Category Archives: Turn it to glass

Ice Station Zebra, Russian 2021 Edition

As part of Russian wargames in the Arctic, three Russki submarines just surfaced from under the ice, a pretty decent show of force for the region and a nice ICE-EX for any nation.

From the Russian Ministry of Defense:

Today, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, listened via video conference call to the report of the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, on the ongoing Umka-21 complex Arctic expedition. Admiral Nikolay Evmenov reported that since March 20, 2021, in the area of ​​the Franz Josef Land archipelago, Alexandra Land island and the adjacent water area covered with continuous ice, under the leadership of the Main Command of the Navy, a comprehensive Arctic expedition “Umka-2021” is being conducted with the participation of the Russian Geographical Society … “For the first time, according to a single concept and plan, a complex of combat training, research and practical measures of various directions is being carried out in the circumpolar regions,” the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy emphasized.

During the expedition, according to Admiral Nikolai Evmenov, 43 events are envisaged, of which 35 have been completed to date, including 10 jointly with the Russian Geographical Society. All activities of the expedition are carried out as planned. The Commander-in-Chief of the Navy said that more than 600 military and civilian personnel and about 200 models of weapons, military and special equipment were involved in the expedition. All planned activities take place in harsh climatic conditions: in the area of ​​the expedition, the average temperature is minus 25-30 degrees Celsius, the thickness of the ice cover is up to 1.5 meters, the wind in gusts reaches 32 meters per second.

Admiral Nikolai Evmenov reported to Vladimir Putin that within the framework of the Arctic expedition, for the first time in the history of the Russian Navy, three nuclear submarines surfaced from under the ice in a limited area with a radius of 300 meters; flight to the polar region with refueling in the air of a pair of MiG-31 fighters with the passage of the geographic point of the North Pole; practical torpedo firing by a nuclear submarine from under the ice, followed by equipping a hole at the torpedo’s ascent point and lifting it to the surface; tactical exercise with a subdivision of the arctic motorized rifle brigade in adverse weather conditions.

“Based on the results of the measures taken, the samples of weapons, military and special equipment participating in military-technical experiments have generally confirmed their tactical and technical characteristics in conditions of high latitudes and low temperatures,” said the commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy. Admiral Nikolai Evmenov also added that the Arctic expeditions of the Navy will continue in the future.

As noted by The Drive, the three subs are all top-shelf boomers: 

[T]wo sails belonging to Delta IV class submarines, also known as Project 667BDRM Delfins. It’s possible that the third boat could be either a member of the Borei class, or the lone Borei-A class submarine presently in service, the Knyaz Vladimir. The Borei and Borei-A designs are Russia’s most advanced ballistic missile submarines.

Golden BB, DDG edition

Lost in the sauce in the past few days resulting in the excitement and afterglow of the recent NASA/SpaceX mission to the International Space Station was an interesting bit of space news.

Well, space/naval news, anyway: the first successful smackdown of a (simulated) ICBM at extreme altitude by a destroyer-launched SM-3.

As noted in a DOD presser:

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), and U.S. Navy sailors aboard the USS John Finn (DDG-113), an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) System-equipped destroyer, intercepted and destroyed a threat-representative Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) target with a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missile during a flight test demonstration in the broad ocean area northeast of Hawaii, Nov. 16.

This event, designated Flight Test Aegis Weapon System-44 (FTM-44), was the sixth flight test of an Aegis BMD-equipped vessel using the SM-3 Block IIA guided missile. FTM-44 satisfies a Congressional mandate to evaluate the feasibility of the SM-3 Block IIA missile’s capability to defeat an ICBM threat before the end of 2020.

“This first-of-its-kind test shows that our nation has a viable option for a new layer of defense against long-range threats,” said Bryan Rosselli, vice president of Strategic Missile Defense at Raytheon Missiles & Defense.

Here’s MIRV: 50th Anniversary of Minuteman

The LGM-30G Minuteman III, the first deployed ICBM with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV), is the land leg of the storied U.S. nuclear triad. The platform is also 50 years old this year, first fielded in 1970– akin to the era of the Apollo moon missions.

Keep in mind there are currently 45 underground launch control centers manned by USAF missile officers ready to deliver these terrifying birds anywhere worldwide within 30 minutes.

With the ability to carry up to three W62 or W78 warheads on Mk12 delivery vehicles, the 450 remaining Minutemen missiles have been downgraded to accept recycled W87 warheads from the MX missile program. However, with a circular error of probability of fewer than 800 feet after a 6,000+nm trip, that is, like horseshoes, close enough.

The Air Force plans to keep the Minuteman around until 2030ish, at which point the planned Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent will be online.

With that, let us gather around Brig. Gen. Jimmy Stewart and hear about the Air Force Missile Mission and consider visiting one of the decommissioned early ICBM sites currently open as museums. 

Operation Allied Sky

A Minot-marked 5th BW B-52H and vintage Belgian Air Force F-16As last Friday, as part of the Buff’s 30-nations-in-one-day tour. 

Even while about half of the USAF’s meager Stratofortress pool was greatly disrupted by the temporary relocation of B-52s from Barksdale AFB in Louisiana to escape Hurricane Laura, a flight of six B-52Hs– forward-deployed 5th Bomb Wing Bomber Task Force (BTF) ships operating from RAF Fairford after flying cross-continental from Minot on 22 August — overflew every single one of the 30 NATO member states last Friday while being escorted in turn by a rotating force of 80 fighters belonging to 19 European air forces and Canada.

Most importantly, they did it all in a single day.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said:

“Today’s training event demonstrates the United States’ powerful commitment to NATO, and Allied solidarity in action. As US bombers overfly all 30 NATO Allies in a single day, they are being accompanied by fighter jets from across the Alliance, boosting our ability to respond together to any challenge. Training events like this help ensure that we fulfill our core mission: to deter aggression, prevent conflict, and preserve peace.”

Of course, the Russians also buzzed the B-52s as they operated over the Black Sea, popping by with Su-27s. The below Russian Ministry of Defense video shows that briefly, ending with a clip of a different series of intercepts buzzing a Danish Challenger, a Swedish Gulf Stream, and an RC-135 over international air space in the Baltic.

Here is the B-52 intercept from the view of the U.S. side of things, showing the Russian antics.

 

Battleship Nukes

While a number of battleships met their end at the hand of atomics at Bikini Atoll, likely the only dreadnoughts to carry nuclear weapons for tactical use were the Iowa class.

Those fast battleships “may have” toted such devices in two forms.

Between 1956 and 1962, the Navy had a limited stockpile of about 50 MK-23/W23 “Katie” nuclear shells for the Iowas‘ 16-inch guns, each with a yield of some 15-20 kilotons, with most ships of the class equipped to carry as many as 10 of these mushroom makers. Of note, Hiroshima’s Little Boy was a 15kt bomb.

Per NavWeaps:

USS Iowa, USS New Jersey, and USS Wisconsin had an alteration made to Turret II magazine to incorporate a secure storage area for these projectiles (the Nuclear projectile). USS Missouri was not so altered as she had been placed in reserve in 1955. This secure storage area could contain ten nuclear shells plus nine Mark 24 practice shells.

These nuclear projectiles were all withdrawn from service by October 1962 with none ever having been fired from a gun. One projectile was expended as part of Operation Plowshare (the peaceful use of nuclear explosive devices) and the rest were deactivated. USS Wisconsin did fire one of the practice shells during a test in 1957. It is not clear whether or not any of the battleships ever actually carried a nuclear device onboard, as the US Navy routinely refuses to confirm or deny which ships carry nuclear weapons.

At least one inert Mark 23 shell body still exists at the National Atomic Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Enter TLAM-N

Then in the 1980s came TLAM-Ns, the so-called nuclear Tomahawk cruise missile with its W80 150 kiloton warhead. First fielded in selected fleet units, only about 300 made were produced and the Obama administration dismantled them in 2010.

Below is a great video done by the curator of the USS New Jersey (BB-62) Museum, where he shows off the (possibly) TLAM-N related areas of the ship, including the panels, Marine guard post, and ABLs.

Flight tests show B61-12 compatible with F-15E Strike Eagle

Via Sandia National Laboratories:

“Dropped from above 25,000 feet, the mock B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb was in the air for approximately 55 seconds before hitting and embedding in the lakebed, splashing a 40- to 50-foot puff of desert dust from the designated impact area at Sandia National Laboratories’ Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.”

The platform for the tactical nuke? The common F-15E.

More here.