Monday, October 16, 2017

The Risks of Pakistan's Sea-Based Nuclear Weapons


Ankit Panda, The Diplomat
13 October 2017

Nine days into 2017, Pakistan carried out the first-ever flight test of the Babur-3, it's new nuclear-capable submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM). A variant of the Babur-3 ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM), this SLCM will see Pakistan's nuclear deterrent head to sea-probably initially aboard its Agosta 90B and Agosta 70 submarines, but eventually, perhaps even on board new Type 041 Yuan-class submarines Pakistan is expected to procure from China.
In a new article in the Fall 2017 issue of the Washington Quarterly, Christopher Clary and I examine some of the novel security challenges Pakistan may experience with its sea-based deterrent. It is already well known that Pakistan has outpaced it's primary rival, India, in terms of its nuclear stockpile growth.
On land, low-yield systems, like the Nasr, have also raised concerns of a lower nuclear-use threshold in South Asia. The move to sea can have some positive effects on overall strategic stability; indeed, the perceived survivability of a sea-based deterrent can abate so-called "use-it-or-lose-it" pressures for Pakistan's land-based forces. But the story doesn't stop there.
Sea-based weapons can aggravate crisis stability concerns in the India-Pakistan dyad and present unique command-and-control challenges for Pakistan, which may be required to place these weapons at a higher level of readiness during peacetime. Finally, Pakistan's internal security environment will remain a concern with a submarine-based deterrent. The threat of theft and sabotage may be greater in the case of Pakistan's sea-based weapons than it is for its land-based forces. In aggregate, we argue that the sea-based deterrent may, on balance, prove detrimental to Pakistan's security.
Pakistan, like other nuclear states, employs a range of physical and procedural safeguards to ensure that its nuclear weapons are only used in a crisis and a with a valid
order from the country's National Command Authority (NCA). The introduction of a nuclear-capable SLCM aboard its Agosta submarines would necessitate the erosion of some of these safeguards.
For instance, some physical safeguards that Pakistan is known to use for its land-based weapons - including partially dissembled storage, separation of triggers and pits, and de-mated storage - would be impractical at sea. Meanwhile, the experience of other nuclear states, like the United Kingdom, with sea-based deterrents suggests that sea-based nuclear weapons generally see fewer use impediments. Pakistan has long asserted that its nuclear command-and-control is highly centralized, but it remains doubtful that this would remain true for its small nuclear-capable submarine force in wartime or a crisis. The temptation to pre-delegate use authorization may be too great.
Leaving aside the command-and-control and safeguard concerns, sea-based weapons may seriously aggravate crisis stability, in other words, the temptation for India to attack first as a crisis begins. The theory behind a survivable sea-based second-strike capability is more compelling assuming a large submarine force capable of maintaining a continuous at-sea deterrent presence. Pakistan's submarine force, by contrast, would likely employ a bastion model - meaning that their peacetime locations would be known and hence the submarines would be vulnerable to Indian conventional attack.
Similarly, Indian forces, unable to discriminate whether a detected Pakistani submarine in a crisis was fielding nuclear or conventional capabilities, would have to presume nuclear capability should the Babur-3 see deployment. All of this in turn not only would make Pakistan's submarine force a prime early-crisis target for Indian forces, but also aggravate use-or-lose pressures for land-based forces.
Ultimately, even if India resisted attacking Pakistani submarines to avoid unintended escalatory pressures, it would at least see value in targeting the Very Low Frequency (VLF) radar facility established at Karachi in November 2016 that would allow Pakistan's NCA to communicate with its at-sea deterrent in a crisis. This would require some confidence in New Delhi that Pakistan had not pre-delegated use authorization and that Islamabad's sea-based weapons would still require the transmission of a use-authorization code from the NCA.
Finally, a major cause for concern with Pakistan's move to the sea with its nuclear forces comes from its ongoing struggle with various radical Islamic militant groups. Here, Pakistan is somewhat unique among nuclear possessor states. While militants have mostly targeted soft targets in urban centers, the Pakistani military has endured major attacks as well. In particular, Pakistan has endured attacks and infiltration attempts at sensitive military and naval sites, some associated with its nuclear program. Then-Defense Minister Khawaja Asif acknowledged that Pakistan Navy insiders even abetted Al Qaeda attackers in the 2014 PNS Zulfiquar attack. (Similar reports surfaced around the time of the 2011 PNS Mehran attacks, too.)
Militants with an eye on Pakistan's nuclear weapons may find no better targets than sea-based systems with fewer physical safeguards. Moreover, the locations of these weapons would be well-known in peacetime, unlike Pakistan's land-based weapons. The Pakistan Naval Dockyard in Karachi or the Jinnah Naval Base in Ormara - the two known sites capable of hosting Pakistani submarines - are thus prime for attack, infiltration, and even insider risks. While many of the above risks raised by the Babur-3 are far from unique to Pakistan, no other nuclear state faces a similar level of internal militancy.
The Babur-3's introduction presents a classic at-sea deterrent dilemma for Pakistan. It can choose to have its presumed second-strike capability either totally secure or readily usable in wartime. For a range of reasons, Pakistan can be expected to opt for the latter option. This will require real compromises on nuclear weapons security that expose Pakistan's sea-based deterrent to theft and unauthorized use. Combined with the crisis stability implications and the more mundane concerns rising from costs, a sea-based leg to Pakistan's nuclear forces appears to be, on balance, a net negative for its overall security.

A Bigger Nuclear Submarine Is Coming for India in Drive for Ballistic Missile Subs


Dinakar Peri, The Hindu
15 October 2017

India’s second strategic nuclear submarine Aridhaman is just a few weeks from sea launch. But raising ambitions for the Navy’s capability, there are plans to build a bigger and more potent version of the indigenous nuclear submarine in the immediate future, say sources.
That leap for India’s ballistic nuclear submarine capabilities would come with the fourth submarine planned in the same class, named S4-Star. It would have a stronger weapons configuration integrated into an extra compartment that would be added to Arihant’s original design.
On the Aridhaman, sources said the “final checks are under way. All the three modules have been integrated. It is likely to be launched in late November,” an official source told The Hindu. Another source said a November launch may be difficult, but “in December, it will definitely be in the sea.”
Fuel loading in the nuclear reactor for Aridhaman was completed in January, but it would go critical only much later after initial sea trials. Once launched, the submarine will be put to extensive harbour and sea trials, before being formally commissioned in the next couple of years.
The indigenously built second nuclear submarine will add to India’s growing nuclear capabilities, in the face of the new strategic realities of the region, including the assertive Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean.
Last October, India commissioned its first Ballistic Nuclear Submarine, INS Arihant. The vessel, weighing 6,000 tonnes, is powered by an 83 MW pressurised light water nuclear reactor.
Aridhaman, of the Arihant class, will carry several new pieces of equipment including new-generation sensors and periscope, compared to the first ship.
Construction of the third submarine of the same class is under way in four different parts, and could be completed approximately in a year. This would also be of the same size as Arihant and Aridhaman, but possess more advanced weapons and sensors. The third submarine is planned for launch in late 2018.
As soon as Aridhaman is launched, the final integration of the third submarine will begin in Visakhapatnam, it is learnt.
Indigenous capability
The project to build a strategic nuclear submarine to carry nuclear missiles began as the Advanced Technology Vessel project in the 1980s, and the vessel project was launched in 2009 by Dr. Manmohan Singh.
Arihant, which can carry nuclear tipped ballistic missiles, is of the ship submersible ballistic nuclear class

Navy $5 Billion Deal Builds New Nuclear-Armed Columbia-Class Sub

Kris Osborn , Scout Warrior
11 October 2017

The Navy has awarded a $5.1 billion contract to General Dynamics Electric Boat for Integrated Product and Process Development of the COLUMBIA Class submarine, a next-generation nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines designed to ensure a second-strike capability in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States.
The contract award is for the design, completion, component and technology development and prototyping efforts for the COLUMBIA Class Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBNs), a Navy statement said. This work will also include United Kingdom unique efforts related to the Common Missile Compartment.
The $5 billion contract award comes amid concurrent Navy efforts to accelerate design support, development and construction the new class of submarines-- to ensure rapid progress toward the goal of engineering the most lethal, high-tech and advanced ballistic missile submarines the world has ever seen.
"The COLUMBIA class submarine is the most important acquisition program the Navy has today," Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer said in a statement. "This contract represents a significant investment in maintaining our strategic deterrent into the future, as well as our ongoing partnership with the United Kingdom."
Designed to serve well into the 2080s and beyond, Navy and General Dynamics Electric Boat developers are hoping to leverage years of science and technology development to best position the new submarine to enter service by 2031.
"Awarding this contract is an important step in ensuring an on-time construction start in FY 2021," Rear Admiral David Goggins, COLUMBIA Class Program Manager, said in a service statement.
The large, multi-billion dollar deal follows a DoD $203 million modification to an existing deal between the Navy and General Dynamics Electric Boat earlier this year - to begin manufacture of 17 new tactical missile tubes able to fire nuclear-armed Trident II D5 missiles.
The current effort has been preceded by "tube and hull" forging work underway for several years, is part of a collaborative US-UK Common Missile Compartment program.
The US and UK are together immersed in a common missile compartment effort. In fact, the US and UK have been buying parts together for the common missile compartment and working on a $770 million contract with General Dynamics' Electric Boat.
The US plans to build 12 new Columbia-Class Submarines, each with 16 missile tubes, and the UK plans to build four nuclear-armed ballistic submarines, each with 12 missile tubes.
The Navy and Electric Boat previously completed specifications for the new Columbia-Class submarines, and the program has been progressing through a detailed design phase and initial production contract, service officials said.
In January of this year, development of the new submarines have passed what's termed "Milestone B," clearing the way beyond early development toward ultimate production. Production decisions are known as "Milestone C."
Ultimately, the Navy hopes to build and operate as many as 12 new nuclear-armed submarines, to be in service by the early 2040s and serve well into the 2080s.
Columbia-Class submarines are scheduled to begin construction by 2021. Requirements work, technical specifications and early prototyping have already been underway at General Dynamics Electric Boat.
Designed to be 560-feet- long and house 16 Trident II D5 missiles fired from 44-foot-long missile tubes, Columbia-Class submarines will be engineered as a stealthy, high-tech nuclear deterrent able to quietly patrol the global undersea domain.
The new submarines are being designed for 42 years of service life.
Construction on the first submarine in this new class is slated to be finished up by 2028, with initial combat patrols beginning in 2031, service officials said.

Strategic Nuclear Deterrence

The Navy is only building 12 Columbia-Class submarines to replace 14 existing Ohio-class nuclear-armed boats because the new submarines are being built with an improved nuclear core reactor that will better sustain the submarines, Navy officials have said.
As a result, the Columbia-Class submarines will be able to serve a greater number of deployments than the ships they are replacing and not need a mid-life refueling in order to complete 42 years of service.
With the life of ship reactor core, there is not a need for mid-life refueling, Navy developers explained.
By engineering a "life-of-ship" reactor core, the service is able to build 12 SSBNs able to have the same at sea presence as the current fleet of 14 ballistic missile submarines. The plan is intended to save the program 40 billion savings in acquisition and life-cycle cost, Navy developers said.
Electric Boat and the Navy are already progressing on early prototype work connecting missile tubes to portions of the hull, officials said. Called integrated tube and hull forging, the effort is designed to weld parts of the boat together and assess the ability to manufacture key parts of the submarine before final integration.

Next-Generation Technology

Columbia-Class submarines are being designed with a series of next-generation technologies, many of them from the Virginia-Class attack submarine. Leveraging existing systems from current attack submarines allows the Columbia-Class program to integrate the most current technologies and systems while, at the same time, saving the developmental costs of beginning a new effort, officials said.
The Columbia-Class will utilize Virginia-class's fly-by-wire joystick control system and large-aperture bow array sonar. The automated control fly-by-wire navigation system is also a technology that is on the Virginia-Class attack submarines. A computer built-into the ship's control system uses algorithms to maintain course and depth by sending a signal to the rudder and the stern.
Sonar technology work by sending out an acoustic ping and then analyzing the return signal in order to discern shape, location or dimensions of an undersea threat.
Navy experts explained that the large aperture bow array is water backed with no dome and very small hydrophones able to last for the life of the ship; the new submarines do not have an air-backed array, preventing the need to replace transducers every 10-years.
The submarines combat systems from Virginia-class attack submarines, consisting of electronic surveillance measures, periscopes, radios and computer systems, are also being integrated into the new submarines.
The shafts of the new submarines are being built to last up to 10 or 12 years in order to synchronize with the ships maintenance schedule. Existing shafts only last six to eight years, developers said.
The Columbia-Class will also use Virginia-class's next-generation communications system, antennas and mast. For instance, what used to be a periscope is now a camera mast connected to fiber-optic cable, enabling crew members in the submarine to see images without needing to stand beneath the periscope. This allows designers to move command and control areas to larger parts of the ship and still have access to images from the camera mast, Electric Boat and Navy officials said.
The Columbia-Class submarine are also engineering a new electric motor for the submarine which will turn the shaft and the rotor for the propulsion system. The new motor will make propulsion more efficient and potentially bring tactical advantages as well.
In total, the Navy hopes to buy 12 of the new submarines to serve into 2085 and beyond.

Navy Stands Up First Underwater Drone Squadron

Geoff Ziezulewicz, Navy Times
11 October 2017

The Navy has in recent years expanded its use of unmanned, underwater vehicles, colloquially known as drones.
And now, the sea service has taken its next step in embracing the rapidly growing technology with the standing up of its first underwater drone squadron.
Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Squadron 1, or UUVRON 1, was formally established Sept. 26 during a ceremony at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Washington state.
“Standing up UUVRON 1 shows our Navy’s commitment to the future of unmanned systems and undersea combat,” Capt. Robert Gaucher, recently departed head of Submarine Development Squadron 5, said in a statement.
The squadron’s mission will be to sustain undersea advantages and extend the reach of the military.
When launched from surface ships or submarines, the vehicles can perform mine clearance, ocean floor mapping or reconnaissance, among other missions.
“In addition to providing a rapid, potentially lower cost solution to a variety of mission sets, UUVs can mitigate operations that pose increased risk to manned platforms,” Submarine Force Pacific spokesman Cmdr. Corey Barker said in an email.
Things are still in the early stages, but the new squadron will eventually operate and maintain all classes of fleet underwater drones, from micro to extra-large vehicles, squadron executive officer Lt. Cmdr. Steve Boatwright said in a statement.
In addition to overseeing currently existing underwater drones, the squadron will test future vehicles.

North Korea Renews Guam Threat Ahead of Joint Naval Exercise

Choe Sang-Hun, NY Times
13 October 2017


SEOUL, South Korea — As the United States and South Korea prepared for next week’s joint naval exercise, North Korean officials on Friday renewed their threat to launch ballistic missiles near Guam, an American territory in the western Pacific.
The drill, which involves the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, is scheduled to begin on Monday in waters east and west of South Korea. The 10-day exercise will check the allies’ “communications, interoperability and partnership,” the United States Navy’s 7th Fleet said in a statement.
The nuclear-powered submarine Michigan arrived at the South Korean port of Busan on Friday. American and South Korean warplanes will also join the exercise, which takes place amid heightened tensions over North Korea’s advancing nuclear missile program.
In recent months, President Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, have amplified their countries’ military standoff by exchanging bellicose statements and personal insults.
Although both South Korea and the United States insist next week’s drill is defensive in nature, North Korea considers such war games rehearsals for invasion.
Continue reading the main story
Kim’s Rejoinder to Trump’s Rocket Man: ‘Mentally Deranged U.S. Dotard’ SEPT. 21, 2017
North Korea’s Potential Targets: Guam, South Korea and Japan AUG. 9, 2017
With Combative Style and Epithets, Trump Takes America First to the U.N. SEPT. 19, 2017
It remains unclear whether North Korea will lash out with a weapons test during the exercise, as it often has in the past.
On Friday, a researcher at the Institute for American Studies at the North Korean Foreign Ministry warned that the joint exercise, as well as a flight by two American B-1B bombers over South Korea on Tuesday, compelled the North to “take military counteraction.”
The researcher, Kim Kwang-hak, did not elaborate but recalled North Korea’s August warning that it could launch missiles near Guam, home to the United States air base from which the B-1B long-range bombers took off on Tuesday. Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, has said he would watch the Americans before deciding when to launch an “enveloping fire” around Guam.
“We have already warned several times that we will take counteractions for self-defense, including a salvo of missiles into waters near the U.S. territory of Guam,” Mr. Kim, the North Korean researcher, told the North’s official Korean Central News Agency on Friday. “The U.S. military action hardens our determination that the U.S. should be tamed with fire and lets us take our hand closer to the ‘trigger’ for taking the toughest countermeasure.”
North Korea has made similar threats against the United States for decades. But Mr. Trump has added to tensions in recent weeks by employing similarly tough talk, threatening to “totally destroy” or rain down “fire and fury” on North Korea. He has said Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with North Korea.
Despite Mr. Trump’s tough talk, John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, said on Thursday that North Korea’s nuclear threat was “manageable” for now.
Mr. Kelly added that Americans should be concerned that the North is getting closer to achieving the ability to hit the mainland United States with its missiles. He said there was already “great concern” about Americans living in Guam.
“Right now we think the threat is manageable,” Mr. Kelly told reporters at the White House. “Let’s hope that diplomacy works.”
Also on Friday, South Korea’s meteorological authorities said that they detected a small quake near the North’s underground nuclear test site, but that it was not caused by a man-made explosion. They have detected three similar tremors from near the test site since the North’s
nuclear test on Sept. 3, in which North Korea said it detonated a hydrogen bomb.
Some earthquake experts have attributed the recent tremors to underground cave-ins caused by that powerful test. Commercial satellite images have also found evidence of landslides near the North Korean site, raising fears of radioactive fallout if the North conducts another nuclear test there.
The previous test compelled Washington to accelerate its global campaign to exert sanctions and pressure on North Korea.
On Thursday, the United Arab Emirates said it would stop issuing new visas to North Korean workers. Kuwait and Qatar have taken similar steps in recent weeks. Several thousand North Korean workers have been working in Middle East construction sites, earning badly needed cash for their government.

Guam-based guided-missile submarine makes port call to South Korea

Kim Gamel, Stars and Stripes
13 October 2017

SEOUL, South Korea — The USS Michigan arrived in the southern port city of Busan on Friday, the second U.S. submarine in as many weeks to arrive on the divided peninsula.
The Navy said the Ohio-Class guided-missile submarine was making a routine visit during a regularly scheduled deployment to the region.
But the port call comes at a time of escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea, which has stepped up the pace of its nuclear weapons program.
President Donald Trump has threatened to “totally destroy” the North if forced to defend the U.S. or its allies.
Washington has agreed to deploy so-called strategic assets in and around South Korea on a more regular basis to provide better deterrence against the North.
South Korea sees that as an important measure of the U.S. commitment to the longstanding alliance between the two allies who fought together in the 1950-53 Korean War.
The 560-foot-long USS Michigan, which weighs more than 18,000 tons when submerged, is armed with tactical missiles and capable of launching strikes and supporting missions by special operation forces, a statement said.
Its homeport is Bremerton, Wash., but the submarine is based in the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam.
The smaller USS Tucson, which is capable of firing Tomahawk cruise missiles, made a port call last Saturday at the U.S. base in Chinhae.
The U.S. also has sent Guam-based B-1B bombers over the peninsula twice in recent weeks in a show of force amid speculation the North is preparing to conduct another ballistic-missile test.
The communist state has test-fired dozens of missiles over the past year and a half, most recently on Sept. 15 when it sent a missile over Japan.
It also has conducted six underground nuclear tests since 2006, including its most recent and powerful on Sept. 3.
“The U.S. and [South Korean] navies have always enjoyed a strong relationship,” said Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of Naval Forces Korea.
“Today, our relationship is stronger than it has ever been and our ironclad partnership is further reinforced by this visit from Michigan.”
The deployment of U.S. bombers, submarines and aircraft carriers to the peninsula always infuriates the North, which considers it a sign of aggression and signal of preparations for an invasion.
Experts have warned the uptick in belligerent rhetoric from Trump and posturing by the military could lead to a miscalculation and possibly an open conflict.
About 28,500 U.S. service members are based in South Korea, which remains technically at war with the North after the three-year war ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

U.S. Navy Accelerates Orca Undersea Drone Program

Through Orca, the Navy is seeking a reconfigurable underwater drone with a modular and open architecture that can travel to a location, loiter and periodically establish communications. The vehicle should also be able to deploy payloads and subsequently return to its host, according to a solicitation for Orca in March.

Ross Wilker, Defense Systems
3 October 2017

The Navy has narrowed the field of competitors for one of its unmanned underwater drone programs to a Boeing-Huntington Ingalls team and Lockheed Martin team amid expectations of increased spending in that area.
Both parties received contracts to embark on design efforts for phase one of the “Orca” Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle program, the Defense Department said in its Thursday contracts digest. The Navy received three bids and awardees will also work to deliver a technical data package with their vehicles.
Boeing is the prime contractor in its partnership with military shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls and received a $42.2 million phase one award, while Lockheed was awarded $43.1 million. The Navy is obligating $16.5 million in initial funds to both parties at the time of award and expects all contract work to complete by December 2018.
The Navy intends to downselect to a final winner for Orca by the end of calendar year 2018, or the first quarter of the government's 2019 fiscal year, a Navy spokesperson told Washington Technology. The winning company will build up to five vehicles under the downselect contract, the spokesperson said.
The Boeing-HII team is offering the former’s 55-foot-long Echo Voyager vehicle in pursuit of the Orca program, Boeing’s autonomous systems unit leader Chris Raymond told Washington Technology in August. Boeing has made the unmanned undersea domain a growth priority through its acquisition of California-based drone maker Liquid Robotics in December 2016 and the partnership with HII announced in June.
Lockheed has also made forays into unmanned undersea technologies as the defense contractor’s venture capital arm disclosed earlier this month an investment in San Diego-based Ocean Aero, another maker of underwater drones. Ocean Aero’s Submaran S10 model is about 13 feet long and 8 feet high at a weight of 280 pounds.
Boeing and Lockheed are not the only large defense primes to identify unmanned underwater platforms as an avenue for growth. General Dynamics and L3 Technologies also have acquired undersea drone makers over the past year-and-a-half. The U.S. military has plans to invest as much as $3 billion into undersea systems over the coming years, the Washington Post reported last year.
Through Orca, the Navy is seeking a reconfigurable underwater drone with a modular and open architecture that can travel to a location, loiter and periodically establish communications. The vehicle should also be able to deploy payloads and subsequently return to its host, according to a solicitation for Orca in March.
Orca’s dimension requirements have the modular payload bay or bays of at least 60 inches in height, 125 inches in length and total volume of 325 feet.