About the “Sudden Disappearance” of a US Megalopolis

It makes no sense to extend START-3 at the cost of abandoning the most promising weapons

When in 2018, the Russian president first announced the development of new types of weapons in Russia, western experts unanimously claimed that this is fiction, Putin’s cartoons. But for two and a half years, the means of objective control of western, mainly, of course, American intelligence services that monitor the tests of the latest Russian weapons have produced a revolution of consciousness in the west, a radical change of emotions from irony to concern, to say the least – banal fear.

“Burevestnik”, namely the product 9M730 (according to the NATO classification-SSC-X-9 Skyfall), which is being developed in the Ekaterinburg design bureau “Novator”, has become a reality for the west. It has not yet entered service, but it seems to be a matter of the near future. The stalled negotiations on the extension of START-3 also show this. One of the conditions of the new treaty is to include a nuclear-powered cruise missile with no range restrictions.

It does exist

President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Defence Ministry also say that Russia already has such a missile equipped with a small-sized nuclear engine.

French military expert Corentin Brustlein said: “The nuclear engine removes restrictions on the amount of fuel, which allows the missile to use trajectories that are not tracked by the enemy and strike weakly protected objects. Naturally, the presence of such a missile will allow to break through the enemy’s missile defence system. In the increasingly complex global military and political situation, this will be a very serious trump card.” At first, the west was more skeptical about the prospects of the Russian missile. By the summer of 2020, it was replaced by wariness. For example, the special representative of the US president for arms control, Marshall Billingslea, said that such weapons should not exist at all, since they represent “flying Chernobyl”.

This was followed in September 2020 by a statement from the head of British military intelligence, Lieutenant General James Hockenhull. He stressed that the “Burevestnik” missile is capable of staying in the air for almost unlimited time, which allows for unexpected strikes on targets.

They don’t have it, and we don’t need it

The western press organised a campaign to discredit the latest Russian weapons, in the information war, all means are good, and not only in the west, but also in our country. Moreover, not only “sofa experts” and bloggers are involved, but also authoritative heavyweights.

Here’s what Vladimir Dvorkin says: “In any real scenario, the ‘Burevestnik’ cruise missile will not be able to make any contribution to Russia’s nuclear deterrent potential provided by the existing nuclear weapons triad. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that the probability of successful flight of cruise missiles with a much shorter flight duration compared to ‘Burevestnik‘ is noticeably lower compared to the samples of weapons in the strategic nuclear forces”. And more: “The systems ‘Poseidon’ and ‘Burevestnik. Their tests are in the initial stage and the time frame for possible acceptance into service is likely to be beyond the duration of the extended START-3 treaty. But their inclusion in a hypothetically possible new treaty could be considered if there are similar systems or other new models in the US that are subject to control and do not violate the overall balance of deterrence capabilities. Today, the possibility of achieving a solution to this problem is extremely difficult, rather impossible”. I.e., if the Americans do not have similar weapons or they are unable to create them in the foreseeable future, then we should abandon it. Otherwise, the Americans will refuse to extend START-3 or sign a new treaty. Do we need a treaty that benefits only the US and limits our capabilities?

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The missile is invisible

The main criticism in the western press is “Poseidon” and “Burevestnik” are the most effective models created in recent times. “Poseidon” cannot be intercepted or destroyed by modern US navy weapons, and “Burevestnik” cannot be detected and intercepted after launch by modern radar and optoelectronic detection and targeting systems. The 9M730 “Burevestnik” missile appears as a ghost for a moment and disappears just as instantly. It can be detected by specialised DSP-4 satellites only at the time of launch, while the launch solid-fuel accelerator is running – this is no more than three seconds. But unlike ICBMs, they will lose trace of it immediately. They are quite successful in detecting and tracking ICBMs because of the long active stage – from 180 to 300 seconds in time, which is enough to build a mathematical model of the trajectory. This is not surprising, since these satellites were originally intended to detect ICBM launches. In contrast to the usual “Tomahawk” or “Kalibr” type cruise missiles, whose cruising flight takes place at an altitude of 6,000 meters, both one and the other, only the final stage of the route (about 80 km for the “Tomahawk”) passes at altitudes from 30 to 150 meters, depending on the terrain in the target area. This flight profile, which is called High-Low, is a classic for all cruise missiles – from anti-ship to strategic. For subsonic and transonic cruise missiles, the optimal cruising altitude (echelon) is 6,000-7,000 meters. At this altitude, the missile travels the longest path with the lowest fuel consumption. Examples of missiles flying at this level: the already mentioned “Tomahawk” and “Kalibr” of all modifications, strategic air-based missiles Kh-101/102, Kh-555, AGM-86B ALCM, as well as anti-ship P-500 (4M80) “Bazalt”, P-1000 (3M70) “Vulkan”, P-35 (4M44) “Progress”, etc. For supersonic missiles (with flight speeds of M=2.5-3.0), the optimal level is considered to be 12,000-14,000 meters. It is at this height that the anti-ship cruise missile P-700 (3M45) “Granit”, P-800 (3M55) “Oniks” and strategic nuclear ASMP, ASMP-A (ASN4G) travel most of the way. For hypersonic missiles (with flight speeds from M=5.0 and higher), the optimal level is 28,000-30,000 meters.

“Burevestnik” for the chop

The range of “Tomahawk” missiles is officially for the conventional version 1,000 English miles (1,600 km), this value is an operational range that takes into account such factors as manoeuvring around protected areas, deviations from the course in order to fly over a predetermined territory (adjustment areas) to update information in inertial guidance systems, vertical manoeuvring to avoid obstacles, fuel requirements, flying at higher than optimal speeds through protected areas and flying at low altitudes. The straight-line aerodynamic range of the “Tomahawk” is just over 2,000 kilometres, provided that the entire flight takes place at high altitudes, where the fuel consumption for turbofan engines is three times lower than at low and ultra-low altitudes.

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“Burevestnik” spends the entire flight route, regardless of its length, whether it is 10,000 or 20,000 kilometres, at altitudes from 50 to 100 meters at a cruising speed of about 800-850 kilometres per hour. Probably, the maximum speed due to the specifics of the operation of a nuclear jet engine can reach up to 1100-1300 kilometres per hour. American physicist Jeff Terry called the estimated power of the missile’s nuclear engine 766 kilowatts, which is quite comparable to the power of compact nuclear engines of the new generation. 1,000 horsepower of power corresponds to a thrust of about 1,000 kilograms, which is quite enough for a subsonic cruise missile with a starting weight of 4500-5000 kilograms. The missile does not need to fly at high altitude, it unmasks it. Thus, “Burevestnik” is deprived of the main drawback of all existing strategic missiles, subsonic, supersonic and even hypersonic, which are easily detected on the main stages of flight long before the approach to the target. “Burevestnik” has an almost unlimited range reserve, which allows it to bypass air defence zones (A2/AD) without any problems, and enter the airspace of a potential enemy from any direction. To the US, for example, from the Mexican border.

A country with no air defence

It should be noted that there is no continuous radar field over the US. The fleet of fighter-interceptors consists of 240 F-22A, F-15C, and F-16C aircraft. In the USSR at the end of the 80s there was a system of air defence with a solid radar field over the entire territory, controlled by 800 radars of various types, at the disposal of 2500 fighter-interceptors and 10,000 anti-aircraft guided missile launch sites. It is worth noting that after the US authorities realised the threat that arose in the late 50s and early 60s from a large number of Soviet ICBMs, it was decided to abandon a powerful air defence system, including a large number of SAMS deployed in the country. According to former US Secretary of Defence Schlesinger, “if they can’t protect their cities from strategic missiles, then they shouldn’t even try to create protection from the small bomber aircraft of the USSR”. There is only a more or less continuous radar field of civil air traffic. Very specific, it should be noted. The control of air space is very poorly organised, especially for unknown targets that are not identified by transponders. Civilian airfield radars do not at all see small-sized targets flying at ultra-low altitudes (less than 60 meters. This is often used by owners of unregistered small aircraft, which in the US, according to police estimates, is in the tens of thousands. They clog and complicate the monitoring of US airspace to such an extent that it is most likely that the control of airspace at ultra-low altitudes is carried out formally, i.e., not at all.

At the moment, the NORAD system is engaged in radar monitoring of the air situation over the territory of the continental US and Canada only for ballistic targets in the interests of missile defence. Mobile radars are used to control the airspace of aerodynamic targets, and up to 12 air defence fighters and two or three AWACS aircraft are constantly in the air. That’s all the air defence of the US.

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The standard NATO long-range radar detection aircraft, the AWACS E-3C/D/F/G, will detect a “Tomahawk” or “Kalibr” at a range of 240 to 320 kilometres, depending on the target’s angle and altitude. But the “Burevestnik” – at a range of no more than 32 kilometres (20 miles), if it is at the right time in the right place and immediately loses it, since western experts estimate the circular error probable of the missile at the level of Kh-101 and AGM-129A from 0.01 (flank projection) to 0.001 m2 (front projection). The missile will only flash on the radar screen and disappear, the operator has no choice but to take this flash for a flock of birds or a large wave. This is exactly what it looks like. The body of the missile is made using “Stels” technology, the cross section of the fuselage is an inverted trapezoid, the signal reflected from the missile in the side projection goes under it, and does not return to the radar antennas, and this is at a flight altitude of 25-50 meters. Due to the specifics of the laws of aerodynamic flight at hypersonic speeds, the “Tsirkon” is made of heat-resistant materials with a large number of fuselage elements and aerodynamic surfaces made of titanium and steel alloys, the structure is made of straight lines and sharp corners. In general, a solid, huge “corner reflector”, according to the most modest effective scattering area estimates of about 15 m2, such an object, and even flying at an altitude of up to 30 kilometres, E-3C will detect at a range of 500 to 600 kilometres. The only advantage of the “Tsirkon” is its speed, i.e., it is easy to detect, but it is difficult to shoot down.

The only reliable way to detect the “Burevestnik” missile is by the radioactive trace it leaves on its way – the isotopes of iodine-131, ruthenium-103, caesium-134 and caesium-137, but the detection of this trace will occur on the third or fourth day, when the radioactive elements reach the upper atmosphere. Given the two-megaton special warhead, “Burevestnik” is the only one of all the “Putin cartoons” that if used the US will only know about it when one of its major megalopolises suddenly disappears along with the entire population. And then it becomes understandable, such “close attention” precisely to this missile from the western media and from our “fifth column”, as well as the clearly organised campaign for its discreditation. 9M730 “Burevestnik” is the ideal deterrent weapon, the enemy will always be convinced, whatever their intentions towards Russia, that a “response” is inevitable and inevitable.

Each of the latest Russian weapons created recently has its own undeniable advantages, but there are also disadvantages, and it is necessary to think hard before sacrificing any type of weapon for a new START.


Sergey Ketonov

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