Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 02, 2021

Why Hypersonic Missiles Are Real Game Changers - by Gordog

A Technical Look at the Science Behind the Headlines

by Gordog

The Americans are now crying ‘uncle’ about Russia’s hypersonic weapons. After the most recent flight test of the scramjet-powered Zircon cruise missile, the Washington Post on July 11 carried a Nato statement of complaint:

"Russia’s new hypersonic missiles are highly destabilizing and pose significant risks to security and stability across the Euro-Atlantic area," the statement said.

At the same time, talks have begun on the ‘strategic dialog’ between the US and Russia, as agreed at the June 16 Geneva Summit of the two presidents. The two sides had already agreed to extend the START treaty on strategic weapons that has been in effect for a decade, but, notably, it was the US side that initiated the summit—perhaps spurred by the deployment of the hypersonic, intercontinental-range Avangard missile back in 2019, when US weapons inspectors were present, as per START, to inspect the Avangard as it was lowered into its missile silos.

But what exactly is a hypersonic missile—and why is it suddenly such a big deal?

We all remember when Vladimir Putin announced these wonder weapons in his March 2018 address to his nation [and the world]. The response from the US media was loud guffaws about ‘CGI’ cartoons and Russian ‘wishcasting.’ Well, neither Nato nor the Biden team are guffawing now. Like the five stages of grief, the initial denial phase has slowly given way to acceptance of reality—as Russia continues deploying already operational missiles, like the Avangard and the air-launched Kinzhal, now in Syria, as well as finishing up successful state trials of the Zircon, which is to be operationally deployed aboard surface ships and submarines, starting in early 2022. And in fact, there are a whole slew of new Russian hypersonic missiles in the pipeline, some of them much smaller and able to be carried by ordinary fighter jets, like the Gremlin aka GZUR.

The word hypersonic itself means a flight regime above the speed of Mach 5. That is simple enough, but it is not only about speed. More important is the ability to MANEUVER at those high speeds, in order to avoid being shot down by the opponent’s air defenses. A ballistic missile can go much faster—an ICBM flies at about 6 to 7 km/s, which is about 15,000 mph, about M 25 high in the atmosphere. [Mach number varies with temperature, so it is not an absolute measure of speed. The same 15,000 mph would only equal M 20 at sea level, where the temperature is higher and the speed of sound is also higher.]

But a ballistic missile flies on a straightforward trajectory, just like a bullet fired from a barrel of a gun—it cannot change direction at all, hence the word ballistic.

This means that ballistic missiles can, in theory, be tracked by radar and shot down with an interceptor missile. It should be noted here that even this is a very tough task, despite the straight-line ballistic trajectory. Such an interception has never been demonstrated in combat, not even with intermediate-range ballistic missiles [IRBMs], of the kind that the DPRK fired off numerous times, sailing above the heads of the US Pacific Fleet in the Sea of Japan, consisting of over a dozen Aegis-class Ballistic Missile Defense ships, designed specifically for the very purpose of shooting down IRBMs.

Such an interception would have been a historic demonstration of military technology—on the level of the shock and awe of Hiroshima! But no interception was ever attempted by those ‘ballistic missile defense’ ships, spectating as they were, right under the flight paths of the North Korean rockets!

The bottom line is that hitting even a straight-line ballistic missile has never been successfully demonstrated in actual practice. It is a very hard thing to do.

Consider that a modern combat rifle with a high-velocity cartridge can fire a bullet at a speed of about 1,200 meters per second [1.2 km/s]. That is barely one fifth the speed of an ICBM warhead, and only about half the speed of a short or intermediate-range ballistic missile. Clearly, intercepting anything that flies double or even five times the speed of a rifle bullet is going to be a daunting task. [Note from our previous discussion on the space race and the technicalities of orbital flight, that the ICBM does not reach orbital velocity, but flies on a suborbital trajectory—although it does exit the atmosphere].

Between the two, speed and maneuvering, the latter is much more effective in evading defensive interception.

We know this from many actual battlefield results. When the US launched large salvoes of subsonic Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria in 2017 and again in 2018, a number of them were intercepted by Syrian air defenses. But not nearly all. Many did get through despite the T-Hawk’s relatively slow speed of about 500 mph, which is only about M 0.7. But the cruise missile’s ability to fly low to the ground and maneuver in flight, changing direction constantly, make it a tough target to hit. Likewise in the Falklands War, the Argentines used subsonic and fairly short-range, French-made Exocet sea-skimming cruise missiles to sink several large British warships, including a then-state-of-the-art Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Sheffield.

Even bird hunters know this, and will use a shotgun that scatters many pellets over a wide area rather than a bullet-firing rifle to take down slow-flying, but maneuvering, land and waterfowl! Obviously, if you combine high speed WITH maneuvering, you will have a missile that is going to be very difficult to stop. [If not impossible, with something like the Avangard, which reaches ICBM speeds of up to M 25!].

But let’s lower our sights a little from ICBMs and IRBMs [and even subsonic cruise missiles] to a quite ancient missile technology, the Soviet-era Scud, first introduced into service in 1957! A recent case with a Houthi Scud missile fired at Saudi Arabia in December 2017 shows just how difficult missile interception really is:

At around 9 p.m…a loud bang shook the domestic terminal at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport.

‘There was an explosion at the airport,’ a man said in a video taken moments after the bang. He and others rushed to the windows as emergency vehicles streamed onto the runway.

Another video, taken from the tarmac, shows the emergency vehicles at the end of the runway. Just beyond them is a plume of smoke, confirming the blast and indicating a likely point of impact.

The Houthi missile, identified as an Iranian-made Burqan-2 [a copy of a North Korean Scud, itself a copy of a Chinese copy of the original Russian Scud from the 1960s], flew over 600 miles before hitting the Riyadh international airport. The US-made Patriot missile defense system fired FIVE interceptor shots at the missile—all of them missed!

Laura Grego, a missile expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, expressed alarm that Saudi defense batteries had fired five times at the incoming missile.

‘You shoot five times at this missile and they all miss? That's shocking,’ she said. ‘That's shocking because this system is supposed to work.’

Ms Grego knows what she’s talking about—she holds a physics doctorate from Caltech and has worked in missile technology for many years. Not surprisingly, American officials first claimed the Patriot missiles had done their job and shot the Scud down. This was convincingly debunked in the extensive expert analysis that ran in the NYT: Did American Missile Defense Fail in Saudi Arabia?

This was not the first time that Patriot ‘missile defense’ against this supposedly obsolete missile failed spectacularly:

On February 25, 1991, an Iraqi Scud hit the barracks in Dharan, Saudi Arabia, killing 28 soldiers from the U.S. Army's 14’th Quartermaster Detachment.

A government investigation revealed that the failed intercept at Dhahran had been caused by a software error in the system's handling of timestamps. The Patriot missile battery at Dhahran had been in operation for 100 hours, by which time the system's internal clock had drifted by one-third of a second. Due to the missile's speed this was equivalent to a miss distance of 600 meters.

Whether this explanation is factual or not, the Americans’ initial claims of wild success in downing nearly all of the 80 Iraqi Scuds launched, was debunked by MIT physicist Theodore Postol, who concluded that no missiles were in fact intercepted!

As the missile experts in the NYT point out:

Shooting down Scud missiles is difficult, and governments have wrongly claimed success against them in the past.

Governments have overstated the effectiveness of missile defenses in the past, including against Scuds. During the first Gulf War, the United States claimed a near-perfect record in shooting down Iraqi variants of the Scud. Subsequent analyses found that nearly all the interceptions had failed.

Why is shooting down Scuds so difficult? Because this was arguably the world’s first hypersonic missile [it flies at M 5 and does MANEUVER]!

If we take a closer look at this missile, we see that it is propelled nearly throughout its entire flight. This is the key. The warhead only separates from the missile body a few miles [mere seconds], before reaching its target. That missile body contains a means for maneuvering the missile, by means of thrust vector—using graphite paddles that move into and out of the rocket engine exhaust stream, as seen here. So it will be jinking and jibing as it enters the terminal phase of flight—making it a very hard target to radar track and shoot down!

Once the warhead separates, the spent missile body falls harmlessly to the ground, as it did just outside the Riyadh airport, landing on a nearby street. It is this now uselessly falling body that could be locked onto by air defense radars and hit by interceptor missiles—while the warhead itself sails unobstructed overhead.

The only real problem with those ancient Scuds was their accuracy. They could be off by hundreds of meters. But of course, accuracy and missile guidance systems have come a long way since then. The modern successor to the Scud, the Russian truck-launched Iskander, has an accuracy of about 5 meters! It too, is really a hypersonic missile that reaches M 7, but has a range of only 500 km—which was dictated by the now-defunct INF treaty, from which the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew.

The Russian Iskander-M cruises at hypersonic speed of 2,100–2,600 m/s [Mach 6–7] at a height of 50 km. The Iskander-M weighs 4,615 kg carries a warhead of 710–800 kg, has a range of 480 km and achieves a CEP [circular error probable] of 5–7 meters. During flight it can maneuver at different altitudes and trajectories to evade anti-ballistic missiles.

Iskander is generally described, at least in the west, as a ‘quasi-ballistic’ missile. But ‘quasi’ or not, the US considers the Iskander a very dangerous weapon, and a type of weapon which it does not yet possess. In fact, the US’ attempts to develop its very first hypersonic missile have been rather slow out of the blocks. Its first flight test attempt with the proposed Lockheed-Martin AGM183 [aka ARRW] in April of this year, did not even manage to release the rocket from the wing of the B52 carrier! The second attempt, on July 29, managed to get the rocket to release, but the engine failed to fire!

Clearly the US is many years away from fielding a working hypersonic missile. These early tests were only supposed to test the rocket, and carried a dummy ‘glide vehicle’ which is supposed to separate from the rocket once it reaches a speed of about M 6 or so, and then glide to its target while maneuvering.

The prototype missile would carry a frangible surrogate for that [glide] vehicle that would disintegrate after release.

However, it is unclear how an unpowered gliding body is going to accomplish aerodynamic maneuvering INSIDE the atmosphere. The concept of boost-glide, which is used by Avangard, works by hoisting the glide vehicle up above the atmosphere, at ICBM speed, where the ‘glider’ can then skip off the upper layers of the atmosphere like a flat pebble skipping over the surface of a still pond.

The overall flight range of AGM183 is a claimed 1,000 miles [1,600 km]. Clearly such a short-range missile, and reaching a speed of only about M 8 at most [based on statements of reaching its target in a flight time of 10 to 12 minutes] is not going to be able to use the boost-glide means of maneuvering, which requires exiting the atmosphere.

The Technical Deep Dive (If you are not inclined to follow technical details jump to the conclusions.)

So let’s look at Russian hypersonic technology in a little more detail, so that we may understand more than just what the technically-challenged media are telling us. From what the Russian military has already fielded, we can see that hypersonic missiles come in all shapes and sizes. Some, like Avangard, are launched by powerful ICBM rockets and have ICBM-like striking range. Others, like Zircon, are more like a Tomahawk or Kalibr cruise missile, powered by an air-breathing engine, and able to aerodynamically maneuver throughout their flight to the target—but flying about ten times faster.

Others, like Kinzhal, which appears to be an evolution of the Iskander [itself an evolution of the Scud] are powered by relatively small rockets and are designed to maneuver gas-dynamically [thrust vectoring], again, during all phases of flight, right up to the target.

These are the three primary types for purposes of basic classification. They all fly very fast [up to M 25 for Avangard], but they use different propulsion systems, and different means of maneuvering. Let’s begin with the Kinzhal, since we already understand the basics of how a Scud or Iskander works. In the case of Kinzhal, it is launched from a very high speed and height by a MiG31 interceptor aircraft, which is designed to fly up to 1,500 km at a cruising speed of M 2.4, at a height of about 20 km.

By carrying even an unmodified Iskander up to this speed and height, its range could easily double, to about 1,000 km—since the rocket chemical energy required to reach that height and speed would be saved, and could be expended on increasing its flight range.

The range given for Kinzhal is 2,000 km, but it is not clear if that includes the flight range of the MiG31 carrier aircraft. My guess would be that it does. The MiG has a combat radius of over 700 km at its M 2.4 cruise speed. That means that after release, the Kinzhal would need to fly for about 1,300 km before hitting its target—for an overall system range of 2,000 km. In fact, the MiG could fly a significant portion of its flight subsonically, saving fuel, and accelerate up to supersonic cruise speed, or even its top speed of M 2.8, only in the last couple of hundred km, before launching Kinzhal. It would then circle back and return to base subsonically again. This would increase range even more.

Either way, it is a safe bet that the overall range to a target, say a US aircraft carrier, from the takeoff point of the MiG [now deployed in Syria], is realistically going to be no less than the stated 2,000 km, if not more. This is certainly a game-changer for US naval dominance! Carrier-based aircraft would have no chance to fly far enough from their floating airfield to intercept a MiG31 launching a Kinzhal at 1,000 km or more distance from the ship. The F/A-18 has a combat radius for air-to-air missions of only 740 km. Obviously, it is not going to be able to reach the MiG launching from outside of 1,000 km.

Now let us look at the Zircon cruise missile that Nato is complaining about. So far, this missile has been successfully test-flown at target distances of up to about 450 km. The Russian MoD says its range is actually in excess of 1,000 km, and that flight tests to maximum range will be forthcoming.

This too is a game-changer. The Zircon will be carried by Russia’s new class of surface warships in the frigate or ‘small destroyer’ size, as well as on the new Yasen-class cruise missile nuclear subs that are now coming into service. These state-of-the-art subs will also carry subsonic Kalibr cruise missiles with a maximum range of 4,500 km! Combined with the air-launched Kinzhal, the US Navy will face some very stiff challenges—from the air, from the sea, and even from under the sea. It should be noted that both the Zircon and Kinzhal are not exclusively anti-ship missiles. They can just as readily target land objects, including Nato command and control centers—which Putin has said Russia will do, in the event of any kind of western aggression!

But Zircon is also a technological tour de force. The unique feature of the Zircon is its scramjet engine. This is the first time that the world has a production engine of this type—something which has long been a goal for both the US and Russia.

Not surprisingly, the Russians flew the world’s first scramjet prototype back in 1991—the Kholod, which means ‘cold’ in Russian. Remarkably, in the Yeltsin détente atmosphere of the early nineties, the Russian developers of the world’s first functional scramjet engine, the Central Institute of Aviation Motors [CIAM] invited Nasa to participate in the flight tests at the Sary Shagan test range in Kazakhstan. The results were published in the US professional literature, here, and here.

But despite this technology boost from Russia, the US has not been able to keep up. Its experiments with scramjet engines, although wildly hyped in the media, have been dormant for several years. It appears that the US has given up on the idea of building a working scramjet engine for the time being—much as they gave up, decades ago, on the idea of building a closed-cycle rocket engine, having deemed the technology ‘impossible.’

So what is a scramjet engine anyway? To fully understand this, let’s first look at how a turbojet engine works. Here is a picture that is worth a thousand words. Air enters the front of the engine and is then compressed by a number of rotating blades on a series of wheels, similar to a fan or propeller. The compressed air is then passed into the burner, or combustion chamber, where fuel is squirted in and the result is a high temperature and high-pressure gas that then drives the turbine wheels—which are bladed in a way similar to the compressor wheels up front.

The turbine wheels and compressor are on a single shaft and rotate at the same speed—so it is the energy of the gas driving the turbines, that drives the compressors. The remaining energy in the gas is squeezed out through a nozzle, which accelerates the gas flow, which, in turn, creates thrust—on the principle of Newton’s Third Law, action-reaction. The force of the fast-moving mass flow of gas out the nozzle, must be compensated by a REACTION force in the opposite direction [forward thrust], as per the conservation of momentum principle. Hence all jet engines, whether air-breathing or rocket, are called reaction engines.

[Incidentally, the heart of any liquid-fuel rocket engine is a turbopump, which is basically a gas turbine engine. It has a burner, where some amount of the fuel and oxidizer are burned, supplying gas to drive a turbine wheel or wheels, which then drive two ‘compressor’ pumps [also wheels], that pressurize the oxidizer and fuel, which is then delivered to the main combustion chamber under great pressure.]

Now what happens when you want to go very fast with a turbojet engine? Well, you basically hit a wall, due to the physics of airflow]. The faster you go, the greater the ram pressure on the front of the engine. This ram pressure [technically called dynamic pressure, or ‘Q’] is like kinetic energy—it increases by the square of speed. [KE = M x V^2 / 2; Q = rho x V^2 / 2; they are the same except mass is replaced by density, rho, since we are dealing with a flowing fluid instead of a solid particle!]

In simple terms, dynamic pressure [aka ram pressure] is what you feel on your hand when you stick your hand out the window of your car while driving on the highway.

The results of this quadratic pressure rise with speed are profound! At a typical passenger jet cruise speed of 450 knots, or M 0.8, the pressure increase from ram effect, at the front of the engine fan, is about 1.5. Also, the engine inlet must SLOW the airflow down to about M 0.5, so that the rotating blades can work efficiently.

If you increase flight speed to M 2, the pressure rise at the engine face due to ram effect is seven-fold! At this speed, you don’t even need a compressor or turbines.

This is the idea of the ramjet engine—you need no moving parts, just an air inlet that is designed to slow down the airflow to below sonic velocity, turning kinetic energy into pressure energy. The combustion chamber is simply a pipe with fuel squirters, where that compressed air is burned with fuel, and then expelled through a nozzle, exactly as on the turbojet. In fact the afterburner on supersonic fighter jets works exactly like a ramjet engine—fuel is squirted in and combusts with air that was used for cooling the combustion chamber walls upstream [only a small amount of air is burned in a turbojet engine, with air to fuel ratios of over 50, compared to about 15 for a car engine.] An illustration of an afterburner shows the simple basic geometry.

But the ramjet hits a speed limit too, just like the turbojet. In both cases it has to do with the falling efficiency of the engine inlet at higher speeds: more of the kinetic energy of the high-speed airflow is converted into heat, rather than usable pressure. In a turbojet, the heat limit is reached by about Mach 3, when the heat of that incoming air exceeds the materials limit of the compressor blades. In the ramjet, eliminating those unneeded blades and all the other moving parts raises the temperature limit to a much higher value—so flight up to about Mach 5 is possible.

Above those speeds, the Ramjet faces a different kind of problem. As flight speeds continue to increase, the efficiency of turning that kinetic energy into pressure continues to decrease steeply. This pressure loss is due to a series of shockwaves generated by slowing down the airflow in the engine inlet passage, upstream of the combustion chamber. The biggest shockwave and biggest pressure loss happens when the flow finally transitions to below sonic velocity. This is called the normal shockwave, because it is perpendicular [normal] to the inlet wall, as seen in this illustration of a supersonic inlet and its shockwaves.

So the speed limit comes because most of that ram pressure is not recoverable—it is simply dissipated into heat by the inlet shockwaves.

Enter the scramjet. Here, the flow is never actually slowed to below sonic velocity. That’s why it’s called a SCramjet, for supersonic combustion—the airflow through the combustion chamber is well above Mach 1, perhaps closer to Mach 2. By comparison, the flow in a turbojet enters the burner at just M 0.2, ten times slower—and in the afterburner and ramjet, it is about M 0.5.

This solves the speed limit issue of not having any more pressure energy available. But it comes with HUGE challenges. At a flight speed of M 6 or 7, the craft is moving at a speed of about 2,000 m/s. The main challenge is the flame front speed of combustion. Even if it took only one hundredth of a second to combust the air-fuel mixture, it would require a combustion chamber 20 meters long! That is hardly practical of course, but is in line with the flame propagation speed of aviation kerosene. That is why the afterburner jetpipes on supersonic aircraft are several meters long.

So we see that each type of airbreathing engine, turbojet, ramjet and scramjet, has its own speed limit, as shown graphically here. Even the scramjet will run into a wall at some point. The vertical measure is specific impulse [ISP], which is engine efficiency, per mass of fuel burned. We see that ISP decreases the faster we go, in any type of engine—it simply means that fuel use rises much faster than flight speed!

But back to the main challenge of the scramjet, which is flame speed. This is strictly a limit of the chemical physics of fuel combustion. Hydrogen burns ten times as fast as kerosene, but is not a practical fuel—it must be cooled to near absolute zero to be liquid, and so is not storable, and cannot be launched at will without time-consuming fueling. All of the previous scramjet experimental prototypes, both US and Russian, used cryogenic liquid hydrogen fuel. But the Zircon uses a kerosene-based fuel innovation that the Russians call Detsilin-M.

The exact means by which the Russians have achieved this fuel chemistry is of course a tightly held secret, but it is clearly a remarkable breakthrough in chemical engineering—comparable to the breakthrough in materials science that led to the closed-cycle, oxygen-rich staged combustion rocket engine in the 1960s [which the US still has not demonstrated].

In a previous discussion here, the technically-inclined commenter and longtime gyroplane pilot PeterAU1, dug up some interesting material about ‘doping’ kerosene with certain additives to enhance flame front speed. But the technicalities of that subject are beyond the scope of this relatively brief introductory discussion. [Although I’m sure we may hear more in the comments section!]


The bottom line is that the Zircon represents not only a formidable and very deadly weapon—but it is indicative of the engineering capabilities of the Russian aerospace industry. It is an impressive achievement that is in fact groundbreaking. As mentioned already, Zircon is only the beginning of scramjet engine use by the Russian military. The next generation of such missiles, like the already mentioned Gremlin, will be even smaller and more capable in range and speed. At some point in the future, we may even see scramjet engines on superfast civil aircraft—but that is probably a long way off yet.

An even bigger engineering accomplishment is the astonishing Avangard boost-glide vehicle. But I will leave that remarkable story for another discussion.

The bottom line is that these new Russian technologies are in fact tilting the global military balance going forward. They are game-changing because they are UNSTOPPABLE with today’s air defense technology. Just like the Plains Indians couldn’t hope to stop, with their bows and arrows, the US cavalry with their repeating rifles.

Even more profound may be the psychological effect that Russia’s engineering accomplishments must be exerting on the American psyche, which is used to assuming that they have the smartest engineers and make the best military hardware.

That is demonstrably NOT the case anymore.

And that may be the biggest game-changer of all!

Posted by b on August 2, 2021 at 10:15 UTC | Permalink

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Does it change the MAD game theory?

Posted by: Ed FOLClorist | Aug 2 2021 10:20 utc | 1


U.S. missile defense were an attempt to change from Mutually Assured Destruction to U.S first strike capability with a Russian response strike eliminated by U.S. missile defense.

The new Russian weapons make U.S. missile defense useless as they can penetrate it at will.

These weapons thus reestablish MAD.

Posted by: b | Aug 2 2021 10:30 utc | 2

This is a dangerous race for the Russians: the US reciprocal to these capabilities as a "First Strike" of US hypersonic or stealth intermediate missile launched from Poland, Swede or Baltic states might and will be a major problem for MAD from Russian point of view. They can destroy enough of the nuclear capacity of Russia for an efficient (!) USA-OTAN anti-missile capacity to stop any retaliation. That's maybe the reason of the nuclear torpedo: not fast or very efficient but creating enough uncertainty to prevent such "first strike". Same for submarine and wheled launcher of nukes but with known limitations: they can be spotted and eliminated before launch or at least enough US military may believe so.

Posted by: John V. Doe | Aug 2 2021 11:33 utc | 3

The only success that the USA and its allies have had at intercepting missiles is very expensive and is limited to stopping comparatively cheap simple missiles. It costs roughly a hundred thousand dollars to use the Iron Dome to shoot down a rocket fired by Hamas from Gaza, and that's just for each rocket.

Posted by: Brendan | Aug 2 2021 11:39 utc | 4

@ Ed FOLClorist

"Does it change the MAD game theory?"

Mr. von Neumann was a stranger in a strange land trying to make his way, and so to avoid undermining his perceived utility, he opted for silence in matters of the inherent weaknesses of "Game theory" to which some non-practitioners continue to resort.
Since at least 1984, including through developing models in studying climate oscillations, mutually assured destruction has been understood to be likely assured through many vectors, and henceforth has never been viewed as a game.
One vector considered by some has been that climate changes may render planet earth uninhabitable for certain life forms including humans, and consequently as an act of mercy some with agency may resort to "atomic weapons" to accelerate the process.

Posted by: MagdaTam | Aug 2 2021 12:20 utc | 5

I am amazed at the amount of money that Lockheed Martin and other members of the military industrial complex consume whilst achieving so little. It isn't even funny how much money is funnelled away in their direction.

Posted by: Mighty Druken | Aug 2 2021 12:20 utc | 6

We've known about Russian hyper-sonic missiles for years now.

It has not made USA/NATO+Israel more reasonable. They have not a changed course. They have instead embarked on a military build-up that includes building their own hyper-sonic missiles and a "Space Force" that essentially militarizes space.

Russian missile tech is quite an achievement. And China's economic strength is also impressive. But something more appears to be needed to end the madness. Maybe that 'something more' is a willingness to confront USA/NATO+Israel. Recent strong rhetoric from China indicates that such a change in attitude.


Posted by: Jackrabbit | Aug 2 2021 12:34 utc | 7

"During the first Gulf War, the United States claimed a near-perfect record in shooting down Iraqi variants of the Scud. Subsequent analyses found that nearly all the interceptions had failed."

In circa 2005 the then newly elected Manmohan Singh regime in India decided to start wooing Amerikastan. Singh - a spineless rubber stamp for the Gandhi dynasty - hugged George W Bush and told him that "the people of India love you, Mr Bush." (This same Singh never even won a municipal corporation level election, such was his appeal among the people he spoke for.)

Anyway, I remember that immediately the Indian newspapers became loaded with obviously planted Amerikastani propaganda, including advertisements for Amerikastani weapons masquerading as news articles. One was a pitch to sell the Patriot missiles to India. The article - in the horrible tabloid The Times Of India - admitted that "the Patriot performed poorly in 1991 over Iraq, destroying no Iraqi SCUD missiles" but "the problems have been fixed. In 2003 no Iraqi SCUD succeeded in hitting coalition forces."

I immediately wrote a response saying that if Iraq had any SCUDs in 2003 it would have justified the invasion since they were WMDs but Iraq had none and so launched none. Of course the paper didn't publish my reply.


The most important part of the Russian hypersonic missile programme isn't whether the missiles are genuinely unstoppable. It is that they're sufficiently difficult to intercept that the target, in this case Amerikastani carrier groups, run an unacceptably high risk of being struck by one or more missiles even if they intercept most of those fired. This in turn compels the Amerikastani carrier group to stay out of range of the missiles, which is also out of range of their own aircraft, which de facto means that the Amerikastani carrier group ceases to exist as far as the battle is concerned.

This would not matter if the Amerikastani Empire was not fundamentally carrier dependent. It is because it's not just carrier dependent but carrier worshipping that the missiles are effective. They're effective because Amerikastan can't bear to give up its carriers.

In real terms this means that Amerikastani carrier groups will have a hard time blockading Russian shipping at the critical chokepoints between Denmark and Finland and at Gibraltar, which it could perhaps consider as an act of stand off economic war. Assuming that the Putinist regime finally abandons "restraint" and retaliates, the possibility of such a blockade disappears into thin air.

This is even more useful not for Russia but China. A hypersonic missile arsenal just about guarantees the People's Republic a free hand against the pseudostate of "Taiwan"; Amerikastani carriers won't dare come close enough to launch air strikes, let alone Marines in landing ships to bail out the secessionist rump regime.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but one inescapable problem with both ramjets and scramjets is that they can't work unless they're already moving at velocity. Turbojet fans don't just compress air, they are run at engine start to get air flowing through the combustion chamber to provide thrust once mixed with fuel and ignited, right? Lacking any fan system, the ramjets and scramjets are dependent on some other engine (for example that of an aeroplane or a rocket booster) to push them to a high enough velocity where the airflow speed through the intake is sufficient for them to work. Is that not so?

Posted by: Biswapriya Purkayast | Aug 2 2021 12:58 utc | 8

@b Yes but I've heard a lot of people saying that USs ICMBS are not flying anymore, the bombers can be taken down, so only the subs remain. But as Gordog remarked the new tech failing, people also see the old tech failing.

Posted by: Ed FOLClorist | Aug 2 2021 13:09 utc | 9

Thanks to b and gordog for the well-done and judicious essay.

I look forward to a discussion of "Detsilin-M" et sec, in particular the chemistry of "souped up kerosene" and related.

The turbine fuel(s)used in torpedoes are also of interesting chemistry, and one might suspect that there are interesting similarities in design chemistry.

Posted by: Walter | Aug 2 2021 13:09 utc | 10

Amazing post Gordog!
Do you have a Blog or other channel where one can find more content of you?

Posted by: DontBelieveEitherPr. | Aug 2 2021 13:22 utc | 11

Syrian AD's hit all slow bomb Tomahawks except the ones that were way of target, Russian ED's took care of the rest and steered them out in the desert .

Posted by: mic | Aug 2 2021 13:28 utc | 12

If the US wants to negotiate ANYTHING it means they are losing and want a time out. If the US wants Russia to negotiate about their new weapons, Russia should take this as a sign the US has lost and knows it.

Any cooperation with the US regarding your national defense can only result in your country losing some advantage.

Libya is an example. The US negotiated for Libya to disarm and promptly destroyed Libya afterwards. This is why North Korea refuses to even discuss disarming.

In short, Russia should never negotiate with the US regarding their national defense. The US never negotiates in good faith and any treaty would ONLY hamper Russia and help the US.

Posted by: Mar man | Aug 2 2021 13:29 utc | 13

@ John V Doe, who says:

This is a dangerous race for the Russians: the US reciprocal to these capabilities as a "First Strike" of US hypersonic or stealth intermediate missile launched from Poland, Swede or Baltic states might and will be a major problem for MAD from Russian point of view.

The US 'reciprocal' doesn't exist. And is not likely to exist anytime soon. The Russians now have a massive technological lead, while US technical capabilities are weak and getting weaker all the time.

As for so-called 'stealth', that is another discussion that I am planning to dissect in a future entry.

It is important to understand physics. And the physics of 'stealth' was developed at the Central Research Radio Engineering Institute [ЦНИРТИ] of the Defense Ministry of USSR in Moscow, by physicist Pyotr Ufimtsev, who is known as the 'father of stealth' in the US, because his early sixties work, translated and published by USAF in 1971 was the basis of the Lockheed and Northrop stealth aircraft programs.

Before Ufimtsev, the interaction of radio waves with solid objects was not well understood. He developed a comprehensive theory called PTD, for Physical Theory of Diffraction. In terms of impact on radio physics, it is analogous to the advance of Einstein's relativity theory in the cosmological realm.

Bottom line is that 'stealth' is not what the silly media make it out to be for the unknowing layman audience. It is completely fantastic to think that an airplane can become 'invisible,' or even significantly less visible to radar, especially powerful military radar. That's not how physics works in the real world. But few people understand the nuts and bolts.

This was proven in combat in 1999, when the Serbs shot down TWO F117 'stealth' aircraft. The second was publicly acknowledged only last year [it managed to limp back to its German base on one engine, but was immediately scrapped], but first reported in 2005 by USAF test pilot, physicist and academy instructor Col Everest Riccioni, in his scathing 2005 technical report on the F22 lemon.

The Serbs used 1950s era Soviet air defense radars and missiles, to shoot down those 'stealth' aircraft! this was literally an earthquake within USAF.

The Russian military is full of people with strong science background. They know the hand the west is holding is very weak. They are not worried, believe me.

As for some kind of military technology 'race'...well, there is no race. The US is all bluff and bluster, and tons of pork and gravy for the bloated and corrupt 'defense' industry, which is run by Wall Street.

Remember the 'wonder aircraft' F35? The U.S. Air Force Just Admitted The F-35 Stealth Fighter Has Failed

No surprise to many who have been calling out this farce for years, like F16 designer Pierre Sprey, and the late Col Riccioni.

Posted by: Gordog | Aug 2 2021 13:38 utc | 14

Truly excellent work. Perhaps the 'missile gap' - a real one this time - is illustrative of a for-profit loyal-less system of bribes and cover-ups versus a pragmatic nationalist system of 'defense' against a major enemy that has made no secret of its visceral hatred for generations.

The most troubling aspect of all this, imo, is that the ultimate outcome of this 'arms race' is a preemptive first strike by one party or the other which will quickly close the books on human civilization - which is ready for a 'reset' anyway, right?

Posted by: gottlieb | Aug 2 2021 13:40 utc | 15


As always ... very very impressive and reason this is my first read every morning.

Than you

Posted by: Tom Verso | Aug 2 2021 13:41 utc | 16

B, @2:

That is how the Russians look at it!

It is no secret that the US has been hankering for a first-strike capability for many years, decades!

The US withdrawal from the ABM treaty in 2002 was what spurred the hypersonic development program.

But as I allude to here, we are still a long way from a REAL anti-ballistic missile capability. Even Putin's remarks hint at this [no doubt on advice from Russian scientists who know the true state of this technology].

In any case, the subject of missile defense and where the two sides are today in terms of real capability is a very big subject on its own, and perhaps a story for a future installment.

There was recently here a very spirited discussion about MAD, and some very good questions were asked, including how China fits in. All of this is a very big subject that encompasses many military technology areas, as well as strategy and geopolitics.

I will just say for now, that if there is interest, this area is a fascinating deep dive. And most of what folks may have read about so-called 'game theory' has very little to do with the real world of military planning.

Posted by: Gordog | Aug 2 2021 14:03 utc | 17

Second excellent post by Gordog that I've seen so far.

Quite consistent with the picture Andrei Martyanov has been painting for us since the appearance of his book The Real Revolution in Military Affairs.

As a complement to what Gordog has been laying out here, AM's point is that the Russians do not now fear US strength but its weakness -- not just technological or military but analytical and strategic. The military industrial congressional complex seems unable to absorb these lessons, and in its hubris may eventually trigger a humiliating slap down that leads them to escalate to the nuclear threshold, at which point, we are all dead.

Posted by: Paul Damascene | Aug 2 2021 14:10 utc | 18

Mar man @13:

You hit the nail on the head!

Martyanov has a good commentary on the subject of 'negotiating' with the Ponzi Empire here, You Get Gorbachev Only Once a Century.

Posted by: Gordog | Aug 2 2021 14:12 utc | 19

As an addendum, Martyanov references the work of two retired USian officers -- CDR Salamander and Whiskey&Gunpowder, the latter a contributor to the US Naval Institute's publications, as Martyanov is.

Interesting recent war-game discussions there of the comprehensive ass-kicking NATO / US forces 'Blue team" received at the hands of China in the South China Sea.

Whiskey's point was -- don't start the next war because we've already lost. He refers to the US MIC producing an exquisite 'Tiffany" force of high-tech marvels that essentially shatter at first contact with a peer adversary in the first days of real warfare.

Posted by: Paul Damascene | Aug 2 2021 14:18 utc | 20

Excellent contribution, Gordog. Thank you.

Future posts on missile defense, stealth, and China would be much appreciated!

Seems that, given these hard material realities, Russia and China can continue to call US bluffs, until the moment the US political class makes a stupid mistake, at which point US/NATO/Quad military forces will be hurt badly.

Posted by: Prof | Aug 2 2021 14:19 utc | 21

Good Tech Article for the Moon.

The KleptOchlarch-Rentier-Banker Run Hegemony aren't giving up, though.

They're constantly working on "Containing" RUS and CHN - as well as General Influence Peddling - with Military Bases, Territorial Waters Provocations, Economic Sanctions, Boycotts, Commercial Interference (NordStream2), ColorRev/RegimeChg Operations.

RUS, CHN, and PRK should be able to defend themselves from Aggressor Nation-States. We've seen RUS Deploy Missile Carrying Frigates, Corvettes, and Subs around SYR - I expect CHN to preposition their Hypersonics on their Bases and BRI Facilities.

Once CHN and PRK start Deploying/Selling their Modern Theater-Ballistic, Anti-Ship, Cruise, and SuperSonic Missiles to IRN (who previously bought from them and also developed their own), there won't be many options for the USNavy Carrier and Amphib Groups to take in the Gulf.

Hence the Econ Sanctions, Nuke Scientist Killings, Soleimani Assassination, CoVID19 Release in Qom, and Medical/Rx Sanctions against IRN.

Posted by: IronForge | Aug 2 2021 14:30 utc | 22

@Ed It gives them the first strike capability.

Posted by: Put | Aug 2 2021 14:34 utc | 23

@Ed FOLClorist #1
IMO - MAD was never really at risk.
Keep in mind that both the US and Russia have literally thousands of warheads.
Nobody, not even the idiots in the chicken hawk US intel community, can possibly believe THAAD etc can intercept any significant number of a full-on Russian arsenal strike.
The value of the hypersonics are two-fold:

1) There are some chicken hawk idiots who think a decapitation strike on Russia or China could succeed. That sneaking in a dozen or so strikes on Moscow and military C&C centers would paralyze launch authorizations and that the resulting chaos would only see a few launches - which THAAD et al can handle. (Note I'm not saying it would. I'm saying the idiots think it would. Note also the idiocy in thinking that Russia/China wouldn't have failsafes for this type of condition).
The hypersonic weapons remove even this possibility. If THAAD etc has no chance of interception, then it doesn't matter if even a full decapitation strike succeeds. 1 or 2 missile strikes on DC, NYC etc is more than sufficiently deterrent.

2) The second benefit is "conventional" warfare. The US has not gone up against the full focus of a military peer for literally 150 years; beating up on Spain, Japan, etc were all against technologically inferior, lower population AND militarily inferior opponents. The US is bigger economically and population wise vs. Russia, but the hypersonic tech (and many others) demonstrate their military technology is not inferior. The US is smaller in population, about to become smaller in economy but is probably still militarily superior (on paper) to China.
Hypersonic weapons mean the primary means of US force projection (and defense): the aircraft carriers - are now literally hostages to fortune.
As Gordog notes above - the British ships sunk by Argentina, which was a distinctly 2nd rate power then - had a profound effect on that country.

Couple the above with the recent military exercise where the US was literally crushed in an engagement with a China/Taiwan scenario - a beating on par with the Millenium Challenge trouncing in 2015 only on a larger scale battlefield - it is only to be hoped that the proper lessons will be learnt.

It failed miserably - 2020 fall wargame exercise according to Gen. Hyten, vice chair JCS

“Without overstating the issue, it failed miserably,” Gen. John Hyten said of the battle plan during the October exercise, which he detailed Monday at the Emerging Technologies Institute in Washington.


The biggest problem occurred when communication networks came under attack. During the drill, a Pentagon “red team” playing the enemy role “ran rings around us,” Hyten said. “They knew exactly what we were going to do before we did it.” [Hyten is the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff]

Unlike in conflicts of the past 30 years, dating to the first Gulf War when the U.S. military had “information dominance,” the force found itself stifled from the get-go during the October war game.


Other aspects of the new concept deal with “contested logistics,” which the U.S. hasn’t faced since trying to get forces to Europe and the Pacific during World War II.

“Contested logistics has been an area of rich study, rich conversation, and we’re changing our entire logistics approach because of it,” he said.

One way the military could overwhelm a sophisticated adversary is to enhance its ability to launch precision fires from all domains simultaneously — which may include air, land, sea, space and cyber — so an enemy force doesn’t know where to defend, Hyten said.

“That’s a purely aspirational requirement, but I hope everybody can see that if you could do that you would change the equation on any future battlefield,” he said.

Against an enemy that also can hit targets with precision, the U.S. military must be able to mass fires across the force under a single command structure that’s removed from the threat of attack.

In a nutshell: The US military has grown up with the idea that it can control air, land, sea and comms in a targeted area such that it can build up a huge attacking force. The exercise showed that these assumptions are false: very long range missiles, sophisticated cyber attackers and jammers, and air/sea/space logistics attacks render these assumptions invalid against a credible opponent.

Posted by: c1ue | Aug 2 2021 14:36 utc | 24

@Gordog #14
The Stealth airplane hits in Serbia were entirely due to extremely smart and competent AA commanders.
The interview that I read - the commander knew the target; the terrain was such that he knew the flight path an attacking plane would take and when the attack occurred, he flooded the narrow space with AA missiles and fire.
Kudos to him and his crews but not a normally replicable setup.
But then again, nobody exports their top of the line stuff. Russian tanks supposedly have some type of magic anti-infrared target defense for decades - which obviously nobody has seen since exports models don't include it. Thus what the Serbs did was with the cut-grade export platforms.
I don't wish to see the outbreak of war anyway - it is a terrible thing for everyone - but there's no question that you can only really tell what works once the shooting starts.

Posted by: c1ue | Aug 2 2021 14:41 utc | 25

@Biswapriya Purkayast #8
Sci-fi books talk about the ramjet/scramjet speed issue, but in the content of space travel.
For a much smaller, light missile, it is a very different story.
I'm not dismissing the technical challenge, but Russia already has S300/400/500 missiles which can accelerate to extremely high speeds and go for a very long range. I wouldn't be surprised if some version of this engine (or some others) was used as a disposable first stage for the hypersonic missiles. Since the only goal is to get up to a certain speed, the fuel, hence bulk requirement is probably not very high.
For that matter, the scramjet setup Gordog writes about - might be usable to get up to speed albeit at a much lower efficiency, with some mods that blow off.

Posted by: c1ue | Aug 2 2021 14:47 utc | 26

Gordog: This is a very impressive article, many thanks for the lecture! I will read it several times to make sure I understand as much as possible of the technical aspects. I am very excited about reading such technical details!

Clearly, as you say, this is a game changer in missile technology. As far as I can tell, it leaves the US naval power as useless since warships of any type can be eliminated from a large distance without any effective opposition. Of course, the consequence is that the US empire is rapidly evaporating.

Also thanks to b for posting this.

Posted by: Norwegian | Aug 2 2021 15:00 utc | 27

Long story short: missiles are almost impossible to intercept even if they're not maneuverable (e.g. ICBM) because they're fast as fuck.

A good metaphor that any American can understand is baseball: a 100 mph+ fastball is extremely hard to hit even if thrown on the middle of the strike zone because it is too fast.

It would be even harder (almost impossible) if a pitcher could throw a 100 mph+ slider, changeup or slider, wherever he wants in the strike zone, without fail (i.e. no chance of throwing a ball).

By the time the sailor even thinks of activating the systems to try to intercept the missile, the explosion already happened and the bodies are already carbonized. And it would be sure it hit home (i.e. didn't miss the target city or facility) - a 5-7 meter error for a 800kg payload is a mere formality for the victims.

Posted by: vk | Aug 2 2021 15:18 utc | 28

C1ue @ 25:

The Stealth airplane hits in Serbia were entirely due to extremely smart and competent AA commanders.

This is correct!

Kudos to him and his crews but not a normally replicable setup.

This is completely incorrect!

I had the striking good fortune to be professionally involved in a technical investigation in Serbia about a decade ago. I not only examined, physically, the F117 wreckage [now in the Belgrade Aviation Museum], but also met and was extensively briefed by Col Zoltan Dani himself, wartime commander of the 3'rd battery of the 250'th Missile Brigade. I count him as a personal friend!

I don't want to get too far into this, because there appears to be interest for a 'stealth' deep dive in a future post. But there was no luck involved. And it was in fact fully replicable, because they did hit and knock out that second F117 [which rightfully counts as killed by enemy fire].

Col Dani's crew also shot down an F16 piloted by then Col David Goldfein, who would eventually rise to USAF Chief of Staff. Shown here are the victory markings on the side of Col Dani's command trailer. The second F117 is shown as a B2 because they hit it at very long range without visual confirmation, plus he was able to limp back to base.

It was all down to Col Dani's brilliant tactics. None of the other crews used his method, which is why they came up empty. But Nato had over 1,000 aircraft and fired 741 HARMs [air-defense targeting missiles], but killed only three mobile launchers! David vs Goliath.

Btw, some might enjoy the reunion of Col Dani and his victim, Major Dale Zelko, The Second Meeting trailer.

Posted by: Gordog | Aug 2 2021 15:36 utc | 29

@Gordog | Aug 2 2021 13:38 utc | 14

Remember the 'wonder aircraft' F35? The U.S. Air Force Just Admitted The F-35 Stealth Fighter Has Failed

One of those bricks flew low altitude over my house today. It was a noisy spectacle so I went out to see what it was and it was an easily recognizable F35 flying quite slowly at maybe 200m height. Not very stealthy I tell you, my main worry was that it would fall.

Posted by: Norwegian | Aug 2 2021 15:44 utc | 30

@Gordog #29
I look forward to the future deep dive.
However, I would note that I never said Col. Dani was lucky.
What I said was that the circumstances enabling his brilliance are limited and thus his exploit is unlikely to be replicable elsewhere or frequently.
Hitting the 2nd F117 in the same circumstances and area still does not equate to a doctrine which can take 1970s/1980s era Soviet AA equipment and shoot down F117 or B2 bombers anywhere else - but perhaps you can enlighten me on how this is untrue.

Posted by: c1ue | Aug 2 2021 15:47 utc | 31

Much about the Russian hypersonic missiles is a bluff.

The reason why I don`t beliefe them to be real is that air breathing engines for intercontinental missiles are a duel use technology. They can be used to deliver a nuclear war head in case of need. But they can also be used in order to bring a sattelite into space.

In that case a three stages configuration would be used. The lower stages as a conventional rocket brings the missile at the sufficient height and speed for the engine of the second stage to work. When this is done the second stage with the air breathing engine takes over and accelarets to near orbital velocity. A third stage is necessary because air breathing engines can`t work in the vacuum of space so the missile needs just a bit more speed in order to achieve an orbit. Such a configuration would be technically more efficient than a pure rocket design because unlike a rocket the second stage doesn`t need to carry it`s oxygen (half of it`s fuel) in the missile itself but can take it from the surrounding air.

So why doesn`t Russia not build such a space carrier? The hypersonic air breathing intercontinental missiles are allegedly ready.

Posted by: m | Aug 2 2021 15:49 utc | 32

Norwegian and all:

Thanks for all the interest and positive feedback.

I don't have a blog of my own [I'm retired and holding down a part-time job too, lol], but our host Bernhard has invited me to submit article ideas here, so stay tuned folks, and tell me what kind of subjects you want to hear about!

I will also actively comment here to fill out any questions and gaps!

@ m: you're obviously still in the 'denial' stage, lol! 😹

Posted by: Gordog | Aug 2 2021 15:58 utc | 33

Thanks Gordog, for the lucid differentiation between Turbo, Ram and SCramjets. If you have any knowledge/thoughts on the practical aspects of Nuclear-Powered missiles and/or flying machines, and the theory behind them, I'd be very interested if you could share them.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Aug 2 2021 16:05 utc | 34


Great article, thanks! Do you have a rough estimate of how late are the USA in this hypersonic race? I think Martyanov wrote at least 10 years. What's your rough estimate?

Posted by: Xiao Ming | Aug 2 2021 16:13 utc | 35


Respect for the detailed work, and thanks, of course. But no agreement (from my side) with your thesis. That all would be gamechanging if Russia had 1.000 of these hypersonic missiles, plus 10.000 of the new Checkmates. But even then that all would be a nonsense-game because war today has another face and such traditional weapon systems are merely symbols of power.

A further misjudgement lies in your (and most of the barflies' here) attachement to traditional geopolitical & political thinking. The real powers today a not nations, respectively geopolitical actors, but there is a layer of power above the level of the nation-state. This layer is invisible for the laymen and for the ordinary citizen. Janine Wedel (2001) has called them the "flexians". They are so flexible that they do not link them to any state or nation. Meanwhile they are truely globalized. They earn their profits whether there is global war or peace, health or disease, poverty or prosperity. If You want to understand politics & history then think about these peoples, not about politicians, generals and military technology. And least about what is written & said in the media.

By the way, as already remarked, the historical & 'geopolitical' situation for Russia is comparable to the situation of Germany in the 1930s. If the agreement between Russia and China holds longer than between Hitler and Stalin (and if Russia keeps peace, inlike the devil Hitler) then well and good. But if a single hair is growing between Russia and China, even if it is a thin hair, then all was and will be a dream. Keep in mind: the powerful 'flexians' know how to divide and to rule. That's their business since centuries.

Regards, Gerhard.

Posted by: Gerhard | Aug 2 2021 16:24 utc | 36

IF I am correct, the only way to avoid a hypersonic missile is to be as far away as possible. ie. The range is important. So I duly expect the US "Etat -major", comprised of all the US high ranking officers, taking over a small mid-western town. In the middle of an American desert. You know the sort, saloon bar doors flapping in the wind, tumbleweed blowing past and music on a harmonica playing as a lone gunman rides into town.

ie. Hollywood, as that is where the next major improvements in US defense capabilities will be seen.

Posted by: Stonebird | Aug 2 2021 16:30 utc | 37

Will Russia hold those who betrayed and looted it in the last century accountable?

Russia hasn’t been militarily defeated in the last century. However, it has faced internal revolutions, regime changes and betrayals in 1917, 1950s and 1991. In 1917, communism was installed in Russia by agents of outside powers and its socioeconomic system underwent a revolution. It was exploited and betrayed by the British Empire during WWI and WWII. In 1991, neoliberalism was installed by outside powers and its socioeconomic system reconfigured for privatiZation and democratiZation. In 1917 Tsar was murdered and it is conjectured that Stalin was murdered in 1953. In summation, Russia’s rise has been THWARTED by its traitors and outside powers using its internal forces. None of these evil forces have been held accountable. How can there be a rule of law without accountability?

Vladimir Putin has worked towards strengthening Russia’s military and security, so it can’t be defeated militarily anywhere. However, external forces have CHALLENGED Russia not militarily but by betrayals from INTERNAL TRAITORS to create regime changes. The cost and damage to the Financial Empire from militarily challenging Russia is very high. Even today, Russia’s main overseas intelligence boss, Sergey Naryshkin, “warns of plans to meddle in Russian elections, says US-government funded Bellingcat working with Western spooks.” Its central bank and internal financial forces have been moving slowly to restructure and strengthen its economic capabilities and capacities. It still invests long term in the British pounds. Vladimir Putin has recently talked about outside forces that want to destabilize and capture Russia. Has Russia learned from its past colossal mistakes and betrayals?

According to Financial Empire’s analysis:

“Persistent financial crisis confronted the tsarist government following the Crimean war... It has lacked a coherent strategy to invest in its industries, commerce, and development of its markets... Another factor to exploit is its press, which in the past has publicized political debate and reinforced factional divisions among elites...”

FINANCE & MEDIA, are the two spheres identified by the Financial Empire’s security analysts with regards to what has contributed to Russia's repeated falls. They recommend that these factors should be exploited again to challenge Russia. Russian hasn’t done well with its global media channels RT and Sputnik, which seems on a downhill trajectory. These two channels come across as tabloids rather than the epitome of global media. What a lost opportunity. Russia has led De-Dollarization and built its payment network. It has been slow in driving currency swaps paradigm for the international trade.

Russia has too many frozen conflicts. Will the Financial Empire challenge Russia by exploiting these frozen conflicts in Belarus, Ukraine, Syria and internally?

Will Russia repeat its past mistakes?

Posted by: Max | Aug 2 2021 16:32 utc | 38

@ Posted by: Xiao Ming | Aug 2 2021 16:13 utc | 35

If I'm not mistaken, Putin told in one of his speeches (I think it was the first one) that Russia was 1-2 years beyond the USA in hypersonic technology.

Posted by: vk | Aug 2 2021 16:36 utc | 39

@Gordog: Thanks for your answer concerning if your have a blog or other channels.
While i eagerly await your next articles, i would still hope you will some day find the time to publish maybe a collection of your writings. With your level of apparent theoretical and practical experience and insight, you could certainly write a whole book.
It would not only sell like hot cakes, and your perspective contrasting US/NATO stealth hype would be very valuable for anyone on both sides of the new cold war who wants a realistic analysis on military development.
It would be an extremly valuable tool and could help shape the current trajectory of escalation into a more sensible way for many people.
Thanks for your work so far, and for the upcoming stuff!

Posted by: DontBelieveEitherPr. | Aug 2 2021 16:36 utc | 40

BP @8:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but one inescapable problem with both ramjets and scramjets is that they can't work unless they're already moving at velocity.

Yes, that is absolutely correct. That's why we haven't seen ramjet aircraft, but plenty of ramjet missiles, like the Russian P800 Oniks supersonic cruise missile, and its Indian-market variant, BrahMos. these are launched by a small solid-fuel rocket booster that brings them up to speed where the ramjet can kick in, which is as low as 500 mph.

To be used on aircraft you would need the same kind of rocket launch. An interesting design aspect of some of these ramjet missiles is that the rocket propellant is packed into what becomes the ramjet combustion chamber [basically a pipe as noted above]. Once all the rocket propellant is burned out, the fuel squirters kick in and that rocket casing is now a ramjet combustion chamber!

About American carriers [and their navy in general]. It is basically a colonial enforcement tool, for beating up on third-rate powers that get out of line.

The Russian response even during the cold war was asymmetric--not a big rival fleet, but extremely capable long-range missiles like the P700 Granit, and air-launched Kh22/32. Even these 'relics' are not that far off the new hypersonic missiles in overall capability [they are still in use and very deadly], and were really some astonishing engineering for the time.

Here's a 1980s picture of USN Pacific Fleet commander, Admiral Charles Larson checking out the pilot seat in the Tu22M Backfire bomber, which carried three Kh22 carrier killers and could launch from supersonic speed.

But the new missiles handily beat them in both range and speed. They are also lighter and smaller.

@ Hoarsewhisperer: yes, the nuclear-powered Burevestnik [Petrel] cruise missile.

That would be a topic I would love to dive into. The basic idea goes back decades actually and was the subject of extensive experimentation on both the US and Russian sides. The key is making a small, but powerful reactor.

It uses a conventional turbojet engine, just like a Tomahawk or Kalibr, but the HEAT imparted to the airflow in the combustion chamber is by means of the reactor, instead of burning kerosene. A fascinating subject indeed that I would be happy to explore in depth!

Posted by: Gordog | Aug 2 2021 16:37 utc | 41

@ Gordog & b

Thanks, I appreciate the very interesting article on the current state-of-the-art missile technology.

However I don't see that the new developments are really game changers.

As was mentioned in the article itself, it is still difficult to intercept even obsolete missiles and given the ridiculous number of nukes possessed by both sides, hypersonic missiles do not seem to add greatly to deterrence. The US/NATO currently have a greater first strike potential due to the short flight time from their missile bases to targets in the RF. Hypersonic missiles are just as vulnerable to a first strike as any other missiles, potentially they would give the RF an equivalent first strike capability but that does not by itself make the world a safer place. The continual erosion of warning time (especially for the RF) is a threat to the whole world. Placing US missile bases practically on the Russian border was suicidally stupid and should never have been allowed in the first place. Arguably the new tech might give the RF a few extra bargaining chips but frankly it seems obvious that the US/NATO are incapable of negotiating in good faith (it probably wouldn't even occur to them to do so)

We are one computer glitch from annihilation and have been for some time, I doubt very much that hypersonic missiles will change that.

Posted by: MarkU | Aug 2 2021 16:45 utc | 42

@Gordog: Just another idea: You could make a substack/Patreon account too. Many people would gladly pay a subscription fee for your level of analysis. Which could help you financilly and thus get more time wo write. Like known friend of MoA Peter Lee/China Hand does now with this China threat report on Patreon. New analysis is for paying subscribers, and later they are unlocked for those who are too broke too pay. Or a youtube channel, where you could monetize by ads and sponsor plus Patreon.
Sorry, i will shut up now. I am just so hyped because this is just the analysis and insight i have been hunting for for years. Best whishes. :)

Posted by: DontBelieveEitherPr. | Aug 2 2021 16:46 utc | 43

thanks gordog and b for letting gordog make his excellent commentary with insights....

i am surprised at the hostility of smoothie towards gorbachev.... obviously i am an outsider trying to look in..... bottom line -

russia 1
usa and rest of world 0.....

that appears beyond doubt to me...

Posted by: james | Aug 2 2021 16:46 utc | 44

MarkU @42, I think that is why Russia developed 'dead hand'. Besides their submarine forces, Russian ICBM sites are scattered throughout the country. They don't keep them all in Kaliningrad.

Posted by: Christian J. Chuba | Aug 2 2021 16:53 utc | 45

DontBelieveEitherPr, Wow! Thanks for your encouragement, man!

I've just started writing 'articles' and much of what you see here owes a lot to Bernhard's guidance and editing.

Let's take it one article at a time, and if we have something at some point down the road that could be a book [and if B wants to edit that], then why not?

Thanks again to all. Very humbling, indeed! 😺

Posted by: Gordog | Aug 2 2021 16:58 utc | 46

Posted by: Norwegian | Aug 2 2021 15:00 utc | 27

Kjøp Martyanov sine bøker viss ditte intressera de!!
(buy Martyanovs books if ur interested in this topic)


Posted by: Per/Norway | Aug 2 2021 17:06 utc | 47

Thanks Gordog for a very informative post.

I wonder where does laser weapon technology fit into this discussion?

Any comment by you or others would be welcome.

Posted by: Rick | Aug 2 2021 17:06 utc | 48

Posted by: james | Aug 2 2021 16:46 utc | 44

Most Russians are way more hostile to Gorbachev the tractorist than Martyanov, and I think it is easy to understand if you consider what that man accomplished, he gave away the whole shop¡¡¡¡ Just read the description of the technologies they had concerning scramjets and so many other areas, the other day I commented on the Russian shuttle called Buran flying to space and back unmanned in 1988, fully automatic like a drone with a 128K computer, and comparing what can be achieved with little to the gigas of memory that a simple smart phone has.

Gorbachev was vilely swindled by Thatcher, Reagan, Kohl and the whole bunch, that's why he was and still somehow is a star in the west but in Russia he is nobody and mostly despised by people of all political convictions. He was a small simple man with an ambitious and vain wife, history will not be kind to him, and what can be said about the drunkard that followed him and almost burnt the whole superpower to the ground. Tragic characters, they caused a lot of casualties and destruction.

Posted by: Paco | Aug 2 2021 17:39 utc | 49

Excellent post gordog. Your views on Russia's missile defences would be much appreciated. Russia appears to be generations ahead in this field as well.

Posted by: cdvision | Aug 2 2021 17:41 utc | 50

Rick, laser weapons [or any kind of directed energy weapon] is still a technology that is not very usable in actual combat.

Lasers require a huge amount of power, and their reach is degraded by our fairly thick atmosphere that dissipates a lot of the energy. They work much better in space!

Work is of course ongoing. The Russians have fielded the Persesvet laser system, whose details are top secret---but experts say it could be used against UAVs, which are a fairly low-capability weapon.

And even then, the system could not be mobile, due to the immense power it requires, so could be used only to protect a base or similar fixed installation. Bad weather like fog or rain will make lasers useless.

Another issue is targeting. You need to have a means of FIXING your target's position first, before you can aim a laser at it. This is fine for UAVs or even aircraft etc, because that is what air defense radar does.

But air defense radar has a difficult time with MANEUVERING targets, as I pointed out. They have an even more difficult time dealing with very FAST and maneuvering targets.

Another issue to keep in mind with hypersonic flight vehicles is that the intense heat they generate from aerodynamic friction causes the surrounding air molecules to literally fall apart and become ionized, ie a plasma, which is a gas with an electric charge.

This prevents radio waves from penetrating, making radar useless. We see this only at very high speeds though, such as atmospheric reentry. During manned re-entry you will have radio blackout because of this--until the craft slows down enough that the heat and plasma dissipate.

Bottom line: a lot of challenges going forward for laser weapons, and likely very limited use at the lower end of the spectrum.

Posted by: Gordog | Aug 2 2021 17:42 utc | 51

VK @ 39:

One or two years is literally nothing in terms of developing complex aerospace technology. We are talking DECADES.

It took thirty years for the scramjet engine to become a working reality from the time of first flying prototype in 1991. Avangard took literally seven decades--I will get into that.

Even a fighter jet usually takes a couple of decades. Ten years to get a prototype done, and another ten to work out the bugs. Even civil aviation generational jumps are on the same timescale.

Posted by: Gordog | Aug 2 2021 17:47 utc | 52

@ Paco: + 1! 👍

Posted by: Gordog | Aug 2 2021 17:52 utc | 53

Putin spoke of the hypersonic missiles as traveling in a plasma ball, though perhaps in relation to the boost glide avangard, the other two would be operating in very high temperatures.
Engine intake air temps?

Zircon " Zircon is a zirconium silicate mineral found in small quantities in many rocks. It can be a variety of colours and some crystals are of gemstone quality." "Zircon's hardness makes it useful as an abrasive and it has a high melting point (over 2500°C), so it is used in the steel industry, to line furnaces. Zircon contains the metals zirconium and hafnium. Zirconium is extremely hard and resistant to corrosion so is used to make pipes for harsh chemicals, nuclear reactor cladding, heat exchangers and speciality alloys."

What sort of temperatures would be occurring in the combustion chamber? My thought is - the higher the temperature, the faster the fuel will oxidize?
I have been tinkering with a waste oil burner recently and found the hotter the combustion chamber, the cleaner it burns and the oil is fully combusted or oxidized much faster. Going by the color inside the combustion chamber, the walls are around 1600 to 1800 Celsius. I thought the faster and better burn was something to do with high temperature quickly breaking down the long carbon chains in motor oil. Looking it up, I ran onto this in relation to scramjet engines.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Aug 2 2021 18:18 utc | 54

Thank you Gordog for that, if I may say, explosive post. I couldn't take my eyes off it until I reached the end. As a layman, I will ask you a very amateurish question, I just want to make sure I understand properly.

When you talk about manoeuvrability you do not mean that those missiles are remotely controlled by some human operator? Do those missiles have some software for autonomous navigation?

Also, will Russia make the technology available commercially? The new fuel could be reverse-engineered, I suppose, so maybe not likely.

Posted by: Robert Macaire | Aug 2 2021 18:22 utc | 55

I have a question about a technical aspect of maneuverable hypersonic rockets with scramjet motors. It has been clear for more than a decade that the US has been unable to get one these things to fly without blowing up.

Not sure what the problem is but I think it has to do with scramjet intake system and when the rocket turns, airintake turbulence results that shakes the rocket to pieces. My question: is that an accurate assessment? If so, how did the Russians solve it? (Of course, this would obviously be highly classified.)

And thanks to Gordog for a great article.

Posted by: ToivoS | Aug 2 2021 18:25 utc | 56

@Gordog @51

The Russians have fielded the Persesvet laser system, whose details are top secret---but experts say it could be used against UAVs, which are a fairly low-capability weapon.

You misunderstand the Persesvet.

It is a laser system to blind/kill satellites. Specifically U.S. optical (visible + infrared) satellites.

The Persesvet is road mobile and is deployed with a road mobile ICBM regiment or division.

When on alert the road mobile regiment disperses its Transport-Erect-Launch vehicles in a large (10 x 10 miles) area. The Persesvet will also be deployed in that area and will blind U.S. satellites so that they can not see the exact positions of the dispersed ICBM launchers.

This supposedly makes first strike attempts to kill the TEL ICBM's way more difficult.

The Persesvet is thought to have its own nuclear reactor on board. Energy should thus be no problem.

Posted by: b | Aug 2 2021 18:35 utc | 57

How fr is the US behind Russia? US cannot yet field a hypersonic missile. The S-200 missile that was deployed by the Soviet Union in the early seventies flew at mach 7.2. When it comes to missile tech, that puts the US at 50 years behind and still counting.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Aug 2 2021 18:36 utc | 58

@33 Gordog
So do you have any explanation why Roscosmos hasn`t already announced that they are going to revolutionize mankinds access to space?

Posted by: m | Aug 2 2021 18:47 utc | 59

adding to my @57 comment

Weather (clouds/fog/rain) is no problem for Persesvet because the satellites it is supposed to blind can not see the ICBM TELs when the weather is bad.

Google translation of the relevant 2019 news item:

MOSCOW, December 24 - RIA Novosti. The deployment of the Peresvet laser systems in the RF Armed Forces has been completed, said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu at an expanded meeting of the Defense Ministry collegium on Tuesday.

"The deployment of the Peresvet laser systems has been completed. Since December 1, they have been on combat duty in the positional areas of five missile divisions of the Strategic Missile Forces," Shoigu said.

Earlier it was reported that in December laser complexes "Peresvet" took up combat duty in the positional areas of mobile ground missile systems.

Posted by: b | Aug 2 2021 18:49 utc | 60

@ Paco | Aug 2 2021 17:39 utc | 49.. thanks paco.. i am sure your comments are correct in general, but i can't but think something needed to give and if it wasn't gorbachev, what would it have been?? it is easy to say gorbachev, and in particular yelstin gave away everything, but in the case of gorbachev, how could it have been done differently?? i am sure the hardships of the 80's pale in comparison to the hardships endured by russians in the 90's, but was it possible to arrive at a different position and one as favourable as it seems to be at present? that is a question that probably doesn't have an answer... without putin, russia might not have been able to surmount that problems that were building into the time of gorbachev... but i am mostly ignorant on the state of affairs in russia during its history, so i need all the help and insight i can get here from people like yourself.... how could it have worked out differently? it seems russia had to go thru 'failure' in order to reach a type of success it has at present.... in fact i think 'failure' is the greatest teacher if someone can let it be... most people want to put failure behind him and look for people or reasons for why the failure happened.... i sort of see it differently... i think failure is a great teacher if the student is receptive.... how could it have worked out differently with russia in the late 80's?? hypothetical question, i know! cheers james

Posted by: james | Aug 2 2021 18:50 utc | 61

Hi there, nice piece.

In the late 1980s, I served as a conscript in a SAM / RADAR unit of East Germany. Ofc, all the major hardware was Soviet made. The biggest problem at this time for Air Defence had been the Cruise missiles (where the West was far ahead), because they could fly low and use the terrain, making it hard to observe them with RADAR of m and dm wavelenghts. Therefore, new cm RADARs were shipped and put on high ground (in my unit they created a 15 m high hill). This is done nowadays by telescope masts, especially if used with mobile units like S300/S400.

Stealth wasn't a topic, with the omnipresent and cheap P-18 (m wavelenght, looking like a clothes drier) there was a problem of resolution if the target would fly close to ground. The whole stealth concept works mostly for short WL, including the RADAR of guided AA missiles, it doesn't alter the behavior of long WL RADAR. This item, P-18, was also used by the Serbs. It doesn't give exact positions but the approximate area where the target is and then you can preaim with short WL radar on this small area and find the exact position. At this time, NATO didn't use m WL RADAR anymore because they considered it obselete and imprecise. So may be they believed the Stealth marketing campaign by themselves.

New Russian RADAR, like Nebo-M, combines m, dm and cm WL in one piece, so "stealth" won't work here at all.

The production of military hardware has two purposes 1) provide your military with good weapons and 2) make a decent profit. After the fall off the Soviet Union, in the West, purpose 1 became less important. So the concept of "Stealth" and many others served as marketing, selling your congressmen flying but invisible, and therefore double plus expensive, furniture. Whilst in Russia and China 1) remains the major purpose with some sidesteps in selling downgraded hardware to other countries.

I wonder why anybody is buying French military hardware (India e.g.) after the French disclosed the codes of the mentioned Exocet missiles to the British, thus completely disabling the bought weapons of Argentina. And revealing that they had such codes, which in itself isn't what a buyer would expect.

Posted by: BG13 | Aug 2 2021 18:55 utc | 62

Rick & Gordog @51--

I see Russia's laser weapons being powered by portable nuclear reactors so they can be truly road mobile. However, because of atmospheric realities, I expect them to be stationed in deserts, of which they're plenty in Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia where they'd be employed to target ICBMs in their ascent phase. I'd be very curious to discover the cost of the laser system compared to something like the S-500. Here's what its capabilities are being described as:

"Earlier this month, Chief Commander of the Aerospace Forces Sergei Surovikin said the S-500 will be capable of destroying enemy warplanes and even hypersonic weapons in near-Earth space, hundreds of kilometers away." [My Emphasis]

Russia's aerospace defense doctrine employs the layered defense concept. A good question is the speed of the air-to-ground missiles employed by Occupied Palestine to attack Syria which are being shot down by BukM2 systems, which I presume are faster than Tomahawks. And that's a 20 year-old system. Of course, precision targeting is also required, and Russia seems to have an edge there too.

The big problem IMO is the short range dual use/warhead missiles emplaced by the Outlaw US Empire that Russia has announced it will treat as fitted with nuclear warheads when launched at it and responded to appropriately given that assumption. And while defensively firing at them, hypersonic nuclear strikes will be launched to eliminate all possible C&C locations. Russia's doctrine is to ensure minimal damage occurs to Russia while doing maximum damage to NATO.

At the end of WW2, the Outlaw US Empire's aim was to establish "Primacy" for itself so it could dominate the world. What we've witnessed is the decline and fall of that "Primacy" and the fear held by Imperial planners that another nation could grasp "Primacy" for itself. For their parts, China and Russia have tried to convince the Outlaw US Empire that neither aim for "Primacy;" but unfortunately, the Empire projects its behavior onto others and assumes both Russia and China are lying and covet "Primacy." Desperation combined with paranoia is very unhealthy, but that combination's rising.

Posted by: karlof1 | Aug 2 2021 18:58 utc | 63

James @61. There are 2 sides to the coin: not only were Gorbachev & Yeltsin at the very least naive, but the West (principally the US, but not exclusively)were determined to rod the USSR of its riches. This was and is unforgivable.

Posted by: cdvision | Aug 2 2021 18:59 utc | 64

@64 "rob"

Posted by: cdvision | Aug 2 2021 19:00 utc | 65

b @57 & 60--

Thanks for that additional info which I failed to see for some reason. I'm sure that won't be the first laser system Russia develops and deploys.

Posted by: karlof1 | Aug 2 2021 19:06 utc | 66


I'm still digesting this superb article and it's implications so just want to say thank you again. I'll be looking forward to any of your future articles.

Posted by: A.L. | Aug 2 2021 19:08 utc | 67

james @Aug2 18:50 #61

i am sure the hardships of the 80's pale in comparison to the hardships endured by russians in the 90's

AFAICT the hardships of the 90's were greater.

I'd like to hear from those who have some greater knowledge.

it seems russia had to go thru 'failure' in order to reach a type of success it has at present...

There were TWO separate failures:

  1. systemic failure of USSR; and

  2. the failure of the West to provide any real assistance (attempting to force capitulation).

Russia's 'success' stems not from their failure but from ours (in the West). Russia charted an independent course because the unenlightened knuckleheads of the power-elite offered cruelty instead of kindness.

Amb Madeline Albright: "we think it's worth it" (regarding the death of 500,000 Iraqi children).


Posted by: Jackrabbit | Aug 2 2021 19:10 utc | 68

B, thanks for those couple of comments on the Russian laser. For a bit I thought they must have been something other than a laser as I could not see Russia deploying something that could not operate in all conditions.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Aug 2 2021 19:11 utc | 69

Peter, thanks for your thoughts on the scramjet combustion topic. That paper looks interesting, but I have only just glanced at it.

The nitty gritty details on what's really going on inside that Zircon engine are kind of beyond my pay grade, lol! But regenerative cooling is used on all kerosene rocket engines of course. This is a huge subject on which many technical books have been written.

Your experiment and your observation about combustion temperature is an interesting point--but now you have me scrambling for my textbooks to brush up on the technicalities, lol! I will return later, hopefully with something more to add!


Robert, the missiles are programmed to execute various evasive maneuvers during certain phases of flight---the most important being the terminal phase when they are within range of opposing air defense. Some may have sensors, similar to a radar warning receiver on fighter jets that tell them when they are being acquired by radar, and they may be programmed to initiate evasive maneuvers at that prompt.

There is no man in the loop for these, and I don't think it's feasible over such long flight distances, since you would have to have real-time radio comms. They do use this with UAVs like the US Predator and such, using satlink. But there is a longish delay, which is okay for a slow-moving craft like a UAV 100 to 200 mph, but not for something going very fast.

I doubt the scramjet engine technology will be commercialized anytime soon. This is a very significant military technology. As for reverse-engineering, this is really something that is in the past. The Chinese have been trying to reverse-engineer Russian fighter jet engines for 20 years without much success. They finally just decided to start from scratch and have made very good progress of late!


Toivos, wow! Again the nitty gritty particulars of the specific technical challenges of scramjets are beyond my ken! But yes, the air intake even on a supersonic aircraft is one of the key pieces of aerodynamic engineering.

For a ramjet and a scramjet the air inlet plays an even bigger role. As mentioned already, the air intake's main job is to slow down the flow, which converts the kinetic energy into usable pressure energy.

Pressure energy is required in every type of heat engine, from jets to rockets to refrigerators. It is a basic thermodynamic principle. Without pressure, you cannot have work output---because only pressure energy can be converted to work energy in any heat engine! The heat that is added by combustion is useless by itself if there is no pressure [or inadequate pressure, which is what happens at higher speeds, when the intake efficiency drops steeply].

So with the Ramjet and Scramjet the inlet is even more critical than on say a fighter jet. The Concorde and Tu144 engine inlets were massive engineering projects in terms of recovering as much of that precious ram pressure as possible.

But as I noted, no matter how good you make it, even 99 percent efficiency of what we call 'adiabatic' efficiency---the physics of compression shock waves cannot be overcome, any more than gravity. The faster you go, the less pressure you will recover. And you need MORE pressure to go faster.

Modern supersonic inlets have over 90 percent adiabatic efficiency, but the OVERALL efficiency, even at Mach 2 still drops to about 85 percent pressure recovery. That is just the hand that physics deals us. At high ramjet speeds it's going to go down to 50 percent. At that point, you've hit the wall. You are not getting enough pressure that you need to convert into kinetic energy in the thrust nozzle.

How does this tie into the maneuvering aspect? Well, maneuvering just makes it harder as you point out. I'm not sure it would be turbulence as such that is the big problem, because you have to have your air intake well away from the body anyway, to have it in clean air. But definitely when you start turning, it is going to affect the flow angles going into that inlet.

Is this a deal-breaker kind of problem? Well, it's a very very large challenge. Again, this from a guy who is more comfortable with turbojets and has zero hands-on with ramjets and scramjets.

Posted by: Gordog | Aug 2 2021 19:11 utc | 70

@ cdvision | Aug 2 2021 18:59 utc | 64.. yes - i definitely agree with your final 2 statements, regarding the west, but this is kleptomaniacs, being kleptomaniacs... that can't be blamed on gorbachev, and frankly i don't see how it would have worked out differently... sure - the west wanted and sort of raped russia for a time... i can also see how russians would want to blame someone for this too, and i think this is what this is, but i am not sure how it could have worked out differently... cheers...

Posted by: james | Aug 2 2021 19:13 utc | 71

Laser weapons also have low penetration.
Basically a scaled up magnifying glass on an ant setup.
Given the enormous sizes of ICBMs, plus they have to be tremendously armored anyway to withstand the heat of passage, not really clear how useful a laser of mortal power could be. For example: mid to high gigawatt or terawatt lasers would work. But I am fairly sure you can’t get those power levels even with a heavy truck mounted nuclear reactor.
Then there’s the targeting issue.
GPS, despite 3 or more satellites for triangulation, still requires ground stations to quantify and compensate for atmospheric distortion.
A high speed target amplifies these types of problems which sit on top of the already existing return time lag issue.

Dots in a radar screen tell you something is there - they don’t necessarily give you enough to hit it. Even GPS satellites

Posted by: c1ue | Aug 2 2021 19:24 utc | 72

About powering laser.

Thermo efficiency of nuke generator is far too low and available heat sink far too small for a clean system...and all that heat makes a target.

In the recent affair in Donbass and the Russian build-up, it was said that Russia "flashed" the NATO satellites as a low power warning. They departed according to their ability to maneuver, so it was claimed.

The prime mover for a portable road-able laser has just about got to be a big fat modern diesel...something like a locomotive engine, or two, imho. These can be somewhat more than 50% thermal eff. Big fat capacitors obviously as well...

I am very interested in how hypersonic missiles navigate. I understand that inertial nav is good, but it's not That Good! Do they compute by celestial nav...seem hard to do from low altitude...

about doping kero+, acetylene has a transition to detonation that makes pretty fast chemistry and nice delta... seems like a path explored long ago...

Posted by: Walter | Aug 2 2021 19:25 utc | 73

As for the “plasma bubble”:
The shkvall torpedo - an underwater middle which achieves 200km+ speeds, something like 3x anything else - appears to deploy some types of induced bubble. Perhaps supercavitation induced, perhaps something else.
I wouldn’t be shocked if the technology used to develop and induce that couldn’t be similarly employed for air - air being just a thinner medium than water.

Posted by: c1ue | Aug 2 2021 19:27 utc | 74

B, thanks for jumping in with REAL info on the Peresvet laser!

Obviously I'm not a laser guy [to say the least], lol! 😺

I had never actually heard any of that info you presented here, but it does make sense. A miniaturized nuclear reactor would be the only way to generate enough power for an earth-based laser to be able to reach a sat. And we do know that the Russians are making very small nuclear generators, even for use under the Arctic for their sub surveillance network. Called Shelf, I believe.

If you have links to further info, I'd be very interested to read up on this. My feeling is that they would target the early warning sats which detect the massive infrared signature from big rocket launches, like ICBM. You would only need enough energy to blind their sensors. Not sure about actually frying their electronics?

US Spysats and imaging would be useless in trying to fix a location of those mobile ICBM TELs to begin with, for reasons of their polar orbits, which only put them within visual range of any given spot on earth only very periodically, and certainly not continuously. That's impossible with low earth orbit, only geostationary, but that is at 35,000 km height, and way too high for spy imaging.

Also I'm somewhat skeptical that rain or fog would not be a problem. But again, I'm hardly an expert on optics, and am willing to be convinced otherwise.

Thanks for the info---obviously I was off to lunch on that one, lol!

Posted by: Gordog | Aug 2 2021 19:37 utc | 75

The USA has had hypersonic aircraft since least the 1980, the replacement for the SR-71. And S stands for "strike".

Admittedly, the plane is only hypersonic at very high altitude.

Posted by: Jay | Aug 2 2021 19:53 utc | 76

@ Paco (#49) & James (#61),

Gorbachev and his bureaucrats were outsmarted by Financial Empire’s Rulers and their puppets (Thatcher, Reagan, Kohl) during the Cold War. Russia’s Tsar was similarly betrayed during the First World War and Stalin during the Second World War. Will it be betrayed and outsmarted again?

In 1970s oil price went up and thereby USSR had increased revenue. They pursued misadventure In Afghanistan like the U$A did in Vietnam. In 1980s, the price of oil was brought down drastically to $5 per barrel by the Empire and it blew up Soviet Union’s budgets. Also, stupidly USSR was trading their resources in the US$. The Soviet Union was very slow in responding to fiscal adjustments. Gorbachev was fooled by the West with an assurance that they will help Russia in developing its economy and recover. This is a great case study to see one doesn’t need a military to capture a super power. BETRAYAL & deception works.

Russia has never learned to make the best of its monetary system, even today. Its TRAITORS somehow manage to fool the administration. China knows Financial Empire’s traps and has successfully avoided them by outsmarting the Empire. What do you see in Russian central bank’s recent rate hike?

How can the Financial Empire be CHECKMATED without firing a short?

Posted by: Max | Aug 2 2021 19:57 utc | 77

@Robert Macaire | Aug 2 2021 18:22 utc | 55

On reverse engineering, first you need the article, and I don't think the Russians will be handing over any samples anytime soon.

Secondly, copying only gets you so far, yes its a real boost but how it assists in breakthroughs on the part of the copier is ironically inversely proportional to how close they are to the tech level of the originator.

i.e. If the tech gap is too far then its just all magic. If they're close then all they need was some ah-ha moments because they're going through the same challenges.

Additionally, copying without understanding why things are done or designed a certain way is a sure-fire way to get lost. You can tell this phase when some Chinese clone products even copied the design mistakes made by the originator. There's benefit in going through the journey of discovery and development.

For China, buying and copying was a great bootstrap but does little to long term development as they kept running into the same challenges the Russians had long solved by "magic".

Sidenote: the Russian indigenous jet development also hit a wall of sorts until they were able to obtain a couple of Rolls Royce nenes jet engines. The rest is history.

This tech gap has only begun to be addressed properly once they had the money and minds to go thru the development journey, as our esteemed OP had also noted.

You can see that in Chinese space flight, rocketry, aviation, semiconductors, automotive, submarines and carriers.

A recent USNI projection piece has called out the Chinese is gearing up for war because the Chinese are now building submarines and ships so fast they have no intention of maintaining them, so they must be going to war!

What they are missing is that by sheer population, economic and engineering might china can afford to do rapid iterative development to short circuit the cycle that were measured in decades in the past, in hardware, software and wetware. Build it, test it, learn from it, junk it, repeat.

Posted by: A.L. | Aug 2 2021 20:04 utc | 78

I ran onto this very short piece of video showing a laser strike. To date, all I had seen was a laser slowly heating up a small flying drone. The laser had to be held on the one point for a number of seconds. This is just a flash.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Aug 2 2021 20:12 utc | 79

Walter notes:

About powering laser.

Thermo efficiency of nuke generator is far too low and available heat sink far too small for a clean system...and all that heat makes a target.

Yes! That is a very good point. The only heat sink available to a truck mounted nuke generator is the ambient air! So yes, I agree with you that this is a big challenge---perhaps a dealbreaker even. So maybe a diesel generator, or, for much more power in a smaller and lighter package, but burning more fuel, a gas turbine.

The nuke thermal efficiency is something that I believe the Russians have been working on with great effort. I'm not proficient on nuclear technology, but just from looking at say the relatively compact size of that Poseidon nuclear-powered torpedo, that has to be a fairly impressive power density.

I will consider your questions about Nav systems for missiles and come back with something coherent.

And thanks for the heads-up about acetylene as a fuel 'dope.' One immediate thought. It is a gas that needs to be under pressure. Not sure how practical that would be.


BG13, thanks for your comment!

Every one of your points is right on the money!

Yes, the Serbs used the P18 acquisition radar [meter length] to first locate the F117s, and then home in on that area with the engagement radar of I believe centimeter wavelength [SNR125].

That's exactly how it works. But again, I don't want to get too deep into this now, because I will definitely be doing a 'stealth' discussion.

The US and Nato forces had no aerial opposition from non-existent Serbian fighter aircraft. So they could fly their jamming aircraft to clear a path for the strike sorties in their wake.

The fact that this radar gear was analog 1950s era didn't help. Today's phased array, electronically scanned radars are a different ballgame.

And yes today's Nebo M is the current meter length, and is active electronically scanned. It works in conjunction with an L band and an S band with all three data fused to pinpoint any target. There is not an aircraft on earth that can fly into that coverage and hope to fly another day! [And everybody knows it!]

What the Serbs accomplished was pretty impressive. They denied a lot of airspace and flight paths to an OVERWHELMING aerial strike force. That is quite a feat!

The attacking pilots had to be on their best game and fly ONLY where they could beat a SAFE path, which wasn't very many places in the sky. A single mistake is what brought down Goldfein's F16.

Anyway, more on this another day!

Posted by: Gordog | Aug 2 2021 20:29 utc | 80

@ Posted by: A.L. | Aug 2 2021 20:04 utc | 78

Reverse engineering is not that simple. For example, in order to copy one simple Ford tractor, the Soviets had to buy and dismantle ten of them in order to, after much pain, reverse engineer them during the 1920s. And that was just a simple tractor from the 20s. And even then, the Soviets could only produce it at some 250% higher cost, and it took another good years to lower it to "just" 70% more expensive. Even during the most avid periods of forced industrialization, imports of high technology from the West never fully stopped in the Soviet Union.

The Japanese cameras only caught up after Germany's defeat in WWII allowed them to straight up import Leica cameras and copy + paste them. Those famous companies we see nowadays (Canon, Nikon) only exist because, once upon a time, they painfully copied Leica, and were only able to do that because a catastrophic event opened the floodgates for free German IP.

Some very advanced technologies are simply not reverse engineerable. At least not in any practicable time frame. You would have not only to purchase many copies of the product, but also hire many of the original engineers and designers for advisory and supervisory services for a long time. Contraband and espionage do not suffice.

Posted by: vk | Aug 2 2021 20:31 utc | 81


Thanks for your response. I brought this fluid turbulence subject up based on some subjects I studied in college in a course on hydrodynamics. The fire hose was the model. When the fire hose is straight the water pressure at the nozzle was highest. When there ware curves in the hose, turbulence caused the pressure to drop. So it made sense to me that when a hypersonic, scram rocket changed direction, that air pressure coming into the engine would change and would change dynamically, i.e. cause shaking.

In any case if this is the problem with the US difficulty in building hypersonic rockets it might be due to US universities no longer introducing their young engineers and science students to some really difficult physical problems. (in my case, this problem of turbulence was introduced as insoluble, thus challenging us to solve it, not in that course but later on, if possible).

Posted by: ToivoS |

Posted by: ToivoS | Aug 2 2021 20:34 utc | 82

A bit too much focus is being directed at Gorbachev here in these comments. Let me explain the broader dynamics.

In the mid-1970s Soviet economic dynamics deteriorated significantly.

Ten years of adjustments failed to mend the situation. A new leadership under Gorbachev embarked on the path of structural reform, with the goal of democratizing Soviet socialism.

However, the reforms carried out unleashed processes that created a new coalition of groups and classes that favored replacing socialism with capitalism. This was unforeseen by Gorbachev and his reform bloc.

Yeltsin eventually emerged as the leader of a new coalition of social and political forces, which favored rapid capitalist transformation.

To win power, this coalition had to outmaneuver both those who wanted to reform socialism and those who wanted to preserve the Soviet system with only minor changes. So there were three major groupings at the time, with three different political-economic strategies.

The eventual victory of the Yeltsin group was made possible by the support it garnered from the broader party/state elite of the Soviet system.

Gorbachev's reforms weakened both the centralized system of the multinational USSR and the power of the upper echelon of state elites. In this context, the decisive power brokers became the broader party/state managers.

They concluded that democratic socialism had little to offer them materially, and that Yeltsin's plans for capitalist transformation would give them opportunities to main their "class" privileges.

So, the Soviet system was not just destroyed by Gorbachev the individual. It was not overthrown by "popular" struggles for "freedom". It was not overthrown by a mass desire to abandon the Soviet federation.

Instead, the Soviet Union was abandoned by its own elites. It was a "revolution from above."

Posted by: Prof | Aug 2 2021 20:46 utc | 83

@vk | Aug 2 2021 20:31 utc | 81

Ermmm i think we're largely in agreement, no?

There's the issue of underpinning technologies & sciences like material science and tooling. I suspect in your example of tractors these were the real obstacles.

I didn't say reverse engineering was simple or useless. They can yield much insight and open minds in trained eyes. Every manufacturer of any consequence worldwide engage in some degree, if nothing else to keep tabs on the competition.

Guidance and supervision is a double edge sword and one must be very careful with their use. For example, in a parallel universe China was 'guided' by USA then the China would think closed cycle rocket engines are impossible.

Posted by: A.L. | Aug 2 2021 20:58 utc | 84

Walter and Gordog

There does not look to be any ventilation, nor intake and exhaust ports. Also the trailer as hoarsewhisperer commented some time ago has a lot of wheels. If that where used for transporting machinery it would be rated for fifty tons or so.

Also thanks for writing the piece for b to put up and your comments. All very interesting.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Aug 2 2021 20:58 utc | 85

SR71 was a fast airplane, but not a very good one [despite the very big mythology surrounding it].

Twelve were lost to accidents out of the total 32 built. It was retired more than twenty years ago.

It could fly supposedly to Mach 3 [some say above, but that's an open question, in my opinion], so that is certainly not anywhere close to hypersonic.

The MiG31 which is in service today, after more than 30 years, and carrying the Mach 10 Kinzhal hypersonic missiles has proved to be the king of high speed turbojet aircraft.

It is the only combat aircraft in the world built to cruise above Mach 2, its cruising speed being M 2.4, which it can do for over 1,500 km, covering that distance in just 35 minutes. Top speed is M 2.8.

It carried the world's first airborne phased array radar, a monster that is still capable of hitting aircraft at distances of up to 300 km.

But its real mission was hunting Tomahawk cruise missiles. For which it used datalink to pair up in flight groups of four, all of them flying 200 km abreast on a line. And again, a nod to BG13, the Tomahawk cruise missile in the 1980s was a real challenge to SAMs. That's why the MiG31 was developed.


Toivos, thanks for your followup.

I believe it was Heisenberg who said:

When I go to heaven I will have two questions for God. Why relativity? And why turbulence?

I really believe he will have an answer for the former!

Yes, turbulence is still one of the big unsolved problems in physics. We really have no theory to explain or predict its behavior.

But just to add a little to the intake question. I'm not saying hypersonic flight does not face very big problems with engine inlet turbulence. You may be quite right that this is a big stumbling block!

I do know that inlet performance was a big problem in early jets, often causing engine flameouts during maneuvering.

Btw, have a look at the Su57 doing the 'cobra' here.

That's an insane flight angle of attack of near 90 degrees---and the engines don't skip a beat. Of course that is at fairly low speed, but it says remarkable things about engine inlet performance.

Posted by: Gordog | Aug 2 2021 21:01 utc | 86

Laser Weapons...
I indulged in some idle speculation on the potential effectiveness of laser beam weapons against IFOs (Identified Flying Objects) about 10 years ago. I concluded that if the goal was to destroy the structural integrity of a high-flying, high-speed object then conventional anti-aircraft/anti-missile defense systems would be more effective and reliable.

This (my theory goes) is because a narrow laser beam would strike a very small spot on the target and if that spot wasn't vital then it wouldn't matter if you made a hole on the surface or even all the way through the target, like a bullet hole. That shortcoming would be compounded by the fact that the angle of incidence at which the beam strikes the target would be changing constantly thereby reducing the likelihood of a nice deep hole. And if the target was a 'coasting' missile near the end of its journey, it probably wouldn't matter how much damage the laser inflicted.
i.e. using a needle to do a job requiring a very big hammer...

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Aug 2 2021 21:42 utc | 87

Thanks Gordog, A.L. for the replies.

I wonder how the missile, while executing evasive manoeuvers, keeps track of its position relative to the target. From your reply, I guessing communication with some GPS would be too slow.

Reverse-engineering is an interesting subject too. What would one find, if one could chemically analyze some of this new fuel? Maybe some funky new molecules you would have no idea how to make.

It's quite interesting that no major breakthrough seemed to have occurred in the theory of turbulence. Has Physics slowed down?

Posted by: Robert Macaire | Aug 2 2021 21:49 utc | 88

Gordog 86

Re the SR-71. Built at the very beginning of the satellite age and in the first few years of deployment, no missile could climb to altitude and run it down. The original missiles for the S-200 in the 60s were mach 3.4 or thereabouts. The only engine that could run at mach 3+. Turbine that transitioned to ramjet that allowed sustained 3+ without engine damage. The mig 25 was designed for Mach 3+ but in realty was limited to mach 2.8 or so for sustained top speed without engine damage.
As speed increased, more and more fuel was diverted to the afterburner. At somewhere around or below mach 3, the afterburner would be supplying all the thrust with just enough fuel to the turbine to keep it ticking over, but even then, intake temps limited its top speed. There is and old BBC documentary on you tube that interviews a number of the original pilots from the 60s.
Even with satellites, definition in the photos it took would have been much higher than sat images. The soviets started deploying the hypersonic S-200 missile around 1970 I think, its deployment first in the soviet Union then in allied states gradually pushed it out to the borders of the countries the Americans wanted to look at and was used like that for a few years.
A lot of what it flew over, especially in the early years is according to some of the later pilots still classified.

Any way that's my understanding of it.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Aug 2 2021 21:57 utc | 89

When it comes to portable nuclear plants to power lasers, as Walter states it simply wouldn't work. A 'safe' reactor takes time to ramp up power generation and produces massive amounts of waste heat... which is why NPPs are always built next to large bodies of water, and indeed why only naval vessels use them for motive/electrical power, as they use the sea as a conductive dump.

Next lasers. A plasma sheath not only blocks EM radiation in the radio-MW range, but it also diffuses laser light - so using a laser directly on a hypersonic object is futile. In addition simply ramping up the power of a laser into the high Megawatt or Gigawatt range is pointless too. Once a laser passes the high kW level of energy, it begins to turn the very air it passes through into plasma, effectively choking itself. This is why the US threw so much effort into designing large plane based laser systems, so as to _preserve_ beam power over distance.

Saying that, the Soviets in the 60s-70s did explore the possibility of a laser defence system (part of the 'Terra' series of projects) using a circular array of dozens of laser projectors around a city. The idea was to focus on the atmosphere just ahead of a ballistic missile/warhead, so that the hypersonic object would tumble (and tear itself apart) due to heat induced turbulence. The theory was never brought to conclusion as using interceptor missiles was demonstrably cheaper and far more effective.

In space by the way, using lasers to destroy missiles is again a futile concept. Not because of diffraction and plasma formation (since molecular density of near space is very thin), but because the laser itself is not 100% efficient in converting energy (even the best are are only roughly 50-60%). A space-based laser's biggest enemy is heat which it will be unable to shed in space as it cannot disperse it via convection or conduction. The weapon will literally cook itself. A 1GW laser after a single shot will have to dump something like 500MW of heat - or melt.

They are possible engineering work-rounds, but none that would permit the laser to fire rapidly or easily. Not to mention the problems with beam collimation range, passing orbital speeds or the satellite to its target and so on. SDI laser platforms simply won't work due to bog standard physics.

As a final item, this CIA report from '85 might be of interest to some.

Posted by: Pete | Aug 2 2021 21:57 utc | 90

@ToivoS #82
Kind of a scaled up issue such as when flamethrowers were first being designed.

In particular, without venturi of proper size/spacing - you get either dripping or uneven fluid flow.

Not really clear to me if fluid mechanics simulations are sufficient to take this type of problem into account.

Posted by: c1ue | Aug 2 2021 21:59 utc | 91

Just an add on, as the talk goes on the SR-71. My major job was the drawing of target positions on the map in the command post (big map from plexiglass, writing mirror like from behind) of the SAM brigade. The SR-71 was a regular guest, a big RADAR target, well seen from beyond Danmark (it was based in the UK), at the very edge of the map. Flight speed was well over 2 Mach. Resulted in instant alarm. No way it would have survived an little bit deeper intrusion. But that wasn't its job, just to check the reactions.

BTW, this kind of plexiglass maps in command posts still exists in Russian posts and ships (quite often seen in videos of the MoD, Zvezda - always manned and in use), for a large part a fall back solution for at least situational awareness if computers get in trouble.

Posted by: BG13 | Aug 2 2021 22:10 utc | 92

I put up the wrong link @79. This it the high power laser strike.

Going by that video, rather than just burning a hole, it instantly vaporizes whatever it hit causing an explosion.
I was able to stop the video on the exact frame of the strike and light or heat can be seen sort of splashing out a little like it was a water jet striking something.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Aug 2 2021 22:16 utc | 93

@c1ue #74

The squall torp works by redirecting part of it's rocket exhaust back up through the body of the weapon to gas nozzels in the nose to produce the gas sheath. (uses a solid fuel rocket)

It literally flys through a bubble of it's own exhaust.

Posted by: S.O. | Aug 2 2021 22:25 utc | 94

Pete 90 "When it comes to portable nuclear plants to power lasers, as Walter states it simply wouldn't work. A 'safe' reactor takes time to ramp up power generation and produces massive amounts of waste heat... which is why NPPs are always built next to large bodies of water, and indeed why only naval vessels use them for motive/electrical power, as they use the sea as a conductive dump."

The Russian space tug, Zeus, is a project now underway. It uses a nuclear reactor to generate electricity to power an electric thruster. I take it would have to operate without a cooling system as there is nothing to dissipate excess heat to.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Aug 2 2021 22:34 utc | 95

Does Gordog have a website? I couldn't find it by googling.

Posted by: Thomas Malthaus | Aug 2 2021 22:46 utc | 96

BG13 @92, about the SR71:

Thanks! That is exactly the information I got from speaking with my Russian colleagues in the aerospace industry--they never saw it as a threat. That is why I dismiss most of the hype around the SR71---two sides to every story!


Peter @89, again the SR71:

The Pratt & Whitney J58 engine was a massively impressive piece of engineering. This wiki article actually does a decent job of explaining some of similar technicalities to what I mention here in regard to increasing speed and what happens in the engine. Worth a read.

They simply bypassed the compressor flow right to the afterburner at somewhere above M 2.5, using pipes to take it from I believe after the fourth compressor wheel.

A lot of turbojet technicalities I could really sink my teeth into here, and I may just do up a discussion on the J58 engine, which would further explain some of the very basic ramjet discussion I presented here. Although I'm not sure there would be much reader interest, since this is really getting into the technical weeds, lol!

But overall, the SR71 kept breaking up in flight! Not a good outcome for any flight vehicle---not to mention pilots. It also took a week of maintenance turnaround for each flight.

That is way too fussy of an airplane. I would never approve a project with such a spec sheet!


Pete @ 90: Thanks for your comments on lasers.

As far as cooling a nuke reactor, yes it can be done in space. neither conduction nor convection will work in the absence of an matter, but radiation will do the job.

Check out the radiator array on the Russian nuclear space 'tug' now under construction at the Khrunichev Research Center of Roskosmos. Coolant is passed through those tubes and heat is emitted by radiation.

It's called TEM, for 'transport and energy module' and will make 50 to 200 kW [about 70 to 270 hp]. That power could be used for all kinds of things, according to the discussions---to power ion thrusters for interplanetary missions [they're talking a flight to mars in a matter of weeks not months].

Another use is military, to power a big orbiting radar. That would come in very handy for fixing targets for the hypersonic missiles, and there is a constellation for that very purpose called Liana already going up, but not nuclear-powered!

Martyanov has a brief news item on the nuclear space tug here, and Anatoly Zak has more details here.

As for cooling a laser in space, there is no reason the same kind of radiation-cooling scheme could not be used. Of course it would have to be crazy HUGE for 500 megawatts, lol!

Posted by: Gordog | Aug 2 2021 23:03 utc | 97

Posted by: m | Aug 2 2021 15:49 utc | 32

These are not hypersonic engines for ballistic missiles going to space. Or any vehicles trying to reach space.

There are: hypersonic gliders (a new type of MIRV warhead) dropped from normal ballistic missiles, and falling into Earth. Hypersonic cruise missiles for ships and subs. Hypersonic aeroballistic missiles dropped from airplanes.

Posted by: Passer by | Aug 2 2021 23:08 utc | 98

Peter AU1 @95

Putin has stated that they have solved the problem of instantly powering up the mini-nuke. He explained that this was how they could have a nuke powered cruise missile - the one with "unlimited range".

Posted by: cdvision | Aug 2 2021 23:09 utc | 99

One real danger, as I see it, is that with the U.S. being in a position of weapons inferiority, it may feel compelled to escalate to the nuclear level early in any conflict, which, of course, would be both suicidal and homicidal. Normal people would recognize that as completely irrational, but some war lovers don't give a shit. That was definitely the case in the Cuban Missile Crisis. so it could come down to who is literally calling the shots.

Posted by: Rob | Aug 2 2021 23:12 utc | 100

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