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Nuclear Modernization

Posted: Thu Nov 10, 2016 12:53 am
by ECFlyer
With the election results, what are thoughts on nuclear modernization? Particularly a new U.S. land-based ICBM?

I had expected such a program to face steep hurdles had HRC prevailed. Given Republican's lining of the executive and legislative branches, I expect a modern ICBM to have materially better odds of being built (or at least planned/designed). Clearly, any program could be cancelled four years from January if things flip again.

Given that SpaceX and other have developed their launch platforms relatively easily, how difficult would it be to field a modern missile quickly/on a budget? Something that is simply new, reliable, and has a good throw-weight should not be super-hard to field in a relatively short period of time (technically, that is--procurement politics a separate story). Related to this, why not just dust off the Peacekeeper plans? Were there any issues with that design? Would it be the wrong size for our remaining silos? (cannot recall if the Peacekeeper was deployed in Titan II or Minuteman III silos...). I have seen both the Peacekeeper and Minuteman III at Wright-Patterson, and the Peacekeeper is a much wider bird.

Re: Nuclear Modernization

Posted: Thu Nov 10, 2016 9:25 am
by WIederling
"Given that SpaceX and other have developed their launch platforms relatively easily, .."

Standing on the shoulders of giants.

Anyway I doubt you'll ever see liquid fueled engines on military rockets ( ICBM or anything else ) again.

Re: Nuclear Modernization

Posted: Thu Nov 10, 2016 11:23 am
by mmo
WIederling wrote:
"

Anyway I doubt you'll ever see liquid fueled engines on military rockets ( ICBM or anything else ) again.



The Titan II were liquid fueled.......

Re: Nuclear Modernization

Posted: Thu Nov 10, 2016 12:11 pm
by WIederling
mmo wrote:
WIederling wrote:
"

Anyway I doubt you'll ever see liquid fueled engines on military rockets ( ICBM or anything else ) again.

The Titan II were liquid fueled.......

_were_ !!

same as V2/A4, R-7,Restone, Jupiter, ...
but in the ballistic missile context they have been phased out.
( though Russians seem to still see use cases for liquid propellants )

Re: Nuclear Modernization

Posted: Thu Nov 10, 2016 2:56 pm
by ECFlyer
Sorry, the point of some of my original post wasn't that clear. The comments about SpaceX were just to ask whether there were any terribly difficult technical hurdles to fielding a new ICBM for the U.S. I used SpaceX exactly because they were able to stand on the shoulders of massive earlier work, grossly simplifying the task of fielding a new airframe.

I suspect--technically at least--that there is little new ground to break in the fundamental engineering for a replacement missile. Now if there is a need/desire to reformulate solid fuel, and/or field the world's most accurate re-entry vehicle, I could see considerable new engineering. And if it must become a task to spread the procurement to the maximum number of ZIP codes, I can see other headaches.

My sense though--if the U.S. replaces the Minuteman III with a land based missile--is mostly the desire for something that can sit in the holes for another ~50 years at minimum cost. One thing I had forgotten, in the fading of my Cold War memories, was the old USAF tension between 'live airplane' procurement and the ICBM folks. This should all be interesting to watch.

Re: Nuclear Modernization

Posted: Thu Nov 10, 2016 5:00 pm
by Stitch
ECFlyer wrote:
With the election results, what are thoughts on nuclear modernization? Particularly a new U.S. land-based ICBM?


The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent RFP was released this July to Boeing IDS, Lockheed-Martin and Northrop Grumman by the USAF. Proposals were due last month.

http://www.defensenews.com/story/defens ... /87751050/

Re: Nuclear Modernization

Posted: Thu Nov 10, 2016 7:55 pm
by flyingclrs727
ECFlyer wrote:
With the election results, what are thoughts on nuclear modernization? Particularly a new U.S. land-based ICBM?

I had expected such a program to face steep hurdles had HRC prevailed. Given Republican's lining of the executive and legislative branches, I expect a modern ICBM to have materially better odds of being built (or at least planned/designed). Clearly, any program could be cancelled four years from January if things flip again.

Given that SpaceX and other have developed their launch platforms relatively easily, how difficult would it be to field a modern missile quickly/on a budget? Something that is simply new, reliable, and has a good throw-weight should not be super-hard to field in a relatively short period of time (technically, that is--procurement politics a separate story). Related to this, why not just dust off the Peacekeeper plans? Were there any issues with that design? Would it be the wrong size for our remaining silos? (cannot recall if the Peacekeeper was deployed in Titan II or Minuteman III silos...). I have seen both the Peacekeeper and Minuteman III at Wright-Patterson, and the Peacekeeper is a much wider bird.


SpaceX doesn't plan on building rockets that can be stored for decades and launched with just a few minutes warning.

The problem with the MX (Peacekeeper) missile is that with 10 warheads, it could be perceived as a first strike weapon that could be destabilizing. A smaller missile with fewer warheads would probably be preferred.

Re: Nuclear Modernization

Posted: Thu Nov 10, 2016 9:18 pm
by ECFlyer
I had read about the RFP for the new missile, hence my interest. As a former congressional intern (a long time ago), I suspected that the program would be delayed indefinitely, or cancelled outright, had the election gone as predicted. There have been several well-placed editorials disclaiming the need for anything going forward save the SLBM force. I suspect that the ICBM stands a better chance now, but who knows.

Re: the Peacekeeper being a first-strike weapon, it certainly was with its accuracy and 10-warhead bus. But I would guess that a new-build ICBM with 1-3 warheads could have a very small CEP if desired. With restrictions on the number of fielded warheads, I can see the merit in having those spread across many more missiles (vs. the limited LGM-118 fleet), but having the new 1-3 warhead missiles be very, very accurate. Land-basing a brand-new design should allow it to hit something the size of a house accurately.

Re: Nuclear Modernization

Posted: Fri Nov 11, 2016 1:01 am
by Stitch
START II would have limited the number of warheads per delivery vehicle on the land-based ICBM force to one, which was one reason the Peacekeeper was phased out (since it was far cheaper to keep Minuteman in such a configuration). START II was never ratified and New START (which was) does not have such a limitation (both the Soviet SS-18 and it's Russian successor are 10 warhead designs).

So the US could field a new high-warhead design, but I expect we won't. I think we might be looking at something like the cancelled MGM-134 Midgetman design, perhaps without being road-mobile.

Re: Nuclear Modernization

Posted: Fri Nov 11, 2016 4:13 pm
by mpgunner
A fascinating article on the challenge to maintain and build a new bomb. "Will it work?"

http://www.lanl.gov/discover/publicatio ... ckpile.pdf

Re: Nuclear Modernization

Posted: Sat Nov 12, 2016 1:49 am
by Aesma
If Trump wants to spend scarce money on military stuff, I'm not sure ICBMs would be a priority, there are probably other things to buy that provide more jobs to unskilled workers.

Re: Nuclear Modernization

Posted: Sat Nov 12, 2016 5:15 am
by 11Bravo
Aesma wrote:
If Trump wants to spend scarce money on military stuff, I'm not sure ICBMs would be a priority, there are probably other things to buy that provide more jobs to unskilled workers.

Trump doesn't get to decide how much is spent on much of anything. Federal spending is determined by the US Congress. If they want to buy ICBMs, they can. Whether that's a good use of the money is another subject.

Re: Nuclear Modernization

Posted: Sat Nov 12, 2016 1:25 pm
by zanl188
On the air breathing side of things...

I understand the F107 engine on the ALCM has reliability & maintainability problems. This is setting the ALCM up for phase out in 2030, leaving the B-52 without a nuclear mission.

Has the replacement LRSO gone forward?