Shane Osborn and Responsible Conduct

“O hear us when we lift our prayer for those in peril in the air”

“Gentlemen, we’re having this little problem of chronic violent death…” Tom Wolfe’s great line in his books about military aviators “The Right Stuff.”

His skillful writing captures the difference between the danger of military flying as compared to their peers who have never worn a uniform yet can posture about how tough they are compared with the courage of military aviators.

At one time Naval aviators, excluding combat, had a one in four chance of being killed, and over a fifty percent chance of ejecting from a crippled domed aircraft. Fortunately those statistics have greatly improved.

As a navy pilot I ejected around 500 feet and was presumed dead, I can down in a raging fire so it took a considerable effort for the SAR helo to verify I was alive.

My pregnant wife, was asked to go home from an evening event with fellow squadron wives because “something happened.” The Navy wanted to make sure the Chaplin could deliver the news of my death to her privately.

When Lt Shane Osborn, in one of the most skillful acts of flying in Navy history saved his crew he was appropriately awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, it was very well earned and deserved.

Now he is under a vicious attack that he somehow should have done something different then save the lives of his crew.

From his DFC citation:

“Lieutenant Osborn displayed superb airmanship and courage. Despite extreme damage to the aircraft, including loss of an engine, nose radio, all airspeed and altitude information, and structural damage to forward portions of the fuselage and control surfaces, he heroically regained control, directed appropriate emergency procedures, and coordinated the crew’s efforts to safely land the aircraft. “

“Lieutenant Osborn’s dedicated efforts ultimately ensured the survival of twenty-four crew members and preserved a vital operational asset.”

The words capturing Lt Osborn’s great skill in saving his crew are somehow missed by those who have never worn Navy Wings of Gold.

Critics should be confronted by a US Pacific Commander’s own words:

What Shane did was make a series of good decisions, and they were in accordance with Navy guidance, to land the airplane,” he said. “Given the circumstances, he did exactly the right thing (and) subsequently led the crew in doing a good job while they were detained.”

If voters want to weigh Osborn’s military record in casting their vote in the U.S. Senate race, they should make sure they are getting their information from a credible source. Thanks to retired Admiral Prueher for making the record clear.

Lincoln Nebraska Journal Star Editorial March 28 2012.

Or words taken from

His actions also earned the endorsement of retired Adm. Thomas Fargo, who headed the Navy’s Pacific Fleet at the time and had authority over the mission.

“I thought they made exactly the right decision,” Fargo said. “We’re talking about a peacetime reconnaissance mission. My view is there weren’t any better choices.”

Tim LaFleur, a retired vice admiral who once headed the Naval Surface Forces command, said he would hesitate to second-guess a pilot in a life-or-death situation.

“I personally think that’s an awful lot to ask someone, to give up their lives in order to save an airplane,” said LaFleur, now with the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton in San Diego.

“When you’re fighting for control of an aircraft, 20 to 30 people on board, you don’t have time to do a threat matrix.”

To second guess a Naval Aviator who did everything humanly possible to save his crew is very bad form and obviously politically motivated against the facts of the incident.

As the voters of Nebraska decide who will be their next Senator they should realize that Shane Osborn acted with honor and courage. 

At one brief moment of life and death testing in the South China Sea Lt. Shane Osborn made sure a Navy Chaplin would not visit the next of kin of his own family and his crew with the most horrible news imaginable.

And Senator Osborn would have a very strong impression of the actions of the Peoples Republic of China as they expand into the Pacific to threaten their neighbors and confront American military forces on the Sea and in the Air.

He has met them up close and personal.

Ironically, with all the focus on what or what Osborn should have done with regard to the PRC, left outside the discussion is what the US gets for its military dialogue with the PRC. 

Notably in the years prior to the incident, the Clinton Administration allowed very sensitive military technology to go to the Peoples Republic of China. In addition very senior members of the Chines Military and others like Triad Gangsters and Arms merchants were hosted at the White House. Military to Military exchanges were fostered and encouraged by President Clinton.

When are we going to address the real issues of Chinese espionage and the limited utility of military exchanges with the Chinese, rather than wandering back into history and making it up?

Ed Timperlake was Commanding Officer of VMFA-321 a reserve Marine Fighter Squadron and first Asistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Congressional and Public Affairs.

For a look at the continuing challenge of PRC espionage see the following:

The Russian Factor in the Second Nuclear Age

The Russians continue to demonstrate the political utility of nuclear weapons.

The slicing off of Ukraine was a consequence of political subversion, strong political support from the Russian community within Ukraine, local military superiority and the possession of a strategic nuclear deterrent which provides for an ability to operate with some certainty of operational freedom.

But the Russians have built and modernize a significant tactical nuclear arsenal which is clearly designed to be deployed in support of their global interests.

Commander, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) Adm. Cecil D. Haney observes as 1st Lt. Matthew Carter, assigned to 9th Reconnaissance Wing (9RW) at Beale Air Force Base, tracks a simulated adversarial launch during Haney’s visit to 9RW. 9RW supports USSTRATCOM’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission area by organizing, training and equipping the Air Force’s fleet of U-2R Dragonlady, RQ-4 Global Hawk and MC-12 Liberty aircraft, which provide intelligence gathering, contingency operations, conventional war fighting and emergency war order support. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Byron C. Linder/Released) April 12, 2014.

Commander, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) Adm. Cecil D. Haney observes as 1st Lt. Matthew Carter, assigned to 9th Reconnaissance Wing (9RW) at Beale Air Force Base, tracks a simulated adversarial launch during Haney’s visit to 9RW. 9RW supports USSTRATCOM’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission area by organizing, training and equipping the Air Force’s fleet of U-2R Dragonlady, RQ-4 Global Hawk and MC-12 Liberty aircraft, which provide intelligence gathering, contingency operations, conventional war fighting and emergency war order support. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Byron C. Linder/Released) April 12, 2014.

In recent testimony before Congress, the head of STRATCOM discussed the role of Russian nuclear forces.

Admiral Cecil D. Haney (USN), Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, in an April 2nd House Armed Services Committee hearing on military funding authorization for 2015, briefed Congressmen on the modern status of Russian strategic nuclear forces:

The matter arose from a question posed by Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio):

TURNER: “How does Russia integrate the use of its nuclear weapons into its conventional war plans, as we look to, obviously, a Russia that is mobilizing for war, specifically as we looked at Crimea and the prospects of Ukraine?”

Turner then quoted from a Russian news source, about Russia’s recent three-day exercise of its strategic missile forces. Turner said, that the news source, “cited multiple Russian military officers,” who said that, the major purpose of the drill is to ensure that Russia has the readiness to conduct offensive operations involving the use of nuclear missiles.”

HANEY: Russia has maintained, and continues to modernize their strategic deterrent capability, and also, periodically, exercises both their command and control capability to communications, as well as—as we saw in 2013—quite frankly, Russia put a YouTube video out on one of their strategic operational nuclear force exercises, where they demonstrated back in September, October timeframe—every aspect of their capability. It—it did not make as much news as you described here today. But on a day-to-day basis, their—they exercise and have a readiness posture of their capability, which we monitor very closely.

TURNER: Could you talk a moment about the issue and their doctrine about de-escalation? Because we’ve heard in front of this committee testimony about their use of nuclear weapons to de-escalate a conflict, which we would consider to be an escalation of it.

HANEY: Well, Congressman Turner, I think it would be much more appropriate to have that kind of conversation in a closed hearing.

TURNER: Well, my point being, if — whatever you can say on the record, this certainly requires a public discussion of what our — our — our deterrent may be looking to. What can you tell us about Russia’s view versus our view?

HANEY: Well, Russia has, as I mentioned, been on a continuous modernization program of their capability. Not just fixed ICBM — intercontinental ballistic missile sites. For example, they have mobile ICBM missiles. They have been developing a new class of SSBM, as well. And they have exercised their strategic bomber capability frequently over the years, and continue to do so.

I would be remiss if I was to go deeper into their strategy and what we think in that regards. But, as noted, through our various arms control deliberations, and even in his public statements that have been made by President Putin, he has stated his—the importance of his strategic capabilities for the country of Russia.

Bill Gertz in a recent column focused on the Admiral’s testimony.

“Russia has maintained and continues to modernize their strategic deterrent capability,” Adm. Cecil Haney, the Stratcom commander told the House Armed Services Committee.

The blunt comments came in response to reports that Russian strategic nuclear forces recently held a large-scale nuclear exercise coinciding with saber-rattling conventional military deployments close to Russia’s eastern border with Ukraine.

Haney said the Russians conduct periodic nuclear war games and in 2013 produced a YouTube video that highlighted “every aspect of their capability.”

“But on a day-to-day basis, they exercise and have a readiness posture of their capability, which we monitor very closely,” Haney said.

State Department cables sent to Washington earlier this year included dire warnings that Russia is vastly increasing its nuclear arsenal under policies similar to those Moscow followed during the Soviet era.

The cables, according to officials familiar with them, also stated that the Russian strategic nuclear forces buildup appears aimed at achieving nuclear superiority over the United States and not nuclear parity.

The nuclear modernization has been “continuous” and includes adding fixed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and mobile ICBMs, along with a new class of strategic missile submarines, Haney said in testimony.

“Russia has articulated their value in having strategic capability, and as such, each area they have invested in both in terms of nuclear strategic capability as well as space capability and cyberspace capability in terms of things,” Haney said.

“And as a result, we have seen them demonstrate their capability through a variety of exercises and operations. They maintain their readiness of that capability on a continuous fashion. And it’s a capability I don’t see them backing away from.”

By contrast, Haney testified to the committee that U.S. nuclear forces are in urgent need of modernization to update aging nuclear weapons, delivery systems, and support and production infrastructure, most of which were made decades ago.

Under budget sequestration, which could be re-imposed in 2016, U.S. nuclear force modernization will be undermined.

Russia “drew down” some conventional military forces since the end of the Cold War but “the one area that they maintained was their strategic capability,” the four-star admiral said, adding: “Their modernization has been occurring over the last decade or so.”

While Moscow has been aggressively upgrading its nuclear forces, “in our case we have sustained existing programs,” he said…..

Rep. Michael Turner (R., Ohio) told Haney at the hearing that Russian actions in Ukraine should prompt the United States to quickly upgrade its nuclear forces.

“Putin has allowed us, in his most recent actions, to understand that we have been pursuing a false narrative with respect to Russia — both with respect to our conventional forces in Europe and our strategic forces,” Turner said.

“We now see that there have been some actions that Russia has been taking, specifically under the leadership of Putin, that perhaps we have ignored or that we have diminished in importance,” Turner added. “As we review those issues again, certainly our nuclear deterrent comes to mind as an issue that needs to be reviewed, in light of Russia’s actions and Russia’s doctrine…..”

Haney described the current security environment as “more complex, dynamic, and uncertain than at any time in recent history.”

“Nation states such as Russia and China are investing in long-term and wide-ranging military modernization programs to include extensive modernization of their strategic capabilities,” he stated in prepared testimony.

“Nuclear weapons ambitions and the proliferation of weapon and nuclear technologies continues, increasing risk that countries will resort to nuclear coercion in regional crises or nuclear use in future conflicts…..”

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R., Colo.) said that under the 2010 New START arms treaty with Russia, the United States cut its warhead arsenal by 103 while Russia increased its warheads.

“To me, it is a remarkable situation that we’re decreasing and they are increasing,” Lamborn said.

Haney responded by stating that Russia has a large tactical nuclear arsenal and that arms agreements so far were limited to strategic arms that have “come down appropriately” and allowed for information exchanges and other details of the strategic forces.

“But is the imbalance roughly 10-to-1 when it comes to tactical warhead and weapons?” Lamborn asked.

“I would rather not put a number to it in this open forum, sir,” Haney said.

Will Putin Invite Obama to Yalta Next Year for Spring Break?

Last weekend President Barack Obama and his family took their “spring break” holiday in Florida. The president played golf at the exclusive Ocean Reef Club at Key Largo. Vice-President Joe Biden meanwhile was on his “spring break” in the US Virgin Islands.

Obama refreshed from his vacation then met with Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the acting prime minister of the Ukraine, at the White House on Wednesday.

The President Watches a Rough and Tumble Judo Match on the South Lawn.

The President Watches a Rough and Tumble Judo Match on the South Lawn.

This weekend the Crimea will vote in a referendum to return the Crimea to Russia. Vladimir Putin by political stealth and the use of raw power has got what he wanted.

 The question is what comes next. 

A military response by Washington is improbable. Obama rejected the recommendation of his panel of legal advisers to take data storage out of the hands of the National Security Agency.

In any case the networks of US intelligence agencies and private sector contractors have been much too busy spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to pay much attention to what Putin was up to.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Tuesday, accused the CIA of secretly pulling classified documents from her committee’s computers during a staff probe of the CIA’s interrogation program. She said this was a violation of Federal law. The Justice Department may investigate the allegations

The director of the CIA, John Brennan, who was a high official at the CIA during the administration of George W Bush and was appointed by Obama to be his chief counterintelligence in 2009 adviser before becoming head of the CIA, has rejected the assertions. The spat between the CIA and its Senate overseers gets to the heart of the fraught questions of torture, terrorism and disclosure.

The Pentagon is meanwhile apparently spending hundreds of thousands of dollars studying Putin’s body language to gage his next moves. They should have looked at the body language in the official photographs of Putin sitting next to Obama at the last G8 summit at Lough Erne Resort in Northern Ireland. It would have told them everything.

The question now is if Putin will be satisfied.

Republican Senator John McCain visited Kiev in December. He has complained that the Ukrainian crisis is the “ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in America’s strength anymore.” Putin would doubtless agree.

Putin takes another approach.

Putin takes another approach.

Obama evidently prefers spying and unmanned drones to putting real power assets into play.

John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, in testimony on Capital Hill on Wednesday about the continuing crisis in the Ukraine said that the administration still hoped for a “reasonable outcome here.” But the real world remains a dangerous place.

Perceptions of weakness can bring heavy costs if it leads opponents to overreach, and risks forcing the leaders perceived to be weak to overreact as a consequence.

The resort of Yalta is a favored hotspot in tourist dependent Crimea. Joseph Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill meet at Yalta in February 1945: Not an encouraging memory, especially for Eastern Europe, which was condemned thereafter to decades of Soviet domination.

Putin might even invite Obama and Biden to spend their “spring breaks” in Yalta next year.

The 94th AAMDC: Warriors of the Second Nuclear Age

During a visit to PACOM in late February 2014, I had the chance to interview the Commanding General of the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command located at Fort Shafter near Honolulu, Brig. Gen. Daniel Karbler.

Notably, if you look at his background you see that he learned his trade under fire in the Middle East, having deployed to Israel in 1991 as part of Task Force Patriot Defender in support of Desert Storm and deployed to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in support of Operations Desert Thunder II and Desert Fox.

Talking with the General and his team was not simply a Washington-based seminar of possibilities but of combat realities and shaping the joint way ahead.

The 94th has theater-wide responsibility for an ADA Brigade, 3 PATRIOT Battalions, 1 THAAD Battery on Guam, and currently one mobile radar detachment (the AN/TPY2 Radar) in Japan with an additional radar coming soon to Japan as well based on an announced agreement last Fall.

This function is the 21t century version of the old Air Defense Artillery role for the US Army, and unlike the significant questioning of the future of the Army after Iraq and Afghanistan, this part of the Army is in high demand from the joint forces and has no need to question its role and significance in the Pacific (or of their compatriots in the Middle East for that matter).

The first deployment of THAAD to the region last year marks an important turning point in the role of Army ADA in the Pacific and is a harbinger for things to come.

Early this year, I interviewed the THAAD commander on Guam about the deployment and the role of THAAD. Notably, he highlighted the central role of working the THAAD relationship with Aegis in crafting a more effective joint missile defense role for the PACCOM commander.

According to Task Force Talon Commander, Army Lt. Col. Cochrane, the THADD Task Force commander who is currently based on Guam:

We combine Aegis, with THAAD with short-range defense systems, etc.

For example, at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii, the 94th AAMDC and the 613 AOC coordinate air and missile defense for the Pacific Theater. The Navy and the Air Force all come together and conduct that coordination in terms of how we protect and coordinate our defense so that we are maximizing our capabilities.

It is not just a single system standing alone or operating independently.

It is the inter-dependence and the inter-operability of all these systems to all three of the branches that are actively engaged in missile and air defense.

In my unit, we are looking aggressively at how to cross link with Aegis, for example.

The interview held with the 94th Commanding General clearly reinforced the role of ADA in the joint mission. 

The meeting was held in the HQ building which is an old school house which belies the significance of the command and its impact in the Pacific.  Brig. Gen. Daniel Karbler commented that “my office is probably the former principal’s office.”

Underscoring the joint nature of the mission and its strategic trajectory to shape a combat grid which is increasingly designed to enable distributed operations, the interview with the General was a roundtable with key USN, and USAF present who discussed the cross synergy role of missile defense and its role in Pacific defense.

A key theme was simply that deploying THAAD on Guam had freed up the Aegis to be deployed more effectively in its multi-mission maritime role.

In a theme echoed throughout my visit to PACOM, Navy Commander Steve DeMoss, the deputy for PACOM’s Space and Integrated Air and Missile Defense Division, underscored that:

The deployment of THAAD to Guam provides a significant capability all by itself and has been a force multiplier in the region.  It is defending U.S. territory, U.S. citizens, and strategic U.S. bases… it provides PACOM greater flexibility with Aegis ships and other PACOM forces that had previously served that mission.   The work we are doing on cross-linking Aegis with THAAD will allow us to think creatively about combining the mobile defense capability of Aegis with the land-based deployed capabilities of THAAD and Patriot.

The impact of THAAD and PATRIOT to free up the Aegis is a significant contribution to Air-Sea battle. 

DeMoss added:

Deploying persistent, purpose built IAMD capability into theater (like Patriot, THAAD, and TPY-2), has given us greater flexibility with multi-mission Aegis ships. It allows us to employ those ships as designed and not simply tying them to a single mission, like missile defense.

The General explained that the networking or cross linking of THAAD, Patriot and various radars under his control with NAVY assets was creating a crucial synergy central for evolving 21st century capabilities.

Currently, the ADA branch represents only 1.6% of the Army’s force structure. But the Army Chief of Staff has emphasized its significant and growing role in the future. 

With the coming of a second BMD radar to Japan (as agreed last Fall), the mobile radar system used by THAAD will have more sensors available to empower the force. 

And doing a better job of linking in Patriots to the system helps as well.

Mobile Radar


The General discussed the role of ADA within Pacific defense as part of the support to airpower and to strategic decision making.

He emphasized that the capabilities of ADA helped provide time to determine how to both generate more air power and how to use airpower and provided the national command authority time to determine how best to respond to a crisis.

There are three ways to deal with an incoming missile defense. 

There is passive defense, but there is only so much hardening and dispersal one can do without degrading your combat capability, and their many soft targets which cannot be hardened.

You can use air strikes to take out the adversary’s missile strike force, but you may not wish to do that right away or have not fully mobilized your capability. 

The role of having active defense or an interceptor force is to buy time for [Lieutenant] General [Jan-Marc] Jouas (7th USAF Commander in the Pacific) or General [Hawk] Carlisle (the PACAF Commander) to more effectively determine how to use their airpower. 

It also allows the National Command Authority to determine the most effective way ahead with an adversary willing to strike US or allied forces and territory with missiles.

Air Force Col. Mark Harysch from PACAF Strategy and Plans sees the Army’s ADA role is a central part of the evolution of the joint force.

The way the Pacific Air Force strategist sees it is that the joint force is working hard on cross domain synergy and cross linking assets.

The objective is to have the relevant platform to a mission able to draw on deployed sensors within the grid to execute the most effective approach for mission execution.  General Hostage (the ACC Commander) has spoken of the combat cloud.  That is what we are building here in the Pacific.  For example, the contribution of the F-22 may not be in the air-to-air domain but to provide the best sensor available to the relevant task in a mission.  The F-35 will add significant new capabilities to the layered approach as well.

In other words, the sense around the table among the U.S. Army, Air Force and Navy personnel that the way ahead BEING built today is cross domain collaborative operations.

(For a look at the concept of evolving an aerospace combat cloud please see the following:

The Next Phase of Air Power- Crafting and Enabling the Aerospace Combat Cloud).

The THAAD system as well can support evolving Pacific defense in another sense.

As Col. Robert Lyons, the 94th AAMDC Chief of Staff noted,

The THAAD radar and interceptors can be deployed separately.  We can put the radar in one location and deploy launchers to 3 launchers in another and 2 to 3 launchers in yet another and provide capability to operate over a geographic operational area. Given the geography of the Pacific thinking along these lines will give us options and enhance deterrence.

Lyons also underscored that the working relationship with allies over time is yielding enhanced combat capability.

We deployed Patriot on Okinawa in 2006 and it operated initially pretty much as a standalone system.  Now we are working much more effectively with the Japanese Patriots to provide much greater potential integration. As Gen Karbler often says, you can’t [Request for Forces] Trust, and you can’t Surge Relationships.

Clearly, one key way ahead is to combine the evolving US approach to distributed operations with allied enhancement of their own capabilities to shape a new collaborative Pacific defense system.

The Army ADA evolution is clearly a central contributor to the kind of defense capability which the US needs in the Pacific and which enables credible and effective collaboration with US allies on the path to enhance their own capabilities.

One can learn a lot by visiting the principal’s office at the 94th AAMDC.  I certainly did.

It should be noted that the principal’s office is moving closer to PACAF:

 The 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command is slated to move to Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam in FY2014.

Early 2013, the Pacific Air Force Commander laid out a vision for an Integrated Air and Missile Defense Center of Excellence, which will enhance cooperation between the 613th Air and Space Operations Center, Pacific Air Forces and the 94th AAMDC. 

The video above was prepared by the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command located at Fort Shafter near Honolulu, the evolving role of ARMY missile defense is highlighted.

Tactical Nuclear Weapons in the Russian Black Sea Fleet: In Play in the Current Crisis?


Since publishing this article it is being reported that Russian military forces may be moving their state-of-the art anti-ship missiles into Crimea to threaten the US Navy.

Unlike the A2AD posturing about their missiles capabilities by the PLA the Russians have successfully test fired anti-ship missiles in the Black Sea.

It is a threat that must be respected. The US Navy knows that but as said in the article “Why Not The Best?”

Where are the F-22s flying high cover?

“The first sign of the coming U.S. air raid was when the enemy radar and air-defense missile sites began exploding. The strikers were Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth fighters, flying unseen and faster than the speed of sound, 50,000 feet over the battlefield”


In 1995, The Belfer Center of Harvard published a well thought out research paper on “Crimea and the Black Sea Fleet in Russian- Ukrainian Relations,” this was one of their findings:

Russia tried to prove that the whole Black Sea Fleet was a part of “strategic forces” which should be under joint CIS (i.e., Russian) command.

The presence of tactical nuclear weapons on its ships and planes, and its important role in defending the CIS from a maritime sector were presented as arguments to emphasize the strategic nature of the Black Sea Fleet

Sevastopol has been viewed as the city of “Russian naval glory,” and the Russians are very sensitive to the idea of restricted access to the city

Regardless of all the current discussions which are devolving into circles within circles about Russia Vs Ukraine, or perhaps using the other Intelligence Community cliché “a wilderness of mirrors,” it is important that all Americans know what might be in jeopardy as seen from Moscow.

Consequently, as Editor I sent an e-mail  to  Russia Today for any information that they may have published in Russian.

For US Naval Officers of my generation (I am USNA ’69)  TacNucs-were neither confirmed nor denied. I understand from many articles that the Russian Military  still has tactical nuclear weapons as a deterrence factor- It would be nice to know if there are any present with Black Sea Fleet.

–I have no current idea either way.

The most current reporting in RT has focused on Strategic Weapons and deterrence–

My question is— has RT published any additional information about the presidential Phone call?

Is there anything that RT has published about tactical nuclear warheads on ships and subs? –Especially stationed with Black Sea Fleet.

It is beyond foolish to think Russia would use tactical nuclear weapons in the Ukraine engagement. However, being worried about losing control is another matter completely. Regardless of the current hot house debate about Russian aggression, all Russian leaders have understood how to protect warheads since the dawn of the Nuclear age. Consequently, a lot of conventional force on force blustering by US military experts should take in account a potential catastrophic problem if Russia loses control of their weapons.

Setting aside the unknown about TacNucs, it is known worldwide that the US is never afraid to send our combat ships into harm’s way regardless of the threat of facing very lethal conventional weapons

The USS Truxton DDG-103 has just been dispatched into the Black Sea. It is a powerful navy combat ship that can acquit itself well in a fight. However, in this 21st Century, just like 20th Century war at sea it would be nice to have air cover as a combat insurance policy against any attack from any quarter.

Ships, protected by Combat Air Patrols (CAPs), are a winning formula. In times of crisis such as the  brewing potential Ukraine civil war being exacerbated and flamed  by  Russian military cross-border engagements at sea and on the ground especially around the city of “Russian Naval Glory” it would be prudent to provide defense in depth to the crew of the USS Truxton.

In fact, using the title of President Carter’s book, “Why not the Best” comes to mind.

The F-22 is the most lethal Air-to-Air Fighter and Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) aircraft in the world today and should be flying cover over the USS Truxtun going into Black Sea. Why not the best? Perhaps even the few that we have are not being given visibility.

Is it because the President, supported by Senator McCain and Secretary Gates in cheering over the cutting of the buy below the numbers requested by then General “Conan” Corley of our Air Combat Command and fully supported by Secretary Mike Wynne and General Buzz Moseley AF Chief called them “outdated”, The stopping of the F-22 line was praised by many in the media and think tanks that a bipartisan effort at the very top of our Defense establishment had said the F-22 was a cold war relic. I think President Putin is pleased to see such American foolishness.

If the past politics of the Raptor is any clue it should be remembered that White House staff pulled an F-22 out of an Alaskan Presidential Photo op a few years back that resonates to this day.

In today’s very dangerous world all America should never forget the cancellation of the F-22 was by a confederacy of short sighted and foolish leaders making a very bad decision

Again there is no cause to think the Russian would ever use tactical nuclear weapons in this current crisis but losing control of them is another matter and additionally U.S. and allies, especially NATO, being conventionally prepared with the best weapons available is very prudent.

Admiral Hyam G Rickover, Father of the Nuclear Navy said it best, note the emphasis on the word “serious.” It is up to the US National Command authority to determine the current definition of that word.

“… attempts to limit war have always failed. The lesson of history is when a war starts every nation will ultimately use whatever weapon it has available. … Therefore, we must expect that if another war — a serious war — breaks out, we will use nuclear energy in some form.”



President Forced to be his own Intelligence Analyst “Action Officer”

Disharmony in American Intelligence Community Makes President Obama his own IC  ”Action Officer” so what did he find out?

“President Obama spoke for an hour this afternoon with President Putin of Russia. President Obama emphasized that Russia’s actions are in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which has led us to take several steps in response, in coordination with our European partners.”

Russia’s excursion into the Crimean Peninsula as part of its broader power play in Ukraine is the most provocative military move in that region since the Soviet Union dissolved.  The Russian troops deployed to the Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol coupled with surrender demands from Moscow have created a potential flashpoint that could lead to a nasty escalation.

But even as western heads of state denounce the developments in Sevastopol with nuanced diplomatic language, it’s quite possible that Russian President Vladimir Putin has good reason to take the action he has.

As the premiere warm-water port for the Russian Navy, Sevastopol has played a strategic role in Russia’s military operations since the reign of Catherine the Great. The naval base has also served as a deployment point for nuclear weapons aboard surface warships and submarines.

Few people outside of the Kremlin know with certainty whether nuclear weapons are part of the weapons package of components of the Black Sea Fleet but it certainly would account for Putin’s  urgency in putting boots on the ground should he feel the need to protect such weapons, not to mention an array of powerful conventional weapons.

Concerns about Russian sea-based nuclear weapons are not new.  As recently as 2013, there was, “cause to suspect that Russia might be deploying some number of sea-launched cruise missiles tipped with nuclear warheads,” according to arms control specialists and military analysts.  Russian opacity on nuclear weapons makes it impossible to precisely calculate their inventory but recent estimates over the past five years are troubling enough.

Ukrainian military planners have made no secret of wanting a well-armed navy.

During my visit to Sevastopol in 1998 as part of a U.S. congressional delegation to assess the status of how the former Soviet Black Sea fleet was being divided between Russian and Ukrainian forces, I had the opportunity to discuss the situation with the Ukrainian Chief of Naval Operations.  He and his naval commanders expressed deep concern over Russia stripping the weapons from their warships and having limited access to guarded ammunition bunkers and those concerns are certainly heightened given recent events.

Doubtlessly compounding Ukrainian distress is the fact that Ukraine reluctantly surrendered its nuclear arsenal in 1991 after assurances of territorial integrity from both NATO and the Russian Federation.

Twenty three years later, Ukraine is witnessing Russia’s disregard for that agreement, a war-weary NATO unwilling to engage and a European Union wedded to Russian energy sources.  Ukraine’s appetite for heavy naval weaponry on Russian warships, nuclear or otherwise, is not difficult to understand.

If Putin does harbor concerns about the security of nuclear weapons at Sevastopol, one good way of enforcing that security is to deploy troops to the naval base, isolate it and demand the surrender of Ukrainian forces, which is precisely what Russia is doing. And while it is understood that no Russian nuclear weapons are to be maintained on leased naval bases, there’s absolutely nothing to prevent Russia from keeping a nuclear arsenal onboard ships and submarines moored at Black Sea facilities operated by Russia.

The  American intelligence community must take into account the potential loss of nuclear devices.  Regardless of speculation about U.S. contingencies, the Russian response to riots or unrest, or the prospect of civil war in Ukraine, there are some very deadly weapons at risk on Russian warships. Lots of them.

President Obama has reportedly been in communication with our allies and Moscow, but has he even inquired as to the presence of nuclear weapons in Sevastopol? If so, he hasn’t told us. America should know if that question was asked and answered in order to understand what is at stake.  Even the possibility of losing nuclear devices in times of crisis dramatically alters the terms of the discussion.

President Putin is nothing if not calculating.

Whether it’s shirtless horseback riding or the deployment of troops to an historically critical Russian port, every action must be viewed in terms of need and effect.

The question of undisclosed nuclear weapons would obviously trigger a larger set of questions but if the Russian president is acting to secure and safeguard nuclear weapons in their Black Sea fleet, President Obama needs to understand this dynamic. For now, we’re not sure what he understands.






A Tutorial on How Not to Do It on Ukraine: Secretary Kerry Takes Charge

Recently, The Hill provided this wonderful overview on John Kerry’s approach to the 21st century.

It is a virtual tutorial in how not to deal with Russia and leverage anything from the Ukrainian crisis.

Let us start first with the key requirement for strategist:  Assert your values and when others do not comply, argue they are out of sync with history and “globalization” or whatever Hegelian law of history you project as the proper one for everyone else.

As a classic liberal democratic, Kerry fits the bill perfectly for there are “21st century rules” versus those old power rules of early centuries.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “stunning, willful” choice to invade Ukrainian territory and warned of possible sanctions.

“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country,” Kerry said on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” one of several appearances on network interview shows.

Ok John let us see – Iraq did what towards the end of the 20th?  And Iran is doing what with regard to Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

You see territory does not matter in the geography free world of 21st century globalization and everyone who is “non-willful” believes that.

The good news is that there is a “modern manner” in which to resolve problems.

Just like Syria, Iran, China and Russia (normally) do.

“It’s serious in terms of the modern manner in which countries resolve problems,” Kerry said.

Even The Washington Post, yes you read that right, The Washington Post gets it.

The Editorial Board of The Washington Post commented on March 3, 2014:

Unfortunately, Russian President Vladimir Putin has not received the memo on 21st-century behavior.

Neither has China’s president, Xi Jinping, who is engaging in gunboat diplomacy against Japan and the weaker nations of Southeast Asia.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is waging a very 20th-century war against his own people, sending helicopters to drop exploding barrels full of screws, nails and other shrapnel onto apartment buildings where families cower in basements.

These men will not be deterred by the disapproval of their peers, the weight of world opinion or even disinvestment by Silicon Valley companies.

They are concerned primarily with maintaining their holds on power.

Putin has been rolling back NATO and the EU’s reach into his neighborhood since 2008 and has seen the recovery of the Russian role in the Mediterranean from Cyprus to Iran.

This might look like strength but no it is not for the 21st century global thinker.

“That’s not the act of somebody who’s strong, “ Kerry added, saying Putin is acting out of “weakness” and “desperation.”

On ABC’s “This Week,” Kerry called Putin’s move a “brazen act of aggression” and raised the possibility that allied nations would move to kick Russia out of the Group of 8 in addition to boycotting the G8 summit in Sochi this summer.

“It’s a 19th century act in the 21st century that really puts into question Russia’s capacity to be in the G8,” Kerry said.

OK last time I looked the G8 is not run by the United States so before tossing out the Russians who have many of the G-8 members by the balls on energy issues, let us see what happens?

He called on Congress to put together an economic aid package for Ukraine and said the U.S. would be prepared to impose economic sanctions on Russia.

“It may well come that we have to engage in that kind of activity, absolutely. I think all options are on the table,” he said.

OK, here we go: all options are on the table.  Remember Syria and the Red Line and I am sure Putin is quaking in his boots.

Putin is a chess player; Kerry is clearly not; so exactly what are the US options?

And a small aside, to JK: so you are going to Kiev: Did you discuss that with NATO and most significantly with Poland, the ally that your President went after at the beginning of his Administration to take away their missile defense toys, largely on the grounds that the Russians objected to their presence in Poland?

Kerry said specifically Russia is “inviting the possibility of very serious repercussions, on trade, on investment, on assets — asset freeze, visa bans, on the potential of actions by the global community against this unilateral step.”

Ok, here we go, John Kerry represents the “global community” not just the State Department in the Obama Administration.  I guess this is so 21st century for in the past states used to guard their sovereignty jealously but now, they apparently have deferred to the Vietnam War hero their role on the chessboard.

When Putin sent Russian troops into Georgia in 2008, then-President George W. Bush dispatched warships to the region and distributed humanitarian aid on military aircraft.

Asked if Obama was prepared to take similar actions, Kerry replied: “The hope of the United States and everyone in the world is not to see this escalate into military confrontation. That does not serve the world well, and I think everybody understands that. The president has all options on the table.”

Hope is a good thought, but given that the President had no military options in Benghazi nor Syria (based on his actions), just what has the rhetorical leader of the White House have in mind for the “global community?”

Kerry said if Putin rolled back the military intervention, the U.S. would work with Russia to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine and “stand up to any hooligans, any thuggery” there.

Now this is really rich.

Obviously, Kerry has never been to the Ukraine.  I would be interested in how the US would be working with Russia to “protect ethnic Russians” in the Ukraine.  A bit like the French working with the Germans to protect the Germans living in the Danzig corridor I would guess.

Appearing after Kerry on the same program, GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the House would be “very cooperative with the administration” on preparing an aid package for Ukraine and potential sanctions on Russia.

Let us be blunt. The Russians are the ENERGY supplier to Ukraine and it is winter. So the US de facto will pay the Russians more money to keep the energy flowing to the Ukraine “reformers” I would guess.

“First off, we have to accept that the reset with Russia is over,” Kinzinger said.

When asked on CBS if a 90-minute call between President Obama and Putin on Saturday had any impact, Kerry said “we’re going to have to wait and see.”

Ok so the reset is now over and how about a little 19th century realism in the fantasy world of a 21st century strategist.

Obama made it clear during the call that Russia’s military intervention is “absolutely unacceptable,” Kerry said. “President Obama wants to emphasize to the Russians that there are a right set of choices that can still be made to address any concerns they have about Crimea, about their citizens, but you don’t choose to invade a country in order to do that,” Kerry added.

OK here we have it: the preacher is telling the “weak” black belt President of Russia to get calm, do meditation and get right with the 21st century universe.  Zen rather than chess is the President’s fortay.

“There are all kinds of other options still available to Russia. There still are.”

This is the epitaph for the Obama Administration with regard to the world.

“There are many options out there: it is just tough to choose and actually do something.”



The Imperative of American Nuclear Modernization: Meeting the Challenge of An Expanded Nuclear Threat

As the current warheads and delivery systems of America’s nuclear arsenal age and wear out, the US faces the necessity of replacing all of these elements of its nuclear deterrent.

Anti-nuclear groups in the US falsely claim that this is too expensive and unnecessary, that it would siphon money away from conventional weapon programs, that nuclear weapons are Cold War relics that the US doesn’t need for its security, that the US should cut its nuclear arsenal deeply, and that such modernization will provoke Russia and China to build up and modernize their own arsenals.

The reality is that the modernization of America’s nuclear deterrent is long overdue, affordable, relatively low-cost, and absolutely necessary given the nuclear threats America faces.

In fact, one could argue that the nuclear threats, which the US faces, are far graver than the Soviet threat during the Cold War.

Here’s why it’s absolutely necessary to modernize – and not to reduce – America’s nuclear arsenal. Existing nuclear-armed potential adversaries – Russia, China, and North Korea – are all growing and modernizing their arsenals, and would be doing so regardless of whether the US would be modernizing its capability.

The Russians Modernize

Russia currently has:

  • Around 415-430 ICBMs collectively capable of delivering at least 1,684 nuclear warheads to the CONUS;
  • 251 strategic bombers, each capable of delivering 6-12 nuclear warheads (typically, 6 cruise missile warheads and one freefall bomb);
  • 13 ballistic missile submarines collectively capable of delivering between 1,400 and 2,000 warheads to the US;
  • At least 4,000 tactical nuclear weapons and a wide variety of means to deliver them (short-range ballistic missiles, theater aircraft, artillery pieces, surface ships, submarines, submarine-launched cruise missiles, etc.).

Russia is now building up and rapidly modernizing its entire nuclear arsenal, including its strategic nuclear triad. It is developing, or already deploying:

  • A new strategic intercontinental bomber, the PAK DA, to replace the Tu-95 strategic bomber;
  • A new ballistic missile submarine class (the Borei class) with two new ballistic missile types (the R-29RMU2 Liner and the RSM-56 Bulava);
  • Several new ICBM types (the RS-24 Yars, the “Avangard”, the “Rubezh”, a rail-mobile ICBM, and the “Son of Satan” missile to replace the SS-18 heavy ICBM that can carry 10 warheads and 38 penetration aids);
  • New warheads; and
  • A full panoply of new tactical delivery systems, including new nuclear-capable cruise and short-range ballistic missiles and theater nuclear strike aircraft (e.g. the Su-34 Fullback).

By 2016, Russia will DOUBLE its spending on nuclear weapons from today’s levels and by that year, 80%, and by 2021, all of Russia’s ICBMs will be new, post-Cold-War and modern ICBMs: the Topol-M (deployed in 1997), the Yars (first deployed in 2010), and even newer missiles.

Altogether, by the 2020s, Russia’s nuclear arsenal, especially its nuclear triad, will be even larger and much more lethal and survivable than they are today.

Not only that, but Russia is not shy about articulating a first use doctrine.

In the last 6 years alone, Moscow has threatened to aim or even launch its nuclear weapons at the US or its allies at least 15 times. This year, it has twice conducted large-scale nuclear exercises simulating a Russian nuclear first strike.

Russia has, within the last 18 months, simulated a nuclear bomber strike on the US and Japan (and even on neutral countries like Sweden and Finland) several times, including in May 2012 and July 2012 (the Fourth of July, to be precise).

When asked in June 2012 by the media about what they were doing simulating an attack on Alaska, the Russians said they were “practicing attacking the enemy.”

So the Russians consider America their enemy – and have simulated attacking it several times.

And they have a large nuclear arsenal to do so if they ever want to try. America’s nuclear deterrent is the ONLY capability, which would be taken seriously by the Russians to deter this threat.

The Chinese Build Out Their Capability

China also has a large nuclear arsenal, though not as large as Russia’s.

Nonetheless, it is large and as former Russian Strategic Missile Force Chief of Staff Gen. Viktor Yesin estimates it at 1,600-1,800 warheads, while Georgetown University Professor Philip Karber puts the figure at up to 3,000 warheads.

This analyst, for his part, did his own study on the subject last year and estimated that China has at the very least 1,274 warheads, not including the warheads for the 500 nuclear-armed ground-launched cruise missiles that the DOD warns about.

Specifically, China has:

  • ICBMs: 36 DF-5 heavy ICBMs capable of carrying up to 10 warheads each, over 30 DF-31/31A ICBMs (4 warheads each), at least one DF-41 missile (10 warheads each), 20 DF-4 missiles (3 warheads each), for a total of 550 warheads for ICBMs – all deliverable to the US, though DF-4s can only reach Alaska;
  • 120 medium range ballistic missiles: 100 DF-21s and 20 DF-3s (1 warhead each), for a total of 120 MRBM-attributed warheads;
  • 500 warheads for short-range ballistic missiles and ground-launched cruise missiles;
  • 440 nuclear bombs for the PLAAF’s delivery-capable aircraft (440 H-6s, JH-7s, and Q-5s);
  • An unknown number of warheads for the PLAAF’s cruise missiles carried on H-6K bombers with a range of 3,000 kms (allowing China to strike targets throughout Asia);
  • Six ballistic missile submarines: one Xia class boat carrying 12 single-warhead missiles and five Jin class boats each carrying 12 JL-2 missiles with 4 warheads each; note that future JL-2 missile variants will be capable of carrying 12 warheads each, over a distance of 14,000 kms.

In total, China, by this writer’s calculations based on Chinese ballistic missile, aircraft, and SSBN inventories and on DOD’s data on Chinese SRBMs and cruise missiles, has at least 1,862 warheads, including 802 deliverable to the US (though not all of them to the CONUS).

Here’s a map of Chinese ICBM ranges.

PRC Nuclear Ranges

PRC Nuclear Ranges

Credit Image:×184.jpg.pagespeed.ic.1gskZMdtVk.jpg

Note that China’s nuclear arsenal, like Russia’s, is not at a standstill and will only get larger, more survivable, and more lethal in the future. China is increasing its inventory of ballistic missile subs, ICBMs, MRBMs, SRBMs, and cruise missiles.

The PRC is also developing:

  • A rail-mobile ICBM;
  • A stealthy intercontinental bomber that will be capable of striking the CONUS with nuclear weapons;
  • New variants of the JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile that will be capable of carrying 12 warheads over a distance of 14,000 kms (i.e. striking the CONUS from Chinese ports and territorial waters); and
  • A new ballistic missile submarine class, the Tang class.

So in the future, the number of nuclear weapons China has, and can deliver to the CONUS, will only increase greatly, thanks to China’s development of these new ICBMs, ballistic missile submarines, sub-launched missiles, and the intercontinental bomber.

North Korea

The US must also deter North Korea. North Korea already has ICBMs capable of reaching the US (Taepodong-2 AKA TD-2 and KN-08, which USPACOM commander Adm. Samuel Locklear considers a serious threat to the US) and miniaturized warheads.

The latter has enough enriched uranium by now to produce a nuclear weapon within a month and has been working on, and successfully tested, a trigger for nuclear weapons.

The Challenge of Extended Deterrence

Currently, the US must provide a nuclear umbrella not only to itself, but to over 30 allies who depend on it for their security and their very existence.

If it fails to do so – if it continues to cut its nuclear arsenal – some will undotedly develop their own atomic weapons, and thus, the nuclear proliferation problem will become an order of magnitude greater.

This is not a theoretical concern: already 66.5% of South Koreans want their country to “go nuclear”, and Japan has recently opened a facility allowing it to produce enough material for nuclear warheads in a matter of months if need be.

Saudi Arabia has reportedly ordered nuclear weapons from Pakistan (to counter Iran), according to the BBC.

Meeting The Challenge of Modernization: Not a Question of Cost But of Will

Thus, the US nuclear arsenal is by far the most valuable counter-proliferation tool the US has at its disposal. And a large, diverse, survivable nuclear umbrella is absolutely necessary to reassure those allies – and to protect America itself.

The cost of modernization is not the barrier, but rather political will or misplaced optimism about the nuclear free world.

Tom Collina of the Arms Control Association, puts the cost of the entire nuclear arsenal at $31 bn per year*; the Stimson Center puts the figure at $32 bn per annum – for all nuclear warheads and their associated missiles, aircraft, submarines, facilities, personnel, and programs.

$31-32 billion per year is barely 5% (five percent) of the US military budget (roughly $600 bn per year, a fraction of one percent of the federal budget, and just $100 per year for every US citizen and resident.

$100 per capita. That’s all it costs to deter Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran, and to protect America as well as over 30 of its allies.

The US can certainly afford to maintain this arsenal, at a cost of just 5% of the military budget. The ICBM leg of the nuclear triad costs a low level $1.1 bn per year to maintain; the bomber leg, just $2.5 bn per year.

And modernization of the nuclear arsenal?

A new ICBM, a new Bomber and a new SSBN are hardly budget busters.

Opponents of nuclear modernization tend to use cost as an argument simply to support their belief in either a nuclear free world or deterrence without modernization.

The reality is that an effective and modernized nuclear arsenal is need now more than ever, as the nuclear club expands and various global competitors use the threat of the ascension to that club as a strategic bargaining chip against the US and its allies.

Zbigniew Mazurak is a defense analyst who has served as the Defense Correspondent for Conservative Daily News since 2012. His articles have appeared on CDN, in the American Thinker, on PeoplePoliticallyRight, and other  publications. Mr Mazurak holds BA and MA degrees in History and is the author of In Defense of US Defense Spending (Kindle Publishing, 2011).

Editorial Note: A key question going forward for the United States is the nature of the modernized nuclear force going forward, notably with significant changes on the conventional front underway. 

Is it a triad, or a different mixture of systems. 

What is clear that countervalue programs by themselves are not enough.


The Impact of Culture on Rules of Nuclear Deterrence: The Iranian Case

The first nuclear age was largely forged on the foundation of a US-Soviet global rivalry with military capability grounded on nuclear weapons.  This meant as well that the rules of the road for the first nuclear age were forged in the cultural merger between the Soviets and Americans about those rules.

Indeed, a significant part of American analyses of how to deter the Soviets from using nuclear weapons was rooted in perceptions of how the Soviet system worked and how the Russians thought strategically.  This means as well that the rules of deterrence were not iron clad but culturally specific.

(See Robbin Laird and Dale Herspring, The Soviet Union and Strategic Arms (Westview Press, 1984).

Other nuclear powers clearly played off of what they perceived to be BOTH American and Soviet cultural propensities in order to use their nuclear weapons to achieve deterrence.  This would encompass the Chinese, the British and the French.  The French were quite explicit that their nuclear weapons were designed to ensure the US would actually use its weapons in event of a Soviet attack.

(See Robbin Laird, The Soviet Union, the West and the Nuclear Arms Race, NYU Press, 1986 and Robbin Laird, France, the Soviet Union and the Nuclear Weapons Issue (Westview Press, 1985).

With the coming of the second nuclear age, the cultural aspect of deterrence comes back to center stage.

The proliferation of nuclear weapons is NOT just about weapons it is about proliferation of CULTURAL understandings of what constitutes deterrence as well.

In a piece by Armin Tadayon, the author highlights an aspect of the Iranian cultural perspective on nuclear weapons.

Despite Iran’s long history and culture, it is Iran’s nuclear program and attention-seeking officials that have been at the forefront of global politics in recent times.

This is certainly understandable given the Islamic Republic’s occasional belligerence.

We are, however, at an impasse on the negotiations with Iran over those nuclear weapons.

As President Obama stated in his State of the Union address, given the mistrust between the two nations, negotiations will be difficult.

Nonetheless, the opportunity is there for Iranian leaders to seize.

Should they choose to, they can rejoin the international community and peacefully resolve one of the leading security challenges of our time.

While most people prefer a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear program, we should not be too hasty in accepting statements by Iranian officials as fact.

I understand that many in the West might be awed by the rational rhetoric of Rouhani given the low standards set by Ahmadinejad; however, acceptance without scrutiny is not the way to build trust.

It is simply unearned deference.

If we wish to build trust, we must be able to challenge our adversaries through dialogue, and a good starting place is Rouhani’s recent remarks.

In a recent interview, Fareed Zakaria asked Rouhani’s reaction to the potential of additional sanctions by the U.S. Congress.

In a very vague response, Rouhani stated that the U.S. Congress has a “long way to go before they fully appreciate and understand the Iranian people,” and that Iran does not want the bomb since the leader of the revolution has stated that the fabrication and stockpiling of nuclear weapons is religiously forbidden.

I believe Americans already know the Iranian people; just like any other nationality, Iranians are diverse, educated, and admirers of liberal ideals.

Who the U.S. Congress and the American people must understand is Iran’s ruling clergy.

An initial starting point in fully appreciating and understanding the Iranian clergy is by examining the Supreme Leader’s fatwa regarding nuclear weapons.

A fatwa is a ruling on a point of Islamic law by a recognized authority. It is important to understand, however, that a fatwa is binding only on the followers of the mufti (issuer of the fatwa).

Since Khamenei is the Supreme Leader of Iran, and since he believes that he is the spiritual and political leader of the Muslims of the world – a belief not shared by the Muslims of the world – one can argue that his legal interpretation is, at a minimum, binding on Iran.

If one is being acquiescent, the inquiry can stop here.

My first point of contention, however, is the fact that since a fatwa is not perpetually binding, when Khamenei dies, whatever force his religious rulings may have had will die with him.

Second, the changing of fatwas is common practice among Shiite jurists, as is the issuance of contrary religious holdings by other muftis.

Third, Khamenei has numerous verbal holdings regarding nuclear weapons. In 2005, Khamenei stated that Islam does not allow Iran to produce the atomic bomb. By 2006, however, Khamenei’s emphasis had change from the production of nuclear weapons to their usage: “We [Iran] believe that using (emphasis added) nuclear weapons is against Islamic rulings.”

In 2009 Khamenei again stated: “We announced that using a bomb is forbidden in Islam,” and similarly, in 2010, Khamenei repeated: “using such weapons of mass destruction is forbidden, is haram.”

Accordingly, although Iranian officials might argue that nuclear weapons are religiously forbidden, the Supreme Leader appears to be making a very fine distinction between the haramful nature of using nuclear weapons as opposed to merely producing and owning them.

Finally, even if we were to disregard the discrepancy in Khamenei’s statements and Rouhani’s recent remarks, we should not ignore the Shiite tactic of “Khod’eh” which permits one to deceive and trick one’s enemy into a misjudgment of one’s true position.

The clearest example of the use of Khod’eh was by Khomeini.

Despite promising improved conditions for human rights and assuring that the clergy would not govern Iran, after overthrowing the Shah, Khomeini clung to power and simply stated that he had employed the tactics of Khod’eh.

As recently as late 2013, the Fars News Agency, an unofficial mouthpiece for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, published an article justifying the use of Khod’eh.

I am not arguing that the regime in Tehran is deceiving the international community.

What I am advocating is the importance of reasoned scrutiny, or what President Obama referred to in the State of the Union as verifiable actions by the Iranian regime.

Armin Tadayon is a DC-based law school graduate with a concentration in homeland and national security law.





Report from India’s DEFEXPO: First Indian SSBN to Deploy Next Year

New Delhi. India’s first nuclear powered nuclear attack submarine, INS Arihant, should be ready for deterrence patrols from 2015, roughly in about a year’s time from now.

India’s top missile scientist, Dr Avinash Chander, told India Strategic in an interview on the eve of Defexpo that the nuclear-tipped missiles for the boat were ready for installation on board, and that their integration would begin after some of the scheduled sea trials are over.

The boat is in its home port of Vishakhapatnam harbor now but should set course for the sea within a few weeks – by March – once its reactor achieves full power in the step-by-step process.

“All weapons are ready. Arihant is going through the steps of induction, and we are slowly raising the power to 100 per cent. After that, it will be ready to go to the sea… the process is a fairly elaborate exercise which will take several months… once Arihant is in the sea, there has to be a trial phase of six to eight months.”

Dr Chander, who is Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister and also the Director General of Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) which is leading India ’s quest for nuclear weapons requirement, observed that extreme care is needed in fully activating a new submarine’s reactor to establish total nuclear safety parameters.

“It is the first baby we are nurturing,” he said with optimistic caution.

Nuclear energy is amazing on the one hand as it can generate an endless supply of power, and dangerous on the other if its production is not scientifically controlled and handled.

The equipment on board a submarine and the men assigned to manage and handle it have to work in total sync and sensitivity.

The margin for errors is zero.

“So, it will be a careful, step-by-step operation and as soon as we are comfortable with the step-by-step established parameters, the submarine would set course for the sea for designated and pre-determined further trials,” the distinguished scientist observed.

He said he did not want to put a time frame but would expect it to “happen in a couple of months – say March.”

Dr Chander did not disclose details about Arihant’s weapons but it is understood that its four tubes are designed to launch 750-km range K-15 missiles and 3,500-km range K-4 missiles.

Both these are nuclear tipped, capable of destroying any large city.

Arihant will carry 12 K-15 and four K-4 missiles.

There is provision to launch non-nuclear tipped Brahmos supersonic cruise missile as well as the 1,000-km Nirbhay, which can be configured for both nuclear and non-nuclear warheads, and has some loitering capability.

All these missiles have been tested successfully from underwater pontoons.

India is reportedly looking at three or four nuclear propelled nuclear attack Arihant class submarines and a larger number – 10 or 12 – of nuclear propelled attack submarines.

The latter, designated internationally as SSN boats, move fast along with Carrier Battle Groups (CBGs) while the nuclear armed boats like the Arihant, designated as SSBN, stay in hiding for three or four months as part of deterrence strategy.

SSN boats carry submarine launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) like the Brahmos, or Nirbhay.

Technically, a nuclear boat can stay underwater for very, very long periods but the limit to human endurance is generally put at about three months.

It may be noted that conventional diesel-electric boats can stay underwater for three days to a couple of weeks only, as they have to surface periodically to draw air to recharge their batteries.

The Indian Navy has some 45 vessels on order but at present, its submarine arm is very weak as the boats are old – acquired from mid 1980s – except for the nuclear powered

INS Chakra leased from Russia a couple of years ago.

INS Arihant has an 80 MW pressurized water reactor, based on Russian subs. Some of the crew trained by Russia for INS Chakra has reportedly been helping in the test procedures.

Notably, the Navy is looking for three aircraft carriers in the coming years, and it is imperative to have nuclear- powered boats as part of the overall strategy. The carriers, which are like floating islands, themselves need 360-degree protection up, down, around and underwater and SSN boats are a basic requirement if a country goes in for CBGs.

Nuclear weapons can be launched from air, sea or land, and SSBN boats are hidden in ocean depths so that they can survive a nuclear attack by a hostile country, and then be able to take retaliatory action.

India has a declared No-First-Use (NFU) nuclear doctrine, which promises however massive punitive destruction in retaliation. Submarine-launched nuclear weapons are part of this strategy.

Once INS Arihant is operational in 2015, India will then complete the nuclear triad of air, surface and underwater nuclear attack capability.

It may be noted that nuclear weapons are under the tri-Service Strategic Forces Command (SFC) and top level clearance is required from the Government to launch them if ever needed.

Reprinted with the permission of our partner India Strategic.

Editorial Note: The Indians have built the platform to be able to deliver either counter value or warfighing options:

Dr Chander did not disclose details about Arihant’s weapons but it is understood that its four tubes are designed to launch 750-km range K-15 missiles and 3,500-km range K-4 missiles.

Both these are nuclear tipped, capable of destroying any large city.

Arihant will carry 12 K-15 and four K-4 missiles.


There is provision to launch non-nuclear tipped Brahmos supersonic cruise missile as well as the 1,000-km Nirbhay, which can be configured for both nuclear and non-nuclear warheads, and has some loitering capability.