National Academies Press: OpenBook

U.S. Conventional Prompt Global Strike: Issues for 2008 and Beyond (2008)

Chapter: Appendix H: Cooperative Reduction ofNuclear Ambiguity

« Previous: Appendix G: The Why and How of Boost-Glide Systems
Suggested Citation:"Appendix H: Cooperative Reduction ofNuclear Ambiguity." National Research Council. 2008. U.S. Conventional Prompt Global Strike: Issues for 2008 and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12061.
Page 216
Suggested Citation:"Appendix H: Cooperative Reduction ofNuclear Ambiguity." National Research Council. 2008. U.S. Conventional Prompt Global Strike: Issues for 2008 and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12061.
Page 217
Suggested Citation:"Appendix H: Cooperative Reduction ofNuclear Ambiguity." National Research Council. 2008. U.S. Conventional Prompt Global Strike: Issues for 2008 and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12061.
Page 218

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H Cooperative Reduction of Nuclear Ambiguity A major concern expressed in regard to Conventional Trident Modification (CTM) and other conventional prompt global strike (CPGS) options is that a vehicle delivering a non-nuclear warhead might be mistaken for one delivering a nuclear warhead, heightening the risk of a nuclear response. As discussed else- where in this report, few states in the near future will be capable of detecting the launch and direction of a missile launched from a submarine, and relatively few will be capable and concerned about a U.S. silo-based missile launch. Nevertheless, there are powerful tools available on a bilateral basis for com- municating and validating an assertion that a delivery vehicle in flight is not carry- ing a nuclear warhead. One mature set of tools would be an authenticated freeze- frame video surveillance camera suitable for installation in a silo (or submarine) to ensure that the missile front end has not been changed after mutual inspection. Such video cameras are in wide use in verifying agreements on nuclear materials, both bilateral and under the International Atomic Energy Agency, transmitting encrypted and validated pictures over the Internet. The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) of 1991 limits the United States and Russia each to 6,000 “accountable” strategic nuclear warheads with no more than 4,900 of them delivered by ballistic missiles. Furthermore, START created protocols for inspection to ensure that each missile had no more than its allowable number of nuclear warheads—a more difficult task than demonstrating that a missile is not carrying even one nuclear warhead. These measures have long been in place between the United States and Russia, without significant problems. The baseline inspections began March 1, 1995, and were completed in 120 days. To complete the bilateral ambiguity-mitigation system would require the United States to inform its bilateral partners from which silo the conventional 216

APPENDIX H 217 missile was just fired; if this silo was one of those subject to the proffered inspec- tion regime, Russia would know that it did not contain a nuclear warhead. Rus- sia would probably be able to verify the launch to a particular silo by its own information sources. However, the preferred approach is precisely parallel to that proposed below for the submarine missile launch, in which the video camera and its communication channel transmit information that a conventionally armed missile was launched. Other nations might be similarly assured if such bilateral means were extended to them (even if not reciprocated) or if these means were internationalized. Mitigation of nuclear ambiguity from submarine missile launch There is a certain economy of argument and even implementation if subma- rine-launch ambiguity is abated in the same cooperative fashion as that for silo- launch. Complications arise, however, in that the United States does not want to reveal routinely the location of its submarines, and also in that different tubes on a submarine cannot be distinguished by geographic location, as they can in the case of silos. Nevertheless, a similar approach can be used. Here, a video camera would be mounted within the missile tube, observing the missile shroud and sending its authenticated, encrypted pictures to the submarine for handling.  Included in the picture or signal is a clock feature to be provided by Russia, to time-stamp each picture, as well as an indication of launch, such as a pressure transducer to record the pressure rise in the tube as the gas generator expels the missile. Pictures would be recorded every hour or so and reviewed every few days routinely in the submarine, or, more rarely, on request relayed to the bilateral partner. At the time of launch, the most recent time-stamped pictures would be transmitted immediately from the submarine, together with the final picture show- ing pressure-pulse or other evidence of missile launch; the transmission would be received through U.S. Navy means and relayed instantly from the United States to Russia. The launch evidence assures Russia (and other possible bilateral part- ners) that the particular non-nuclear missile was launched, and avoids the concern regarding a hoax of transmitting a reassurance picture accompanied by the launch of a nuclear-armed missile from a different launch tube. Because, the launch of   hile a submarine-launched ballistic-missile tube has considerable room at its base, it has very W little spare room around the missile itself. However, a digital imager with volume of a cubic centimeter and coupled with lightweight plastic mirrors and light-emitting diodes could provide the necessary illumination and field for viewing. An alternative approach might be to mount the verification video camera inside the missile shroud, near the mounting fixture of the reentry vehicle, although this would require detailed analysis to show that the video camera would not interfere with flight operations. This alternative approach might allow for the use of a graphic integrating accelerometer, such as a spring- constrained ball in a transparent cylinder of silicone fluid that would move as the missile emerged from the tube, thus indicating a launch.

218 U.S. Conventional Prompt Global Strike a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) produces a “pillar of smoke by day” or “a pillar of fire by night,” there should be no U.S. reluctance to transmit this final verification picture at the time of launch. There might be concern that the conventionally armed Trident might be ejected (and the ejection authenticated as described here) but without the ignition of its rocket motor; some tens of seconds later a nuclear-armed Trident might be launched from another tube of the same SLBM, and mistaken by Russian recon- naissance systems for the conventionally armed Trident. This fraud could be precluded by the authenticated transmission, 1 minute after the launch-evidence transmission, of a 2-minute record from a hull-mounted accelerometer in the SLBM that would show the characteristic signal of a single missile launch or, alternatively, the signal of two launches. Mitigation of nuclear ambiguity from silo-based missile launch There is vastly more room in a silo than in a submarine missile tube, so the mounting of the video camera is a much simpler task in the former, and there is no inhibition to near-continous transmission of the authenticated picture. Again, the indication of launch could be the pressure pulse as the missile was expelled from the silo. As in the submarine-launch case, the video camera could alternatively be mounted within the missile shroud, with a picture of the graphic integrating accelerometer as proof of launch. Conclusion It is clear that cooperative technical measures can be implemented at low cost and low risk, and, even more so, that these same measures would alleviate nuclear ambiguity in the event that a non-nuclear warhead was launched from a U.S. silo or submarine. Of course an engineering study needs to be done to choose the appropriate encrypted, validated camera approach for this cooperative mitigation of ambiguity. It is not the purpose of this appendix to advocate the adoption of the coop- erative measures described here. As described in the main text of the report, the committee concluded that the ambiguity problems could be managed with low risk. However, for readers who disagree and believe that ambiguity is a major concern, this appendix outlines a feasible technical solution that depends only on a low-risk extension of proven technology. For those who doubt the utility of this solution, it should be noted again—as in the main text—that a nuclear weapon could be delivered by any long-range aircraft or missile, even if that aircraft or missile had not previously been associated with nuclear weapons. That would be easier than finding a way to trick the technical safeguard described above. The fundamental ambiguity problem of CPGS would not be resolved by adopting a strategic delivery platform other than the Trident.

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Conventional prompt global strike (CPGS) is a military option under consideration by the U.S. Department of Defense. This book, the final report from the National Research Council's Committee on Conventional Prompt Global Strike Capability, analyzes proposed CPGS systems and evaluates the potential role CPGS could play in U.S. defense.

U.S. Conventional Prompt Global Strike provides near-, mid-, and long-term recommendations for possible CPGS development, addressing the following questions:

  1. Does the United States need CPGS capabilities?
  2. What are the alternative CPGS systems, and how effective are they likely to be if proposed capabilities are achieved?
  3. What would be the implications of alternative CPGS systems for stability, doctrine, decision making, and operations?
  4. What nuclear ambiguity concerns arise from CPGS, and how might they be mitigated?
  5. What arms control issues arise with CPGS systems, and how might they be resolved?
  6. Should the United States proceed with research, development, testing, and evaluation (RDT&E) of the Conventional Trident Modification (CTM) program5 and, ultimately, with CTM production and deployment?
  7. Should the United States proceed with the development and testing of alternative CPGS systems beyond CTM?
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