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New Air Force intel report woefully understates the missile threat

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NOTE: The abbreviations used in this posting mean: SRBM – Short Range Ballistic Missile, IRBM – Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile, ICBM – Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, SLBM – Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile, SSBN – Nuclear-Powered Ballistic Missile Submarine.

A new report by the Air Force intelligence center at Wright-Pat, OH, with input from the Navy, woefully understates the ballistic and cruise missile threat to the United States, based on publicly-available, open-source data.

The report, titled the Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat Assessment, produced by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, has generated much media and political interest, most notably from conservative Congressman Mike Turner (R-OH), former chairman of the House Strategic Forces subcommittee, now chairman of the AirLand subcommittee.

However, the report says little that experienced analysts didn’t already know, and it woefully understates the missile threat to the United States.

For example:

1) It falsely claims that Russia’s nuclear arsenal and ICBM fleet will shrink in the future as a result of “arms control agreements” and “resource constraints.”

This is a blatant lie because a) Russia is currently AWASH in resources, mostly from oil and NG exports (the prices of these fuels are at record highs, with oil traded at more than $100/barrel), and b) the New START treaty, which the report repeatedly lauds, only requires the US to cut its nuclear arsenal, while Russia has not and will not cut a single warhead, missile, or bomber, exactly as Russian leaders promised.

Moreover, as President Putin promised last year, the Russian military will procure 400 ICBMs over the next decade, thus increasing its fleet from the current size of at least 375 (and probably more) ICBMs. Many older ICBMs will continue to serve.

2) It estimates that the Chinese could have “well over 100 ICBMs able to reach the U.S. in 15 years.”

Too late, China already has at least 67 ICBMs (35 DF-5s, at least 30 DF-31s, and at least 1 DF-41) and at least 12 (probably many more) SLBMs capable of reaching the US. It also has some JL-2 SLBMs, capable of reaching the US from Chinese territorial waters. (The report wrongly claims the JL-2 hasn’t been deployed yet – see below.)

And remember that the PLA already had 30 DF-31/31A ICBMs as of 2009. It’s a 2009 estimate. By now, 4 years later, it certainly has many more DF-31/31A ICBMs than a mere 30. Also remember that it also intends to procure additional DF-31A ICBMs to replace its old DF-4 IRBMs in the next few years.

And yet, the report falsely claims that China has only 20-25 DF-31/31As!

3) It falsely claims that the Jin class, China’s new class of ballistic missile subs, hasn’t been deployed yet.

This is clearly false: 2-3 Jin class SSBNs were spotted as early as 2007 and 2008, and by now 5 are in service, with a sixth one under construction to replace China’s Xia class sub. See here.

4) It falsely claims that the JL-2 SLBM isn’t in service yet. Does anyone really believe that China would deploy even one – let alone five – ballistic missile subs with no missiles to arm them with? The JL-2 is already in service, as is the Jin class itself, which has been photographed as such. In fact, the report includes one such photograph of the Jin class being in service and in its homeport (p. 22).

5) It falsely claims that North Korea has “fewer than 200″ SRBM launchers. Actually, it has 1,000 SRBMs (Scud, Hwasong-5, Hwasong-6) to deal with South Korea alone, and many others capable of reaching even further.

6) It falsely claims that the Russian SS-NX-30 Bulava SLBM has not been deployed yet. Actually, it HAS been deployed already – on January 10th, 2013, over half a year ago. The report also falsely claims the Bulava can carry only 6 warheads. In fact, it can carry 10. See here.

7) The report falsely claims the Russian SS-N-23 Shtil (Sineva) SLBM can carry only 4 warheads; in fact, it can carry between 4 and 12. It also omits the existing, and already deployed, Russian R-29RMU2 Liner SLBM, which can also carry 12 warheads.

8) The report completely omits the existence of Russia’s 4 Delta III class SSBNs and of China’s current development of a new class of SSBNs, the Type 096 Tang class, which will be able to carry 24 SLBMs per boat. It also completely omits the existence of China’s CJ-20 and HN-3 long-range land-attack cruise missiles, its possession of Kh-55 LACMs, and the proliferation of Russia’s 3M14 (SS-N-27 Sizzler) anti-ship cruise missiles to China and Iran.

I could go on and on like this, but you get the idea. The report VASTLY understates the missile threat to the United States and its allies. And that fact can easily be proven with publicly-available, open-source data. The DOD should tell the Air Force to go back and rewrite the report so that it will ACCURATELY reflect the threat rather than understate it.

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