Why would you place a boomer in the Med? Why is doing so a provocation and not part of a defense strategy?
Normally, a submarine equipped with SLBMs will loft them in a ballistic arc: the missiles go high, then free fall back to earth, like a cannon firing shells over the heads of the enemy. A submarine being used in a deterrent role can then hide anywhere within the missile’s maximum range to its target, making it an effective deterrent as a second strike weapon. The older Tridents were well suited to this because they did not have the accuracy needed to strike hardened targets. This made submarines into a counter-value platform, aimed at areas where accuracy wasn’t critical- things like bomber bases and cities.
A missile that is fired on a depressed trajectory can travel in a much flatter arc, giving it much less range and less accuracy than one fired in a ballistic arc. A submarine firing its missiles in a depressed trajectory thus gives up range and has a much smaller area in which to hide. This lowers its survivability in the event that hostilities begin. The advantage here is that the missiles’ flight time is much shorter, giving a country less time to react to the launch. Now that the US has developed more accurate (D5) version that is accurate enough to hit small, “hard kill” targets like missile silos and C3 bunkers, it is conceivable that an SLBM fired in a first strike could “take out” the command and control of an enemy before they could react, thus making a boomer into a first strike weapon. This is also why hypersonic missiles are so scary. They can be on you and detonating before you even are aware that they were launched.
To make this more difficult for the Russians to do, the US placed all of its SAC alert facilities far from the coast, so there would be sufficient warning to get the ground alert bombers away before they could be destroyed. The Russians played the same game by putting a lot of their stuff on the south side of the country. A sub in the med and the Arabian gulf changes all of those calculations. Missiles now have longer range, more accuracy, and higher speeds. Stealthy aircraft are right there on Russia’s border. This makes a first strike from stealthy platforms like SSBNs and the F35 more than a possibility.
The Med is a relatively small sea, but it is quite deep. The average depth of the Med is nearly 5,000 feet. More than deep enough to hide a boomer. Missile flight times from the Ionian or Aegean sea would be quite short- on the order of 6 to 8 minutes or so.
What this means is that the US is sending a dual message:
- Our submarines are in a position to strike first with nukes, and you won’t have time to react,
- we don’t care that you know their location, because we are going to use them before you get a chance to sink them
The US is saying that at least two of their submarines are no longer deterrents to nuclear war, they are now first strike weapons. You better believe that the Russians (I keep wanting to say Soviets) got that message loud and clear.
Combine this with the story that the US is moving more B61s into Europe where they can be employed by F35s stationed there, and it becomes clear that the US is threatening a first strike, not a response to a possible Russian nuke.
This goes beyond MAD. This is making it appear like the US powers that be have decided that a nuclear war is winnable. The theory that was behind MAD was “no one can win.” This is more like “we can win by decapitating you before you even knew you were at war.”
Incidentally, this is also why the Russians are so opposed to Ukraine joining NATO. They don’t want nuclear missiles or nuclear armed stealth bombers sitting in positions where they could take out Russian leadership before they can react to an attack.
Look at this from a Russian perspective: They don’t want nukes on their border any more than the US did during the Cuban missile crisis. The difference between Khrushchev and Biden is that the Soviet Premier was smart enough to blink. I don’t think Biden is.
If nothing else, this is the beginning of a new cold war. It looks like our government has decided that they can win a nuclear war.
The days when the US can force the rest of the world to do their bidding have come to an end. After the debacle in Afghanistan, those days are over. The rest of the world has seen that our military is a paper tiger, so all Biden is left with is nuclear saber rattling. Like a school yard bully, he is trying to pick the one fight that he thinks he can win. He might just be wrong. He is betting the entire country on a pair of fives.