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Subject: ICBMs as Defensive Weapons?
Ponder    6/17/2005 3:54:08 AM
Do we already have a robust missile defense system? We have satellites that can detect the trajectory of incoming missiles. The path of ICBMs are ballistic and follow the laws of physics. Computers are certainly able to quickly calculate intercept trajectories. Our Minutemen should be able to get within a mile of intercept. Nuclear explosions are large so the intercept doesn't have to be real close. And with a relatively small number of Russian subs and airbases their SSBNs, cruise, and gravity nukes could be eliminated. With our 500 Minutemen & 500 nukes from our subs couldn't we highly over-target their dozens of land-based nukes and then intercept any that survived? Yipes! Is a US first-strike winnable?
 
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LordofDestruction    RE:ICBMs as Defensive Weapons?   8/4/2005 6:40:04 PM
You'd cause a lot of damage to you're own country. Besides, Minutemen have multiple warheads, and if it were even possible to detonate a minuteman in mid air near a ballistic inbound, you'd detonate nine warheads to kill one incoming war head.
 
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lightningtest    RE:ICBMs as Defensive Weapons?   8/5/2005 6:13:24 AM
Ballistic trajectory? See http://www.dtic.mil/cjcs_directives/cdata/unlimit/5220_01.pdf page 3 para c.
 
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lightningtest    RE:ICBMs as Defensive Weapons?   8/5/2005 6:28:52 AM
If we can do it the incoming must be assumed to have the capability of manuaver. Note also the incomming warheads are most likely "hardened". Unless the incomming warhead enters the fireball itself it is unlikely to be rendered inoperative. What goes up doesn't have to come down immeadiatly if it has enough propellent to stabilise its orbit and retro-burn later. That could be a real problem if we launch our own and find the incoming far above our outgoing missiles in an orbit but ready to reenter 45 minutes later.
 
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Ponder    RE:ICBMs as Defensive Weapons?   8/7/2005 3:14:37 PM
<...enough propellent to stabilise its orbit and retro-burn later...> Good point. Hadn't thought about that. Could our missiles have enough propellant themselves to stabilize in orbit and pose a reocurring threat every 90 min? A 1 Mt warhead has a radius of 3800 ft (0.7 mi). Considering we have demonstrated the ability to "hit a bullet with a bullet" we can certainly get within 0.7 mi. Interceptions would mostly occur mid-way between Russia & the US in outer space. No. Separate the 10 warheads early and direct them to target different incomings. After traveling 10,000 miles they would likely be more than 0.7 miles apart from each other so they would not destroy each other. Granted, all this would take significant computing and numerous contingencies with missiles being launched, real-time retargeting, adjusting course mid-flight, and then if a miss, go for a second incoming target and end up being near a valuable ground target as the ultimate back-up.
 
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SB    RE:ICBMs as Defensive Weapons?   8/7/2005 8:31:22 PM
Well, First off, the current Minuteman 3 system is configured for single warhead as per the current flavor of the US/Russian treaties and in any event they never had 10 warheads, only 3. Perhaps we are thinking of the Peacekeeper, the last of which will be taken out of service this coming Sept. Second, the M3's have been steadily upgraded with new components to speed up the ability to quickly load in a set of targeting coordinates (which they currently do not have as part of the standing alert - thus the reason for new systems to speed up the process from the older 30-40 minutes), the actual warhead trigger that tells it WHEN to explode is still essentially the same and I'm fairly certain the warhead is designed only for a detonation close to earth and/or ground burst only, using barometric triggers. I would doubt there's any method of using it in a proximity intercept role and/or with a remote trigger from NCA/Air Defense systems. Also keep in mind that for the most part, none of the C3 systems that allow the NCA to launch a Minuteman are configured for fast response ballistic intercept, nor are they linked to the NORAD ballistic defensive systems. Third, the US had a 2 stage nuclear intercept missile(s) system in the early 70's but abandoned it shortly after it became operational, mostly due to the reality that 1) The longer range interceptors - Spartan, were not very reliable in terms of their ability to successfully intercept a fast moving warhead, and 2) The close in Sprint missile would likely do as much damage as the warhead it was designed to intercept in terms of EMP damage to the ABM radars, thus shutting down the entire system and 3) The Soviets were throwing a couple thousand warheads at our missile fields, sub bases, bomber bases and C3 facilities, while we were using 100 missiles to "water down" the attack, as it were. Pretty futile, and more importantly, expensive to operate and maintain, thus it was quickly abandoned. The current ABM systems, which are under construction in Alaska, as example, are designed ONLY to get the few rogue missiles sent our way, taking them out with very accurate non-nuclear kinetic kills (if memory serves), all requiring some very accurate radars and very fast computers, on the missile as well as on the ground, none of which was available 30 years ago, and which barely and not so reliably work even now. So no, you're not going to see Minuteman used in the ABM role. http://w3.uwyo.edu/~jimkirk/abm.html
 
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lightningtest    RE:ICBMs as Defensive Weapons?   8/8/2005 9:20:09 AM
Could put these on minuteman? Assuming the launcher complex can be tied into c4I and SBIRS high and low. Though I agree with SB that the tech doesn't provide the confidence of intercept required for a effectove system - but we all have to start somewhere. "Swarm Interceptor Program. The Swarm program is designed to develop an effective kill vehicle for submunition payloads. Under the Swarm concept, some theater missile defense interceptors would be equipped with warheads filled with low cost Swarm kinetic-kill munitions (see Figure 5-9), each of which would be autonomously guided using a seeker built on a single chip that processes information from a simple photo detector. The 4-inch wide Swarms would maneuver transversely to get in front of their submunition or bomblet targets through the use of a series of small explosive charge detonations. These charges are embedded around the outer ring of the munition (see divert module in Figure 5-10).21 Since the Swarm munition will close with its target at a velocity of about 5 kms per second, the energy generated from impact will destroy CW, BW or conventional submunitions. Although most of the current technology effort is aimed at exoatmospheric intercept, the Swarm could also be adapted for endoatmospheric use. However, due to ABM Treaty provisions Swarm munitions cannot be deployed on NMD interceptors" The last sentance is no longer true I think. These links may be worth a look. I extracted the text above from the first link , chapter 5. http://www.ifpa.org/printfriendly/archive/2010/chap5P.htm NMD study http://www.ifpa.org/publications/nmd_dwnload_main.htm Specifically Chapter 5, Alternative NMD Proposals minuteman 3 warhead detail http://www.geocities.com/minuteman_missile/warhead.htm
 
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SB    RE:ICBMs as Defensive Weapons?   8/8/2005 3:12:21 PM
The use of Minuteman as ABM was explored a while back, with a number of problems, some of which I see: 1) Where do you launch from ?. Existing silos are in use, 500 at Warren, Malmstrom and Minot AFB's for the stratejic missle force. The other 450 Minuteman silos at Whiteman, Grand Forks and Ellsworth AFB's (or at sites assigned to the missle wings at these bases) have been imploded and covered as per strajetic treaties. Thus new launch facilities need to be built. Even if you could re-use existing - say we draw down the in-use silos to use as ABM, would we want too ?. Certainly the Russian and possibly Chinese detection systems have our silos plotted and a launch for ABM would trigger a general launch alert by spaced based systems, so what message would we be sending ?. 2) While it seems like a cheap use of retired missles, in reality the only Minuteman missle not in use by the strategic force are retired M2's. Do they have the reliability we want ?. They were built in the mid 60's and while maintained steadily, but are still old. 3) Are they fast and accurate enough ?. Anybody's guess. They are certainly not the best choice given they are designed to lift a fairly large nuke payload 6000 miles. That's way overkill for ABM, so it raises the question of "Just beceause we have them, doesn't mean we can make use of them". 4) The costs involved in upgrading the remaining 50 Launch Control Facilities (or however many they decide they need) as well as the assorted missles, to allow for some sort of trigger of warhheads in an ABM mode is going to be astronomical. Not likely to see any expenditures in this area, as the budget is always tight and they have big bucks already invested in the Alaska system. SB
 
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lightningtest    RE:ABM systems atop minutemen?   8/9/2005 4:04:35 AM
About deploying ABM systems atop minutemen. in response to 1) part 1, use silos made available through draw down. in response to 1) part 2, When a large launch signature in russia is detected I guess by the time the russian RV's arrive the silo's will be empty, so why do point defense? It seems "pointless". Anything less that a russian attack is unlikley to target the silo's, more likely the cities, point defense is useless. However if the SIOP does not order the launch of minutemen immeadiately when general war starts point defense is worthwhile. In fact the existance of point defense may allow the generals modify the SIOP to pause before launching a counterstrike, every minute of pause for thought I guess is worth a few million lives? in response to 2) I now this show enormous niavity but why not put a modern missile is the newly available silos. in response to 3) If a modern version of minutemen can be installed then we could tailor the booster to provide the accelleration we need to provide defense. Perhaps a large powerful first stage with three independantly targetable second stage units atop it, similar to the starstreak missile. in response to 4) I offer no response
 
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lightningtest    RE:ABM systems atop minutemen?   8/9/2005 4:33:17 AM
I realise the last post strayed somewhat from the subject! - I guess minutemen isn't suitable.
 
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SB    RE:ABM systems atop minutemen?   8/11/2005 11:13:12 AM
"in response to 1) part 1, use silos made available through draw down. " By doing this you reduce the already small numbers of M3's available for strategic strike. Remember that all land based M3's are single warhead and there's only 500 of them. There are currently 500 Minutman silos available at Minot (150), Warren (200) and Malmstrom (200). All other silos at Whiteman, Grand Forks and Ellsworth have been imploded and covered, thus no longer exist. I suspect that the strategic planners would rather have those 500 Minuetmans available, then give them up to ABM. "in response to 1) part 2, When a large launch signature in russia is detected I guess by the time the russian RV's arrive the silo's will be empty, so why do point defense? It seems "pointless". Anything less that a russian attack is unlikley to target the silo's, more likely the cities, point defense is useless. However if the SIOP does not order the launch of minutemen immeadiately when general war starts point defense is worthwhile. In fact the existance of point defense may allow the generals modify the SIOP to pause before launching a counterstrike, every minute of pause for thought I guess is worth a few million lives?" "in response to 2) I now this show enormous niavity but why not put a modern missile is the newly available silos." In theory, the US and Russians no longer have their ICBMs targeted against each other. This opens a theoretical window of opportunity for the Russians to launch a first strike, assumuming we have no method to determine that they've targeted against us (except via a launch alert). The window of oppurtunity comes from an assumption of the Russians that out M3's have no targeting data, that it takes a few minutes to upload such data, that the NCA is going to respond in a timely fashion to examine the intellegince and generate an appropriate SIOP. In reality, the treaties don't allow the Russians enough warheads on ICBM's to make it worth their while to launch a counterforce first strike. Part of the reason for moving to single warhead missiles was to reduce their value as a target. It was worth their while to launch a single SS18 with 12 warheads against 6 Peacekeepers, as even with a 2 to 1 profile, they took out 48-60 warheads with 12. Good math. The current configuration means 1:1, Bad math as you end up with no ICBMs to use as against additional targets. Thus there's no point to defending our Minuteman silos. Which is why the current ABM system under construction is designed to take out strikes against US population centers. The placement in Alaska is configured to get the incoming warheads taken out as far as possible from the US mainland. "in response to 3) If a modern version of minutemen can be installed then we could tailor the booster to provide the accelleration we need to provide defense. Perhaps a large powerful first stage with three independantly targetable second stage units atop it, similar to the starstreak missile." Part of this problem is how do the Russians differentiate between a Minuteman with 3 warheads designed for ABM, but sited within the same missle fields as the ICBMs, from a regular ICBM, and does that now violate the treaties ?. Granted that you could isolate the ABM portion, say only use one wing at Malmstrom, but how do you show the Russians that that particular group of M3's is designated as ABM vs. ICBM ?, without giving away technical issues we'd rather keep from them. And would they believe us ?. All of these issues raise their ugly head, and when combined with the remaining technical issues related to C3, make it obvious why they moved to a separate system. SB
 
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