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Thread: The Deadhand: Putin's Nuclear-Powered Cruise Missile

  1. #16
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    the idea of this missile is not being invisible, the idea is that only limited directions can be covered by defence systems.... aircraft... SAM... etc. Having no range limitations it can fly through large breaches in such defences - and doesn't matter how long it needs to be in the air.... days... weeks.... until it is destroyed it is a threat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Skywatcher View Post
    How good is the reactor shielding? Otherwise a cruise missile with a very large multi-spectrum signature is just asking to be seen and shot down.
    the idea of this missile is not being invisible, the idea is that only limited directions can be covered by defence systems.... aircraft... SAM... etc. Having no range limitations it can fly through large breaches in such defences - and doesn't matter how long it needs to be in the air.... days... weeks.... until it is destroyed it is a threat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveDaPirate View Post
    US carriers are certainly large, but easily detectable is another matter. A carrier on a wartime footing is going to be moving quickly at all times, sanitizing the ocean in a 400 mile radius around it. It is also surrounded by cruisers, destroyers and submarines that are going to make getting anywhere near a carrier a very hazardous proposition.

    So how do you target US carrier without getting close enough that it kills you first? A spy satellite in LEO might be able to distinguish between a US carrier and other shipping, but they aren't very helpful for real time targeting due to only being overhead for a couple of minutes before they spend another 90 minutes circling the earth. They are also exceptionally vulnerable to the kind of ASAT weapons sitting in every DDG's VLS cells.

    There are a lot of long ranged missiles, but they generally either go after targets that don't move, or require some kind of external targeting instructions once they arrive. A Tomahawk cruise missile for example can either hit a designated GPS coordinates if attacking a stationary target, or fly to an indicated area and start sending a video feed back to satellites while waiting for additional instructions about what to attack if you are going after a mobile target. The second strategy isn't going to work for a hypersonic missile however; it doesn't have time to communicate with a satellite while searching for targets because it is traveling too fast. A stealthy aircraft like an F-22, or F-35, or perhaps an RQ-180 could sneak past enemy defenses to provide real time targeting instructions to high speed, long ranged missiles, but I don't know that Russia has such ISR assets available to them.

    Plasma and heat present another challenge to hypersonic missiles. Radio waves don't penetrate plasma well. This is the source of Russian claims of "plasma stealth". The plasma shell around a high speed missile is a double edged sword however, as it also means that the missile itself can't use radar for targeting purposes. This is the source of the communications blackout experienced by spacecraft returning to earth. The prodigious heat that builds up on the airframe of a supersonic missile also means that in addition to radar being unusable, infrared targeting is also out, while the missile itself is going to show up on IR sensors a long way out against a cold sky.
    Steve, plasma argument is strong. Yet I have no idea if it is a case with this Kinzhal missile which is being launched at the altitude of 24km and then climbs even higher.... probably plasma may be case when it decends at fast speed, but it does it vertically as it hits from the top at a speed of 12000 km/h against the target which moves max 60km/hour - i.e. in those few seconds which are needed for the missile to decend the large target with quare of around 600m2 will not move more than few hundred metters.... for such speed differential carrier is same as a static target - not much guidance is needed at final stage. So it can be blind on decending stage.... but I don't know (and you too) if it is blind on stages before that.

    Guys - will there be sufficient plazma to make a missile blind at a speed of 12000 km/hour at an altitude of 30+km? Open question...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironduke View Post
    Garry, I know you're a Russian patriot and you take as much pride in your country's accomplishments as anyone else here does with theirs, but I think that this is more about Putin stroking his own ego and feelings of inadequacy than anything else.

    In my view, this technology is as pointless in 2018 as it was in 1964, and it doesn't change the strategic calculus when it comes to nuclear war. If this technology had any actual value, we would have developed it past its experimental stage and added it to our nuclear arsenal. The only value I see in this weapon is as a tool of propaganda, for Russian domestic consumption.

    The thing is, there's no real way to defend against a saturation of MIRVs and decoys deployed from conventional ICBMs anyways. A nuclear war would play out exactly the same way and the end result would be the same. So something like this hypersonic nuclear-powered scramjet cruise missile, whether it works or not, or is practical or not, is beside the point.
    Hi Ironduke, VVP clearly stated that this weapon is not needed today because existing Anti-Missile Defence system USA deploys is not capable to defend much. He stated that this is a responce to the future threat when such system will emerge someday - he believes it is possible. Hence new attack weapons shall be NON BALISTIC to devaluate such future defence system. In this logic this missile clearly fits into millitary strategy to keep destruction potential intact.

    Another thing - it is not intended for a conventional warhead - it is a strategic weapon, which is intended to PREVENT and STOP an adversary into investents in Anti-Missile Defence.

    To me all USA arguments that such systems were built against Iran were discredited over years. USA was clearly building a defense system against Russia, and now Russia tries to devalue these efforts. In this regard this weapon works fine

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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveDaPirate View Post
    While it is certainly a message of Russian strength ahead of the 2018 elections I can only really think of two operational uses for such a weapon.

    Either the US has made a lot more progress on the Midcourse defense system than the Pentagon is letting on and Russia is losing confidence in their robust ICBM fleet in the medium term or they want an option for nuclear signalling that can be recalled. (Although that already exists in the Tu-95 fleet...)

    When it comes to carriers, submarines and large salvos of ASHMs remain the most effective options to cripple them without triggering WWIII. A cruise missile with a nuclear engine is going to be considered a WMD whether the warhead is conventional or not, and attacking a US carrier with such will trigger nuclear retaliation. At which point the same result could be achieved with a considerably cheaper nuclear tipped Iskander.
    the cruisse missile with nuclear propulsion is not intended for carriers nor other tactical warfare. It is a strategic weapon. For carriers Kinzhal is intended. With distance of 2000km + 750km base range of Mig31 it may attack CBG with 1500km before such CBG can counter anything. The only issue is targeting, but today satelites are doing this job much better than in 1980es.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveDaPirate View Post
    I don't actually think recovery of such a device would be practical. The radiation would be too much of a headache to deal with compared to building a new one. Most likely it would be turned away from CONUS and ditched into the pacific.

    Which just reinforces the point that cold war era bombers are a much better tool for such signalling.
    agreed, if only such bombers had an unlimited range capability..... if needed such cruise missile may circle in the air above oceans for many months.... until it gets a signal to continue its attack. If bomber could do so it would change the rules of the game completelly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Garry View Post
    the idea of this missile is not being invisible, the idea is that only limited directions can be covered by defence systems.... aircraft... SAM... etc. Having no range limitations it can fly through large breaches in such defences - and doesn't matter how long it needs to be in the air.... days... weeks.... until it is destroyed it is a threat.
    Shielding so you don't fry the structure/electronics/avionics, not to mention the people living and operating around the missile. Why have a missile fly for so long? MIRV ICBM/SLBM can overwhelm any missile defense and get there pretty quick. Global hawks have 14000 miles plus range. It sounds like Putin has more faith in your nuclear power industry than your aircraft engine makers

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    Quote Originally Posted by Garry View Post
    agreed, if only such bombers had an unlimited range capability..... if needed such cruise missile may circle in the air above oceans for many months.... until it gets a signal to continue its attack. If bomber could do so it would change the rules of the game completelly.
    If the missile is aloft for that long detection becomes easier there also jamming. Isn't it easier to put a weapon in a low earth orbit? The whole thing sounds like propaganda with an expensive solution to an unwarranted problem.

  9. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dazed View Post
    Global hawks have 14000 miles plus range.
    This is one application where nuclear power makes a lot of sense to me since ISR is something with a constant demand. Apparently Northrop and Sandia National Laboratories actually developed a nuclear powered Global Hawk but ended up shelving the project due to political considerations. (Such as what happens when one inevitably crashes)

  10. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Garry View Post
    Guys - will there be sufficient plazma to make a missile blind at a speed of 12000 km/hour at an altitude of 30+km? Open question...
    The general rule is that around mach 10 the heat buildup is sufficient to create enough plasma to cause a communications blackout even at high altitudes.

    That's right around the speed the Kinzhal claims to fly. (although perhaps it cruises slower and has a hypersonic dash at the end of the flight?) The Space Shuttle orbiter used to experience a communications blackout lasting up to 16 minutes that occurred largely between ~120 km down to ~60 km, after which it would slow down sufficiently to re-establish communications. It also featured multiple large high powered antennas that were designed to pierce the layer of ionization as soon as possible that no cruise missile will be able to carry.

    After 1988 the Space Shuttle program was able to solve the blackout problem by utilizing a hole in the plasma sheath near the upper rear of the orbiter to maintain communications with satellites above them that would relay the signal back to earth. This was only possible due to the Space Shuttle's unique shape, high-drag flight attitude of 40 degrees, and reentry path and wouldn't have been possible during the Gemini or Apollo programs due to the round shaping and steep reentry path of their capsules.

    A hypersonic cruise missile is also unlikely to be able to take advantage of a hole in the plasma sheath surrounding it because it will be traveling forwards rather than down and is shaped to be aerodynamically smooth rather than the high drag shaping of the Space Shuttle during reentry.

    Take a look at this 2010 paper from NASA for some interesting reading:

    Review of Leading Approaches for Mitigating Hypersonic Vehicle Communications Blackout and a Method of Ceramic Particulate Injection Via Cathode Spot Arcs for Blackout Mitigation

    https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/c...0100008938.pdf
    Last edited by SteveDaPirate; 22 Mar 18, at 15:12.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveDaPirate View Post
    This is one application where nuclear power makes a lot of sense to me since ISR is something with a constant demand. Apparently Northrop and Sandia National Laboratories actually developed a nuclear powered Global Hawk but ended up shelving the project due to political considerations. (Such as what happens when one inevitably crashes)
    A turbine gives you 65000, 30 hrs and 11000 miles and a lot of payloads all the things needed for time aloft and line of sight. The reactor you just can't turn on and off, shielding so you work in shirt sleeves and fry the avionics cuts into payload. You have fission what is the reactor going to drive for propulsion? If it involves coolant for the reactor more payload loss. The turbines are derivatives of light jet engines, cheap to build. Reactors built in the number of 10's prohibitively expensive.

  12. #27
    Senior Contributor SteveDaPirate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dazed View Post
    A turbine gives you 65000, 30 hrs and 11000 miles and a lot of payloads all the things needed for time aloft and line of sight. The reactor you just can't turn on and off, shielding so you work in shirt sleeves and fry the avionics cuts into payload. You have fission what is the reactor going to drive for propulsion? If it involves coolant for the reactor more payload loss. The turbines are derivatives of light jet engines, cheap to build. Reactors built in the number of 10's prohibitively expensive.
    The argument was that for medium to large sized drones nuclear propulsion provides far more endurance and electrical power than a hydrocarbon turbine engine, which allows it to operate more powerful radar, surveillance, jamming, or communications equipment than anything even close to the same size.

    Nuclear propulsion is certainly more expensive up front than a jet engine, but at a programmatic level, it pays for itself by eliminating the need for forward basing drone squadrons and all their associated infrastructure and manpower in regions all around the world. When flight range and duration are effectively unlimited, all the drones and equipment for handling their unique requirements can be based at a single location in CONUS similar to the the B-2 program.

    Northrop patented a nuclear powered drone (helium cooled) back in 1986 so this isn't new territory for them. They just weren't able to make the case that the increase in capability outweighed the political risks.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/20...nuclear-drones
    Last edited by SteveDaPirate; 22 Mar 18, at 20:55.

  13. #28
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the...st-glide-25003

    We Now Know How Russia's New Avangard Hypersonic Boost-Glide Weapon Will Launch

    Russia will apparently use surplus UR-100UTTKh (NATO: SS-19 Stiletto) and the RS-28 Sarmat liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) as the launch vehicle for its Avangard hypersonic boost-glide weapon.

    The new weapons will initially be deployed onboard UR-100UTTKn missiles that were returned from Ukraine after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Once the Sarmat is ready for operations, the Avangard will be deployed on that 200-ton missile also.

    Russia will apparently use surplus UR-100UTTKh (NATO: SS-19 Stiletto) and the RS-28 Sarmat liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) as the launch vehicle for its Avangard hypersonic boost-glide weapon.

    The new weapons will initially be deployed onboard UR-100UTTKn missiles that were returned from Ukraine after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Once the Sarmat is ready for operations, the Avangard will be deployed on that 200-ton missile also.

    “In the early 2000s, about 30 UR-100N UTTKh liquid-propellant missiles were delivered from Ukraine for the ‘gas debt,’” a Russian defense industry source told the Moscow-based TASS news agency. “After the disintegration of the USSR, they were kept at warehouses in their unfueled condition, i.e. they were actually new and capable of going on combat duty to serve for several dozen years. A part of these missiles will become the carriers of the first series of hypersonic glide vehicles in the next few years."

    Eventually, as the massive Sarmat—which is powerful enough to fly a South Pole route towards American targets—becomes operational, it too will be used to deliver the Avangard. “With the acceptance of heavy RS-28 Sarmat missiles for service, such vehicles will be mounted on them as well," the defense industry source told TASS.

    The Avangard will apparently be equipped with a single massive thermonuclear warhead with a yield exceeding two megatons. With a yield that high, the Avangard will have considerably greater destructive power in an individual warhead than a typical modern ICBM, which have smaller yields usually no more than 500 kilotons.

    Typically, most modern ICBMs—except de-MIRVed Minuteman IIIs—have multiple independent reentry vehicles (MIRVs). That suggests that the Avangard is primarily a counter-value weapon intended for an assured retaliatory second strike capability designed to bypass missile defenses. Indeed, TASS’ source cites the need to destroy “especially important targets." Of course, a massive ICBM such as the Sarmat—or even the UR-100N UTTKn—could possibly carry multiple Avangard glide vehicles if needed.

    The Russians claim that a production contract for the Avangard weapons has already been signed and that the weapon could go on alert as soon as next year. "After the first series of glide vehicles is produced and a controlling launch of a missile with this armament is carried out successfully, the Avangard complex may be accepted for service already in late 2018,” a defense source told the TASS news agency. “At the latest, it will be accepted for operation and placed on high alert in 2019."

    Yuri Borisov, Russia’s deputy defense minister, had said earlier that the Russian Defense Ministry has already signed a contract to put the new weapon into production. “The Avangard system that the president [Vladimir Putin] mentioned is well tested,” Borisov told the Russian language newspaper Red Star. “It came about through considerable effort, because temperatures on the surface of a combat unit reach up to 2000 degrees [Celsius]. It really does go through the air surrounded by plasma. Thus, the challenges involved in controlling and defending the system were considerable, but did eventually find resolution. Practical tests have confirmed the chosen approach’s feasibility. In fact, we have secured a contract for mass production of these systems. So this is no bluff, but a serious undertaking.”

    Analysts are extremely skeptical that the Russians can put the Avangard into operation by next year. Asked if there was any chance that Moscow would field the weapon by 2019, Center for Naval Analyses research scientist Michael Kofman flatly answered: “None.”

  14. #29
    Former Staff Senior Contributor Ironduke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Garry View Post
    agreed, if only such bombers had an unlimited range capability..... if needed such cruise missile may circle in the air above oceans for many months.... until it gets a signal to continue its attack. If bomber could do so it would change the rules of the game completelly.
    Just saying, nuclear-powered airplanes can be built. Of course even though it's possible, there's obviously unintended consequences if one were to say, crash or anything.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveDaPirate View Post
    The general rule is that around mach 10 the heat buildup is sufficient to create enough plasma to cause a communications blackout even at high altitudes.

    That's right around the speed the Kinzhal claims to fly. (although perhaps it cruises slower and has a hypersonic dash at the end of the flight?) The Space Shuttle orbiter used to experience a communications blackout lasting up to 16 minutes that occurred largely between ~120 km down to ~60 km, after which it would slow down sufficiently to re-establish communications. It also featured multiple large high powered antennas that were designed to pierce the layer of ionization as soon as possible that no cruise missile will be able to carry.

    After 1988 the Space Shuttle program was able to solve the blackout problem by utilizing a hole in the plasma sheath near the upper rear of the orbiter to maintain communications with satellites above them that would relay the signal back to earth. This was only possible due to the Space Shuttle's unique shape, high-drag flight attitude of 40 degrees, and reentry path and wouldn't have been possible during the Gemini or Apollo programs due to the round shaping and steep reentry path of their capsules.

    A hypersonic cruise missile is also unlikely to be able to take advantage of a hole in the plasma sheath surrounding it because it will be traveling forwards rather than down and is shaped to be aerodynamically smooth rather than the high drag shaping of the Space Shuttle during reentry.

    Take a look at this 2010 paper from NASA for some interesting reading:

    Review of Leading Approaches for Mitigating Hypersonic Vehicle Communications Blackout and a Method of Ceramic Particulate Injection Via Cathode Spot Arcs for Blackout Mitigation

    https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/c...0100008938.pdf
    Hi Steve, I don't doubt your overall conclusion that 10M speed of Kinzhal creates enough plazma at 60km altitude. Just the reference to Shuttle is not right - it uses its whole body to drag the speed down from 15000 miles per hour to just 400 miles from altitude of around 150km to 10km where it stabilizes and decends at 400miles horizontal speed and 30m/second vertical - that what Nasa prints. Hence during this drag it shall create anormous amount of heat and plazma using its whole body. Kinzhal decends from 60km with almost no loss in speed of 12000 km/h (less than 10000 miles), it turns vertically down at 75km away from its target and decends mere 20 seconds - a Nimitz class carrier will move only 300-400 meters max over this period (aproximatelly one body legth), so for targeting purposes it is almost static.

    I don't know exactly how it targets nor if plazma has wholes, but the weapon was tested on towed ships. So it works. Hence I assume that defending any large ship like Nimitz becomes expensive when it can be attached from air base away 2750 km..... Hence, either such base shall be destroyed before such ships arrives close, or there shall be a intercepter aircraft which can destroy Mig31 away 2000km from such ship.

    To me it looks like easier to build a small fleet of large and long range aircraft / missile carrier - which will become great mean of controlling seas.... a group of B747 Jumbo full of long range missiles....

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