Question about converting nukes to conventional weapons : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I've read that since the military is running short on cruise missiles (stellar planning, BTW), they are planning to convert 300 some nuclear tomahawk missiles to conventional by replacing the warheads.

How easy is this to accomplish? I can see the Pentagon now..."Oops. We must have missed that one!"


-- Roland (, April 01, 1999



short answer: not very easily at all.

slightly longer answer: this translates into a whole bunch of enlisted technicians working around the clock to get stuff done. OTOH the two types are so very different that it would literally be impossible to 'miss one' by accident.


-- Arlin H. Adams (, April 01, 1999.

This is IT!

You got the ANSWER!!!

Nato Please take NOTE......

-- ANSWER (, April 01, 1999.

It's the "by accident" part that I'm worried about.

"You know that hole that used to be Belgrade? Well we're awfully sorry about that..."

-- Roland (, April 01, 1999.

I read in the paper yesterday that it took them over a year to convert the missiles they're using now. Don't sound easy or quick.


-- Deano (, April 01, 1999.

Since when have started assuming that this administration cares how hard somebody else has to wwrok - as long as they can "look good" by keeping on bombing - they don't care. Long, hard demeaning work, too expensive.

The problem - as they see it - is the embarresment that they were found to be running out of cruise missiles.

Mistake in swapping warheads? No - won't happen. Mistake in deciding to launch the conventional cruise missiles in the first place? Absolutely. Mistake in disarming the nukes? Absolutely.

-- Robert A Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, April 01, 1999.

Perhaps I should have phrased that as "Accidentally on purpose"...


-- Roland (, April 01, 1999.

Clinton stopped production of the cruise missles, years ago. Now we convert the nuclear ones. THEN WE NEED NUCLEAR ONES !! Now what do we convert ? BRILLIANT Billy Boy will come up with another stop gap measure to cover his kester.Maybe Gore will truck an A-bomb to the exact location and detonate it personally to save as much of the enviornment as possible. Oh, well !! Tipper didn't really want to be first lady anyway; to hard to follow Hiller's Act ! Eagle

-- Harold Walker (, April 01, 1999.


One question to ask is: Is it stellar planning? Is it coincidence that the powers that be virtually ran out the Airforce's supply while the Navy's supply is in much better shape? Or is is possilbe that the air force design had Y2K/GPS problems. Use em up, and that Y2K issue goes away. I don't necessarily subscribe to that theory but it's not necessarily impossible.


-- john hebert (, April 01, 1999.

The USAF was working on developing a "stealth cruise missile" a few years back. I don't know if they ever got production funding from the Clinton administration. But if they do have improved, stealthy cruise missiles on hand for the nuclear missions, then converting the old, original model cruise missiles won't be a big loss. If Bubba and friends didn't divert the funds to the DNC and the plans to the Chinese, that is.


-- Wildweasel (, April 01, 1999.

John Hebert - no the Air Force missiles are cheaper (no expensive waterproof boxes and booster rockets), easier to load (no cranes or reload crates from a suppply ship or helicopter), easier to position in firing position(s) (fly the things from Italy), and easier to program (use a central base rather than independent ships that need to sail back to get to support ships - who may or may have the relaods in the first place!) The sub-launched in particular can't be reloaded at all at sea - and so they have to return to port to relaod - takes a good two days to rig and re-rig the torpedo and missile handling gear below decks.

It's much more efficient to launch and fly from an aircraft already at cruise height and at air speed - rather than from the sea surface and need a booster rocker to get to flight speed. This may mean that an air-launched version (and they are very different in many small ways) can carry a bigger warhead. Sensors and seeker heads are different too - the "navalized" version against ships needs a radar-seeker head that cannot be used over land and cannot be changed at sea , and follows flight profile that cannot be used over land - the Air Force version needs a terrain-following avoidance radar/altimeter that cannot be used at sea to attack ships.

Now, what would be interesting to know is WHEN the navalized cruise missiles were exchanged for land attack cruise missiles. And how many were actually launched from ships and from aircraft.

Knowing that little fact will tell us exactly when this little escapade was planned in Washington for execution in Yugoslavia. Add a little time to get parts and supplies flown into Italy, to recall the ships and offload, exchange warheads, reload, and get back to the firing points off Yugoslavia..........tells you real closely when the "powers that be" decied that they were going to launch missiles. And strip the fleet of ship-attack weapons to do it.

-- Robert A Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, April 01, 1999.

The conversion answer isn't straight forward. Actually removing the nuclear warhead and replacing it with a conventional one isn't that involved. However, the command and control electronics used for arming /disarming and setting various detonation parameters are quite different and so you essentially end up re-wiring the missile. As for the "stealth" missle, the expected replacement is the JASSM(Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missle, but it only has a range of 300 mile (they are trying to get tht up to 600 miles). The current cruise missles have a range of roughly 800-1000 miles. The biggest problem is that the conventional air launched cruise missles have a warhead of 2000+ pounds while the Navy Tomahawk is only around a thousand. The Air Force probably only has about 200 calcms left.

-- RD. ->H (, April 01, 1999.

So Robert, that explains the Russians sending 7 warships into the mediterranean. Our ships will have to rearm with the anti-ship warheads or be at least partially defenseless, which forces the Airforce to pick up the slack in increased high risk bombing missions. Makes a little more sense now.

-- Nikoli Krushev (doomsday@y2000.00), April 01, 1999.

Nik -

that's only part of it. you see the Russians can draw significant US assets away from other operations (i.e. Kosovo) simply by going out in the ocean and driving in big circles - where the Russian fleet goes, our guys have *got* to shadow them to keep tabs on what they're doing...basicly all the Russians have to do is keep their ships from sinking or blowing up and then just keep changing course randomly every little while.


-- Arlin H. Adams (, April 02, 1999.

Sir Robert,

Thank you, you came through again. Your comments shed an interesting light on the hypothetical question I posed and provide background on the cost/logistics involved. This tends to seriously downplay Y2K in the decision process.

My only reservation is 'Military Intelligence' (ok, I'm using out of context but you get my drift). Does the military actually perform such cost/benefit analysis when deciding which bomb to use when it time to blow the hell out of someone?


-- john hebert (, April 02, 1999.

Weapons were cheaper, budgets less restrictive, and you "kept shooting". They didn't use to analyze this type of stuff - but only because they didn't have to. There was lots of wasted effort and lost material too.

Now, budgets are tighter, and it forces more conservative planning, maybe more effective planning - but the real impact (the real cause) is the limited numbers of high-tech weapons, and the long time it takes to rebuild them. You simply can't afford to arbitrarily "shoot" weapons.

Many, many armed forces' undergrad and postgraduate degrees are in operational research - how to plan future technology, future battles, future tactics by "scientifically" analyzing the effect of past and present tactics. This kind of analysis is a typical problem: how many (spare) anti-air rockets do I need at the division level to support how big an area with 2,3,4, or 5 rocket batteries in how many different battalions? How many rockets do I order (if it takes 1, 2, or 3 months to order and make them from scratch in peacetime) to make sure I can support 1, 2, or 3 simultaneous wars?

If for example, they only have 24 rockets available because tha this all that can be moved by air, they won't use 2 missiles to aim at one airplane if the probability of one missile taking out the aircraft is high enough.

Obviously, it gets complicated quick - even without political pressure to "Immediately move two missile batteries to Israel so we can protect Tel Aviv."

-- Robert A Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, April 02, 1999.

RD wrote: "The Air Force probably only has about 200 calcms left."

I saw on CNN the other day that we have less than 100 conventional air-launched cruise missiles left in our inventory.

-- Nabi Davidson (, April 02, 1999.

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