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Ten thousand cruise missiles against North Korea

Discussion in 'Geostrategic Issues' started by Jutland, Dec 10, 2017.

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  1. Jutland

    Jutland New Member

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    This post is very speculative, and I hope I do not breach any forum guidelines.

    Long ago, just before the collapse of the Soviet Union, I read an extraordinary article in, I think, the magazine Scientific American, which suggested that World War Three could be fought exclusively with cruise missiles, armed exclusively with conventional warheads, and guided by on board altimeters recognising the pattern of heights of the land below them. The accuracy of this guidance system at the time was, I think, about 100 metres, so that a million cruise missiles, launched in, say, half a day, could destroy Soviet military capability and send the Soviet economy back to pre-industrial level.

    The accuracy of cruise missiles is even better today, and I wonder about a pre-emptive strike against the North Korean military only, leaving civilian industry and most infrastructure intact. I repeat, a strike against the North Korean military only. Say ten thousand cruise missiles, armed exclusively with conventional warheads. Satellite imagery tells us the location of North Korea’s nuclear capability, and army, navy and air force assets.

    The only powers who could consider such a strike are the USA, Russia and China. The US faces a sea barrier, but Russia and China, acting together, could move five thousand cruise missiles each into forested areas not too far from their borders with North Korea, and strike in unison.

    A strike against North Korea’s nuclear assets must be completely effective. I realise of course, that such a strike, even if militarily possible, is politically impossible.
     
  2. old faithful

    old faithful Defense Professional Verified Defense Pro

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    So let's say that the Norks detect the launch of said missiles, and manage to get away a few nukes?
    Then what?
     
  3. John Fedup

    John Fedup Active Member

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    I guess that would be confirmation of re-entry survival of the warhead package (the hard way).
     
  4. Todjaeger

    Todjaeger Potstirrer

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    The article from the end of the Cold War itself was fatally flawed if it asserted that 1 mil. conventional cruise missiles could have reduced the Soviet Union to a pre-industrial level, at least before the Soviet Union could have initiated a nuclear exchange from which there would be no victors.

    As for 10k cruise missiles being targeted at N Korea... Does any one nation have that large a cruise missile stockpile? How about launch platforms?

    Also worth considering is whether enough strikes would arrive on target to due sufficient damage to prevent N Korea from launching counter strikes. Given that a counter strike could potentially involve a nuclear weapon aimed a Seoul, Tokyo, or a major US city...

    Until there is an extremely high probability (more than 99%) of success in neutralizing N Korea's possible nuclear capability before it can be used, then the risks are entirely too high to be worth such an attempt.
     
  5. Feanor

    Feanor Super Moderator Staff Member

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    The Soviets had a robust anti-cruise missile capability, and would have likely regarded a cruise missile strike of such magnitude as at least potentially nuclear.
    Additionally that quantity of cruise missiles (1 million) was simply not available. Also, consider the price tag, it would be astronomical. Cruise missiles are very expensive.

    As for Russia and China and "five thousand cruise missiles", I suggest you read up on the actual scale of Russian cruise missile strikes in Syria.
     
  6. Todjaeger

    Todjaeger Potstirrer

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    The US Tomahawk cruise missile available at the time which might have had sufficient range to hit inland targets cost ~USD$1.6 mil. each (the current Tomahawk block now costs ~USD$1.8 mil. each), the US would have bankrupted itself if it had tried to purchase 1 mil. such missiles. The price tag for that many missiles would have been USD$1.6 trillion dollars. To provide a bit more context, the FY 2015 US federal budget was USD$3.8 trillion, going back to 1991 the US gov't collected USD$1.54 trillion in taxes which would be less than the cost of the theorized missile strike.

    For the US and allies to fire some of the smaller & less expensive cruise missiles like the AGM-84H or K SLAM-ER, they are ~USD$500k each, so to fire 10,000 of them (not that there are that many available to fire...) would cost ~USD$5 bil.
     
  7. John Fedup

    John Fedup Active Member

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    Setting aside the money issue, how long would it take to build one million tomahawks? I would like to think the vendor could significantly reduce the million dollar price for such a huge order.:D

    Assuming 50,000 missiles manufactured per year starting after 9/11 to now, it is likely less than what has been spent on ME wars to date even with upgrades during this timeframe. In any event, this is fantasy stuff.
     
  8. Todjaeger

    Todjaeger Potstirrer

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    I doubt it. If memory serves, there were approximately 5k Tomahawks between 1983 and ~1990 of various versions or about two per day. Assuming the same production rate, a million would take ~1,369 years to produce...

    I also doubt there would be a significant cost reduction in increasing the production rate as the costs for R&D and other sunk costs would likely already have been mostly averaged out. Most of the non-recurring costs would have already been covered with the volume which was ordered. Instead, there would have been significant non-recurring costs to expand the production capacity to year a 50k/year production rate and then there would still be the costs for all the materials and components. These materials and components would likely already have gotten as low as they can for volume rate production. Keep in mind that to reach a production rate of 50k/year, that would be expanding the production capacity to ~70x what it was IIRC.
     
  9. t68

    t68 Active Member

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    https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/840365

    I havnt confirmed it yet but I have heard that the US came close to expending its entire stock of CM's in GW1 of 288 missiles, in 2010 Raytheon confirm that they had built 2000 block 4 with block 4 introduced in 2006 , yep just on 2 a day for production.
     
  10. Todjaeger

    Todjaeger Potstirrer

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    Keep in mind though that at the time there were several more versions of the Tomahawk which have since been withdrawn from service. Many of those which were withdrawn have since been re-manufactured into versions which were kept in service.

    For example, the nuclear-armed Tomahawks have been taken out of service, and some were taken out in 1991, also during the 90's the AShM-version of the Tomahawk was taken out of service. None of these versions of Tomahawk were used in GW1, but were in service.
     
  11. Blackshoe

    Blackshoe Defense Professional Verified Defense Pro

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    There's no way to get to "completely effective" against the DPRK nuke capacity (which also leaves questions about their bio/chem capabilities). Massive gaps are there which complicate targeting (decent overview of problems with intelligence from the DPRK here). There's no way you can do a complete enough strike to ensure there's nothing to retaliate.

    It's also worth noting there's no such thing as a "sea barrier" to the US (or Russia, at this point). And if you're willing to be flexible on kinds of missiles, China has thousands of BMs that can be conventional and used that way.

    Of course, if China really wanted to do something about it, a conventional invasion would probably be easier/more effective, assuming a coup is out of the cards since KJU has killed most of the people in the regime who were too close to China.
     
  12. Jutland

    Jutland New Member

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    Thank you for your replies.

    I did not suggest launching a million cruise missiles against North Koreas: I suggested ten thousand.

    I assumed that cruise missiles flying at low altitude would hit North Korean nuclear targets before North Korea could react. Cruise missiles launched late at night, with no moon, preferably in rain or cloud, should achieve surprise. Strike the nuclear missile sites first, and then less dangerous targets such as air and naval base, and storage buildings for artillery and tanks. I suggest multiple strikes per target.

    Of course the Great Powers do not have ten thousand cruise missiles now. War planners in Russia and China, if they wished, could buy a large number of cruise missiles, with as much secrecy as possible, presumably by ordering missiles in parts from different suppliers. Some posters pointed out that the price of cruise missiles will drop considerably if ordered in large numbers.

    I emphasised no nuclear warheads. I know that cruise missiles are so accurate that they do not need powerful nuclear warheads, but small nuclear warheads exploded at ground level will create a lot of fall out.

    North Korean radar is a serious problem, but I would be surprised if North Korea watched all possible approaches to its territory.
     
  13. Todjaeger

    Todjaeger Potstirrer

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    10k cruise missiles is still ~5x the entire number of Tomahawk missiles used to date. It is also likely twice or perhaps even more, the entire number of Tomahawk cruise missiles in USN inventory. Also worth noting is that if every USN Arleigh Burke-class DDG (~64 destroyers at present in service) were gathered together to fire off their entire standard loadout of LACM's, that would only be about 3k LACM's. The point I am trying to make is that even 'just' 10k cruise missiles is still and enormous, and enormously expensive stockpile of muntions.

    Again, 10k missiles as mentioned is a very large and expensive number of missiles. At present, the number and rate of missiles manufactured has likely already hit a production rate sufficiently high to lead to reduced costs per missile. At a certain point increasing that rate does not reduce prices at further, and I suspect that has already happened.

    As for being able to get cruise missiles through N Korean defences undetected... I suspect some could, depending on where the launch sites where. Likely the best launch locations would be from submarines submerged within N Korean territorial waters, but again there just would not be enough launch platforms for 10k missiles. Using surface vessels IMO would be suspect, as N Korea would likely suspect something was going on and move to a higher alert status if/when they realized that they were being ringed by 100+ major surface combatants.

    As for 'secretive' nations being able to order and assemble a vast cruise missile stockpile in secret... IMO not really. To have a decent such missile which is accurate and effective (i.e. not a dud) requires precision parts and assembly. The volume of parts and assembly required to construct 10k missiles limits just how many viable sources are, as well as where the manufacture & assembly can take place, and of course the safe and secure storage of the finished product. Foreign countries are going to notice the sort of activity required. The exact details and numbers can likely be kept secret, but to keep everyone completely ignorant is unlikely.

    One other thing which I have not raised before is the problems which would likely occur with attempting to launch 10k missiles at once. Such a large volume of missiles in the is likely going to result in numerous midair collisions, introducing both the prospect of revealing the attack prior to it being successful, as well as reducing the effectiveness of the strikes. Pretty much the only way to avoid large scale midair collisions would be to stagger the launches to reduce the number of missiles in the air and arriving at targets at the same time. However, that would also give N Korea more time to respond with a counter strike.

    At present, I do not really see a point to continued discussion of the scenario as it is out in Lala-land, the quantities as stipulated are too high, would require at least non-interference if not cooperation of several nations who have divergent priorities, and the method would likely be ineffective for practical reasons if the other issues could be resolved.
     
  14. Feanor

    Feanor Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Question has been asked and answered. Locking thread pending moderator discussion.
     
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