Russian Tu-160 bomber. Source - Russia Beyond.

Nuclear war in Ukraine

The war in Ukraine seems to be heading, step by step and inexorably, towards a first use of nuclear weapons. Something unheard of since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. This is the consequence of the years-long move towards a Second Nuclear Age and the normalisation of the concept of Offensive Deterrence, which Russia has been putting into practice since the early stages of the conflict to modulate the degree of Western involvement. If Russia, faced with the threat of complete military defeat and the loss of conquered territories, finally resorts to atomic weapons it will have done nothing more than confirm some of the theories explained in this article. At the height of the Cold War, Herman Kahn, one of the most prominent nuclear strategists, said in 1984 in his famous book ‘Thinking the Unthinkable in […]


The tactical nuclear ground battle in Ukraine

The use of tactical (or non-strategic) nuclear weapons on the ground battlefield is much more difficult to visualise and understand than is popularly assumed. In general, the usual thing is simply to extrapolate the apocalyptic images of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Then deducing that carrying out a few attacks with nuclear artillery fire would cause extremely destructive effects that would annihilate an enemy army with relative ease. Things, however, are far from being so simple, with multiple technical problems that are not easy to solve. This turns tactical nuclear warfare into a complex issue that is not within the reach of any power, as we will see below. In addition to the difficulty of inflicting an acceptable level of damage on the enemy, we must also take into account the effects on our own troops -sometimes difficult […]

Launching of a Chinese space rocket. Source - CCTV.

Chinese FOBS and Limited Nuclear Options

On 16 October, the US Financial Times published what, in the world of Strategic Studies, was a real bombshell: China’s alleged test of a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) combined with a hypersonic missile. The advantages of FOBS lie in their ability to attack by orbital flight, so that they can describe unpredictable trajectories with a flight profile that makes them very difficult to detect, track and intercept with anti-missile systems or space weapons. In addition to the advantages of orbital flight, in the terminal phase of the attack, the weapon re-enters the atmosphere and strikes as a hypersonic glide-glide missile (HGV). Taken together, the combined characteristics of FOBS and HGVs provide unique capabilities to prevail in a crisis or limited nuclear engagement. However, this weapon is not a panacea and has the disadvantage that ballistically it is very inefficient; it takes alot of energy to launch a FOBS-HGV, while the same amount of energy used by a rocket in ballistic launch could launch many ballistic warheads. Moreover, FOBS-HGVs are not a “First Strike” weapon that could alter strategicstability between China and the US but are only a weapon for limited engagements and escalation control. Theselimited engagements were formalised […]

AUKUS could lead to the Royal Australian Navy's acquisition of Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarines. Source - General Dynamics Electric Boat

AUKUS and nuclear submarines

Australia’s announcement that it will acquire at least eight nuclear-powered attack submarines came as a remarkable surprise. Especially as it was accompanied by another announcement of even more profound consequences: the formation of the AUKUS between the US, the UK and Australia itself.  It is true that for years there had been talk in defence circles that Australia needed nuclear-powered attack submarines. As early as 2009, the then Australian government ruled that the nuclear option to replace the nationally designed (highly problematic and poorly operational) Collins-class diesel-electric submarines was ruled out. Various studies on the future of Australia’s submarine weapon, such as this one by ASPI in 2012 entitled ‘Mind the gap. Getting serious about submarines‘, explored three options, one of which was to have nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarines, although there were doubts that even the Americans would be willing to transfer the technology. According to the Financial Times, it was the Australians who asked the Americans for technology for nuclear attack submarines. The very creation of AUKUS, a military technology-sharing partnership, […]