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21st Century Air Force Nuclear Deterrence and Escalation

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21st Century Air Force Nuclear Deterrence and Escalation

  1. 1. 21st Century Air Force Nuclear Deterrence and Escalation Air Force Global Strike Command Dr. Christopher Yeaw, Chief Scientist Coercio per Scientiam
  2. 2. Tripwire Current Escalation Philosophies Conflict Intensity Evolution ResistancetoNuclearUse Extremis Warfighting Psychopolitical US/NATO Israel ? DPRK Iran Pakistan India China Russia Determining what type of escalation philosophy stands behind a nation’s deterrence requires examination of: leadership, strategic culture, forces, posturing, doctrine, targeting, NC2, declarations, acquisitions, modernization, etc.
  3. 3. Tripwire “Asymmetry of Wills” Conflict Intensity Evolution ResistancetoNuclearUse Extremis Warfighting US China Note: Even national leaders themselves are not likely to know in advance whether they’ll have the will to execute the planned escalation philosophy – psychology of conflict Danger zone is where the escalation philosophy of an adversary differs markedly from our own and we don’t realize it … until it’s too late. Caution: Risk and stake assessments are not static during conflict … what might start as a peripheral interest issue may escalate to a vital interest (nuclear use against ally, for example) Psychopolitical “High Road”: No US nuclear strike until direst of circumstances • Pre-nuclear: moral persuasion • Post-nuclear: moral fortitude • Risks: loss of war, emboldens useSurprise: Convince the adversary with a surprise counter-escalatory strike that they have misjudged the US • Risk: two nuclear strikes Warning: Convince adversary unambiguously that US will promptly respond to any nuclear strike • Responsive in case of nuclear use • Risk: loss of credibility if bluffing Preempt: US conducts nuclear strike just prior to adversary’s “imminent” nuclear strike: • Surprise de-escalation? • Risk: adversary use-or-lose pressure Reactive: US conducts nuclear strikes only after “a few” adversary strikes: • Holds the “moral high ground” • Risk: loss of war, and multiple unanswered nuclear strikes
  4. 4. Cyber Nuclear Space Conventional DEGRE-09 DEGRE-10 Nuclear Comparative Escalation Dynamics
  5. 5. Cross-Domain Escalation Cyber Nuclear Conventional Space 10101 10101 Visualization Tool: Escalation Vortex Conventional escalation intensities range from the lowest levels of pre- conflict posturing to very high levels of massed, conventional strikes. Cyber escalation intensities range from the lowest levels of pre- conflict cyber-ISR to very high levels of offensive “counter-value” cyber strikes. Space escalation intensities range from the modest level of local jamming to high levels of ASAT strikes and ground station attacks. Nuclear escalation intensities range relatively high level of nuclear force alerting to the absolute highest levels of permanent societal destruction. Escalation: o What is the type of the target? o How extensive is the target? o How destructive is the strike (yield)? o How was the strike delivered?
  6. 6. 10101 Space Action Nuclear Action Cyber Action Conventional Action 10101 DEGRE-11/2 Vortex Cyber Nuclear Conventional Space 10101 End State: RED Victory 10101 10101 10101 10101 10101 10101 10101 10101 10101 10101 10101 10101 10101
  7. 7. Warfighting Escalation Cyber Nuclear Conventional Space Warfighting philosophy characterized by mixing of nuclear strikes with conventional strikes for tactical ends “Level” Escalation Surface
  8. 8. Extremis Escalation Cyber Nuclear Conventional Space Extremis philosophy characterized by very late massive strikes “Very Sparse” Escalation Surface
  9. 9. Tripwire Escalation Cyber Nuclear Conventional Space Tripwire philosophy characterized by early and heavy use of nuclear strikes at fairly massive levels “Tilted” Escalation Surface
  10. 10. Psychopolitical Escalation Cyber Nuclear Conventional Space Psychopolitical philosophy characterized by “surprising early” de-escalatory nuclear strikes possibly coming in several waves “Puncuated” Escalation Surface
  11. 11. SSBNs and Escalation Cyber Nuclear Conventional Space Adversary ASW and the small number of SSBN assets constrains limited strikes Large-scale SSBN strikes epitomize high end escalation Signaling via SSBN posture is considered relatively escalatory Conversely, SSBNs are a relatively “safe” target, as they are purely counter- force, partially at-sea, “warhead rich,” and small in number … lucrative first strike target set Cross-domain conventional strikes on SSBNs with ASW or other conventional assets
  12. 12. ICBMs and Escalation Cyber Nuclear Conventional Space Fear of “homeland” retaliation and overflight issues constrain limited ICBM strikes Large-scale ICBM strikes epitomize high end escalation Only mobile ICBMs allow for low-escalation signaling Conversely, ICBMs are a highly escalatory target, as they are CONUS- based and numerous Could future Russian or Chinese C-PGS lower this escalation barrier?
  13. 13. Bombers and Escalation Cyber Nuclear Conventional Space Adversary A2AD constrains all types of bomber strikes Bombers allow a myriad of options for signaling Conversely, bombers are only modestly escalatory targets … dual-roled and legitimate when forward deployed, but more escalatory when CONUS-based Bombers span almost the entirety of the conventional force escalation axis, from continuous presence, through limited strikes, to massed strikes Cross-domain conventional strikes on bombers with SAMs
  14. 14. The Triad and Escalation Cyber Nuclear Conventional Space The Triad covers the entire spectrum of escalation, giving dual coverage in certain portions. First strike instability is eliminated by ICBM force, and bomber force adds conventional and low-end nuclear escalation. “Resilience is defined as the ability to provide acceptable operations despite disruption: natural or man-made, inadvertent or deliberate.” - 2013 Defense Science Board
  15. 15. DCA Fighters and Escalation Cyber Nuclear Conventional Space Adversary A2AD, conventional tasking, and political hurdles constrain all types of DCA fighter strikes DCA fighters allow some options for low-end signaling Conversely, DCA fighters are only minimally escalatory targets … dual-roled and legitimate because in theater DCA fighters span a large portion of the conventional force escalation axis, from continuous presence, through limited strikes, to air dominance Cross-domain conventional strikes on DCA fighters with SAMs or SSMs on bases
  16. 16. The “Quadrad” and Escalation Cyber Nuclear Conventional Space The “Quadrad” covers the entire spectrum of escalation, giving dual coverage in certain portions, and even more options on the “low end” of nuclear escalation. First strike instability is still eliminated by ICBM force, and DCA fighters augment bombers in conventional and low-end nuclear escalation control.
  17. 17. Questions? Air Force Global Strike Command Dr. Christopher Yeaw, Chief Scientist Summer 2012

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