Monday, February 22, 2010

TLAM-N in the can?


No nukes? Well, fewer nukes it looks like. Fewer options. Higher systems risk.
The United States has informally told Japan that it will retire its sea-based Tomahawk cruise missiles carrying nuclear warheads, in line with President Barack Obama's policy to pursue a world free of nuclear weapons, Japanese government sources said Monday.
Washington said the move would not affect its ''nuclear umbrella,'' addressing concerns in Tokyo about the step's effect on the U.S. deterrence against potential attacks from countries like China and North Korea, the sources said.
The retirement policy will likely be stipulated in the ''Nuclear Posture Review,'' a new nuclear strategic guideline the Obama administration is slated to report to Congress in March, they said.
...
Officials from both (USA & Japan) governments have already begun discussions on the future of the U.S. deterrence on the premise the Tomahawk will be retired, they said.

In February last year, before Japan's long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party was ousted from power in September, Japanese diplomats concerned about a weakening of the U.S. deterrence asked the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States that Tokyo be consulted ahead of any decision if Washington considers retiring the nuclear Tomahawk.

The commission urged the U.S. government in its final report in May to take steps to retain the Tomahawk, saying, ''In Asia, extended deterrence relies heavily on the deployment of nuclear cruise missiles on some Los Angeles class attack submarines -- the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile/Nuclear (TLAM/N). This capability will be retired in 2013 unless steps are taken to maintain it.''
We'll see when it is official. Fewer options for response leads to fewer and fewer points of failure. TLAM-N has certain advantages over a SLMB when it comes to not scaring the vodka out of our Russian friends when you launch it - in addition to other things that the crazy people behind the cypher door can talk to you about.


Hat tip Jeffrey Lewis via Chap.

31 comments:

MR T's Haircut said...

Amazing we built a 20 foot launch platform with a nuke warhead that we can never replicate once we remove...

Anonymous said...

This is a win for Navy.  USAF bombers of various flavors can do the same thing.


And, 'Phib, I would've expected you to chime in with "it's time for Japan to start doing their own defense..."!!! 

xformed said...

I find it mind boggling that the Commander-in-Chief can continue to pursue the unilaterl disarmament of his own nation, while being pushed further and further back by a nation tht has publically stated it will pursue the technology and will put forth an effort to conduct a temperature of the sun type of nationcide.

He is living in a magical world of happy shiny (non-nuclear balst shiny, that is) people, or...I really hate to htink the "or" part....those who know, know where that could go....

Steeljaw said...

In a former life, TLAM-N (goods and others) was the focus of some pretty intense scrutiny by my flag and our organization, especially from a "what does it really bring to the fight" standpoint.  Bottomline -- without going into details, we assessed substiantially more liabilities than capabilties and recommended closing it down.  Only stayed out there because one community wanted to hold onto it as a matter of prestige and they had CNO's ear.  Along those lines, had  first hand opportunity to watch a deeply respected warrior from that community set aside parochialism and basically put his stars on the altar in taking on that community (and CNO) for what he felt was the right thing.  Made me wish there were more of him (then and now) out there willing to do the same...
- SJS

JimmyMac said...

Thanks Steeljaw....note the "knee-jerk" reaction from regular comtributors to this blog who have no idea of what they are saying. 

Vigilis said...

Considering the Air Force's recent embarrassments (de-certified crews, fired Colonels, etc) associated with nuclear weapons in recent years, one can only hope that the "substiantially more liabilities than capabilties"  identified by "some pretty intense scrutiny" did not include ongoing training, maintenance, discipline and experience connected with the T-LAM-N as liabilities. The day may come when those disciplines are needed again, and fast.

Would not such a finding parallel the sudden dearth of Arab translators the U.S. military experienced after 9-11?

MR T's Haircut said...

Jimmy, I am speaking from experience when I say that when we remove a capabaility we lose it forever.  Particular to a deterrent capability.  A NUCLEAR missile is naturally going to be unused... but like a fire truck, you want it to work when you need it. 

Who is to say a small yield nuke will not be needed in the future?  And what then?

cdrsalamander said...

Japan is only a very small part of this .... and I have called in the past for Japan to keep their nuclear option open ... so .... your point is?

cdrsalamander said...

JM,
Don't be an a55.  SJS sits at the main table on my porch.  You're still wet behind the ears - be careful that SJS doesn't monkey-stomp 'ya for being such a obsequious ki55a55.

virgil xenophon said...

SJS-

Do the "liabilities" of which you speak partly include the belief that no war will ever be fought limited to "tactical" nukes due to perceived impossibility of stopping/limiting immediate escalation to gen nuke war and that therefore "bigger (bang-for-the-buck) is better" and thus best left to larger platforms and devote freed-up space in subs to other priorities?

Byron said...

Personally, I listen to everything SJS says. When it comes to this stuff, he is the SME.

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

His word is good enough for me, he has far more knowlege on this subject than I have.

xformed said...

Thanks for the insight.  The TASM lost it's place at sea after a very long report indicated a number of issues confounded the use of $1.6M ASCMs when the merchant marine traffic figured they could still make money in the middle of the mess of wars at sea.  Lots of hair pulled, (and I lost lots of sleep) saying it was bad, while not saying it was bad...for the boss, who drove the approach.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a little give and take going on here. Looks like Obummer is giving up the nukes in Japan (I think they are nucaphobic over there) to get the base he wants in Oki-knock-knock.

Dr Ken said...

USAF keeps trying to offload unwanted capability in some areas, but DoD keeps telling us we can't.  DoD is right in the case I'm talking about, of course.  We have to hold onto the capabilities we need, not just the ones we want.  I wonder if Navy wants rid of TLAM-N because they are lookng at what's good for Navy and not what's good for the Nation.

@Steeljaw: <span> "what does it really bring to the fight" and "substiantially more liabilities than capabilties" depend on the scenario, and the services look first at the scenarios we want to fight.  I certainly know less than you about TLAM-N.  Just saying it's a national capability vice Navy, and needs to be viewed from that perspective.</span>

ewok40k said...

hmmm TLAM-N offers a high precision nuclear strike, but is vulnerable to modern air defences. I am not gonna delve into inter-service politics,  but it seems that it moves a bit a nuke strikes into "unthinkable" territory - with only use for nukes being deterrent of other nukes.This at the time when conventionally wakened Russians make explicit policy of first use. Ponder.

Chap said...

Similar inability to comment much, but the guys what would carry them paid for them and I'll let you draw conclusions from that.  Let's just say this wasn't a surprise.

Steeljaw said...

...and we looked at it within the framework of national vs. just 'Navy' capability, beginning with SIOP and moving out to theater requirements.  If it was just a matter of holding onto a capability, regardless of the utility and viabilty of the asset, we'd have kept operational a certainfacility at Cavalier AFB (bit of an extreme case, but it serves to make a point...)
w/r, SJS

Anonymous said...

Point being that I agree with you-- we've allowed a lot of first-world industrial nations to live under our various umbrellas, affording them them opportunity to spend their tax dollars on great infrastructure (Japan, Germany) with funds that would otherwise go to defense.


Now the impact on society of multi-generations of institutionalized pacifism are another topic althogether...

AW1 Tim said...

To my mind, the only criteria for keeping or disposing a weapons system is whether it is in the best interests of the United States to do so.

Politics may serve some purpose in the discussion, however, but it is worth noting that throughout history, those who have turned their swords into plowshares are universally removed by those who haven't.

AW1 Tim said...

I was very disappointed when that facility, and it's program was shut down by Carter. There was a LOT of great technology developed, but I always thought that there might have been an even greater level of ability developed had we maintained the system in an operational state for several years.

Steeljaw said...

While the missile part of te facility was mothballed, the radar is still in use...
w/r, SJS

USAF Mike said...

"<span> did not include ongoing training, maintenance, discipline and experience connected with the T-LAM-N as liabilities. The day may come when those disciplines are needed again, and fast."</span>

Little confused by this analogy...the AF situation was (is) due to lack of focus on an ongoing mission.  We still have nuke ICBMs and bombers, we just stopped giving them adequate amounts of money and attention.  The TLAM-N is flat out going away; how can the "day come when those disciplines are needed again, and fast" when you don't use the weapons system anymore?

As for the decision, I think its good for the same reason that I think its a good idea that the USAF's mythical 2018 bomber not have a nuke capability...the nuke aspect of dual use weapons systems (bombers, subs, whatever) causes more ass pain than it's worth, particularly in today's world.

There's a reason Bones no longer have the nuke mission (and it's not just START).

USAF Mike said...

"<span>Who is to say a small yield nuke will not be needed in the future?  And what then?"</span>

...we'll use B61s on tacair and/or W80-1s on ALCMs?

USAF Mike said...

Sorry, that came off snarkier than intended.  I understand the "lost capability" argument (even if I don't agree with it in this particular case) but it just seems like a no brainer when we HAVE other small yield nukes, especially when one of the other small yield nukes is basically the same thing (ALCM is a cruise missile, uses the same basic W80 warhead as the TLAM-N).

While I don't know much about the Navy, one thing that IS good about the way the USAF runs things is that with the ALCM there is a particular AFSC that is responsible for JUST the nuke physics package.  Allows emphasis on the importance of that mission (even if we screwed it up recently).  Is that the case with the TLAM-N?  If not, that would seem to be another strike against it.

MR T's Haircut said...

Tacair will not deliver it.  The tyranny of distance falls into play.

The beauty of sub launched TLAM-N is the stealth that arrives and no issues of sovreign overflight blah blah blah...

SJS,

I am curious,  surely ISREAL capabilities are not liabilities over capabaility are they?  Thoughts?

USAF Mike said...

ALCM and TLAM-N have roughly the same range (give or take 100 km)...the stealth thing is true to a point, but only if you have subs literally right offshore.  Beyond that and the launch point for the ALCMs is going to be pretty much right where the subs are launching the TLAM-Ns.

There is some difference, but it seems like a lot of overlap for a class of weapons that, let's be honest, we're never going to actually employ.

Anonymous said...

Hey! Secdef is a salamandarian! Speech at NDU today called out Europe for institutional pacifism!!

MR T's Haircut said...

Mike, The entire point of deterence is so we wont have to launch... if we launch we lose... unless we are talking tactical usage and that is another animal entirely... (and one I support against the right enemy and target) as for the sub locations.. that is where they would be ...

MR T's Haircut said...

It's an "ism" alright except I call Europe institutional Socialism...

USAF Mike said...

"<span>Mike, The entire point of deterence is so we wont have to launch... if we launch we lose..."</span>

Understand.  My point was that this isn't something we're using every day in combat.  I can understand having a wide range of backup systems for something being used, for example, over in the CENTCOM AOR.  However, as SJS pointed out, you have to do a cost benefit analysis on a given weapons system, particularly for something as expensive and that causes so much ass pain as nukes.

"<span>(and one I support against the right enemy and target)"</span>

I'd be interested to hear your idea of the right enemy and target.  Not trolling, I'm honestly curious because to my way of thinking letting go with a nuke, regardless of the target and situation (short of global thermonuclear war, of course) would never ever be worth the political and international consequences.