The Role of New Strategic Weapons Systems in Ensuring Strategic Deterrence

In the official military-theoretical journal of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation “Military Thought” (No. 12 for 2020), an interesting article was published by well-known Russian military theorists Colonel A.V. Evsyukov and retired Lieutenant Colonel A. L. Khryapin entitled “The role of new strategic weapons systems in providing strategic deterrence”, which examines the features of the use of the Kinzhal aviation missile system with a hypersonic missile and the “Peresvet” combat laser system in the interests of strategic deterrence, and primarily in the context of the concept of strategic non-nuclear deterrence.

DETERRENCE of aggression is an integral element of the national policy of any state throughout the centuries-old stage of the system of interstate relations. As a result, the threat of war, whether overt or implied, became a diplomatic tool used by one state to deter another from taking undesirable military and political steps. At the same time, the policy of strategic deterrence as the most important component of the national policy of the state received official recognition only with the advent of nuclear weapons (NW), which became the main tool of deterrence for many decades. Until recently, strategic deterrence was perceived as nuclear deterrence. At the same time, as the troops (forces) are equipped with strategic non-nuclear weapons (NWS) systems that can ensure the fulfilment of a number of strategic tasks in military conflicts of varying scale and intensity, the role of non-nuclear deterrence is increasing in strategic deterrence. Based on this, concerning strategic deterrence we should consider two of its components: nuclear and non-nuclear.

At the present time and in the foreseeable future, Russia is forced to deter the world’s leading states from unleashing aggression against it and its allies by using deterrence, which is based on a military threat that is openly declared and brought to the attention of a potential aggressor. In addition to deterrence, other states may be subject to deterrent actions related to restrictions and compulsions. Actions of deterrence, restriction and coercion are carried out within the framework of the strategic deterrence mechanism.

Strategic deterrence is based on the combat capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to inflict damage to any aggressor that is incommensurable with the military-political and economic goals of the war – so-called “restraining” damage. Its upper limit is “intolerable” damage, i.e. damage that is absolutely intolerable for the aggressor when the aggressor state (aggressor states) ceases to function as a socio-political system.

In general, strategic deterrence measures are carried out continuously both in peacetime, including the period of immediate threat of aggression, and in wartime up to the stage of the mass use of nuclear weapons.

Strategic deterrence is provided when the conditions are met:

  • The presence of combat-ready strategic deterrence forces in the Russian Armed Forces, including nuclear and strategic non-nuclear forces with combat capabilities that ensure intolerable damage for any aggressor, including a coalition composition, in any development of the military-political and strategic situation;
  • The determination and readiness of the military and political leadership of the Russian Federation to use these forces, if necessary, in accordance with Russian law.
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The military policy pursued by the US and its allies is aimed at reducing the combat capabilities of the Russian Armed Forces, including the creation of a global missile defence system and means of “instant global strike”. Under these conditions, the creation of modern domestic highly effective systems of strategic (nuclear and non-nuclear) weapons and equipping troops (forces) with them, as well as determining their role in ensuring strategic deterrence, are of paramount importance.

Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin in his annual message to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation in 2018 stated, and in 2019 confirmed, the armament of the Russian Armed Forces with new models of strategic weapons:

Sarmat missile system with a heavy intercontinental ballistic missile;

  • Avangard missile system with a gliding cruise warhead;
  • “Peresvet” combat laser system;
  • “Kinzhal” aviation missile system with a hypersonic cruise missile;
  • “Burevestnik” strategic system;
  • Poseidon unmanned underwater vehicle.

The adoption of these models for service will increase the flexibility and multi-variant functioning of the strategic deterrence mechanism, as well as expand the possibilities of using weapons of destruction in existing and future strategic actions of the Russian Armed Forces.

If the “Sarmat” and “Avangard” missile systems are assigned a role similar to the existing missile systems of the Strategic Missile Forces, the role of directed energy weapons and hypersonic weapons is determined based on their unique characteristics and capabilities to affect various targets.

In modern conditions, the most important tasks are to ensure the combat stability of domestic Strategic Nuclear Forces and reduce the effectiveness of the US missile defence system to a level that allows the Russian Federation to cause intolerable damage in response. Successful implementation of these tasks can largely be achieved through the introduction of advanced technologies and the proactive implementation of asymmetric countermeasures related to the integrated implementation of aerospace defence tasks, including anti-satellite warfare.

The “Peresvet” combat laser system can be used to perform a wide range of tasks, including to combat the enemy’s space-based optical-electronic intelligence by functionally destroying (suppressing) them with laser radiation. Currently and in the medium term, it will be used to cover the position areas of missile divisions with mobile missile systems.

The role of strategic directed energy weapons in general and the “Peresvet” combat laser system in particular in the system of strategic deterrence is determined by:

• Increasing the share of tasks to reduce the stability and efficiency of information and intelligence, combat and control systems of the enemy (primarily aerospace-based), which can be performed using directed energy weapons;

  • The need for highly effective selective destruction (suppression) of objects (their elements) with the minimisation of negative consequences for the population and the environment in the areas of strikes;
  • The ability to use directed energy weapons both independently and in conjunction with traditional weapons, while ensuring an increase in their combat effectiveness;
  • The possibility of using directed energy weapons as a universal means of defeating the enemy in military conflicts of any scale and intensity;
  • The ability to selectively, accurately and timely hit enemy targets (primarily means of air and space attack);
  • The ability to effectively perform cover missions against the destruction of the most important groupings of troops (forces) and objects of state and military control;
  • The ability to hit targets at a significant distance, contributing to the creation of a layered system of heterogeneous enemy destruction.
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The “Kinzhal” aviation missile system is a hypersonic weapons system designed to perform strategic tasks in the pre-nuclear phase of a military conflict. The impact of the aviation missile system on the enemy’s critical facilities, including those of the state and military administration system, military-economic and combat capabilities, as well as infrastructure, can decisively change the course of a military conflict and provide a significant increase in the effectiveness of the use of nuclear forces.

The possibility of multi-variant use of the “Kinzhal” aviation missile system allows to influence the enemy state (both the military and political leadership and the population) in order to deter it from unleashing military aggression or escalating military actions during a military conflict.

The role of the “Kinzhal” aviation missile system in the system of strategic deterrence is determined by:

• The growing importance of the force factor in interstate relations, the intensification of competition between the world’s economic and military-political centres of power for expanding their spheres of influence, as well as the possibility of achieving the goals of political and armed confrontation by influencing (threatening to influence) various critical enemy objects using modern conventional (non-nuclear) means of destruction;

  • Improving the strategic deterrence mechanism and expanding the range of tasks assigned to the “Kinzhal” aviation missile system;
  • An increase in the spatial and temporal indicators of military operations, combined with the widespread use of “contactless” forms of using troops (forces);
  • Increasing the combat capabilities of the “Kinzhal” aviation missile system for selective damaging effects on critical facilities, including the enemy’s air defence and missile defence systems in the conditions of its counteraction.

The use of this system in military conflicts can suspend or prevent enemy hostile actions, limit the escalation of the conflict, and allow taking military actions in conditions when the use of other types of weapons is unacceptable for political, ethical or other reasons.

The advantage of a hypersonic missile in comparison with subsonic low-altitude cruise missiles is significantly less vulnerability when overcoming air defence and missile defence systems due to high speeds and flight altitudes. The high degree of vulnerability of subsonic low-altitude cruise missiles was confirmed by the results of the US military operations in the war against Yugoslavia, when a significant part of the American Tomahawk-class cruise missiles in that war were shot down by portable anti-aircraft missile systems.

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Based on the characteristics of the “Kinzhal” aviation missile system and “Peresvet” combat laser system, it is possible to concretise the procedure for using these systems in the general system of strategic deterrence at different periods of the origin and unleashing of a military conflict.

In peacetime – the carrying out of combat duty by forces equipped with “Kinzhal” aviation missile system and “Peresvet” combat laser system, with the implementation of measures:

• Operational training with the carrying out of combat launches of hypersonic missiles;

• Improving the structure and composition of forces, as well as the planning and control system;

• Comprehensive preparation for use, etc.

During the period of immediate threat of aggression – demonstrative actions with the use of the “Kinzhal” aviation missile system and “Peresvet” combat laser system in order to prevent the development of the military phase of the conflict and force the enemy to renounce aggression. These actions may include:

  • Transfer of forces to the highest degree of combat readiness;
  • Building up ready-to-use products;
  • Carrying out measures to preserve their survivability;
  • Demonstrative launches with hypersonic missiles, etc.

In wartime – the limited use of forces equipped with the aviation missile system and combat laser system (including the application of single strikes for demonstrative purposes), their mass use (all or most of them with combat-ready systems).

The effectiveness of the use of the aviation missile system and combat laser system depends on their combat capabilities, which are determined by the military-strategic requirements, including:

• The possibility of the operational (in time) multivariate use of systems in strategic operations in the entire range of the launch range;

• High accuracy of shooting;

• Guaranteed performance of combat missions;

• Functioning in a difficult jamming environment, including with organised counteraction by a potential enemy;

• The ability to quickly retarget;

• Ensuring the noise immunity of the equipment and the imitation resistance of the control, communication and weapon guidance systems;

• Reliability of detection, reliability of recognition and classification of targets in difficult weather conditions and jamming conditions;

• Secrecy of the use of systems;

• Agreements in the field of strategic arms.

Thus, the adoption of the “Kinzhal” aviation missile system and “Peresvet” combat laser system (in the future – the “Burevestnik” system and the “Poseidon” unmanned underwater vehicle) and putting them on experimental combat duty, and then on combat duty, expands the possibilities of the military-political leadership of the Russian Federation to implement strategic deterrence measures based on strategic non-nuclear weapons systems through its flexible and multivariate use in the pre-nuclear phase of a military conflict without switching to the use of nuclear weapons.


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