Tag Archives: cruise missiles

Knowledge Never Ends: the fate of SS-18 Satan

RS-20 (SS-18 “Satan”) decommissioned. Image from wikipedia

While Ukraine renounced its own possession of nuclear weapons in 1994, many scientists and design bureaus in the country still have the know-how required to manufacture important components of strategic weapons.

China has often been particularly keen of this knowledge, acquiring Ukrainian help in designing their first phased-array radar system.  Ukrainian aerospace, tank and naval engineers is also a common phenomenon in China, most notably Valerii Babich, designer of the Varyag aircraft carrier. There are even rumors of “Ukrainetowns” in some Chinese cities founded by the large number of expats hired by Chinese firms. Ukrainian and Russian businessmen even sold Kh-55 nuclear cruise missiles (without the warheads) from Ukrainian stockpiles to China in the 2000s. As China continues to modernize their ICBM fleet, it begs the question: how much help is Ukraine providing, willingly and unwillingly?

This wouldn’t be the first time Ukraine’s ICBM knowhow was possibly exported. In the fall of 2017, Ukraine’s Yuzhnoye Design Bureau, based in Dnipro, was accused of providing rocket engines to North Korea. While Ukrainian media has denied this allegation, there was a definite case of Yushnoye employees who were caught selling the plans on the RS-20 (SS-18 “Satan”) to Chinese missile engineers. Although the Chinese engineers were caught by Ukrainian police, Chinese diplomatic influence resulted in the charges being cleared. This trend has continued, as recently as 2016 when a scientist at Dnipropetrovsk National University left for China with many materials regarding the use of composites and heat-shielding coatings on rocket launchers—which were considered Ukrainian state secrets…

Given all the different vectors through which rocket and missile technology are flowing from Ukraine to China, it’s reasonable to say that Ukraine has provided considerable aid to the Chinese ballistic missile program.

Excerpts, Charlie Gao, Do China’s Nuclear Missiles Have Ukrainian DNA?, The National Interest, June 23

Israel and its Weapons: submarines launching nuclear capable missiles

Israel’s navy has taken delivery of its fourth Dolphin class submarine built by Germany’s Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft, giving the Jewish state the most powerful submarine fleet in the Middle East and boosting its strategic capabilities.  The new diesel-electric boat, named the Tannin — Alligator — was handed over during a ceremony at HDW’s Kiel shipyard…The Tannin is the first of three “super-Dolphins” the Israelis will acquire from Germany.   These 1,925-ton boats will be equipped with advanced systems that greatly enhance operational capabilities, which Western sources say include a new propulsion system that makes them almost impossible to detect and a special diesel and hydrogen conversion system that allows them to produce their own fuel, thus extending range and endurance.  The Tannin is expected to be operational by mid-2013 after Israeli sea trials.

The sources say the advanced Dolphins are equipped to carry Israel-built cruise missiles with a range of some 940 miles, and nuclear warheads. This enhances Israel’s second-strike capability, to respond to a nuclear attack with its own nuclear arsenal, on the oft-stated pledge by Israel that it won’t be the first in the Middle East to use nuclear weapons.

The only target for such weapons, for now at least, would be Iran, which Israel and the United States alleges is driving to produce nuclear weapons that challenge Israel’s nuclear monopoly in the region.  Israel has the capability, unmatched in the region, to deliver nuclear weapons by air — on aircraft and Jericho ballistic missiles — and sea.  By deploying Dolphins in the Arabian Sea, off southern Iran, Israel greatly extends its strategic reach and gives it the option of pre-emptive first-strike attack, using nuclear weapons if necessary.  Even if Israel is obliterated in a nuclear attack, the Dolphins could retaliate by launching missiles from the Arabian Sea.  Israel has three early model Dolphins in service, all modeled on Germany’s Type 209 submarine by HDW, a subsidiary of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems. These were delivered in 1998-2000.  With the Tannin, and two more “super Dolphins” on order, Israel will be able to maintain at least one submarine in the Arabian Sea at all times. The fifth Dolphin is scheduled for delivery in 2014 and the sixth in 2016.  Most of the Dolphins’ integrated systems are produced by major Israeli defense companies like Tadiran, Elbit, Israel Aerospace Industries and Rada.

The naval expansion has been made possible to a large degree by Germany’s sometimes reluctant agreement to pay the lion’s share of the cost for the game-changing Dolphins.  Germany has for decades sought to accommodate Israel in atonement for the Holocaust during the Nazi era, although this has been wearing thin because of the global economic downturn.  Germany agreed recently to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s request that Berlin pay one-third of the $500 million-$700 million cost of the sixth Dolphin…

Excerpts from Israel’s submarine fleet gets 4th Dolphin, UPI.com, May 4, 2012

See also Iran, Israel and a Nuclear Free Midde East

Nuclear Ambiguity