Russia’s hyper-sonic bomb endangers global security
By John Ogunlela
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin last week announced with glee that Russia now have hyper-sonic bomb delivery systems.
He said it was a good new year gift from the army to the Russian people and deployment will begin in 2019.
The weapon can travel at Mach 27 which is about 30,000kmph while being maneuverable and there are no defence systems in the world that have an answer to this terrible arrow.
If it is launched from Moscow (or London) to hit Abuja, for example, it will arrive in roughly one minute twenty seconds in theory. (In practice, there should be an additional 40 seconds or so due to the atmospheric, sub-hypersonic stage. But what’s the difference. It is still a frightening spectre).
This is a bad thing for global peace and it brings the world closer to a nuclear meltdown especially one that could happen by mistake.
All military attacks are built on speed and surprise as much as possible and one thing that has saved the world from accidental nuclear war has been the precious 20- minute window within which nuclear-armed nations (Specifically, the United States, with respect to potential attacks from Russia and China) can double check indicators of impending nuclear attacks and prepare countermeasures and retaliation.
With these hypersonic weapons, those 20 minutes have been thinned down to around five or even less if the missile is launched from submarines or if the target is in Europe.
Unless a new Great Powers arms development and deployment protocol is worked out, a ‘sudden destruction’ defence doctrine will be implemented by strategic forces (special military units in charge of nuclear defence) with the world in a permanent state of extreme danger.
Let me cite a past example and you will appreciate what we are talking about.
In October 5 1960, the NORAD (North American Air Defense Command) headquarters had detected dozens of inbound Soviet missiles. It went into full alert immediately.
They have sequenced procedures for such scenario and they began implementing it with military commitment.
The details are secret but according to experts, appropriation channels will confirm that missiles are actually in flight and the tracking will begin.
If they are headed for North America, two things will happen:
1. Defensive missile launch procedures will automatically activate to select precise firing requirement to bring down the incoming weapons.
2. The president of the United States will be informed who will can for the nuclear codes computer in a briefcase that is always carried close to him at all times.
He will input orders to launch nuclear weapons at the attacking country once the military confirms an attack was underway.
Once he gives the order via those codes, senior officers will process it and specific orders will get to officers that will do the actual firing within about 15 minutes.
The nuclear bombs will be armed and ready while nuclear armed B52s will take to the air without orders.
These carry hydrogen fission bombs that are much more powerful than nuclear fission weapons. (Upon explosion, they can generate temperatures several times hotter than the centre of the sun at about 50 to 100 million degrees Celsius in a flash).
The pilots have a permanent existing orders to take off once the US is under a nuclear attack and await orders on their targets while already air borne.
At that stage, the NATO retaliatory blow is on Code Orange and missiles will leave their silos, submarine hatches or the wings of B52s any moment, screaming towards targets.
Now on that fateful day in 1960, such an alert was fed into NORAD computers and the scramble had begun.
Five minutes later the order to stand down came: NORAD radars in Europe had mistaken the rising moon over Norway as Russian missiles!
Restraint, built into confirmation sequences saved the world from an accidental nuclear war because there was the luxury of time.
It will take an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile about twenty minutes to travel through space from the USSR to North America.
Now imagine that window narrows down to mere five minutes. You will have to reduce launch time to at mist three minutes and rely on the self-destruct command functions in those missiles to deactivate them in the final seconds if need be!
That is simply unacceptably too close, isn’t it?
Even then, they will still explode over cities as their conventional self destruct bombs go off to destroy their sensitive components.
That could still lead to a few deaths and a fearful destruction of trust – all powerful possible triggers for war.
I think it is good for the world to limit hypersonic gliders and rocket systems to civilian uses only.
There have been other near misses, from a faulty computer chip to a war game mistaken for the real stuff by defence systems computers.
What has saved the world has been the critical window of about 20 minutes in which you can re-check and re-confirm. Hypersonic weapons practically eradicate that thereby heightening the possibility of rash retaliation with regrettable consequences.
China, Russia and the USA are at the forefront of development of hypersonic weapons although India , UK, France and Australia have also been mentioned.
Other nations should nudge the world away from the danger of this new weapon system and call for a halt to its further development.