Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Soviets Regularly Deployed Nuclear Armed Warships to Cuba

Copyright 2019 by Michael H. Maggelet

  During the Cold War, the Carter administration made a big row over “nuclear capable” MiG-23’s and a "combat brigade" being stationed in Cuba. While some MiG-23’s in the People's Paradise were no doubt nuclear capable, the fact remains that the Soviet Navy regularly deployed nuclear armed warships to Cuba starting in 1969, in violation of the 1962 agreement between Kennedy and Krushchev not to deploy offensive weapons to the island. The US Navy withdrew its last open pit nuclear depth bombs in December 1963.

  Soviet nuclear weapon systems in Cuba included ballistic missile submarines, nuclear attack submarines, and diesel-electric subs armed with nuclear torpedoes, and cruisers and frigates armed with nuclear tipped ASW weapons and surface to surface missiles. These warships were usually deployed from the Red Banner Northern Fleet, and bi-annual visits at times included a submarine and two warships and support ships for several weeks. Numerous task groups have visited the island during exercises and deployments.

  A review of declassified CIA reports and U-2 “Old Head” imagery shows a wide range of nuclear capable vessels visiting Cuba, which included Golf II class subs, November class attack subs, Echo II cruise missile submarines, a Kotlin class cruiser, a Kara class cruiser in 1981, and the Moskva class ASW ship “Leningrad” in 1984.

  These vessels carried a mix of conventional and nuclear weapons. The nuclear weapons sytems for each warship, gathered from Russian sources on the internet, are listed as follows-

Golf II class submarine (Project 629)
Two T5 533mm nuclear torpedoes (3-20 kilotons each), and 3 R-21 IRBM. Range of each R-21 (SS-N-5 "Serb") was 882 miles with an 800 kiloton to 1 megaton yield warhead.

Foxtrot class diesel submarine (Project 641)
Two 533mm nuclear torpedoes (see above).

Tango class diesel submarine (Project 641B)
Two 533mm nuclear torpedoes.

November class nuclear attack submarine (Project 627)
Two 533mm nuclear torpedoes.

Echo II nuclear cruise missile submarine (Project 675)
Two 533mm nuclear torpedoes; 8 SS-N-3 surface to surface anti-ship missiles (up to 350 kilotons each)

Kara class cruiser (Project 1134B)
Eight SS-N-14 SSM, 5 kiloton warhead; possibly nuclear depth bombs for Ka-25 ASW helicopter (up to 20 kilotons).

Kresta I class destroyer (Project 1134)
Four SS-N-3 SSM (P-35 "Progress"), 20 kilotons

Kresta II class destroyer (Project 1134A)
Eight SS-N-14 ASW missiles with 85R nuclear depth charges.

Udaloy class frigate (Project 1155)
Eight SS-N-14 ASW missiles with nuclear depth charge; nuclear depth bombs for two Ka-27 ASW helicopters. Possibly RPK-2 Viyuga ASW rockets with nuclear warheads.

Moskva class ASW helo carrier (Project 1123)
Eight RPK-1 (FRAS-1) ASW rockets with 10 kt warhead; at least 20 nuclear depth bombs for Ka-25 helicopters.

  With continuing Russian deployments to "socialist" Nicaragua and Venezuela with warships and Tu-160 strategic bombers (which are obvious post attack recovery bases), Mr. Putin continues to ratchet up world tensions and places the western hemisphere in the cross hairs for another Cuban Missile style crisis.

US Nuclear Weapons Not On Hair Trigger Alert

US Nuclear Weapons Not On "Hair Trigger" Alert

Copyright 2019 by Michael H. Maggelet

  Another longstanding myth perpetuated by anti-nuclear activists and organizations is the claim that US nuclear weapon systems such as ICBM’s and SLBM's are on “hair trigger alert”. This is nonsense, since US nuclear weapons require authentication and enabling before launch. The time it takes to perform these actions takes several minutes (for nuclear release). As far as tactical and strategic nuclear aircraft, they have not flown airborne alert missions since 1968, and ground alert was cancelled in 1990 (although limited generations are conducted).  
  The ridiculous notion of the hair trigger myth has gone so far to even claim that ICBM “launch codes” were multiple zero’s (with one “expert” claiming it involved eight zeros, despite the fact the Minuteman Launch Enable Control Group contains only six code wheels). Even when Minuteman I was first placed on alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis (27 October 1962) there were various means in place to prevent an unauthorized launch.

Minuteman missile Launch Enable Control Group 

  I won’t go into the specifics of launching an ICBM, only to say that in order to launch a missile, it takes four, not two, launch control officers from two physically separate LCC’s to conduct a launch. Science fiction, Hollywood, Leslie Stahl, and other fantasies aside, there is no “red button”.
  I was part of PAL tech ops in USAFE during the Cold War era, and we had a number of measures in place to prevent unauthorized use of our nuclear weapons. Again, a subject area that I can't go into, but there are numerous declassified sources on the history of the development of Permissive Action Link and positive control measures.  

Video of simulated Minuteman launch from training LCC-


Titan II launch procedures- note mention of the butterfly valve.


Friday, April 12, 2019

Mark 45 ASTOR Torpedo Myth

Mark 45 ASTOR Torpedo Myth
Copyright 2019 by Michael H. Maggelet

  One pervasive myth about the Mark 45 ASTOR (Anti-Submarine Torpedo) is that it had a kill ratio of two- the target and the launching sub. This is not true, the Mk 45 was wire guided and command detonated, and the W34 nuclear warhead was not armed until the torpedo had travelled at least 2050 yards (6150 feet) at 40 knots. The Mk 45 had a maximum range of 12,000 yards.


  The fastest conventionally armed wire guided torpedo the US Navy had at the time was the Mark 37 Mod 2, which by 1968 had a speed of 17 or 26 knots, with a seeker range of 1000 yards, and max range of 23,500 yards at low speed. This was not adequate to catch and destroy fast moving surface vessels nor the new generation of Soviet nuclear submarines like the November class (introduced 1958). While the Mk 37 with its 330 pound HBX-3 warhead was suitable for killing snorkeling submarines, and disabling slow merchants and some warships, the Navy sought to improve their torpedoes with the development of the Mark 48 (development started in 1965, fielded in 1972). In the meantime, the Mark 45 ASTOR would have to suffice during a potential confrontation with a nuclear armed superpower such as the USSR.

  The approximate kill radius of the estimated 10 kiloton Mk 34 warhead was 2500 feet (833 yards) from the underwater burst point. This information is derived from data from several shots, most notably the 1962 deep water Operation Dominic “Swordfish” ASROC proof test, and the 1958 Operation Hardtack Wahoo shot. Although the Swordfish W44/ASROC test was a deep subsurface burst, shot data and damage to shallow depth “Squaw” target hulls showed some interesting data. There are many variables regarding distance, depth, refraction, and hull strength, but the following data is presented-


Hardtack I, Wahoo shot- 9 kt, 500 feet DOB (deep ocean)

Hardtack I, Umbrella shot- 9 kt, 150 foot DOB (on seafloor), Mk 7 test device.

Squaw 29, 1600’ (533 yards) from burst zero, slight damage.

SSK-3 Bonita, 2900’ (966 yds) from burst, no damage.

Swordfish shot, 9 kt, 641 feet DOB (in deep ocean), W44 proof test.

USS Razorback, 13,800 feet (4600 yds) from burst zero at periscope depth, no damage.

  As shown above, the USS Razorback (SS-394), a Balao class submarine, was 4600 yards from the burst point at periscope depth during the Swordfish shot. Shaking was felt within the sub, due to the cascading water falling back after the burst.

Thus, with a burst more than 4600 yards away from the launching submarine, an attack sub launching the Mk 45 ASTOR from periscope depth (and avoiding the ensuing radioactive base surge and foam patch) was safe from any damage or destruction.

ASROC Nuclear Weapons Effects Test (DOE Historical Films)

References- Info on the Mk 45 torpedo from DOE Historical Films; info on Mk 37 from congressional testimony; shot data from Defense Nuclear Agency. Torpedo data, unless otherwise noted, from "A Brief History of US Navy Torpedo Development" by E.W. Jolie, Weapons Systems Department, Naval Underwater Systems Center, 15 September 1978. Unclassified.