A 900kt device requires an accuracy of >
A RADAC seeker on a Pershing II is good to better than that. In some profiles, the old SRAM was -vastly- better than that, on pure inertial.
EDGE based GPS is good to within 34" (the best we've done has in fact been 9.8"). Even accounting for a 3-4 order of magnitude increase in error
due to the massive differences in kinetic energy trajectory modification effort required between an air delivered and ballistic option; there is no
doubt in my mind that we could place a digger warhead within about 100ft of any silo door we chose.
Also, you have to consider the notion that a buried silo is like a pimple, all hard and white on top, soft and gooey underneath. Why would you /want/
to surface burst crack the concrete when you could apply lateral _sheer_ forces on the surrounding silo walls?
Yes, they are reinforced too but they have the disadvantage of having to bear their own weight as well. I kick a 6ft poured concrete wall 10"
sideways with a digger and everything inside is going to feel that impetus as both an inertial and quite possibly an airborne shock through the sealed
air volume. There are no 'latteral dampening coils' on that missile and if I throw it or the door mechanisms out of kilter, that's that.
Therefore much smaller ones need to hit `in the pickle barrel` to eliminate it, and you must also consider as to whether a micro warhead might not
even eliminate a deep and hardened target even with the enhancement that the shock wave passing through rock gives.
Here's something about a 1MT class yield you might want to consider as the 'logical alternative' in an airburst-
Temperature on the orders of tens of million degrees, virtually causing materials making up the weapon to be vaporized, and gasses expand rapidly
resulting in a pressure wave or 'shock' wave. Just how fast is this wave moving? Within 10 seconds the shockfront is 3 miles from ground zero.
Within 50 seconds, the blast has traveled 12 miles and is moving at approximately 1150 ft/second. This shockwave results in tremendous overpressures,
i.e., pressure in excess of the normal atmospheric pressure (14.7 psi). These overpressures cause a tremendous amount of damage. At 4.5 seconds after
the detonation of a 1 megaton (MT) weapon, the blast front has moved out from ground zero approximately 1.3 miles. The overpressure at the blast front
is roughly 20 pounds per square inch (psi). Some results of overpressures and associated wind velocity:
Pressure (psi) Effect Associated wind velocity (mph)
1 Shatter windows
5 Rupture eardrums, 12" concrete walls shattered 163
15 Lung damage
50 LD/50 (Lethal dose to 50% of population)
People as well as structures quickly have a problem dealing with the overpressures. In regards to the associated wind velocity, people have a problem
being accelerated rapidly also, with the LD/50 for us being approximately 55mph. So again, I'm led to the first thing I mentioned, that if one were
far enough away from the event, water could be protective, but if one were in close, things could be worse. The shock front exerts even more pressure
on water than against air. Where a 100 kT weapon exerts roughly 10 psi in air, it exerts over 2500 psi in water.
By comparing the relative density improvements of localized overpressure as a sheer effect with the _simple_ (immediate) thermal/blast/rad effects of
a surface or airburst 'for range' (in miles) required for direct attack; it becomes immediately clear that the direct threat of MT class weapons to
human lives is a function of lethality in the actual event release of energy.
While the _continuing_ threat of sub-KT class weapons is more a function of making a base area uninhabitable (say 10 miles around the site) and
getting enough ejecta up high enough to increase cancer rates in a further surrounding downwind zone of some 50-200nm.
Gee, thanks, but I _will take_ the option of moving elsewhere over the likelihood of being roasted alive, immediately. Not least because the MT class
weapon is going to have significant radiologic uplift itself (if it is surface burst with the intent of making a 1,000ft wide crater within a 300m
The dangers of SKINC level (Sub Kiloton Insertable Nuclear Components) in a warhead are as follows:
1. Non optimized yields increase the likelihood of heavy isotope remainders in the fallout. And there will be a lot of the latter because the weapon
is effectively a massive badger in use.
2. THERE IS NO CONTAINMENT POSSIBLE, based on simple penetration to depth. Because the case strenghts vs. inertial energy required to dig meet at a
crossing point of some 2.5-3km/sec and about 20-50ft through rock and 100-150ft through dirt.
With the above two notions, the danger lies in assuming that small nuclear penetrators are 'freebies' of atomic demolition. This is most assuredly
WRONG because even a .1KT blast requires about 230-270ft of deep penetration to fully contain the blast void and immediate radiation scatter.
However; if the need is immediate (the Norks just detonated a 1MT yield weapon over Guam to kill a B-2 force making conventional stealth attacks. Or
perhaps detonated an HMP 500KT weapon at 100,000ft over the peninsula to shut down all our regional access to ranged comms and GPS) then you may find
that /waiting/ for the time needed to sortie another jet from the U.S., mate it up with a B61-11 and fly it out to whatever commmand or ballistic silo
threat is out there is too little too late. While the alternative of a unitary, heavy, penetrator from an SSBN may either not exist or only come with
such a high yield penalty that cannot be employed without 'waking up the neighbors' in China and Russia.
In this case, the small atomic weapon, on an ARRMD/Fast Hawk or even ATACMS class system is something which the North Koreans cannot afford to believe
_is not_ in the theater. On a ship or in a hidden igloo. And because it can be deployed at optimum penetration velocities _without_ the
vulnerability (airbase as well as SEAD) of a conventional air delivered munition; it gives them pause in thinking they can achieve a first use
advantage that is worth the _direct_ risk of their own remaining forces or command elements.
In the former case, it should be noted that the GBU-28 cannot be carried by anything other than the F-15E. A non stealth asset. And the GBU-37,
while it can be carried by a B-2 and can penetrate (in numbers if nothing else) a silo door or 'seal' a storage facility; cannot -assure airframe
penetration- because it effectively requires the Batwing to make a direct delivery more akin to a B-17 than a standoff platform.
In the latter case (C2 Bunker) I disagree highly with the assumption made by the FAS scientists that nobody will be in the bunker. This may be true
_so long as_ the confrontation is non-nuclear but when the canned sunlight threshold is exceeded, tactics like those employed by Saddam Hussein only
ensures that you die in the guest bedroom of whatever stranger you are imposing upon. Along with half a million of his neighbors.
Even conventionally, there is some question as to the likelihood of in-plain-sight shell games as most threat nations lack the depth of country and
richness of culture to make an MTI caravan not itself a noteworthy (and reachable) signature.
In this instances, the likelihood remains high that the NCA will go to ground and use the same tunnel boring technology to push out fibre optic lines
to either landline or remote microwave emitters some 10-50 even 100 miles away.
While the fact remains that if you put a nuke in a hole and make a spherical void 250-500ft across with it, you can do it again to 'expand the
balloon some more' And this will, sooner or later, get even the deepest boring slug targets. If you are willing to pay the reattack penalty of
continuing uplift/ejecta necessary to reach a stratacoupled depth where you collapse his bunker around him.
I myself see nukes as being quite useful weapons because they do not require live expenditure to maintain an _appearance of competency_ in your
enemies' eyes. And indeed, this very lack of real world sampled exposure inhibits the development of effective countermeasures to the delivery
vehicle as much as weapon. I -do not- foresee a first use policy short of other-WMD (chem/bio) equalling nuclear threshold in casualties.
But the fact remains that smaller weapons are more useful to LARGE countries than they are to small ones. This is due to what I call a
'disproportionate value vs. force utility' theory. In that atomic release on frontal forces could win the North Koreans a way through any Pusan
Perimeter (even if said Perimeter was at Seoul). And the resulting overrun would happen so fast that any 'strategic' (time as much as yield)
response would be that of "Well, we own it all, now what?" razed earth refusal to let /anyone/ own it. In this scenario, you might very well /have
to/ kill the entire North Korean populace to stop their leadership from having any continuing livelihood reason to pursue a nuclear strategy aimed at
eliminating ROK and U.S. forces.
OTOH, small weapons don't buy you much in an equivalent attack on a large CONUS value-based civillian target infrastructure.
a. Because we can take more damage than most nations can dish out.
b. Because the suitcase nuke technology baseline for NON AGGRESSIVELY KINETIC DELIVERY is already there.
c. Because if you make such an attack, during a conventional war or as a function of being captured on ingress. Or even 'found out' after (U.S. is
busy nursing terrible wounds, DPRK attacks, assumptions are made). We will eliminate you as a nation if not cultural subgroup. Without question.
What small nuclear devices bring to the table, however you 'penetrating or not' justify the repackaging of the base technology; is politeness to the
survivors. In the nation we still want to be neutral/friendly with, next door.
Again, RNEP is NOT a 'perfect solution' as the ejecta will still be severe, locally, and the contamination of local water tables probably permanent.
But the uplift from a surface or (worse) airburst in the 300KT-1MT class is going to have equal or better chance of putting radiologics into the
upper air mass where it will most certainly fallout over continental downrange distances.
LINK to another interesting hypothetical-
[edit on 11-7-2005 by ch1466]