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August 06, 2009

Comments

God only knows what McCain would be saying right now.

I'm afraid the bombs would have been falling shortly after the rigged election.

Personally, I can't get too excited about the 'revelation' that soviet submarines are cruising our coasts. I have always assumed they cruise our coasts just as I have assumed we cruise their coasts.

The thing that strikes me is the announcement that we know they are there. If stealth is the object of submarine warfare then we've pretty much told them they are not stealthy. [But I assumed they knew we knew even before the announcement]. So what is the point of the announcement? Why is someone trying to shake up the american public over this non-event.

GREAT post. And timely, because PNAC is at it again.

D'd'd'dave, the Soviets never managed to get their submarines as quiet as ours. Trying anyway is what bankrupted them.

I agree that we should understand how our actions are perceived by others. And that our truly noble aims are often misunderstood by those who could be threatened by our nobility.

We should also recognize that even if these subs have hostile intent, we are strong enough to survive whatever they might intend. Our response should be "so what?" What exactly are those subs going to do to attack something vital?

Russia is demonstrating with a show of force: it is a show of force that is negligible. It is a show of weakness that deserves nothing but scorn. It is like a poodle barking at a great dane: the great dane normally ignores the poodle.

" ... the guiding principle of postwar Russian/Soviet strategy was to never again be invaded"

Oh gawd.

Take a look at the arms they had in Eastern Europe, and the way in which they trained. They were not defensive - they were designed for long-range operations and it wasn't in an Eastward direction.

Most of those arms were fake, cardboard cut outs, tanks without engines, etc.

The USSR was mostly a facade.

"As a friend of mine once explained, the guiding principle of postwar Russian/Soviet strategy was to never again be invaded. Having been scarred by the Germans, the country (understandably) wanted a buffer zone around its borders."

You and your friend, by confining yourself to WWII, seem to have overlooked that whole "Napolean" incident. It was hardly just Germans who "scarred" Russia's psyche with a sole invasion.

The Russians haven't forgotten Napolean, either, I suggest.

I think it's also worth mentioning, while discussing this, that the United States actually invaded Russia, along with its allies. Americans tend to like to forget this, but I wouldn't advise leaving these facts out of a post on why Americans should remember why Russians are a tad paranoid about the whole encirclement thing. The Russians haven't forgotten that invasion, either, even though most Americans have.

Matt Osborne: "D'd'd'dave, the Soviets never managed to get their submarines as quiet as ours."

Wait, you're saying The Hunt For Red October was fiction?

I'm so disillusioned.

But for the record, nobody makes perfectly quiet and indetectable submarines, and we often find out that we've missed, until it's too late, that foreign subs have slipped up on our ships, subs, and carrier battle groups. Subs of a variety of nationalities can be quite quiet, and it's conditions and techniques and specific circumstances (such as undersea geography where you actually are at the time) and luck that matter as much as design or degrees of anti-submarine effort.

And, specifically, the Akula was famously one of the most successfully quiet Soviet subs, and their newer Akula II subs are reportedly even quieter.

Ironically, though, often diesel submarines can be quieter than nuclear subs. You simply can't, obviously, keep them underwater for remotely as long, such as for a transatlantic voyage, as a nuclear sub. But if you're in a smaller, more enclosed, area than, say, the Atlantic or Pacific, small diesel attack subs can remain quite dangerous to our most modern warships. For the record.

And I think Larison would put it slightly better if he acknowledged that the Russian sub movements are a slightly aggressive move, and then compared to them our vastly more aggressive military and diplomatic action, rather than claiming that there's nothing aggressive whatever about Russia's sub maneuvers. It's a small but valid distinction. Our aggressive moves dwarf theirs, but nuclear attack subs are not, in fact, Gandhian tools of pacificism, even if they're used in a way that shouldn't throw anyone into any kind of tizzy, or give anyone in the U.S. any reason for the slightest bit of alarm.

But it is a deliberate diplomatic signal from the Russians that they have certain capabilities, and it shows their desire to be taken seriously in the military arena, just as their response to Georgian aggression did. This is Putin again signalling the desire for Russia to be taken seriously in world affairs. That's a take-away that should not go unmentioned, while we're also pointing out that there's no reason for alarm over it, and while we're analyzing Russian intentions.

"I have always assumed they cruise our coasts just as I have assumed we cruise their coasts."

This is, to put a possibly very long and detailed response into very short words, wrong. I mean, I believe you about your assumptions, but your failure to distinguish between missile subs, and anti-ship/sub attack subs, and your failure to distinguish between the Cold War era, the post Cold war era, and the recent resurgent Putin era, in summary, mean that your assumptions have been wrong. It would be false to claim that at no time have Soviet subs ever cruised off the U.S. coast: at times they made a point of doing it. But it wasn't, overall, their doctrine. Such a doctrine would have gone, overall, badly for them. Nor was it, once true SBLMs were developed, been necessary, let alone sensible, to send missile boats near our shores; it would have been sending them into danger in a completely pointless and unnecessary way, once they had far longer range submarine nuclear-tipped missiles available.

Similarly, we didn't have our missile subs cruising in their submarine bastions, or just off their coast lines. That would also have been pointless and stupid.

In addition, U.S. and Soviet submarine strategies have been as wildly asymmetric as our overall naval strategies. The U.S./Nato approach was dependent on the need to keep the Atlantic transit open, so as to be able to rapidly ship military forces across the Atlantic should war come, same as during WWII. As part of this, we had to protect the vital GIUK (Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom) triangle to keep Soviet attacks subs from those waters as much as possible. Then we would float our nuclear missile ICBM subs where we liked, for the most part.

Whereas Soviet doctrine was to maintain bastions to protect their missile subs in, specifically the Barents Sea for their Northern Fleet, and the Sea of Okhotsk for their Pacific fleet.

And our goal with our attack subs, along with protecting convoys in the Atlantic, and maintaining anti-sub patrols by all means possible (planes, surface groups, and our own submarines, as well as strings of underwater sensors, and dropped antisub buoys), was to get our attack subs into their bastions, if we could, and if possible attack their missile submarines, along with directly protecting our own carrier battle groups, surface battle groups, and military supply convoys.

Had the Soviets crossed the Fulda Gap, we would have had to have sent an enormous amount of military supplies by ship across the Atlantic extremely quickly; the Soviets knew this perfectly well. (Actually, even then we really couldn't have defended Germany and Western Europe without use of nuclear weapons, in most any serious scenario, but that's a whole 'nother discussion.)

The end of the Cold War is why we gave up our previously absolutely vital base at Keflavik in Iceland.

(It helps to have played any version, board or computer, of Harpoon, if not to read up on actual military history, to know about this simple stuff.)

Here is a helpful little recap for you and anyone else interested.

Putting your subs up near the coastlines of the other guy is purely a political signal, and that's all it is. You do it deliberately to send the message that you can be there, if you like, and that's the only reason to do it. Not because it's a helpful or necessary part of any kind of war-fighting strategy between Russia and America.

"We should also recognize that even if these subs have hostile intent, we are strong enough to survive whatever they might intend."

Akulas are attack subs, which is to say, they carry torpedos and anti-ship missiles and missile torpedos, and possibly now some cruise missiles; they don't carry SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles). It's important to not confuse these two entirely different (largely; the categories have become a bit more mixed since both sides have, as part of the nuclear reduction treat process, begun converting a few old missile subs into cruise missile anti-ship subs) types of submarines.

Missile boats with nuclear land-attack ballastic missiles are a strategic weapon and a strategic threat. Attack submarines are only a threat to other ships, and maybe now to minor non-nuclear targets that aren't defended against cruise missiles.

"Take a look at the arms they had in Eastern Europe, and the way in which they trained. They were not defensive - they were designed for long-range operations and it wasn't in an Eastward direction."

Both sides disclaimed offensive intent, both sides genuinely tended to not have offensive intent most of the time, and both sides recognized the banal truth that in most modern war, the best defense, once you've started, is a good offense.

I'd say "BFD," except that it was, in that both sides constantly gave the other side good reasons for finding the other side provocative. That's why the Cold War was so dangerous.

Take a look at the arms they had in Eastern Europe, and the way in which they trained. They were not defensive - they were designed for long-range operations and it wasn't in an Eastward direction.

Given the destruction invading armies have wrought on Russian territory* in the past it has been the doctrine (since at least WW1) that the defense would be fought on the aggressor's territory, if possible. That means that defense would be based on strike-before-struck, invade-them-before-they-invade-you. I believe the West called its own version 'Forward defense'

*or cf. the WW1 Western Front that was almost completely outside Germany, leaving German territory unscathed.

Ah, so that explains the Hitler-Stalin pact: "Forward defense". A defensive strategy predicated on invading and conquering anyone who might otherwise be in a position to attack you.

Re Hartmut's point, the last administration called it preemptive warfare, and GWB explicitly used the "we're in Iraq to prevent 'them' from coming here" line in his reelectio campaign. Half the American public and all the MSM thought this was either peachy or nworthy of serious criticism. When foreigners do it, however, it's wildly immoral, I'm sure.

In essence that claim has been made repeatedly in the last about 200 years (increasingly with war of aggression turning form a sovereign right into a discouraged activity and then into a crime).
The Soviet doctrine was an expanded preemptive/preventive war, i.e. attack the one you expect to attack you in the forseeable future first, so the fights take place on the other guy's territory. Hitler tried to paint his attack on Stalin that way (for domestic consumption) but only very hardened revisionists believe that.
More at least related WW2 examples: Norway* and Iceland**
If you want a less 'loaded' precedent, it is the pre-WW1 war planning by several involved parties***.
Many historians consider the Soviet satellites as a preemptively seized buffer to keep the expected future fights out of the homeland, less as colonies under another name.

*preempting the British by literally hours
**Germany had plans to seize Iceland but they were not ready for execution by far before the US preempted them.
***After war broke out there were also ridiculous German claims that Belgium was the aggressor.

Brett,

"Ah, so that explains the Hitler-Stalin pact: "Forward defense". A defensive strategy predicated on invading and conquering anyone who might otherwise be in a position to attack you."

Isn't that what we're doing, isn't that an early variation of the 1% doctrine - that to be safe, our enemies must be destroyed, and it is better for our enemies to be destroyed and the collateral damage to be over there rather than here?

I had a chat yesterday about the Russkie subs with some of the birther tea-baggers showing up at town meetings to threaten the lives of Democratic congresspeople over healthcare reform.

They explained that the RNC had told them that Putin is sending in the subs to back up comrade mullah Obama's effort to impose the sapping of their grandmothers' precious bodily fluids, the export of their kidneys to Russian organ banks, and the euthanization of my grandmother's pet parakeet.

An armada of Russian vessels will oonverge in Hawaii soon to deposit a fake birth certificate in the hall of public records for Leonid Fyodor Niggerofthenarcissus aka Barack Hussein Obama.

This is truth my friends. May God bless you all after he locks your load.

"A defensive strategy predicated on invading and conquering anyone who might otherwise be in a position to attack you."

You've been reading "Rebuilding America's Defenses" again, haven't you?

Sadly, we all know what a President McCain would be saying.

John, I think you don't have it exactly right. The Russians believe that Obama is the returned http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsarevich_Dmitry_Ivanovich_of_Russia>Tsarevich Dmitrij and want to bring him home, so he can take his rightful throne at last. They have to act quickly before the Iranians claim him to be the Hidden Imam instead and install him at their place. The Iranians used diesel-electric subs and may already be much closer to the coast.

"A defensive strategy predicated on invading and conquering anyone who might otherwise be in a position to attack you."

The Bush Doctrine, as I recall.

As I wrote today, physical proximity doesn't matter when it comes to Russian military hardware. If the Russians want to, they can nuke us from the other side of the planet.

Gods bless modern technology.

The pertinent threat to Iran comes from Israel, which does not deny that it has nuclear weapons. Probably the only way to keep other countries in the region from aspiring to nuclear capability is to disarm Israel.

the Soviets never managed to get their submarines as quiet as ours. Trying anyway is what bankrupted them.

This is not true. It's not even credible. (Seriously? That was the line item in the budget that toppled the Warsaw Pact - sound suppression on submarines?)

Nor is the more extended thesis that the US, by increasing defence spending in the 1980s, drove the USSR into bankruptcy when they tried to match it. Soviet defence spending didn't change that much in the 1980s.

And the Russians didn't blindly* sink money into their sub program. For example they dropped titanium as hull material because it turned out to be too expensive in the long run, did the same about liquid metal reactors. In a way they were more balanced than the US on that. Unlike the US they also make money by selling or lending subs to other nations.

*Still a lot but not to the point of ruin.

Putting yourself in the other man's shoes requires, first, conceding that the other man is in fact a man, with feet, two in number, that need to be shod.

One would hope that at least one's policy makers would be able to perform this exercise, regardless of why and whether they're insisting, for domestic consumption, that the other guy is a monster, or Superman.

Can we simultaneously (a) not overreact and (b) not sound like a Pete Seeger compilation album. The fact that the Russians view all their aggression as "defensive" because of Napoleon and Hitler and the Allies attempt to depose the Bolsheviks (etc., etc.) is a problem, not an excuse.

Since you are talking about dangerous misunderstanding, there is one prety dangerous comming from astroturf but mostly from people themselves-grassroots. It shows that rage got on its own power rolling.
There is a call from whitehouse communication director Linda Douglas to gather info on fishy healthreform informations/ astroturf tactics and send it to [email protected] The whole mob got on it as it is about gathering personal information about fishy people. Republicans are buzzed and drunk for blod being led that government spys on whoever is against health reform. It is not just corporate organisations it is also people themselves fully believe this junk. Their fear is worped into light spead and got them paranoid and dangerous.
This is going real dangerous

I just don't understand the pantswetting brigade's reaction to this. Do they not understand that they live in a country with the most powerful military that has ever existed, one where thousands of nuclear weapons stand ready to retaliate against any attack? Did they miss the entire Cold War or what?

What on earth do they think a couple of run-down Russian attack submarines are going to do? Start sinking shipping? Launch a cruise missile at New York City?

The Russians are not suicidally insane. Sending a couple of submarines to wander around the east coast is about as threatening as driving past your local army base waving a shotgun - that is to say, pointless, inexplicable, & inadvisable, but not an actual danger.

I really have to wonder about these people's grasp on reality. Although I guess these are the same people that thought Iraq posed a threat to the US and that Iran might pose one, so maybe that is a settled question.

"Can we simultaneously (a) not overreact and (b) not sound like a Pete Seeger compilation album."

BTW, I have been looking for a Pete Seeger compilation album.

BTW, I have been looking for a Pete Seeger compilation album.

Several good ones out there, thematically arranged -- labor, civil war, old ballads, black America etc -- on Smithsonian/Folkways.

Of all the reasons to despise Jesse Helms I personally used to focus on his attempts to get Seeger's Kennedy Center Honors yanked retrospectively.

Ah, so that explains the Hitler-Stalin pact: "Forward defense". A defensive strategy predicated on invading and conquering anyone who might otherwise be in a position to attack you.

I'm not the first to point out this rather obvious fact, but these days we call it The Bush Doctrine.

This from Boehner's office, Drudge, and the thug, EE, working with Moe Lane over at Redstate:

President Obama and staff are deep beneath the White House in the situation room coordinating imminent Soviet submarine nuclear missile attacks on overweight, loudmouthed Republican patriot nitwits massing outside Democratic townhall meetings throughout the land, trigger-fingers twitching.

Heads-ups, via flag lapel pins, are transmitted to Democratic true Americans at the venues to amsray before detonation, thus saving the future for the uninsured.

Newly-developed, missile-mounted Soviet radar, cooperating with American military satellites commandeered by the Obama Administration through their citizen tattletales seeded throughout the land can now target groups of less than 20 self-identified, lying, unAmerican Republican scum a-holes (Drudge is nothing if not bi-partisan) for incineration.

The radar can detect IQ quotients above the level of soybean rhizomes, thus determining if anyone but the above-mentioned scum are in the target area.

The missiles are armed with something along the lines of the neutron bomb: Republican grannies are deservedly (womb products having been a detriment to America) vaporized, but their kidneys and tails are left intact where they stood, as if they'd been eaten by a cat.

"If the Russians want to, they can nuke us from the other side of the planet."

But not, in any case, from an attack sub, as I explained at length above.

"Nor is the more extended thesis that the US, by increasing defence spending in the 1980s, drove the USSR into bankruptcy when they tried to match it. Soviet defence spending didn't change that much in the 1980s."

Correct-a-mundo!

Incidentally, if you read Khrushchev's quite fascinating memoirs (large chunks of which you can do for free here), you can see that he writes at length of the need for the USSR and America to make agreements to limit military spending, and how he discussed with JFK how each of them was pressured by their military establishment to match alleged increases by the other side.

Khrushchev also writes at length about how much JFK impressed him, and how much more he was impressed by JFK than he was by Eisenhower, based on their personal meetings, and their policies, as well as the fact that at their meetings, Eisenhower always deferred to subordinates to give answers to questions, who read from boilerplate policy positions, and were quite hostile, whereas JFK was familiar with the details off-the-cuff, and spoke knowledgeably for himself.

Khrushchev concluded -- however rightly or wrongly, I'm simply writing of his perceptions, not of what was true from the American side -- that Eisenhower didn't have true control over the U.S. military-industrial complex, and wasn't personally setting policy, whereas JFK was, and thus there was a far greater chance of reaching agreements with JFK than there had been with Eisenhower.

Of course, as everyone knows, JFK was assassinated in November, 1963, Krushchev didn't have time to evaluate LBJ and never met him before Krushchev was removed from power himself in October 1964.

But aside from occasional aggressive subordinates, which the U.S. had as well (see Curtis LeMay), the USSR's leadership, in fact, never desired a war with the U.S. and its allies, and strove to avoid one. They were willing to take dangerous risks, as we know, such as the infamous Cuban missile crisis, but their idea there was to get the missiles installed before we knew about it, and thus prevent risk of war, not increase it. Thus why both sides were overwhelmingly motivated to continue to try to avoid war, and were able to find a solution that succeeding in doing so.

In short, both sides were insanely over-paranoid about the other side, certainly from the post-Stalin period on, and even Stalin had no desire for a war with the west. Both sides saw intentions on the other side that didn't exist. (Though both sides contributed dangerous provocations, and occasional incendiary language, particularly from subordinates, and particularly from senior members of their military, at times.)

And, of course, both sides spent unbelievable amounts of money that were completely wasted, on military programs that were completely unnecessary. Huge portions of both economies disappeared in this fashion; the U.S. could better afford it, but they were still some of the greatest wastes of money the world has ever seen.

One might actually pause and contemplate if there are any lessons to learn from this history.

"Unlike the US they also make money by selling or lending subs to other nations."

It's hardly as if the U.S. has lacked looking for, and succeeding at finding, allies to sell weapons to.

It's one of those fascinating little repetitions of our major weapons programs that the the overwhelming majority of them start out with our leaders swearing that the weapons will never be sold to other parties, as it would be too provocative towards the world's arms races, and too dangerous to us to share our technology, but after a few years, or even sooner, we start to make exceptions so as to save money or justify keeping production lines open, and the exceptions increase and increase, and eventually we're selling the previously unique weapons sufficiently that they wind up in the hands of a country that we then see ourselves in danger of using them against us or our allies.

See, for instance, the Tomcat F-14s the Iranian air force still maintains. Or consider the possible future of the airplanes we've sold Pakistan. Etc.

And the U.S. has indeed sold eight diesel-electric submarines to Taiwan, by the way. (Ok, if you want to be fussy, German subs, with U.S. technology that could only be sold with U.S. permission.) (More detail, if anyone cares.)

Sending a couple of submarines to wander around the east coast is about as threatening as driving past your local army base waving a shotgun - that is to say, pointless, inexplicable, & inadvisable, but not an actual danger.

But so much fun during a Democratic administration. You just don't get the same reaction from Republicans. ;)

You and your friend, by confining yourself to WWII, seem to have overlooked that whole "Napolean" incident.

C'mon Gary, don't forget the Mongols. That IS the reason Russia largely missed the Renaissance. You see Russian fear in the submarines. I see Mongol bravado. Heck, the Tupelovs over Alaska have little to do with a fear of invasion.

If I'm right, the best hope for stopping Iran from going nuclear is to stop threatening it.

Yes, because sitting down and talking without preconditions is so, so threatening. As is the insistence on vigorous inspections as we allow Iran to develop nuclear power.

I'd say Israel is the best hope for stopping Iran from going nuclear at this point.

Pithlord: "The fact that the Russians view all their aggression as 'defensive' because of Napoleon and Hitler and the Allies attempt to depose the Bolsheviks (etc., etc.) is a problem, not an excuse."

Is it your contention that having attack subs cruising the oceans is an "aggression"?

"BTW, I have been looking for a Pete Seeger compilation album."

379 results here.

They have a right to be in international waters. Still, it is provocative and unnecessarily thuggish, as is contemporary Russia's wont.

I'd say Israel is the best hope for stopping Iran from going nuclear at this point.

I'm very curious: how exactly do you think Israel could do that? Do you think Israel would send aircraft to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities? If so, how do you think they'll cross Iraq?


They have a right to be in international waters. Still, it is provocative and unnecessarily thuggish, as is contemporary Russia's wont.

Is it more or less provocative than trying to form a military alliance with countries that border your old rival?

"They have a right to be in international waters. Still, it is provocative and unnecessarily thuggish, as is contemporary Russia's wont."

Sending submarines into international waters is "provocative and unnecessarily thuggish"?

Are you sure? Or do you have a narrower claim in mind?

I'm very curious: how exactly do you think Israel could do that?

F-16. Like they did to Iraq in the early 80's. Or sub launched missiles.

Do you think Israel would send aircraft to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities?

If they felt sufficiently threatened, yes. One word: Netanyahu.

If so, how do you think they'll cross Iraq?

Good question. Israel would need permission from the U.S. However, I don't think going across Saudi Arabia is out of the question. Look at how Egypt is acting towards Iran and Israel.

F-16. Like they did to Iraq in the early 80's. Or sub launched missiles.

Please don't be offended, but have you seen a map of the middle east? Israel is about 1000 miles from Natanz. The combat radius for the F-16I is said to be about 1300 miles. Now, unless you're thinking Israel will send out its best (and most expensive) planes on a suicide mission, the fact that 1300 is smaller than 2000 suggests a problem with your proposal, don't you agree? Beyond that, F-16s don't carry the really big bombs needed to penetrate underground bunkers.

I don't know much about Israel's sub launched missile capability, but I'd be curious to hear why you think it would be effective. Have you seen reputable information suggesting that Israeli missiles can actually reach Natanz? And do you think that Israel would actually launch nuclear armed missiles? If not, why do you think that the relatively small payload on any missile will be able to penetrate an underground bunker?

Turbulence:

You obviously are more up on the logistics than I am. But I think Israel would do whatever it took to neutralize the threat. Off the top of my head:

Air refueling over hostile territory. Not likely because so risky.

Nuclear missiles from the subs.

Some other unknown option.

I don't think Israel's land based missiles with conventional warheads could penetrate Natanz from what I've read, but what do I know.

What do you think? You seem to think it impossible or that Israel wouldn't use a nuclear option.

bc, I think it would be impossible for Israel to launch a credible strike without using nuclear weapons. I don't think Israel will use nuclear weapons because it seems to me that Israeli government is infatuated with their adorable little nuclear ambiguity game. On the other hand, if any nation was to launch a first strike nuclear attack in the next few years, Israel would be my first guess.

However, I don't think an Israeli attack makes sense. Which isn't to say that Israel won't do it since Israel often does things that I think make no sense. Centrifuges can be widely distributed. Israel is not going to hit 100 or 1000 different targets, especially since many of those targets might be hidden within population centers. And I've seen no indication that Iran is actually building a nuclear weapon as opposed to reactor fuel that they're entitled to.

Turbulence:

I agree, except that I find it more likely that Israel will go nuclear and I don't understand that Iran's nuclear program is so decentralized as to preempt an attack. I understood that there were different sites and that the number would be hard to take out at once, but I was under the understanding that a successful attack would keep Iran from going nuclear in the near future.

I have to split this comment due to the number of necessary links.

Part I:

"The combat radius for the F-16I is said to be about 1300 miles."

That's not relevant; the question is whether the country the overflight would take place over would allow for mid-air refueling tanker planes to come along. That's how Israel landed forces at Entebbe, you might recall.

Israel currently reportedly has KC-130 Hercules refueling planes.

The E variant:

[...] are equipped with a removable 3,600 US gal (13,626 l) stainless steel fuel tank carried inside the cargo compartment. The two wing-mounted hose and drogue aerial refueling pods each transfer up to 300 US gal per minute (19 l per second) to two aircraft simultaneously, allowing for rapid cycle times of multiple-receiver aircraft formations, (a typical tanker formation of four aircraft in less than 30 minutes).
End Part I.

Part II of three: Israel has the more modern H variant for tankers, with "the C-130E/H carries 6,700 gallons of fuel in six integral wing tanks. Under each wing of the C-130E/H is an external pylon fuel tank with a capacity of 1,300 gallons."

In addition, Israel has modified KC-707 tankers which:

[...] From 1983 on, the Boeings began to carry out midair refueling of fighters, thus lengthening the IAF's range. Israeli tanker assets are poorly attested in open sources. IISS claims that the IAF has a total of 5 Re'em" ("Antelope") tankers (4 KC-707, 1 KC-135). Periscope thinks that the 6 Boeing 707-320 R'em (Unicorn) aircraft are transports, but reports that there are 5 KC-707 Saknayee (Pelican) tankers [a nomenclature that is otherwise un-attested]. Aeroflight says there are a total of four Boeing 707-320 aircraft converted to a KC-707 configuration of unspecified designation. What is probably the most reliable SOURCE agrees that a total of five Boeing 707-320 aircraft, acquired between January 1983 and November 1999, have been converted to a KC-707 configuration of unspecified designation.
I haven't done the calculations, so I definitely could be wrong, but I can't exclude the possibility they could overfly the Med and Turkey, to reach what they need to reach in Iran. Someone better at math then me would be better off trying to figure that out.

Part III of III:
The relevant Israeli sub capacity are their threee Dolphin-class. These reportedly can carry Harpoons, and possibly:

[...] the four larger 25.5 inch diameter torpedo tubes could be used to launch a long-range nuclear-capable submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM). According to some reports the submarines may be capable of carrying nuclear-armed Popeye Turbo cruise missiles, with a goal of deterring an enemy from trying to take out its nuclear weapons with a surprise attack.
Now, there's no reason a Popeye payload can't be conventional.

The question is, how much use any of this would be to setting back the Iranian nuclear program? Personally, I don't quite follow how, at best, blowing up their heavy water reactor, and the known centrifuge facility at Natanz, would do more than put off matters a few years, for better or worse, and lead Iran to simply spread their facilities out even further, more secretly, and more deeply buried. It'd just be a kick-the-can.

But, to be sure, that would kick the can out of the extent of the current Israeli government, and since we've been talking about the uses of military strikes for domestic purposes, I certainly wouldn't exclude the possibility of the current largely very right-wing Israeli government making such a choice, unfortunately.

Bc, here are some of the known Iranian nuclear facilities of various types. For an idea of how spread out they are, see this map.

bc: "I agree, except that I find it more likely that Israel will go nuclear and I don't understand that Iran's nuclear program is so decentralized as to preempt an attack."

Given what I've just explained, yes, to be at all effective -- and it would still just kick the can down the road a few years -- if Israel launched nuclear attacks on Iran as a first strike, how many they used would be hard to say, because you'd have to be able to predict which sites they considered crucial and worth using up nukes on, and how many they think would make a difference. But we could be talking upwards of 23 or more separate nuclear attacks.

Or maybe "only" a few. Why, maybe just five or six Hiroshimas.

Either way, to say this would be a huge step would be the understatement of a lifetime. I'm very doubtful even Netanyahu and company would go that far, and I'm skeptical Ehud Barak as Defense Minister, and the Labor Party, would go along, although, as I said, I don't totally exclude the possibility, unfortunately.

But I'm almost speechless at even attempting to explain just how extremely I think the world would react to multiple nuclear first strikes by Israel on Iran; there'd be no comparison whatever to the reaction to Israel's strike on Iraq's Osirak in 1981, or that piddling September 2007 strike on Syria, which the world pretty much blinked at, to a large degree because the Syrians barely mentioned it happened at all. It seems very plausible that everyone decided to keep very quiet about it, including the Syrians, because the Syrians actually did have a nuclear site built with North Korean help there, though, of course, I don't know at all if that's actually true or not, and there were reasons to be skeptical, as well. The case looked stronger, from the public information, as time passed, but I certainly haven't come to any definitive conclusions, myself; the furthest I'd go is that the case became more plausible as more evidence emerged as more time passed. "Plausible" isn't "true," of course.

But there's no doubt that multiple nuclear strikes by Israel wouldn't be something anyone would stay quiet about. The political response to Israel's taking such acts is almost unimaginable. To me, anyway.

Oh, I see I failed to be at all specific about the Dolphin submarine Popeye missile option, which would seem to be the most practical method of Israel launching nuclear attacks, if we're talking just about practicality.

See here.

In May 2000, Israel is reported to have secretly carried out its first test launches from two German-built Dolphin-class submarines of cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The missiles launched from vessels off Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean are said to have hit a target at a range of about 1,500 kilometers [about 930 statute miles]. Israel is reported to possess a 200kg nuclear warhead, containing 6kg of plutonium, that could be mounted on cruise missiles.

Israel has reportedly developed an air-launched cruise missile that could be operational by 2002, called the Popeye Turbo. The Popeye Turbo, with a range that is variously reported at between 200 km and 350 km, would appear to represent a turbo-jet powered cruise missile that may incorporate avionics and other components developed for the Popeye family of missiles. The AGM-142 HAVE NAP is a variant of the Israeli Air Force "Popeye" missile, which uses a solid propellant rocket motor. The Popeye II, also known as the Have Lite, is a smaller missile with more advanced technology. Designed for deployment on fighter aircraft, Popeye II has a range of 150 kilometers.

The Popeye Turbo missile is probably similar to if not identical with the Israeli submarine-launced cruise missile carried on the Dolphin-class submarines. The baseline Popeye missile with a range of 45 miles has a diameter of 21 inches, and is nearly 16 feet long. For comparison, the American MK-48 heavy torpedo is 21 inches in diameter, and 19 feet long, while the BGM-109 Tomahawk SLCM is 20.4 inches in diameter and 20.5 feet long [including the booster motor], and the Russian SS-N-21 SLCM is similar in configuration and dimensions to the American Tomahawk.

The reported range of 1,500 km for the SLCM tested in May 2000 is several times greater than the previously reported range for the Popeye Turbo. However, the Popeye Turbo is a poorly attested missile, and the open literature provides little information on this system. Indeed, because of the small size of the vehicle and the limited testing program to date, it is entirely possible that even the US intelligence community has only limited insight into the capabilities of this system. There is no particular reason to doubt that Israel could develop a variant of the Popeye Turbo with a range of 1,500 km, simply by lengthening the fuel tank associated with a 300-350 km variant reported by US intelligence. At present it is not possible to determine whether the US intelligence has under-estimated the range of this missile, or whether news reports have over-estimated the missile's range. The longer range reported in June 2000 is certainly consistent with Israeli targetting requirements.

In other words, we really don't know wtf their actual capability is.

But if you put these subs in the Sea of Oman, or possibily the Sea of Arabia (dangerous, because it's so small and narrow, and the chances of detection become endlessly greater than in the Med, where the range question seems to be out of the question again -- and Israel definitely only has three Dolphins, and they can only carry so many missiles), it's quite possible Israel could launch some of these perhaps hypothetical, perhaps not, long-range SCLM with nuclear warheads.

Or maybe not. It's not as if Israel has press conferences about these things.

And cruise missiles, one should note, unlike ballistic missiles, can be, and have been, shot down. Iraq shot down several of our Tomahawks.

Gary, I was specifically talking only about subs being sold by the Soviet Union because I of course now that the US is a major weapons exporter (with the exception of subs*). It was also part of the answer to the claim of "Sub program ruined the Soviet Union".
I didn't know about the Taiwan thing. I thought they only had the ones bought from The Netherlands (and they had to remodel those first because the Dutch had disabled the torpedo tubes).
The Soviets/Russians both sell new and used ones (and occasionally lend them) on a regular base. Rich nations buy German/Swedish (and occasionally Dutch), less affluent Russian or the Chinese copies ;-)
I guess Electric Boat is angry that they are not in that specific export business because the US has no modern diesel-electric or AIP models of their own.
---

*Not sure but maybe the US got rid of a number of WW2 subs by selling or donating them to some 3rd world countries (as Britain did with their Oberons). And there were of course the pre-WW1 sales by Lake and Holland (who 'sold' his boats to the US navy by threatening sells or even a move to the UK).

Gary:

I don't see the need for 5 or 6 nuclear attacks. One might do. And yes, I think the reaction would be severe.

And without more info it's hard to say a conventional attack wouldn't work. I don't see taking out uranium mines.

Interesting assessment here . It essentially states refueling over the Med on a roundabout course with repeated bunker busting bombs would take out Natanz and two other targets (Esfahan and Arak) resulting in a more than just a brief delay. Done by doctoral candidates, but seems plausible to me. And done conventionally no less with as high a probability of success as the Iraq attack. Thoughts?


People look at me funny when I say this, but:

What is so goddamned scary about Iran having nukes? Do we truely believe that their leadership is suicidal? Seems to me that they want them as the ultimate deterrant to US/Western attack, allowing them freedom of action in a variety of ways (including, if they wish, stepping up support to, say, Hizbollah, Hamas, etc).

Is it really the fear that they will give nukes to terrorists who will use them on us? How realistic is that fear? Is it enough to justify a pre-emptive strike? I find that hard to believe.

"People look at me funny when I say this"

I just look at you with frustration, given how many times we've discussed the ins and outs of this here. I just really don't care to repeat my opinions for the hundredth time.

I should doubtless go back to writing more formal posts on my own blog to point to, given how hard it is to find stuff that one has written here in comments, time and time and time again.

Thank you very much for finding this bc. I've been looking for a reasonable tactical justification of an Israeli strike. This is the best I've seen yet, but it still doesn't seem good enough.

Regarding the northern route, I'm skeptical that Turkey would give overflight permission. It would be tantamount to an act of war, and I don't think Turkey is interested in a war with Iran right now. I don't think the IAF is interested in going up against Turkey's modern NATO-equipped air force and the route they'd have to take is littered with Turkish air bases. Moreover, even with refueling over the med, this pushes the F-15Is to their max range. That means that any aerial combat engagements are more likely to end badly for the Israelis. What's the point of having interceptors if they either can't afford to stick around for a fight because they don't have the fuel?

I don't see the central route as feasible either. The Iraqi government will not tolerate Israeli overflights to attack Iran. They will seek to destroy Israeli aircraft. Since the US military is ostensibly in Iraq at the behest of the sovereign Iraqi government in order to help defend them, the US really cannot refuse to fire on armed Israeli warcraft invading Iraqi air space. To let them pass would be to scream to the Islamic world: "You were right about us invading so that we could crush you guys whenever you got too powerful; all that stuff about Iraq being a sovereign nation was a joke." This scenario leads to a lot of dead Americans. For that reason, there's no way that any US administration OKs it.

The southern route also looks nuts. It requires traversing Saudi Arabia, a country that has acquired a lot of aerial defense hardware from us. Moreover, it requires sending refueling tankers to refuel aircraft over either Saudi Arabia (where they're vulnerable to SA air defense) or the Persian Gulf (where they're vulnerable to Iranian sea-based assets).

There are three factors that I think are often overlooked here. First, the Israeli military have displayed a disturbing tendency of late to underestimate the military capabilities of their adversaries. See Lebanon War, 2006 for more.

Secondly, advocates for arial bombardment have overstated the effectiveness of their campaigns in general. Remember how strategic bombing was supposed to break the enemy's will to fight and force them to surrender in World War II, Vietnam, and Iraq? Indeed, the evidence suggests that even straightforward aerial attacks against ground units are less effective than widely thought.

Finally, improved technology makes this attack more feasible than it would have been 20 years ago, but technology improvements benefit more than just the Israelis. In fact, such improvements have often benefited parties in asymmetric ways. There is some evidence that widely available telecommunications equipment has been used to dramatically improve air defense capabilities for very little money. The real state of Iran's air defense capabilities is, I think, more of an open question.

"I don't see the need for 5 or 6 nuclear attacks. One might do. And yes, I think the reaction would be severe."

I'm a little unclear if we're using the same terminology I'm referring to each hypothetical nuclear detonation as a separate "attack," rather than setting off several, each on a different target, in one mission as a single attack; I'm not sure if you're using "attack" in the same way, or not.

If you're not, which target are you suggesting would be the nuclear detonation target?

"And done conventionally no less with as high a probability of success as the Iraq attack. Thoughts?"

Thanks for the link, bc; having read it entirely last night, the first thing I'd note is that it's quite dated by now. But not irrelevant.

The point most responding to, without getting into the weeds on updated weapons and capabilities and targets, is that at best, a successful attack would, as I said, simply mean Iran would have to start rebuilding centrifuges, etc., and thus delay them, depending on their efforts, another three to five years. At which point we'd be back where we are today, save that Iran would have an immensely solid grievance, had perfectly justifiable grounds for going to war, quite possibly including with us, Saudi Arabia, and/or Turkey, among others, and when rebuilding their facilities, would have even further decentralized and buried them and made them more secret.

This also all pre-supposes that, in fact, there aren't any other secret development centers, which is a contention constantly made as to why we should be so alarmed.

And, then, there would be the political cost to Israel, as well as the possible military costs to everyone of Iranian military retaliation and possible widespread war.

The cost-benefit ratio, based on a ton of hypotheticals about a nuclear weapons program there's currently no serious evidence for, makes the Iraq invasion look like the world's most brilliant strategic decision evah, so far as I can see.

And I don't mean that in a nice way.

Turbulence: "Regarding the northern route, I'm skeptical that Turkey would give overflight permission."

I think the real question there isn't permission, but whether Turkey would fire on Israeli planes, rather than protest after the fact.

"The Iraqi government will not tolerate Israeli overflights to attack Iran. They will seek to destroy Israeli aircraft."

As you note, that'd be entirely up to the Americans, not the Iraqi government, which has no anti-air capability of its own at present. And would the U.S. really shoot down the IAF, rather than protest? I don't know the answer to that, but that'd certainly cause political problems for Obama, as well, to understate dramatically.

"For that reason, there's no way that any US administration OKs it."

OK it in advance, I agree. Shoot if the Israels went without letting us know until the planes are on the way? That's another question. Israel would be daring us to shoot, and find out just how far we'd go. If we're postulating an Israeli government paranoid enough to go this route, we might as well postulate that they're willing to take that risk, while we're being all hypothetical and all.

"The southern route also looks nuts. It requires traversing Saudi Arabia, a country that has acquired a lot of aerial defense hardware from us."

Yeah, but the point that the Saudi Arabians are crappy at things military remains au courant last I looked. And the possibility that they really wouldn't mind an attack on Iran, but would restrain themselves to protests, or deliberately ineffective counter-attacks/defense, isn't excludable, either. So, again, I wouldn't exclude this as hypothetically impossible. I even find the idea of a secret Israeli-SA deal not impossible to imagine.

"First, the Israeli military have displayed a disturbing tendency of late to underestimate the military capabilities of their adversaries. See Lebanon War, 2006 for more."

That was certainly a case. Of course, 1973 was an even worse case. The latest Gaza incursion was, well, less of a non-success from the POV of few Israeli casualties, if rather irrelevant in terms of political accomplishment, and setting aside the entire (huge) question of humanitarian concerns (which I don't do in a discussion of that topic as a topic in and of itself, of course).

"Secondly, advocates for arial bombardment have overstated the effectiveness of their campaigns in general."

Yes, but that's irrelevant because no one is talking about a strategic bombing campaign to break Iranian will.

"The real state of Iran's air defense capabilities is, I think, more of an open question."

It's one of them. But the biggest questions, in my view, remain just how crazy-paranoid the Netanyahu cabinet might get, whether Barak would go along, or resign, and whether the Labor Party would go along, or quit the government, and thus whether this whole issue would arise in the first place.

I damn well hope not.

Even Begin delayed the Osirak attack for over three years, until the then right-wing Likud government felt it had no other choice, the danger was so great and imminent. Despite all the talk, it's not clear to me which way the current Israeli government would go any time in, say, the next two years.

Which is why at least attempting to negotiate with Iran remains so important; I suspect you'll agree with me on this.

(I'm setting aside, again, repeating myself for the nth time on why we shouldn't find the current Iranian nuclear program an imminent threat to Israel, and arguments over how much weight the U.S. should give to longer-term potential threats of currently hypothetical Iranian weapons to the surrounding countries, and Europe, which in summary, is that I continue to see little or no reason to have greater concern about Iranian nuclear weapons, even if we assume they make them, which I don't agree is a safe assumption, than we did over Mao's nukes, or the USSR's: which is to say, we should discourage nuclear proliferation all around, but not go crazy when it happens. We think the North Korean program is a Bad Thing, but we're not launching attacks on North Korea, either.)

And cruise missiles, one should note, unlike ballistic missiles, can be, and have been, shot down. Iraq shot down several of our Tomahawks.

Ballistic missiles can't be shot down?

Caveated with "with small arms or AAA", I'd have no quarrel.

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