes sense too. They’re designed to be fired from underwater, from half a world away, go into orbit, then open and dispense from 6 to 14 independently targeted nuclear warheads which then re-enter the atmosphere onto their target points. Behind each warhead is an immense factory, refinement facility and assembly complex which created the atomic bomb trigger, plus the exotic blends of deuterium and lithium used in the hydrogen-fusion portion of the weapon. Also included are inertial guidance systems, telemetry systems, fusing and safety mechanisms, rocket engines, etc. All to produce several hundred weapons. Each weapon costs a small mint as a result. Throw in all the R&D, testing, tooling, deployment costs, training, crews, submarines and bases and you’re up to a large mint.

    Pros:

    1. Why not use Tomahawk cruise missiles? Why ballistic missiles instead? Those were my first questions. And the answer was immediately obvious. Tomahawk missiles are large, fat, slow moving vehicles that spend a lot of time cruising over the ground on their jet engines. Any air defense system the Iranians purchased from the Russians would, necessarily, contain an anti cruise missile capability. It would be a “must have” provision for the Iranians. But shooting down a ballistic re-entry vehicle, that’s a different matter! You can’t go out and buy one those. Unless you’re buying from Lockheed/Raytheon/Boeing/IAI, and I doubt they’re selling.

    2. Re-entry vehicles have immense terminal velocity. Think of a meteorite. That energy can be put to use in ground penetration.

    3. The infrastructure for these weapons systems is already in place and paid for. Why not take advantage? All that’s left is to refit with a properly designed conventional weapon.

    4. The US can park a submarine off their coast and hit them at will. No fleet surface ships necessary to telegraph your intentions. The strike can come out of nowhere with essentially no notice. By the time the Russians monitor the launch, call the Iranians, and the mullahs hit the panic button, the weapons will be almost on top of them. Ten minutes later B-2’s arrive hitting command, control and intel assets. That should make quite a mess.

     

    13 Responses to “US Prepares Strike on Iran”

    1. wf Says:

      According to this story, those warheads are far in the future.

    2. robert Says:

      Can it be that the navy – and especially the submarine fleet – feels squeezed out of the military future (and its budget), and this is a way of making its existing infrastructure more relevant to the post-Cold War world…and thus more attractive to fund?

    3. Barnabus Says:

      My very uneducated guess is your point number 2; i.e. the energy coming down from the re-entry vehicle must be tremendous and may be the only means of penetrating deep bunkers.

    4. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Seems awefuly expensive to me. Maybe we need to bring back the battleship. Those suckers could throw some weight.

    5. David Foster Says:

      The missiles are not that expensive in the context of weapons systems: the numbers I’ve seen are $25-$30 million each (without warhead) I don’t know if this includes amortization of R&D or not.

      I don’t think cost should be a decisive item anyhow, given the seriousness of the situation and the awful consequences of just about anything we do or fail to do. I do wonder, though, if quantities would be sufficient, given the number of sites that apparently exist.

    6. Jim Bennett Says:

      SLBMs with conventional warheads could be a very effective choice, precisely because of the lack of telegraphing and the speed of delivery. If the British had had conventional warheads for their Tridents at the start of the Falklands war it might have been over with much more quickly.

      Several points:

      1. The SLBMs do not go into orbit. That’d be a violation of several international treaties plus a waste of energy. They go to orbital altitudes but not orbital velocities.

      2. They might as well use the Tridents up. The solid propellant degrades over time.

      3. Yeah, the boomer guys have been feeling underutilized since the end of the Cold War. They’d love to prove their relevance again.

    7. Jim Bennett Says:

      McCain the leading contender for the GOP nomination? Every poll I’ve seen says Rudy Giuliani is the walkaway lead. I think Condi’s next.

    8. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      To Jim:

      On the orbit issue: correct. If they reached an orbital velocity, they’d stay in orbit!

      On the boomers: What’s wrong with that? Inventive, if you ask me. We all benefit when everyone is thinking of ways they can help. It’s the ‘can-do’ spirit, corny as that sounds, that keeps us strong and free.

      I haven’t been watching the polls. So much can change in two years. Personally, I could support any of the three.

      McCain, IMHO, is the most charismatic of the three and has the widest cross-party appeal. Being close to the center, the far right hates him (a RINO). The right-center to left-center like him. The far left think him a war monger and too dangerous.

      Rudy Giuliani is impressive. He is principled and courageous, charismatic, he’s a motivating speaker and has a solid reputation as an excutive who gets things done. I like him a lot. Could he win a general election? Probably. Easily against someone like HRC, but we’ll have to see who the Dems nominate.

      Rice – I doubt it. I like her, but she lacks charisma. She drones on like a college professor when she speaks. She comes off like a policy wonk, not an inspirational leader. The left, especially the black left, hates her. She’s a black conservative, an absolute lightning rod issue with them. She’s living proof against everything they believe in: socialism, affirmative action and white structural racism; and she’ll never be forgiven for that sin.

      To David:

      I was simply comparing them to the Tomahawk, not trying to imply they were too valuable to actually use. I agree with you.

      To WF:

      Thanks for the link. I hadn’t seen any of that before. Very interesting article.

    9. Jim Bennett Says:

      Oh, I wasn’t criticizing the boomer guys. Many weapons were never used in the war they were built for, but in another way in another way. But that’s their incentive and that’s the way these things work.

      I’m not sure why use SLBMs when you could fire an ICBM from the US and not have to expose the (submarine) asset. Maybe to keep the Russians from freaking out when they saw the launches.

    10. Ken Says:

      Wouldn’t the Russians freak out anyway if they saw submarine ballistic launches?

      How many active land-based silos do we still have, anyway?

    11. Sandy P Says:

      Lieberman can’t be trusted, he sways w/the wind.

    12. RayS Says:

      “The Bush administration has recently announced plans to add conventional ballistic missiles to the armoury of its nuclear Trident submarines within the next two years. If ready in time, they would also form part of the plan of attack.”

      I think you guys are giving the MSM way too much credit. There is a program that is converting Trident subs into into cruise missile platforms. I’m betting these guys never took the time to learn the difference between a conventionally armed Tommahawk and a ballistic missile.

    13. Valentine Says:

      RayS thats only part of it. ATK is in charge of the conventional SLBM to Sub Launched IRBM modification process.

      Link

      Each missile is 32in. in diameter so you could fit roughly about 48 per Ohio (not counting if they switch over to a conventional type MIRV bus)