I have promised to blog about some interesting stuff (a) the deterrence of nuclear terrorism and (b) Trident II D5 RV news. I’ll start with the D5.
The exists good reason to believe that the US Navy is working on Trident D5 RV modernisation to enhance the counterforce or first strike capabilities of this nuclear weapons delivery platform. It may also provide some evidence for the revival of intra-war deterrence (although I’m not convinced that intra-war deterrence was actually abandoned by Clinton in PDD60. Remember it was NSDM-242 that started to put intra-war deterrence on the map officially. PD 59 was a further evolution and NSDD-13 just used nutty language to justify an absurd strategic buildup. PDD 60 just got rid of the nutty language only I feel now and added in rogue state targeting into Presidential Guidance.)
What is at issue is the D5 Life Extension Test Bed 2 or LETB-2. The LETB-2 package will actually figure in a 2009 D5 SLBM flight test. Let us cite a very important report on this from the GSN
…Budget documents recently submitted to Congress suggest that the Pentagon intends to continue research and development on submarine weapons closely related to Trident. Specifically, the Defense Department is proposing to develop technologies that could be fitted onto the Trident D-5 to make it more accurate as a conventional or nuclear weapon…
Notice the duality? Let us proceed
…In one budget document sent to Capitol Hill last month, the Pentagon says it intends to spend $59 million in this fiscal year and $69 million next year to “assess the feasibility of producing ballistic missiles [launched] from an underwater environment” for conventional prompt global strike…
Prompt global strike plays an important role in LETB-2 but it is also nuclear.
…The funds would lay the groundwork for a 2009 flight experiment “using a Life Extension Test Bed (LETB-2) re-entry body [on] a currently planned Trident D-5 missile flight,” states one Navy document. During the test, officials would demonstrate a communications and data link that could prove useful for subsequent experiments, the service says.
The LETB-2 was designed to go on the front end of a Trident D-5 missile, and comprises a Mk-4 re-entry body warhead and a tail kit containing a Global Positioning System receiver. “The tail kit also includes flaps that would allow the weapon to maneuver precisely to its target.”…
We have seen previously “Minuteman elite” programmes that seek to develop GPS navigation for the Minuteman III ICBM. The LETB-2 would also have this apply to the Trident II D5.
…The Lockheed Martin technology was derived from an “Enhanced Effectiveness” modification the company flight-tested on a Trident D-5 in October 2002, according to company and defense sources. The Navy requested funds in fiscal 2003 to demonstrate Enhanced Effectiveness on the D-5.
Congress canceled the effort, though, citing concerns about the possibility that giving the Trident re-entry body maneuvering capabilities might encourage nuclear exchanges…
Question to ponder here is does “Enhanced Effectiveness” seek to develop a Mk-4 MaRV or rather a Trajectory Shaping Vehicle? TSV’s have been spoken of in the context of Prompt Global Strike and are good for command and control targeting.
…Nonetheless, the Navy was able to perform enough research and development in the Enhanced Effectiveness initiative to generate an initial design for a more-precise Mk-4 re-entry body, one defense official explained last year. The service capitalized on that design work in its nascent plans for the Conventional Trident Modification effort, according to officials…
More precise means more accurate.
…Now “following the conventional Trident’s legislative demise the Navy is proposing to breathe new life into virtually the same designs under the Life Extension Test Bed moniker.” Lockheed Martin first flight-tested that version of its re-entry body design in 2005, officials said…
So LETB-2 is just Enhanced Effectiveness.
…In the run-up to next year’s LETB-2 demonstration, the Pentagon wants to use nearly $60 million from the 2008 multiservice funding account for Navy “test completion and delivery of flight software; assembly and integration of components into LETB-2; fabrication and delivery of heat shield, nose tips and flaps; and, assembly and delivery of power distribution unit and telemetry systems,” according to budget documents…
Is the telemetry systems part a window on a possible TSV capability?
Global Security dot Org has some good stuff on the LETB-2.
…The Navy CPGS Technology Refinement and Demonstration sub-project supports Navy Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) technology development and will assess the feasibility of producing an affordable solution (i.e., ballistic missiles from an underwater environment) to fill the CPGS capability gap. It will assess CPGS technologies that could lead to a weapon system with the stealth, availability, accuracy and rapid response of today’s ballistic missiles. The technologies developed will have cross-service and cross-concept applicability and will be developed through close coordination among DoD components. In FY09, a CPGS Flight Experiment (FE1) using a Life Extension Test Bed (LETB-2) re-entry body (RB) will be conducted using a currently planned TRIDENT II (D5) missile flight to demonstrate communication and telemetry link overhead for future experiments.
In preparation for the FY09 FE1, FY08 activities will involve: test completion and delivery of flight software; assembly and integration of components into LETB-2; fabrication and delivery of heatshield, nosetips and flaps, and; assembly and delivery of power distribution unit and telemetry systems. In addition, two other CPGS technology efforts will be pursued/developed in FY09 to support a future (FY11 timeframe) Flight Experiment (FE2) utilizing a Sandia STARS A3 launch vehicle: the Medium Lift Re-Entry Body (MLRB), and; Warhead and Fuze (WF). For MLRB, deliverables in FY09 include: completion of detailed design, and; an 80% completion of RB software modules. For WF, deliverables include completion of the following items: Kinetic Energy Projectile (KEP) warhead static test; KEP and penetrator lethality modeling; full-scale penetrator gun test; KEP/aeroshell interaction test; KEP warhead arena test, and; KEP warhead sled test number one…
I ask the reader here to note the WF, penetrator lethality and so on that suggests something akin to a nuclear earth penetrator given the notion of “cross-concept applicability.”
If LETB-2 is Enhanced Effectiveness it pays to have a peek at what that was all about. From Global Security dot Org again we have
…Separate from the applications programs, a specific technology solution, D-5 Enhanced Effectiveness (E2), has been identified and included in the FY2004 budget request. The E2 program is designed to provide the D-5 SLBM force enhanced capability to conduct prompt, highly accurate strike; defeat hard and deeply buried targets; and reduce collateral damage with selective nuclear options. The E2 program is a 3-year effort culminating in a flight test of a Trident reentry body with dramatically improved accuracy…
Notice the link with the nuclear earth penetrating warhead concept? But notice the “reduce collateral damage with selective nuclear options?” Yep, that is first strike counterforce and that is intra-war deterrence. Notice that also includes intra-war deterrence nuclear strategy vis a vis not just the so called rogue states but would apply to Russia and China as well.
We have further
…The approach is to integrate existing GPS and inertial measurement unit (IMU) technologies with a flap steering system and a reentry body extension. The extension would attach to the existing Mk 4 (W76) warhead, giving it the size and weight of the larger Mk 5 warhead…
Which means that we have a link with RRW (WR1). Remember that the WR1 would have a slightly lower yield than the W76 but a bigger Mk4 RV means that the WR1 can be fitted snugly into the Mk4 RV and it would be one with a penetration capability, presumably a fuze supporting penetrator capability, greater accuracy and more maneuverability thereby demonstrating a link between RRW and EPWs.
To proceed further
…Since the current D-5 missile is capable of carrying either the Mk 4 or Mk 5 warhead, the changes to the missile are minimal. The concept is to initialize the E2 IMU with the missile guidance system, apply a GPS update during reentry body exoatmospheric flight, and use the IMU and control flaps to steer the warhead with GPS-like accuracy during atmospheric reentry.
Although strategic systems do not traditionally rely on GPS for their operation, the usefulness of a limited number of these highly accurate warheads reflects new NPR-articulated strategic strike missions. The demonstration was to culminate in flight tests and provide a final demonstration assessment report and recommended transition plan to the Navy and Strategic Command (STRATCOM) in early FY2007.
The Navy’s initial funding requests for the D-5 Enhanced Effectiveness (E2) initiative were rejected by Congress in fiscal years 2003 and 2004 and it has not requested funds again since then…
It’s clear that LETB-2 is Enhanced Effectivness and this is meant to enhance the nuclear strike options and nuclear war fighting capabilities of US Strategic Command. At the armscontrolwonk a seminar is advertised on US nuclear weapons policy in DC that states that nuclear weapons have received little attention amongst high level officials.
Pig’s ass they haven’t.
I feel that Minuteman Elite and LETB-2 will provide a certain proportion of the triad to be devoted specifically to those limited attack options of OPLAN-8044 that are designed for “nuclear signaling.” They also relax the requirement for higher yield warheads and thereby limiting “self-deterrence.”
Nirvana for a nuclear strategist is a nuclear weapons capability that would render nukes as a useable instrument of policy. This stuff is just supposed to give nukes a little Clausewitzian touch.