The bogeyman is back

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by ClaireTalon, May 30, 2007.

  1. ClaireTalon

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    I got a little dash of nostalgia when I saw this on TV yesterday:

    Russia test-launches new missile

    as anyone born prior to the mid 1970s should have. Are we heading towards a new, maybe slightly attenuated cold war? Will the 5 days per week LAX-SVO service be cancelled? Can I dream of being reactivated from reserve to active duty, and be stationed at a refurbished USAF base in Germany, or the rest of Europe?

    I'm not a so avid reader of the international news sections, but I have gotten the other bits of news from Russia that preceded this article. Limitations imposed on press and TV stations, police forces breaking up protest marches and violating foreign journalists in the process, "guided" elections, etc. I mean, a lot of this stuff we have seen before 1990. Now this missile test, which itself wouldn't be a illegal, but the speeches before and after. Sentences like

    <.> [The RS-24] strengthens the capability of the attack groups of the Strategic Missile Forces by surmounting anti-missile defense systems, at the same time strengthening the potential for nuclear deterrence <.>

    and

    <.> As of today Russia has new (missiles) that are capable of overcoming any existing or future missile defense systems <.>

    are pretty strong to me. Of course, there's still the technical aspect on how much of this test was a dog-and-pony show, and how reliable this system is. But however the technical outcome is, the political signal is rather clear to me that this is heading towards another slump in the international relations of the former Eastern bloc, or the hard core of it, and the Western side.
     
  2. Blocko

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    As unfortunate as it is, Russia upgrading it's nuclear missile fleet is actually a good thing (if they intend to keep any at all).

    This is because the aging fleet greatly increases the risk of an accident, including an accidental firing (not that an detonation or leak wouldn't be a huge disaster). With the old missiles, accidental firings have almost happened several times.

    Even better would be if they upgraded their early warning system and automated response systems.
     
  3. SteveHd

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    It's good for them and not anyone else.
    Any? Umm ... I think they'll keep a thousand or two. Or three?

    To all: The SS-18 mentioned by CNN was in production many years. Russia has previously stated that they will replace some of the older ones but keep the newer ones. The SS-18 is huge missile with 3 kerosene stages. Even the newer ones are getting old.
    An "accident" that destroys the missile is of little concern outside of the immediate area of the silo. As for an "accidental firing," I'll assume you mean accidental launch. I'm not a rocket scientist, but I'll submit that an old missile is no more likely to launch than a new missile. An old missile is more likely to explode but that's not a launch.
    No, accidental booster explosions have "almost happened" and in fact have happened in USA and the then USSR. Do a search for "titan ii arkansas" for a well documented biggie.
    Agreed. The CNN piece and others I've read haven't mention those.

    For the peace of mind of those in USA: All of our ICBMs use solid fuel which is very stable and considerably safer than liquid fuel missiles such as Titan II and SS-18. Moreover, USAF is replacing the fuel of all Minuteman IIIs. They're getting old too.
     
  4. SteveHd

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    Back to the O.P., I think Russia could find better things to spend money on.
     
  5. B_big dirigible

    B_big dirigible New Member

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    Not so. The problem areas aren't so much in the missile itself as in the control electronics. At one time we had a problem with Phoenix missiles firing off by themselves. That problem that time turned out to be whiskers of tin oxide growing from the solder joints in the control electronics, breaking off, falling on the circuitry, and causing random shorts. Part of the solution was to use solder with less tin in it. The problem may recur now that we're in another big environmental panic to switch to lead-free solder.
     
  6. SteveHd

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    A "launch" isn't the same as a "firing". A launch is a sequence of actions and if everything works the missile lifts off. Firing the engine is only one step.

    The AIM-54 (Phoenix) isn't an ICBM nor even a ballistic missile. It's an air-to-air missile.
     
  7. dong20

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    Only if Walmart open a store in Moscow selling discounted nukes. Like the USAF bases, they'd probably also be refurbished.:smile:
     
  8. B_big dirigible

    B_big dirigible New Member

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    No shit. Your ability to miss a point is awesome.
     
  9. SteveHd

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    Nice insult. So what was your point?
     
  10. B_big dirigible

    B_big dirigible New Member

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    The point is that electonic systems control these things from start to finish. Large or small, complex or simple, the electrons aren't smart enough to know. Crummy electronics can initiate unintended embarrassments by rockets of any type. Russian electronics has always been, and remains, about two generations behind ours. That means about two generations crummier. And riskier.

    Explain your novel theory that solid and liquid propellants involve different safety risks. When I was professionally involved in DoD rocketry I never heard any such possibility raised. Solid propellants were generally avoided for any but the smallest rockets because of the near-impossibility of turning them off once started.
     
  11. SpeedoGuy

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    Any future defense system? That's quite a bold claim. Smells like hubris and/or overconfidence to me. Kind of like:

    "This ship is unsinkable"

    or

    "This warship is capable of overcoming any foe or any combination of foes."
     
  12. ClaireTalon

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    Not to mention the risks that come along with the production of solid propellant charges and their storage: Contractions and crack initiation. Also, there's the problem of the payload/fuel mass ratio, which is generally lower with solid fuel rocket engines. However, don't discharge all Russian electronics so fast. There problem is less a lack of knowledge of the technology, it's the availability of the primary products. In parts, they have used semiconductor circuitry since the 1970s, but never to an extent as it was usual in western systems. Also, I appreciate your technical input here, BD, however, I was aiming more at the political aspects of this problem.

    SpeedoGuy, of course there is some hybris in these words. I think it's pretty much clear that no system can ever be designed to overcome any of its successors, so much is clear. What alarms me is the publicity that was employed here to spread the results of the test, along with the official communiqu&#233; using this strong language. Yes, it is understandable that a successful outcome of the test should be published, but to me, these statements sound more like a hidden menace.
     
  13. Blocko

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    Agreed, having worked on controller and embedded systems in high reliability environments... the SS-18 has an "always on" computer that controls the missile function and is programmed with the target coordinates... even with the best engineered electronics, these parts of the missiles would be close to their used by dates.

     
  14. SteveHd

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    To backtrack I wrote ...
    ... I'll submit that an old missile is no more likely to launch than a new missile. An old missile is more likely to explode but that's not a launch.
    I'm differentiating launch from other incidents such as the fuel being ignited by an electrical short. A fuel ignition can be a disaster even if the missile remains in the silo, as happened in Damascus Ark.
    I mostly agree with the above. If the failure occurs in a launch-control system -- which is external from the missile -- then yeah it could send a launch sequence to the missile and the silo and it's "missile away". I think you're focusing on the launch-control system whereas I was limiting to just the missile. My statement "... an old missile is no more likely to launch than a new missile" is limited only to the missile since that appears to be all that Russia is replacing. I would feel better and safer if they'd also update their launch-control systems.
    I was being specific to the aluminum-type fuel used in Minuteman. It really isn't solid, it's more like a gel consistency. A similar but slightly different composition is used in the space shuttle SRBs. It's inflammable at ordinary flame temperatures. I've read of a blowtorch being used to cut the stuff into blocks! It's quite stable until it's ignited. For ignition, the fuel needs to be heated to about 3000F using an electric wire. Once lit, it burns until it's gone.

    The Minuteman I was deployed ~1961 so the stuff has a 45 year track record. I know of no published major incidents with this fuel whereas there are some pertaining to liquid-fuel missiles. The Arkansas one was USAF's worst.

    USAF tested an old Minuteman a while back. They put it up at Vandenburg and launched it over the Pacific. No problems. An old solid-fuel missile can still work!

    Apologies to Claire for getting off-topic.
     
  15. RideRocket

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    Anyway, let's get back on track of the original post prior to everyone digressing into a discussion about electronics and guidance systems.

    I think Russia feels it needs to flex it's military might periodically to validate itself as a major player in world politics - both to themselves and other countries. Their past influence as one of two world superpowers has been dwindling since the Soviet Union broke up. Although they have vast natural resources still at their disposal, it's their nuclear capability that keeps them a viable player.

    Do I think we will re-enter a cold war type era? No. It's more of a reaction to the proposed missile defense systems we want to put in place in the former eastern bloc.
     
  16. dong20

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    I think your specific points may have some validity. It's just a pity you didn't make them specific at the time you wrote them.

    I don't know enough about the systems in missiles (old and new) to make a cogent contribution on a technical front beyond agreeing with BD that electronic systems have a finite life expectency and that time can wreak unforseen effects. But that's OK, we both admitted we're not rocket scientists, but BD alleges he is. I'll take him at his word until I see evidence to the contrary.

    In any event, focussing on missile/launch subsystem boundaries and fuel types seems somewhat superfluous to the point at hand; namely, consideration of the political implications of renewed development and testing.

    Aside from the military aspect, I'm concerned that politically speaking the former Soviet Union is unable to afford the safeguards required to maintain safe, stable and robust command and control systems. As if using Russia, safe and ballistic missiles in the same sentence isn't enough of a non-sequitur in itself.

    As for the bogeyman being back - well it appears to me that 'bogeyman' is something of a relative term, especially with regard to both the use of nuclear weapons and continued overtly robust approach to weapons development. Never mind safe nuclear missile systems, I'd be happier with no such systems at all, it's not like we don't have enough worries.
     
  17. SteveHd

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    I didn't realise I would have to. :biggrin1:

    Back to the topic: I don't see a rekindling of a Cold War, yet. The RS-24 had be in-the-works for many years. They may have adjusted the test date up or down a few months to maximize the political impact. I think the M/S/M is hyper-analyzing this test.

    I'm concerned about trends. Worldwide defense spending has been going up for a number of years. Not all of that is due to the "war on terror". The "peace dividend" is now history. Even the developing countries are spending more on defense. I don't understand what's underpinning the worldwide trend.

    Getting back to Russia, the fact that they're designing, testing, and will build a new ICBM, bothers me. Why do they need a newly-designed missile? I don't think it's BMD because this one must have been initiated before the first BMD missile was deployed. Anyway the BMD will have at most about 100 missiles. They're limited by treaty to, I think, 2,200. That leaves ~2,100 in the clear.

    USA, to my knowledge, doesn't have any new ICBM designs in-the-works. USAF plans to rely upon the Minutemans for another 30 or 40 years. Which is why they're being re-fueled. The newer MX/peacekeeper was dismantled. Russia doesn't have to worry about those anymore. Maybe they're paranoid?
     
  18. westsidedude

    westsidedude New Member

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    I can imagine. i learned about most of this in history class. im not really old enough to know what it feels like really to have lived through the cold war and all that, but i always feel like the world is like on the brink of war all the time. everyone has weapons, everyone is in talks to be nice to each other, we're all worried someone might get pissed. its like if one nation president with good enough weapons has a bitch fit, the whole world could be at risk. its interestin i guess how we can feel so secure but still be so on the edge all the time.
     
  19. SteveHd

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    Gawd, I feel sooooooo old!

    Yeah, there are wars and conflicts all over. It seemed to get worse after the "cold war" ended. Some examples, not in any particular order, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Dem. Rep. of Congo, Nepal, and of course multiple conflicts in the middle east.

    It seems to be human nature.
     
  20. SpeedoGuy

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    I grew up on the Pacific coast near several large Air Force and Navy bases. The types of places Soviet nuclear hardware would likely fall during an attack. During the 1960s I can remember doing "duck-and-cover" drills to rapidly get under my desk at school when the air raid sirens went off. Judging from the damage done at Hiroshima, I thought it pointless to practice such drills but we did them anyway.

    It was friggin' spooky, man. Spooky. Things are spooky now too, but for a different reason.
     
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