A Very Brief Analysis…

(As a preface, I’m simply going to state that I won’t bother engaging with the idea that this was some sort of bluff. Any well-informed observer armed with a bit of logic and experience can demolish that notion easily. The cards layed on the table here are more likely an ~65% discloure – that is, an understatement, a partial disclosure.)


Sarmat heavy liquid-fueled ICM – Basically no surprise, we knew about this. “Nuclear-Primacy” killer mainstay. Sidepoint: In a major IC missile duel, the massive throw weight of these vehicles would be used in a variety of ways, not simply delivering hypersonic glide vehicles but also very likely delivering a variety of supporting space weapons and surveillance equipment. A lot of stuff needs to get thrown into orbit to attack the enemy’s defensive and surveillance infrastructure and to pave the way for the actual onslaught, somewhat analogous to the prepatory artillery bombardment prior to a classic 20th-century infantry attack.

Nuclear-powered submarine drone – My first impression was: basically no surprise, we knew about this. However, while the initial leak a few years ago emphasised second or third strike capability resiliency of the Doomsday-Machine variety, the tone here was of a general purpose weapon for all –including early– stages of a general Tier-One global war. This weapon revolutionises naval warfare, putting in check all USN carrier groups and port facilities, with warheads potentially small enough yield (or even conventional) to permit usage in relatively low escalation stages of conflict, whereas the third-strike/doomsday variant rumours spoke of cobalt-jacketed 25 Mt device. I’ll say it again, this weapon revolutionises naval warfare. Yesterday, the Russians were far behind in their SSN fleet numbers, a decade or two and vast sums of money away from contending in the world ocean undersea warfare. After the speech, I understood, this weapon is to a great degree a replacement for SSN hunter-killer submarines. It dives deeper, swims faster, is smaller and cheaper, and without the human crew has vastly expanded persistence. It’s possible that Russia’s SSN numbers are so low because they’ve thrown the bulk of relevant resources behind this kind of platform. If so, congrats for the win.

Nuclear-powered cruise missile – My initial impression was big surprise because it’s a technological bolt from the blue, but this weapon system in particular really only effects a full-scale thermonuclear exchange, and under such a scenario it only reinforces Russia’s second or third strike capabilities. This system butresses Putin’s claim of having rendered the USA’s Nuclear-Primacy strategy dead.

Kinzhal hypersonic missile – A big surprise but really shouldn’t have been. Quite similar to what we expected out of the Zircon. 2000km range is very much higher than the Zircon’s previewed range.

This weapon gives Russia tremendous conventional firepower leverage over CENTCOM in MENA. It was always my opinion that the Russian task force in Syria was well-protected by homeland-based assets and the unveiling of the Kinzhal reinforces that view emphatically. A web-analyst named SmoothieX12 made a big deal about how this missile heralds a revolution in naval affairs, because it renders all surface ships including CVN groups deadmeat. I agree but disagree, in the sense that previous generations of Soviet and then Russian missiles had already done that. The mid-80s Backfire vs CVN battle in the Clancy book was not reflective of the likely outcome, in my opinion. The CVN group would have been decimated 10 times over by not only the Backfires but by Oscar submarine launched near-hypersonic missile barrages. I’ve mentioned John Keegan in nearly every one of these amateur naval military analyses I do, simply to credit where I saw for the first time (1991) the prediction that naval surface combatants would be rendered obsolete. Keegan said the future of naval combat belonged to submarines and (land-based) aircraft. His predictions have borne out, and his analysis is fully vindicated in March 2018. The undersea element of his prediction is vindicated today in the above-discussed submarine drone, and the aerial element of his prediction is vindicated particularly in this weapon. However, this is not simply a naval warfare weapon. This system effectively puts Russia in MENA at conventional and tactical-nuclear parity in any conceivable conflict with CENTCOM at a fraction of the trillion plus invested in the latter over the last 20 years. A big payoff for a relatively modest technical leap. Russia shows grace and precision at the highest levels of institutional planning and execution. Hallmark of a truly advanced and healthy civilisation, all their continuing challenges notwithstanding.

On a purely technical level, I wonder how well guidance works behind a Mach-10 induced plasma cloud, and I wonder about how engineers approach the prospect of defending against such a weapon. If it’s invisible to radar behind the plasma cloud, it is very much visible to IR scopes, although precise fixing/ranging has to be an epic math problem with spectral analysis. Once you know where it is, you still have the problem that it’s on most likely a chaotic oscillatory dive, which will make interception next to impossible with current and near prospective means. On a purely physical level, I wonder how a powerful laser affects something behind a plasma cloud. It the energy simply absorbed by the cloud and re-radiated off into space around it ?

Avangard Hypersonic Glide Vehicle Basically no surprise, we knew about similar developments like the Yu-71 glide vehicle. This weapon represents the apex of current strategic nuclear weapons development. By staying in the atmosphere, the vehicle can utilise the atmosphere for manuevering, whereas a weapons-bus outside the atmosphere can only maneuver by the expenditure of rocket fuel, and is therefore much more vulnerable to kinetic interception. I guess these are delivered deployment position by Sarmat, but really no idea, maybe there are a variety of lauch platforms.

Laser Weapon???

I’ll comment on this in a later edit. I will say immediately that this should be interpreted in light of the nuclear power generation revolution associated with the cruise missile and the submarine drone; in other words, this is a nuclear powered mobile laser system. A few weeks ago there was some small news about the Russians having completed testing of an airborne laser platform, and that they are now moving to serial production, and that the air platform would not be based on the Il-76, I assume they are going to try for something that optimises very high altitude persistence. My ultimate point here is that though its capabilites were not disclosed but rather kept a tight secret – perhaps for some psychological-(op) effect of suspense and not merely out of informational security concerns –, we can safely assume that this is not some piddling drone killer or dazzler laser like those currently being tested on USN ships. I will bet money this is a very high power weapon with ample defensive killshot abilities, perhaps even against theatre ballistic missile warheads. Lethality is anyone’s guess, but I’ll bet it’s quite high powered and of substantial utility in aerospace defense applications.