New Ground Launch Cruise Missile
The US tested a conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile on August 19 shortly after it formally withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The US had not yet announced the final site, but Guam is supposed to be the ideal place for the US deployment of medium-range missiles. As an overseas territory of the US in the Pacific Ocean, Guam is situated about 3000 kilometers from the edge of East Asia, Japan, South Korea and the Russian Far East, which goes with the requirement of the range of a medium-range missile. Obviously the US is shifting its strategic deployment focus to the Asia-Pacific. Once the US deploys medium-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific, China will face the threats of being surrounded by medium-range missiles and the strategic balance in this region will be broken. This is the direct consequence of the termination of the INF Treaty. To this end, China would maintain vigilance and take necessary countermeasures.
On 18 August 2019 at 2:30 PM Pacific Daylight Time, the Defense Department conducted a flight test of a conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile at San Nicolas Island, CA. The test missile exited its ground mobile launcher and accurately impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers of flight. Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform DOD's development of future intermediate-range capabilities.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper earlier said that the US would start full-fledged development of intermediate-range missiles. That follows the expiration of a key nuclear treaty with Russia earlier this month. Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper said 02 August 2019 "In light of Russia’s noncompliance, the Department of Defense commenced Treaty-compliant research and development activities beginning in 2017. The department’s initial research and development efforts focused on mobile, conventional, ground-launched cruise and ballistic missile systems. Because the United States scrupulously complied with its obligations to the INF Treaty, these programs are in the early stages. Now that we have withdrawn, the Department of Defense will fully pursue the development of these ground-launched conventional missiles as a prudent response to Russia’s actions and as part of the Joint Force’s broader portfolio of conventional strike options."
The missile in the 18 August 2019 test appeared to be a Tactical Tomahawk, which first took flight 21 March 2003 at the White Sands Missile Test Range in New Mexico. The 2003 flight was part of a Defense Threat Reduction Agency sponsored advanced concept technology demonstration. This marked the first developmental test flight of the Tactical Tomahawk configured with a live penetration warhead. The Tactical Tomahawk was launched vertically from a ground test stand that simulated the normal shipboard Vertical Launching System.
The sea-launched Tomahawk, not covered by the INF Treaty, also had a ground-launched version (GLCM) for the Air Force, which was eliminated under the INF Treaty. The INF Treaty required that the United States and Russia eliminate all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometres (300 to 3,400 miles). The Navy's cruisers and destroyers launch the Tomahawk from Mark 41 VLS battery. Washington also deployed the Mk41 VLS in Europe, claiming that they could only fire interceptor missiles to stop Iran from obliterating the Europeans, rather than directing Tomahawks at Russia.
Russia will not fall for US "provocations" and be dragged into an "expensive arms race," a senior diplomat said 19 August 2019. The Pentagon's recent cruise missile test is "regretful" as it shows that "the US has clearly embarked on a path of inciting military tensions," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said. Ryabkov said that the new test by the US proves that it was actually the Pentagon that has been secretly violating the INF Treaty. "There can't be more striking and obvious proof that the US has been developing such systems for a long time," he told reporters, adding that Moscow will not jump the gun in response. "We have been assuming this turn of events. We will not allow ourselves to be dragged into an expensive arms race."
The diplomat reiterated that if Russia ever obtains missiles that were previously banned under the INF Treaty, it will not deploy them unless the US does so first. During his trip to France on 19 August 2019, President Vladimir Putin said that if short- and mid-range missile systems are "produced by the US," Moscow will do the same. Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said that Russia will deploy such missiles only if Washington does so in Europe or Asia-Pacific.
It seemed Washington was telling the world how the treaty could still be salvaged if only Russia pled guilty and destroyed its stockpiles of missiles that supposedly violated the INF, it was also developing a weapon system that breached the very same treaty. "In two weeks, one can prepare and get a green light for a test program, and even that would take extra effort," RT's defense expert Mikhail Khodarenok remarked. "The rest of it, including bringing the tested weapon system to the range, training the crew in its use, preparing the target, putting sensors in place - that cannot be done in two weeks."
The United States may deploy Tomahawk cruise missiles in Romania and Poland, which now houses US missile defense elements. This is a new threat to Russia that needs to be addressed, Vladimir Putin said 21 August 2019 during a meeting with Finnish President Saule Niiniste. The Russian leader also drew attention to the fact that the United States tested the land version of Tomahawk immediately after withdrawing from the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles. This suggests that the development of these weapons began long before the termination of the INF Treaty. However, Russia will also work on the creation of intermediate and shorter-range missiles, but it will not deploy them in regions where there are no similar US weapons , Vladimir Putin added on the air of the TV channel "Russia 24". Russia had repeatedly pointed out to the United States a violation of the INF Treaty: from the Mk41 universal launchers that the European missile defense system is equipped with, both SM missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles prohibited by the treaty can launch.
Putin used a visit to neighboring Finland 21 August 2019 to criticize the U.S. testing of a ground-based cruise missile. Putin said Washington could easily use systems already existing in Europe to launch the new missile, posing a threat to Russia. "Launches of this missile can be carried out from systems already in Romania and Poland. All you have to do is change the software.... This entails the emergence of new threats for us that we must react to accordingly," the Russian president said.
In an interview with Fox News released on 21 august 2019, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper specifically touched upon the Pentagon’s recent cruise missile test launch, which he said could be seen, among other things, as a message to China. “We wanted to make sure that we, as we need to, have the capability to also deter China's bad behaviour by having our own capability to be able to strike it in intermediate ranges,” Esper, who wrapped up his Asia tour earlier this month, said. When asked if he chose Asia for his first trip because he considered China to be the greatest security threat to the US, Esper said that China was the number one priority for the Defense Department.
The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) called for the development of several new nuclear systems including a new nuclear warhead for US submarine forces and a sea-launched cruise missile partially as a response to Russia’s INF violation. However, NPR did not mention the new ground launched cruise missile (GLCM) which was announced in November 2018 as part of the United States review of its INF policy.
The Pentagon's new ground-launched cruise missile with a potential range of about 1,000 kilometres, which was previously banned under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, might be ready for deployment within 18 months after being tested in August 2019, US defence officials told reporters on 13 March 2019.
The Pentagon has several air- and sea-launched cruise missiles that could be adapted for the GLCM role, including the Raytheon AGM-109 Tomahawk, Raytheon AGM-160 Miniature Air-Launched Decoy, and Lockheed Martin AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface-Standoff Missile. The LRSO could be modified for ground launch by adding a rocket motor to get the missile up to a suitable speed. If Next-Generation Land-Attack Weapon (NGLAW) has a nuclear variant, a ground-launched NGLAW could fully meet the 2018 Congressional mandate. Or the Pentagon could invest in a clean-sheet design for a new GLCM. This approach would be warranted only if the GLCM needed more range than could be attained by adapting LRSO or NGLAW.
Russia developed the SSC–8 ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) that the United States has declared is in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Despite Russia’s ongoing development of other treaty-compliant missiles with intermediate ranges, Moscow probably believes that the new GLCM provides sufficient advantages that make it worth the risk of violating the INF Treaty. Russian officials had previously complained that the treaty prohibits Russia, but not some of its neighbors, from developing and possessing ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
The Trump Administration’s integrated strategy of diplomatic, economic, and military measures includes pursuing INF Treaty-compliant research and development on a conventional, intermediate-range, ground-launched missile to change Russia’s calculus and enable the United States to defend ourselves and our allies should Russia not return to compliance. The purpose is to make clear to Russia that it will be less secure by persisting in its violation, not more. The Administration remains committed to the INF Treaty and seeks to return Russia to full and verifiable compliance. The United States is prepared to cease such research and development activities if Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance with its INF Treaty obligations.
The State Department announced on 08 December 2017, the 30th anniversary of the treaty, that the administration was “taking new diplomatic, military, and economic measures intended to induce the Russian Federation to return to compliance and to deny it any military advantage should it persist in its violation.” This followed a policy review and Russia’s continued refusal to address US compliance concerns. The Department said that beginning research on “concepts and options for conventional, ground-launched, intermediate-range missile systems,” which is not prohibited by the treaty, “will prepare the United States to defend itself and its allies.”
In 2017, the House Armed Services Committee noted that "It is not in the national security interests of the United States to be unilaterally legally prohibited from developing dual-capable ground-launched cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, while Russia makes advances in developing and fielding this class of weapon systems, and such unilateral limitation cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely."
Admiral Harry Harris, Jr., Commander of the United States Pacific Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 27, 2017, that "[W]e're in a multi-polar world where we have a lot of countries who are developing these weapons, including China, that I worry about. And I worry about their DF-21 and DF-26 missile programs, their anti-carrier ballistic missile programs, if you will. INF doesn't address missiles launched from ships or airplanes, but it focuses on those land-based systems. I think there's goodness in the INF treaty, anything you can do to limit nuclear weapons writ-large is generally good. But the aspects of the INF Treaty that limit our ability to counter Chinese and other countries' land-based missiles, I think, is problematic."
The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) directed early development work on a new GLCM. In the Conference Report H.Rept.115-404 to accompany H.R. 2810 the FY 2018 Defense Authorization Bill, the Conferees directed, "Establishment of a program of record.--The Secretary of Defense shall establish a program of record to develop a conventional road-mobile ground- launched cruise missile system with a range of between 500 to 5,500 kilometers, including research and development activities with respect to such cruise missile system. (2) Report required. --Not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to the congressional defense committees a report on the cost and schedule for, and feasibility of, modifying United States missile systems in existence or planned as of such date of enactment for ground launch with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers as compared with the cost and schedule for, and feasibility of, developing a new ground-launched missile using new technology with the same range."
When Mike Pompeo, nominated to be U.S. Secretary of State, was asked in his 12 April 2018 confirmation hearing: "Which countries in Europe has the United States identified as possible location for the new GLCM?" stated "I believe it is premature to discuss possible basing locations for a potential new U.S. conventional, intermediate-range, ground-launched missile. Current U.S. research and development is compliant with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The United States is prepared to cease such research and development activities if Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance with its INF Treaty obligations. The Administration is cooperating with and keeping allies apprised of its efforts to seek Russia’s return to full and verifiable compliance."
The United States cannot deploy GLCMs that provide useful target coverage of potential adversaries without encountering possible problems in getting host nations to accept such weapons, or both. For example, a ground-launched missile would need a range of at least 4,200 kilometers to provide good geographic coverage from Guam.
In his state-of-the-nation address 20 February 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the US of unilaterally withdrawing from the INF treaty. He said he would target the US if it deployed its missiles in Europe. If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will respond by stationing weapons aimed not only against missiles themselves, but also at command and control centers, from which a launch order would come. The warning came from President Vladimir Putin, who announced Russia’s planned actions after the US withdraws from the INF Treaty. “Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapon systems, which can be used not only against the territories from which this direct threat would be projected, but also against those territories where decision centers are located, from which an order to use those weapons against us may come.”
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said that it would be right to eliminate the infrastructure for US nuclear weapons in Europe. "Everyone will feel more at ease when all US nuclear weapons return to US territory, and infrastructure in Europe which allows to store, service and deploy those weapons, will be eliminated," Medvedev told the Luxemburger Wort newspaper 04 March 2019 ahead of his visit to Luxembourg. Medvedev noted that this also concerns military exercise on the possible use of nuclear weapons that are regularly held in NATO member states. "This only adds unnecessary stress, mostly for NATO countries themselves," he noted.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on 07 March 2019 ruled out deploying ground-based nuclear missiles to Europe, at a press conference in Warsaw, Poland. He said the 29-nation alliance had already started planning for a world without the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). "It is too early to say the outcome of this process in NATO. But what I can say is that our response will be measured, it will be coordinated as a NATO Alliance, and we don’t have any intentions of deploying new nuclear missiles, land-based missiles, in Europe," Stoltenberg said.
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