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07 April, 2010

Breaking Down START

Earlier this week Sublime Oblivion linked to a smart quantitative breakdown posted over at the Russian Strategic Forces Blog concerning the new START treaty.  Included was this useful table:


RUSSIA

July 2009 Old START 2010
Actual
operationally deployed launches (total launchers)
ca. 2020
New START
operationally deployed launchers (total launchers)
[estimate]
ca. 2020
New START warheads
[estimate]
ICBMs



SS-25 176 171

SS-27 silo 50 50 60 60
SS-27 road 15 18 27 27
RS-24

85 255
SS-19 120 70

SS-18 104 59 20 200
Total ICBMs 465 367 192 542
SLBMs



Delta III/SS-N-18 6/96 4/64

Delta IV/SS-N-23 6/96 4/64 (6/96) 4/64 256
Typhoon/SS-N-20 2/40 0/0

Borey/Bulava 2/36 0/0 4/64 384
Total SLBMs 268 128 (164) 128 640
Bombers



Tu-160 13 13 13 13
Tu-95MS 63 63 63 63
Total bombers 76 76 76 76
TOTAL 809 571 (603) 396 (396) 1258

The United States (UPDATED 02/29/10)

July 2009 Old START 2010
Actual
operationally deployed launches (total launchers)
ca. 2020
New START
operationally deployed launchers (total launchers) [estimate]
ca. 2020
New START warheads
[estimate]
ICBMs



Minuteman III 500 450 350 350
MX 50 0

Total ICBMs 550 450 350 350
SLBMs



Trident I/C-4 4/96


Trident II/D-5 14/336 12/288 (14/336) 12/288 (14/336) 1152
Total SLBMs 268 288 (336) 288 (336) 1152
Bombers



B-1 47 0

B-2 18 16 (18) 16 (18) 16
B-52 141 44 (93) 32 (93) 32
Total bombers 206 60 (111) 48 (111) 48
TOTAL 1188 798 (897) 686 (797) 1550


The author comments:

Pavel Podvig. Russian Strategic Forces Blog. 27 March 2010.
The tables below summarize the current status of the U.S. and Russian forces and the possible composition of the forces by the time the New START treaty is set to end - about 2020. The first column show the data from the last "old" START data exchange - these show how many launchers the parties had at the time. Since the old START counts every nuclear capable launcher, whether they operational or not, this column is very much an absolute ceiling. For example, START requires counting SS-N-20 and Bulava SLBMs, although the former have long gone and the latter is yet to fly reliably. The actual state of affairs is in the second column - it shows the actual operationally deployed launchers and the total number of launchers available - the latter number includes, for example, submarines that are in overhaul but that are expected return to service.

The next column show how a New START force may look like - again, there is a separate count of "operationally deployed" launchers and the total number of launchers. The treaty will set separate limits for those - 700 and 800 respectively. It looks like only the United States would use this gap between the two categories - it would need it for the two Trident II submarines that will be in overhaul. Depending of how the treaty deals with empty ICBM silos, the United States could also use it for some of those. Russia, in fact, will also have some empty ICBM silos, so it is possible that it would make use of that provision as well.

The last column shows the New START count of warheads. Since every bomber will be counted as a single warhead, the total count would seriously underestimate the number of nuclear warheads in active service. For example, Russian 76 bombers are technically capable of carrying more than 800 warheads. The U.S. strategic bomber force has about 500 nuclear warheads assigned to it. So, the actual number of operationally deployed warheads will probably be closer to 2000 on each side, which is not much of a reduction compared to the Moscow Treaty.

In sum: despite overblown rhetoric to the contrary (the New York Times reporter who wrote that this is "the most concrete foreign policy achievement of this administration" comes to mind) the new START treaty is not a game changer. Beyond keeping the institutional framework for future weapon reductions in place it does very little. 

ADDENDUM:  The full text of the treaty can be found here. At 17 pages it is a quick read. I recommended giving it a quick look. 

6 comments:

jk said...

How about a little hackery, scarecrow?

Is there really any value whatsoever in a good treaty? Do we trust Russia to abide by her promises? Is it worth reducing our capability?

Lastly, when I look at threats from Iran, N Korea and stateless rouge terrorists, the Russian - US threat seems antiquated.

T. Greer said...

JK-

I am sympathetic to both sides with this one. A nuclear free world might be a more dangerous place than many imagine.

On the other hand, between the United States and Russia there exits a ridiculous number of weapons. This number defies utility - by the time you are ready to launch the last 500, your civilization is already gone. On the long term having so many warheads is dangerous - see how fast folks had to scramble in 1991 to secure weapons that had been deployed in Kazakhstan!

"Lastly, when I look at threats from Iran, N Korea and stateless rouge terrorists, the Russian - US threat seems antiquated."

The NORKS have about ten war heads. When the Iranians get theirs, I doubt they will have the capacity to create more than a few at a time. The numbers here are beyond disproportionate. It is difficult to justify 2,000+ war heads on their count.

JN Kish said...

"This number defies utility - by the time you are ready to launch the last 500, your civilization is already gone."

I'm not so sure this is true.

J.R. Nyquist writes in Origins of the Fourth World War (pages 26-28):

Thermonuclear weapons largely have three effects: blast, heat, and radioactive fallout. Though it is difficult to shield oneself from the direct blast effects of a close-proximity hydrogen bomb, it is possible and desirable to protect oneself from radioactive fallout. In the event of a nuclear war, given sufficient fallout shelters, 60 to 70 million lives could be saved.

According to General J.K. Singlaub, it would take 438 one-megaton bombs to destroy Los Angeles.

...The radioactivity of fallout will rapidly dwindle to safe levels, diminishing to 1/100th of its original strength within forty-nine hours and 1/10,000th of its original radioactivity by the end of two weeks. Some longer-lived particles will continue to cause trouble, but these particles only exist in very small quantities and would mostly affect those areas directly impacted by ground-burst weapons...

...Since 1955 citizens of Russia... are taught that nuclear war is not the end of the world and that such a war, though terrible beyond belief, is winnable.

It has often been argued that those who die in a nuclear war are the lucky ones. But if we stop and think for a moment, the whole argument supposes an odd reversal: that the living shall envy the dead. The unthinking followers of this school, however, will acknowledge their error when nuclear war actually happens. Then they will scream, "We want to live! We desperately want to live!"

jk said...

Perhaps I lack imagination, but the Cold War scenario of the US and Russia launching hundreds of nukes at each other has the same currency as fighting the Germans with mustard gas at Verdun.

Most if these treaties impede the replacement and development of new devices that might be useful in real applications: small bunker-busters and the like.

I worry we will give away the store there for a treaty of no value (800 vs. 1100, everybody feel safer?)

T. Greer said...

@JK:

Perhaps I lack imagination, but the Cold War scenario of the US and Russia launching hundreds of nukes at each other has the same currency as fighting the Germans with mustard gas at Verdun.

Then why keep them? Why not draw down to more reasonable levels?

"Most if these treaties impede the replacement and development of new devices that might be useful in real applications: small bunker-busters and the like."

This treaty impedes nothing of the sort. Article II, Section 2 of the treaty states:

"Each Party shall have the right to determine for itself
the composition and structure of its strategic offensive arms."


"(800 vs. 1100, everybody feel safer?)"

Yes. The less bombs you have the more difficult stray proliferation is.

T. Greer said...

@JKNish:

It is an issue of connectivity , not causality counts. Assume that we embark on a massive infrastructure overhaul to provide those 70 million Americans with the bomb shelters they need to survive. They may survive the exchange, but then what?

Allow me to use the example of Oahu (where I live now) to prove the case. Honolulu is targeted by a 25 megaton air blast - I'd wager the landing point would be Pearl Harbor. The fleet there would be instantly destroyed. As would most of the port. Honolulu itself is devastated; all skyscrapers within 15 miles of the harbor would collapse. The State Capitol is reduced to its foundations. So is the downtown financial district. The rest of the city - and quite a bit of the surrounding countryside - is in flames.

This is not enough to kill Hawaii, however. The wind would carry most of the radiation to the south, out to the Pacific. Wheeler Army Airfield (assuming it does not get its own nuclear surprise)is unharmed. And the North Shore, besides a few broken windows and blinded eyes, is fine. These survivors could put the place back together, right?

I am doubtful. As the folks at Wheeler realize the scale of devastation that has fallen upon Oahu, they try to contact their superiors... and can't. The Pentagon is gone. Pacific Command is gone. Heck, communication with the entire mainland is gone - EMP attacks left the entire communication grid in shambles. And now the real pain starts. The entire island's electricity grid is gone. its health system is overloaded. The island's gasoline is used up in a few days time. The North Shore uses up its water stores in a few days more. Food lasts no more than a week. And communication with the outside world is near non existant - the telecommunication companies were all destroyed with the rest of the mainland. And soon come the refugees - hundreds of thousands of people from Honolulu streaming North in search of food, water, and safety. The island tears itself apart. And even if there was relief on the way, it would be of little use - the island's port has been destroyed. Oahu has become a death trap.

This is what happens when the bomb starts flying. Every urban area will become a death trap; every rural area a mass of refugees and bandits.

No, you do not need to kill every single American to end America's civilization. Once the lights go out, once the oil stops flowing in, once the telephones go dead - that is when civilization implodes. Take away the key nodes of our emergency, financial, health, and water systems, communication and electric grids, and government, and they rest falls in upon itself. This is the cost any civilization in the modern age.