Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Clenched Fists and Norway Spirals

Peacekeeper MIRV's coming into Kwajalein Atoll
Click for larger version
"War to the hilt between communism and capitalism is inevitable.  Today, of course, we are not strong enough to attack.  Our time will come in twenty or thirty years.  The bourgeoisie will have to be put to sleep, so we will begin by launching the most spectacular peace movement on record.  There will be electrifying overtones and unheard-of concessions.  The capitalist countries, stupid and decadent, will rejoice to cooperate in their own destructions.  They will leap at the chance to be friends.  As soon as their guard is down we will smash them with our clenched fist."
               -- Dmitry Manuilsky, Original Bolshevik with Lenin, Apparatchik and Diplomat for the USSR, 1931

Admiral Arleigh Burke (Chief of Naval Operations in the late 1950's to early 1960's) often used this quote to demonstrate that we always have to be vigilant.*  Most people think the Cold War with Russia is over.  It is not.  We still have nuclear missiles on alert pointing at them and they still have them on alert pointing at us.

While we have been busy decommissioning and destroying the Minuteman II and the more modern Peacekeeper ICBMs, Russia has continued to develop ever more advanced missile systems including truck-mobile and submarine-based variants.  Our latest operational missile is the Minuteman III, which was built in the early 1970s.  Recently some guidance system electronics upgrades have been completed on the MMIII, but we have no modern ICBMs.

Currently Russia has about 1500 land-based warheads, and so do we.

Russia has been testing their new Bulava missile, launched from submarines.  Alexander Putin has stated  that this missile is specifically designed to defeat our National Missile Defense system.

The Bulava has had an embarrassing string of failures, but the failures have been very interesting.

The above photo, taken in Norway by Jan Petter Jorgensen, shows a Bulava failure on December 9, 2009 causing the vehicle to spin with one of its thrusters stuck on.  The blue is evidently from an axial thruster, and the spiral is likely the plume from an engine that is not exactly acting through the center of gravity of the vehicle.

Here are some slide shows and descriptions including an actual video of the spiral being created by the spinning vehicle.

The size and brightness of the spiral seems to indicate an exceptionally long duration of burn with a relatively powerful engine.  Overall quantity of fuel and engine power are both important.  Misses can occur if the interceptor can't accelerate enough to keep up with the changing trajectory of the target.  They can also occur if the interceptor simply runs out of fuel before the target does.

The fact that the Bulava is having so much trouble argues that it is quite complex.  If it ever works, it could become a significant threat.  We'll just have to see how well future test launches go.
There will be at least two launches from the strategic submarine “Dmitry Donskoy” next summer. If the tests are successful, the program will be continued from the newly constructed nuclear submarine “Yury Dolgoruky”.
Maybe Putin and company are trying to make Dmitry Manuilsky's prophecy come true.
* The Manuilsky quote is from the biography of Arleigh "31-Knot" Burke, by Ken Jones and Hubert Kelley Jr.  I have a copy signed by the Admiral himself.

Here is a photo taken by my father in the late 1980's of Admiral Burke and his wife Roberta in their apartment near Washington DC.  He is signing a couple of copies of the book for us.

Finally, here is a photo of Adm. Burke as a four star:

Admiral Burke was one of the main forces behind the development of the nuclear submarine and the Polaris missile. He once described his approach to life as " old-time philosophy -- a philosophy of realism. You must always ask yourself the question, 'What is important in life?'...I think I did my best and even tried to do a little more. But I don't think it's very important that I be remembered...the ideas I stood for should be remembered."

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