Sunday, December 8, 2013

Calling on Congress to say NO To NEW TRIDENT!

Do we really need to replace the current Trident ballistic missile submarine fleet - an archaic, Cold War, first strike nuclear weapons system carrying enough nuclear warheads to incinerate millions of human beings, leave lethal radiation for generations, and cause nuclear winter and global famine???

Dr. David Hall, a member of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, wrote the following open letter to U.S. Representatives Rick Larsen and Adam Smith, both of whom serve on the House Armed Services Committee.  In it he asks our elected representatives to consider the costs - economic and human of Trident.

Dr. Hall's letter was originally published in the Opinion page of The Journal of the San Juan Islands on December 3, 2013.


Military might; priorities misplaced | Guest column

By David C. Hall, MD

Special to the Journal


We Americans have built the strongest military force in history; also history’s most lethal weapons of mass destruction complex, much of it based on Hood Canal, 25 miles from Seattle, so I ask you:

What is the face we Americans truly wish to present to the rest of the world? How inhumane and destructive are we Americans willing to be to remain “secure”?

Today we project our nuclear weapons capabilities around the globe with our Trident submarine warships, each a first strike weapon, and each armed under current treaty restrictions with sufficient firepower to incinerate hundreds of cities and black out the sun for weeks to months (“nuclear winter”).
Dr. Hall protesting at Bangor, 2011

Iran seeks to build its first nuclear weapon and the political noise in Congress sounds like the EA-18G Growler over Anacortes. Israel with our support has amassed over 80 nuclear warheads, and we are modernizing ours.

Congress has already spent over a billion dollars to design the new Trident fleet for Cold War level patrolling of the world’s oceans through 2080, at costs estimated at $347 billion.

We managed to avoid the financial cliff created by a fractured Congress that could not agree in 2011 on a solution to outspending our resource base. Japan and China each hold over one trillion dollars of our national debt, yet the Trident fleet can only be justified, if at all, against an adversary like China. Certainly not North Korea, Pakistan or Iran. Russia remains our only serious nuclear adversary and we are cooperating with them and with China.

American Cold War policies reflexively supported military budget requests as a way to spend the Soviet Union into oblivion. For President Gorbachev, another critical piece in backing away from the nuclear arms race was learning about nuclear winter and the devastating effect it would have on all life on Earth.

We now have climate models for a possible nuclear war between India and Pakistan which predict a global catastrophe that could kill a billion people, many of whom already face malnutrition. New data from China double the possible death toll due to declines in China’s winter wheat and the resulting economic chaos.

One Trident warship loaded within current treaty restrictions to half its capacity carries 10 times the nuclear firepower of this modeled two-nation war.

Trident submarine carrying 24 missiles, ready to launch 24/7
We don’t need 12 new Trident warships each capable of creating nuclear winter. Support for this omni-cidal weapons system derails us from essential investments in our spiritual, physical, emotional, and economic health as a nation. Our credibility further erodes among those who rightly or wrongly mistrust our dedication to a peaceful planet.

Now is the time to stop the rebuild of the first-strike Trident nuclear weapons fleet, and instead to model intolerance for all weapons of mass destruction, expand our investments in diplomacy and foreign assistance, support truly democratic institutions worldwide, and live by treaties we have signed that outlaw weapons of mass destruction for the very reason that they cause indiscriminate calamity for innocents and destroy ecosystems essential to life.

We owe it to our grandchildren to act now. The two of you have a special role to play on our behalf.

Sincerest thanks for your years of generous public service.

— Editor’s note: Dr. David C. Hall of Lopez Island has been a board member of the national Physicians for Social Responsibility (‘91-’03), Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility (‘83-’11), and volunteer coordinator with Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.


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Sunday, October 27, 2013

TRIDENT: From Triad to Monad, Still a Bad Idea

There is a move afoot to establish the Trident nuclear weapons system as the sole nuclear weapons system for the United States (see article that follows).  We currently have a nuclear triad - submarines, land-based missiles and bombers - that has been in place for decades.  Backers of the proposed nuclear "monad" say that the move would not only cost less, but that it would provide an adequate nuclear deterrent into the future.  

And once again, as in every discussion of the future of US nuclear weapons, the key word is "deterrence." No one (in these conversations) is questioning the validity of deterrence in the new world order that seems so obvious to most nations except our own.

No one is stating the obvious (and probable reasoning behind such a push) - that the nation's ballistic missile submarine fleet is the greatest symbol of the projection of force around the globe by the United States.  We should, however, be asking, "Just how far will that force project before it is finally checked."  Not a comforting thought when you're dealing with nuclear weapons.

Rather than spending $100 billion just to build twelve new Tridents, might we put that money into human needs?  And might we begin a sincere effort, in conjunction with the Russians, to lead the world toward disarmament?  This is no naivete... this is about the survival of humankind.

With all the talk of full speed ahead with a new nuclear weapons system based on an outdated doctrine ( of deterrence) and originally designed specifically as a massive counter threat to the Soviet Union based on the unthinkable (large-scale nuclear war), perhaps this is the time to step back and rephrase the conversation to ask some questions, such as - "Just what security will this nuclear weapons system create?"


Navy: New sub program still 'top priority'

By GORDON JACKSON, The Brunswick News

Updated 3:26 am, Friday, October 25, 2013

ST. MARYS, Ga. (AP) — Navy officials call the replacement of Ohio-class submarines home-ported at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay and at the Pacific base in Bangor, Wash., the service's "top priority program."

And if it means scrapping air and land nuclear weapon delivery systems to replace the fleet, then so be it, according to a study by the Cato Institute, a public policy think tank that conducts independent, nonpartisan research on a wide range of policy issues.

The study underscores what it considers the importance of the replacement fleet as a deterrent to nuclear war.

The Navy's plan to build 12 of the replacement submarines, estimated to cost as much as $100 billion, will put a large dent in its shipbuilding budget.

The study suggests the Pentagon may have to bend the rules to fund the program and suggests it should consider different alternatives.

It suggests a simple, but potentially controversial solution.

"Eliminating the other two legs of the nuclear triad -- intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, and nuclear bombers -- would save American taxpayers around $20 billion a year," the study said. "Part of the savings could be put toward replacing the Ohio-class subs."

Analysts agree the Trident submarine fleet is the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad. In fact, the submarines by themselves are a more powerful nuclear war deterrent than any possessed by nearly every other nation.

"Russia retains a relatively large arsenal, but no other country is capable of deploying more than a few hundred nuclear warheads," according to the study. "A single Ohio-class submarine can carry up to 192."

The Navy's 14 Ohio-class submarines are capable of carrying 24 nuclear ballistic missiles and each missile can carry up to six warheads. The D-5 missile has a range of about 7,000 miles, allowing it to strike anywhere on the planet within 30 minutes.

The missiles are believed to be as accurate as land-based ICBMs and are "far superior as a delivery vehicle than bomber aircraft," the study said.

"Given their stealth and survivability, SSBNs represent a secure second-strike force on their own," the study said. "No other state now threatens America's SSBN fleet."

The institute has an answer for those who believe all three delivery systems are necessary.

"The reliance on three nuclear delivery systems is a relic of Cold War bureaucratic politics, not the product of strategic calculation," the study said. "A submarine-based monad is more than sufficient for America's deterrence needs, and would be considerably less expensive to modernize and maintain than the current force. The Navy would not have to skirt the law in a desperate bid to shake additional money from American taxpayers if the Obama administration shed its attachment to the nuclear triad."

Sheila McNeill, president of the Camden Partnership and former national president of the Navy League, said she is aware of the study but cannot comment. She said other military officials will also decline comment.

But she said the issue will be discussed sometime in the near future.

"We are working on a conference that will educate our leadership on each leg of the triad," she said.


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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What Have Nuclear Weapons Done for ME Lately?

Isn't that an excellent (and seldom-asked question)!  Well, they certainly have NOT deterred North Korea's esteemed Kim Jong un from trying some very unusual hair styles.  But seriously - It is time to shatter the illusion of the safety of nuclear weapons... that they are a deterrent in a post Cold War world.  Trident is the epitome of that Cold War mentality - a first strike weapon system that was intended to up the ante in the balance of terror with the (then) Soviet Union.  But I digress.

Today is a great day for the NO To NEW TRIDENT Campaign.  No - The Navy hasn't yet scuttled its plans to build 12 new Trident submarines.  But we'll keep working on that!

Today we are celebrating the unveiling of the official NO To NEW TRIDENT Campaign poster created by that Tacomic genius, R.R. Anderson.  With an extraordinary understanding of Trident and our campaign's mission, he whipped up this bit of artwork just for us.

I don't think anyone will mistaken this for anyone else's campaign; that's for sure!

Monsieur Anderson summed up the essence of our campaign in the following quote on his Website (check out his other work while you're there):
The Tacomic in association with the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action urges you to somehow Stop the Navy from building twelve new Trident submarines (at a cost of at least $100 billion). "Although we want to stop this stupid submarine project, we are doing it to seek positive goals - spending that money on life-affirming things and moving towards a nuclear weapons-free world."
So now it's full steam ahead toward a nuclear weapons-free world, starting with Trident.  Join us!

Editor's Note: Also check out the Tacoma Action Figure: Father Bill "Bix" Bichsel, REAL ULTIMATE American Hero at R.R. Anderson's Website, along with the Plowshares Sunflower Seed Bombs.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Trident is "an accident waiting to happen"

Eric Schlosser, who will talk about his new book on nuclear weapons in Seattle on October 1st, published a provocative article in The Guardian just the other day.

Nuclear weapons: an accident waiting to happen focuses primarily on British nuclear weapons -  specifically the country's four Trident submarines and nuclear armed missiles they carry.  The following paragraph asks questions not only absent from the British public debate on Trident, but the public debate in the U.S. as well:
The public debate about Britain's Trident submarines and their missiles has focused mainly on the long-term costs and economic benefits of replacing them, the number of jobs that might be gained or lost, the necessity of round-the-clock patrols. Some fundamental questions have been largely absent from the discussion. How would this cold war missile, due to remain in service for another 30 years, actually be used in a 21st-century conflict? What targets would it destroy and in what circumstances? Whom is it supposed to kill? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, do the British people face a greater chance of being harmed by their own nuclear weapons, through an accident or a mistake, than by a surprise attack?
Ahhhh yes!!!  We must not forget the monumental risks imposed by Trident (on both sides of The Pond).  Schlosser discusses issues specific to Trident later on in the article:
The safety of the Trident D5 missile has long been a source of concern. In December 1990, the Panel on Nuclear Weapons Safety, a group of eminent physicists appointed by the US Congress, warned that its unusual design posed significant risks. To save space, the multiple warheads weren't mounted on top of the missile; they surrounded its third-stage rocket engine. And the "high-energy" class 1.1 propellant used in that rocket engine was far more likely than other propellants to explode in an accident. "The safety issue of concern here," the panel found, "is whether an accident during handling of an operational missile – viz, transporting and loading – might detonate the propellant which in turn could cause the HE [high explosives] in the warhead to detonate, leading to dispersal of plutonium, or even the initiation of a nuclear yield." 
The decision to use the more energetic rocket fuel and the more unstable high explosive was made during the early 1980s, to increase the range of the Trident D5 missile and decrease the weight of its warheads. The first British Trident submarine went on patrol four years after these safety risks were discovered, and the Trident D5 missile is supposed to remain in service until 2042. The risk of explosion and plutonium dispersal is greatest when the warheads are being loaded on to the sub, unloaded from the sub, or transported by road between Scotland and the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston, Berkshire.
Glen Milner of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Poulsbo, Washington has attempted to focus the public's attention on the risks of Trident for many years.  "Milner has extensively researched the rocket propellant used in the D5 and has spoken out publicly on its risks.  He was cited in a article earlier this year about the Navy's plan to double its missile handling capacity at its Bangor Trident submarine base on Hood Canal in Washington State.

That same article cited a 1986 accident involving Trident rocket motors.  More recently at the Bangor submarine base (November 2003) "a ladder left inside a submarine's missile tube punctured a missile's nose cone and came within inches of a nuclear warhead." (source: Kitsap Sun newspaper)  A close call indeed.  The construction of a Second Explosives Handling Wharf near the existing wharf greatly increases the probability of a major disaster should there be an accidental detonation at one wharf if two submarines are being simultaneously loaded/unloaded.

The public (in both the UK and US) should be concerned, and indeed outraged, that any (token) public discussion is NOT engaging the truly important questions about why (in the US) we should spend nearly $100 billion - and some consider this a conservative estimate - just to build twelve new Trident submarines.

Beyond the very real risks of accidents, Trident is an archaic Cold War first-strike weapons system that just doesn't seem to want to go down without a fight.  Speaking of "fighting",  just (to use Schlosser's questions) How would this cold war missile, due to remain in service for another 30 years, actually be used in a 21st-century conflict? What targets would it destroy and in what circumstances? Whom is it supposed to kill? 

Questions, questions, questions... Any answers???


Editor's Note: Eric Schlosser will talk about his most recent book, Command and Control Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, at the Seattle Public Library on Tuesday, October 1st at 7:00 PM.  There will be a meditation in preparation for the event at 6:25 PM just outside the library, sponsored by the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Seattle Chapter. More information by clicking here.
Nuclear weapons: an accident waiting to happen
, By Eric Schlosser, in The Guardian, Friday, September 13, 2013

Click here to read a recent (September 16th) interview with Schlosser. Q&A: Author Says DOD Underreported Nuclear-Weapon Accidents, by Rachel Oswald in Global Security Newswire, September 23, 2013

Watch a YouTube video of Schlosser at the New America Foundation.  In the Q&A period he speaks directly to the weakness in the design of the Trident II D-5 missile relating to the warheads encircling the third stage rocket motor containing very high energy "sensitive" propellant.  Skip ahead to approximately the 52 minute mark to catch this reference.

Friday, September 6, 2013

New Trident: "The devil is in the details" (and in everything else too)

The U.S. Navy is sending in the Big Guns to defend its plans to build the next generation ballistic missile submarine, a Cold War vintage weapon system designed for only one thing - to hold the (then) Soviet Union at bay through the outdated doctrine of nuclear deterrence and, if necessary, launch its massive arsenal of nuclear armed ballistic missiles, fulfilling the horrific doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (or, to put it more bluntly - the end of life as we know it).

Rear Admiral Richard Breckenridge, Director of US Naval Undersea Warfare, spoke strongly to the need to go all out on a new design of the replacement for the current OHIO-class submarine fleet. Breckenridge was quoted as saying in "a recent blog" that "the devil is in the details."  I might add that the "devil" most definitely has much to do with our government's continuing pursuit of omnicidal weapon systems like "Trident."

You can read the article and watch a video of Breckenridge speaking about the SSBN(X) below.


U.S. Navy Undersea Warfare Director Defends SSBN(X) Plans 
July 01, 2013
Source: Aviation Week

By Michael Fabey

With several defense analysts calling for the U.S. Navy to abandon its efforts to develop a new design for its SSBN(X) Ohio-class submarine replacements, the service’s undersea warfare director is defending the current course.

“Recently, a variety of writers have speculated that the required survivable deterrence could be achieved more cost effectively with the Virginia-based option or by restarting the Ohio-class SSBN production line,” says Rear Adm. Richard Breckenridge, in a recent blog. “Both of these ideas make sense at face value—which is why they were included among the alternatives assessed—but the devil is in the details. When we examined the particulars, each of these options came up short in both military effectiveness and cost efficiency.”

A Virginia-based SSBN design with a Trident II D5 missile, Breckenridge says, was “rejected due to a wide range of shortfalls.” The concept, he says, was not stealthy enough due to poor hull streamlining and lack of a drivetrain able to quietly propel a much larger ship; would have had longer refit times and a longer mid-life overhaul; would carry fewer missiles and warheads; would have exceeded cost targets because of the required extensive redesign of Virginia systems to work with the large missile compartment; and would have required a larger fleet of submarines.

“Some have encouraged the development of a new, smaller missile to go with a Virginia-based SSBN,” Breckenridge says. “This would carry forward many of the shortfalls of a Virginia-based SSBN, and add to it a long list of new issues. Developing a new nuclear missile from scratch with an industrial base that last produced a new design more than 20 years ago would be challenging, costly and require extensive testing. We deliberately decided to extend the life of the current missile to de-couple and de-risk the complex (and costly) missile development program from the new replacement submarine program.

“A smaller missile means a shorter employment range requiring longer SSBN patrol transits. This would compromise survivability, require more submarines at sea and ultimately weaken our deterrence effectiveness.”

Some have argued, he notes, that the Navy should reopen the Ohio production line and resume building the Ohio design SSBNs.

“This simply cannot be done because there is no Ohio production line,” Breckenridge says. “It has long since been retooled and modernized to build state-of-the-art Virginia-class SSNs using computerized designs and modular, automated construction techniques.”

Simply redesigning the Ohio-class subs to be built using new production methods and machinery would be a mistake, he says, since some of the newer technology would not carry over to the old design and building the ship to existing missile specifications could lead to some treaty issues.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Buying Submarines in an Age of Austerity

By Benjamin Freeman, policy advisor for national security at Third Way; Published by US News & World Report, June 4, 2013

The Navy's plan to increase the size of its fleet is on a collision course with budget austerity. But, fortunately, there's a nuclear option.

The Navy's shipbuilding plan is simply "unaffordable," as Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., pointed out during the House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee's markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 last week.

Why is the Navy's plan "unaffordable"? One of the culprits is the Navy's new nuclear ballistic missile submarines, known as the SSBN[X]. The Navy is planning to procure 12 SSBN[X] at a cost of nearly $6 billion each. These extraordinarily high costs "crowd out spending for other necessary ships," according to Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., who represents the state where the current Ohio class nuclear missile submarines were manufactured.

Echoing Reed's concerns, Randy Forbes, R-Va., chairman of the House's Seapower Subcommittee, said during the markup that buying these 12 SSBN[X] at such a prohibitive price "will serve to significantly reduce [the size of] our naval forces."

Fortunately, there's a simple solution, according to Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists – buy fewer SSBNs. Kristensen's argument for purchasing fewer new nuclear subs is not about costs – though buying fewer ships would, of course, save billions of dollars – it's about how the Navy actually uses its nuclear submarines.

Since the Cold War ended, the Navy has reduced its number of nuclear sub deterrent patrols – a justifiable reduction given the need to focus on 21st century, not Cold War, threats. In fact, the number of deterrent patrols undertaken now is less than a third of what was done at the end of the Cold War, according to Kristensen's data.

But, if one logically believes the SSBN fleet is 1/3rd the size of what it was at the end of the Cold War, think again. There are only four fewer nuclear launch subs now than there were in the mid-1990's (14 vs. 18), as the Navy's response to Kristensen's report concedes. Thus, each nuclear sub is now doing much less of what it was first designed to do – patrolling as a nuclear deterrent.

All of this leads Kristensen to conclude that "Fewer SSBNs can do the job …The navy could easily cut the SSBN fleet from 14 to 12 boats now and reduce the requirement for the next-generation SSBN from 12 to 10 boats and save billions of dollars in the process."

The savings would give the Navy desperately needed flexibility in a shipbuilding budget that the House Seapower Subcommittee calls "unsustainable." This would allow the Navy to fully fund other ships better suited to the Asia pivot, such as the Virginia class multi-mission submarines – whose cost is half that of an SSBN[X] – which conducts anti-submarine missions, delivers special operations forces in close-to-shore operations and launches Tomahawk missiles.

As Congressman Ed Markey, D-Mass., said, "It is insane to spend hundreds of billions on new nuclear bombs and delivery systems to fight a long-past Cold War while ignoring our 21st century security needs." Cutting the size of our nuclear submarine fleet would both save money yet accomplish the Navy's worldwide mission of nuclear deterrence in an era of military belt-tightening.


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Can the Navy Afford 12 Ballistic Missile Subs???

Nuclear Sub Costs Complicate Navy Plans

By Tom Z. Collina, Originally published in Arms Control Today, June 2013

In the face of growing federal budget pressures, the U.S. Navy in May began to more openly question Obama administration plans to purchase a dozen new nuclear-armed submarines.

In its shipbuilding plan for fiscal year 2014, submitted to Congress on May 10, the Navy warns that current plans to build 12 submarines and maintain a surface fleet of 300 ships are not compatible. The Navy states that if it funds the submarines “from within its own resources,” the program will “take away from construction of other ships in the battle force such as attack submarines, destroyers, aircraft carriers and amphibious warfare ships.”

The 12 planned submarines are expected to be the backbone of the U.S. nuclear triad of delivery systems, which also includes land-based missiles and long-range bombers, for the future. The Defense Department wants to replace all three legs of the triad over the next two decades, potentially costing hundreds of billions of dollars at a time when budgets are tight.

Plans for modernization of the triad may be revised under Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s Strategic Choices and Modernization Review, due to be released in June, according to Pentagon officials. Senate leaders have asked Hagel to come up with plans for cutting the Defense Department budget by $52 billion for fiscal year 2014. That is the amount by which the Pentagon budget would drop from the fiscal year 2014 request if sequestration—the automatic cuts required by the 2011 Budget Control Act—is not averted.

The Navy is planning to replace its current submarine fleet with a model known as the SSBN(X). As budgets tighten, speculation is growing that the Navy will not be able to afford to do that. In May 9 testimony before the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Gen. Robert Kehler, the head of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), said, “I think the ultimate number of submarines that we procure is still an open question.”

The 12 planned submarines, each to be loaded with 16 Trident ballistic missiles and around 80 nuclear warheads, would cost a total of about $90 billion to develop and build. According to the Navy’s shipbuilding plan, construction of the 12 subs would take place from 2021 to 2035, during which time the Navy would need $19.2 billion per year on average for all shipbuilding. That is almost twice the Navy’s fiscal year 2014 request for shipbuilding of $10.9 billion, which does not take sequestration into account. The average construction cost for each SSBN(X) would be about $6.5 billion, accounting for about one-third of the shipbuilding budget starting in 2021, with an additional $11 billion in development costs. The fiscal 2014 request for SSNB(X) development is $1.1 billion.

Hagel has acknowledged the budget pressure. In a May 10 letter to congressional leaders explaining the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, he wrote that “there will be resourcing challenges…largely due to investment requirements associated with the SSBN(X) program.”

Others have been more blunt about the dim prospects that the Navy will be able to find additional resources on the scale it would need. “The Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan is a ‘plan’ in name only,” Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) said in a May 10 statement. “At current funding levels, it remains an exercise in wishful thinking.”

Speaking at a May 8 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the Navy’s plan “a fantasy.”

The Navy has been trying to convince the administration and Congress that the subs are “national” assets and should be supported by funds outside of the Navy’s budget. Asked at the May 8 hearing if the Navy had made any progress in finding additional resources outside its budget, Sean Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition, said, “[T]hose talks have not progressed. I should probably leave it at that.”

If the Navy has to factor sequestration cuts into its budget, as seems likely, funding will get even tighter. At an April 30 event in Washington, Vice Adm. William Burke, deputy chief of naval operations warfare systems, said that buying 12 SSBN(X) subs under sequestration would cause the Navy to “reduce procurement as well as retire existing ships, leaving us with a Navy in the vicinity of 200 ships, at which point we may not be considered a global navy.” The Navy currently plans to maintain a fleet of around 300 ships, including submarines, through 2043, up from about 280 ships today.

The Navy’s ability to change the number of SSBN(X) subs it needs to buy and the time at which it buys them is limited by current U.S. nuclear policy guidance. That guidance determines how many targets must be held at risk by strategic nuclear weapons and thus how many submarines must be “on station” at all times. Submarines that are on station are deployed far off the U.S. coasts and ready to launch their missiles within an hour or so. (See ACT, December 2011.)

Current requirements call for 10 subs to be operational, with another two out of service for repairs at any given time after a decade or more of operation. Such requirements, set by the president, are under review as part of the Nuclear Posture Review implementation study. (See ACT, June 2011.)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Trident: Still Living in a Cold War State of Mind

The US Navy's program to build 12 new ballistic missile submarines at a cost of $100 billion will likely scuttle the Navy's total shipbuilding plans well into the future.

The SSBN(X), if built, will replace the current fleet of OHIO Class nuclear submarines that deploy the Trident II D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles.  The astronomical construction cost of even fewer than the planned 12 submarines together with Federal budget cuts would put a significant dent in the Navy's ability to maintain what Vice. Adm. William Burke, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems calls "a global navy." (See article that follows)

Notwithstanding the alleged need for the US to have a naval presence akin to the once great British Empire ("the empire on which the sun never sets"), one could easily challenge Burke's statement that "there is no alternative to building the Ohio replacement."  Burke simply parroted the standard language about "the importance of maintaining the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad to ensure the deterrent threat of U.S. retaliatory nuclear attacks."

The Cold War is long over, and it is time for a major paradigm shift.  Such a shift will require far more than just rethinking political military or even diplomatic thinking and strategy.  It will require a change of heart.  To quote Albert Einstein:
The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking...the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.
Trident was originally designed and built for a dangerous game played between the US and the (then) Soviet Union - Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).  This is a game we can no longer afford to play in a post Cold War world with so many serious emerging issues confronting us.  It is time to change both our state of mind and state of heart.


Building New Ballistic Missile Subs Could Demand Smaller Fleet, Navy Says

April 30, 2013, By Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire,

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. admiral on Tuesday warned that moving ahead with plans for a replacement fleet of ballistic missile submarines in today's budget environment would mean significant reductions to the rest of the Navy fleet.

"The recapitalization of our SSBN force will impact our ability to fund investment in other future force structure," Vice. Adm. William Burke, deputy chief of naval operations for Warfare Systems, said at a Capitol Hill breakfast.

"Navy has the resources to procure these national assets but doing so will pressurize our procurement accounts," he said of plans to design and build 12 new ballistic missile submarines that are to replace aging Ohio-class vessels due to begin exiting naval service in 2027.

The Defense Department announced in 2012 it would delay by two years development of the successor generation of strategic submarines, which means the first vessel from the line will not be ready until 2031.

The Navy projects it will cost roughly $5.6 billion each to purchase the second through 12th Ohio replacement vessels. The service is focusing on lowering that figure to about $4.9 billion for each submarine, according to a March Congressional Research Service report.

The Obama administration in its fiscal 2014 budget request to Congress is seeking $1.2 billion in research, development, test, and evaluation funding for the new SSBN fleet, Aviation Week reported.

The Navy is looking to expand its total fleet size to 300 vessels up from about 280 ships sailing today.

"If we buy the SSBN with existing funds, we will not reach the 300 ships, in fact we will find ourselves closer to 250," Burke said. "At these numbers, our global presence will be reduced such that we will only be able to visit some areas of the world episodically." He did not provide details on what Navy ship deployments and global positioning would look like under such a scenario.

Potential budget cuts under federal sequestration that could extend over a decade "will only make this worse, causing us to both reduce procurement as well as retire existing ships, leaving us with a Navy in the vicinity of 200 ships at which point we may not be considered a global navy," the admiral further warned.

Some arms control advocates have called for the Navy to scale back its SSBN fleet renewal plans in order to save money. Building only eight new ballistic missile submarines instead of the current planned 12 and further postponing initial acquisition until 2023, would save $15 billion, according to the Washington-based Arms Control Association.

However, there is no alternative to building the Ohio replacement, Burke said, highlighting the importance of maintaining the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad to ensure the deterrent threat of U.S. retaliatory nuclear attacks.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Gadzooks - "Vintage" Nukes on New Tridents!!!

The US Naval Institute has done just what one would expect such an organization to do - raise the alarm over the "vintage" nuclear missiles (Trident II D-5) that will be initially deployed on the Navy's replacement ballistic missile submarines.  The institute's concern is that sooner (and not later) the Navy will need a new missile, and NOW is the time to get to work on it.

The obvious question, which NO ONE seems to be asking, is of what value is the Trident nuclear weapons system (OHIO class submarines with their Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles) in today's world.  The Cold War is long over and the Trident weapons system, which was designed specifically to render the (then) Soviet Union a radioactive wasteland, is a true relic of a bygone era.

Would we really launch massive thermonuclear weapons (Trident II D-5s) against North Korea or Iran, considering the fact that the resulting radioactive fallout would affect adjacent countries.  Have we forgotten that the effects of nuclear weapons, once detonated, are uncontrollable, and that there is no practical way to clean up such a mess???

The final paragraph in the USNI article is laughable and misleading (using the words "current experience:).  In the context of that coupled with the rest of the article one might think that the US nuclear weapons complex was that of a developing nation, and that the technological wizards in North Korea are "currently" whizzing past us.
“The North Koreans have more current experience building and testing nuclear weapons than we do,” Goure said. “They also have more current experience with designing ballistic missiles—from scratch—than we do.”
So long as the US stays fixated on the doctrine of nuclear deterrence, we remain locked in a deadly paradox.  So long as the US (and Russia) continue to re-invigorate their nuclear forces, the rest of the world (North Korea, Iran...) will follow.  The results will likely not by pretty.

At any rate, with 143 consecutive successful test flights of the Trident II D-5 missile (under operational conditions) since 1989 (a perfect record!!!), it's hard to think of it as any remotely resembling "vintage."

Note to USNI: THIS is what a "vintage" nuclear weapon looks like.
Read the article for yourself, and see what you think of the author's argument.


Navy’s Nukes Won’t Keep Pace With New Missile Subs

By Dave Majumdar, USNI [US Naval Institute] News, Tuesday, April 23, 2013,

When the U.S. Navy’s new SSBN (X) conducts its first patrol in 2031 it will be an entirely new vessel, but the boat will initially rely on life-extended 1990s vintage Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) to perform its nuclear deterrence mission. The Navy currently expects to keep the D5 in service into the 2040s, after which it may replace the long-serving weapon with a new missile.

Though the United States is upgrading existing missiles and taking steps to keep its existing warheads viable, there is no work being done to develop a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or SLBM for the time being. The Navy is deferring equipping the new SSBN(X) with a new missile because of the sheer cost of developing and fielding such a system during fiscally lean times. But moreover, there is no immediate military need to do so because the Trident will remain viable for sometime to come. However, the U.S. Strategic Command is conducting an analysis of alternatives for the future.

But there are questions as to how viable the U.S. missile industrial base will be when the time comes to develop a new missile later this century. Russia, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, has faced numerous difficulties with developing new ICBMs and SLBMs. The Bulava SLBM, for example, had numerous problems, failing six of 13 launch attempts before 2009. However, after a difficult period of troubleshooting, the Bulava program now appears to be on track, with seven successful missile launches since October 2010.

“Why would we be any different if we don’t maintain the experience base in making these things?” asks Dan Goure, an analyst at the Lexington Institute. NASA, for example, is essentially starting over in developing manned space-flight capability to a certain extent because those skill sets have atrophied, Goure said. “We can hope—only hope—that the work being done for Trident and United Launch Alliance and the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) and work being done for NASA will maintain enough of a cadre so that we can in fact design a new ICBM,” he said.

There is no question that America needs to invest in keeping its nuclear deterrent credible, said Peter Huessy, an expert on nuclear weapons at GeoStrategic Analysis. In his view, however, the missile industrial base is less of a concern than retaining the ability to develop an actual nuclear warhead, he said. Huessy and Barry Watts at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments say that programs like the EELV or refurbishment programs for existing missiles are probably sufficient to keep ICBM and SLBM design skills alive. Huessy said that there are many components on the U.S. Air Force Minuteman III, for example, that are being replaced—which requires many of the skills needed to design an entirely new weapon. “They have all sorts of ideas on how to build a Minuteman [replacement],” he said.

But while the United States continues to upgrade existing missiles, other nations continue to develop and field nuclear weapons and the launch vehicles to deliver them. Russia continues to modernize its arsenal with new Topol-M ICBMs, new Bulava SLBMs, and reportedly another new heavy ICBM that is under development. So too, is China modernizing its nuclear forces, Huessy said. “[Assistant Defense Secretary Madelyn Creeden, in her April 17 testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee] also concluded China is building advanced solid fueled rockets, a new type 094 Jin-class submarine along with its new JL-2 missile,” he said.

But the real problem might be far more serious than whether the United States will be able to build a new ballistic missile. There are doubts as to whether the nation will be able to retain the talent to build a new nuclear weapon in the future. “We’re as a matter of policy leaning in the direction of exiting the nuclear business,” Watts said.

Watts said that he simply does not know if the United States still has the capability to develop a new weapon. Huessy said that while lots of lab testing has been done, the country has not built a nuclear weapon since about 1991. “We’re also losing that talent,” he said. “The number of people who have built nuclear weapons could fit in a phone booth.”

The leftover warheads from end of the Cold War were approaching limits of what could be achieved for yield, Watts said, and were only designed for a lifespan of about 10 years. Now the weapons are approaching an average age of about quarter of century.

Though the U.S. nuclear stockpile most likely works, at the end the day, without a full-scale test, it is not known if the weapons would actually detonate properly, Huessy said. Essentially, without testing, the United States is hoping computer models are robust enough to make sure the devices work. The labs look for deteriorated parts and replace those. Ultimately though, “We’re guessing that they work,” Huessy said.

The United States could resolves some of those issues by bringing forward low-level design programs for ballistic missiles, Goure said. For a ballistic-missile program, the military would have to consider whether the Minuteman and Trident could be replaced with a common weapon, he said. However, given the size restrictions on board a submarine, a naval weapon would have to be adapted for land-based use—otherwise, it simply would not work. ICBMs are much larger than the typical SLBM and would not fit into the 87-inch tubes of either the Ohio or SSBN(X) classes of submarines, Goure said.

As for maintaining the nuclear-weapons complex, U.S. policy would have to fundamentally change. Watts said that if the assumption is that nuclear weapons are “going away,” then investing in new designs is a waste. President Barack Obama’s administration adheres to a vision of a “global zero” for nuclear weapons, but has pledged to maintain a credible deterrent. However, as the nation’s ability to design and build such weapons atrophies, so does that deterrent—and as Watts points out, the number nuclear-weapon states is increasing rather than decreasing.

“The North Koreans have more current experience building and testing nuclear weapons than we do,” Goure said. “They also have more current experience with designing ballistic missiles—from scratch—than we do.”


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Trident Missile System Upgrades to Parallel OHIO Class Replacement

Editor's Note: The following article confirms that the Navy will continue upgrading the Trident missile system as it prepares to build the next generation ballistic missile submarine to carry the Trident missiles.  This editor highlighted portions of the article in bold typeface for emphasis.

Navy: Upgrades Required for Trident Launch System

by BRYANT JORDAN on APRIL 10, 2013,  published in DEFENSETECH

Navy leaders said Wednesday the service must ensure the Pentagon remains committed to upgrades to the Trident missile launch system in line with the development of the replacement for the Ohio-class nuclear submarine fleet.

Rear Adm. Terry Benedict, director of the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs, said it is necessary to revitalize and qualify the launch systems of the Trident II D-5, which is deployed aboard the U.S. Navy’s 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile subs and Britain’s four Vanguard-class submarines.

The Trident is the most survivable leg of the Triad, and it also gives the U.S. a second-strike ability,” Benedict said at the annual Sea Air Space Exposition at National Harbor, Md. The missile – currently the Trident II D-5 version – was developed and deployed jointly by both the U.S. and the United Kingdom since the 1990s.

The missile has been going through life-extensions and the two countries plan to continue deploying them as they transition to the next-generation nuclear submarine.

While budget pressures mount with the sequestration cuts to defense funding, service leaders will be forced to balance modernization priorities. Benedict emphasized the importance of maintaining investment in updating the systems associated within the Nuclear triad.

The U.S. Navy plans to replace its 14 Ohio-class subs with a dozen new ballistic missile submarines. The Navy awarded General Dynamics’ Electric Boat Division a $1.85 billion contract for the development of the Ohio-Class Replacement Program. The Ohio-class subs start hitting their end-of-life in 2027, and will be retired in the years following.

The Navy anticipates its replacements to come on line by the mid-2020s.

Navy leaders have said they can accept the risk of two fewer nuclear capable submarines because of the speed and stealth capability the service expects to develop into the new Ohio-class. Those same leaders will also depend on improved accuracy of upgraded Tridents.


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