Excerpt from Popular Mechanics’ article: What Putin Would Nuke — A hypothetical first strike scenario on the United States showcases Russia’s current and future nuclear arsenal.
Fishing With Dynamite
… For Putin to “win” a nuclear war, the campaign against American subs has to unfold as the warheads are dropping.
The Ohio-class submarines exist because they are hard to spot. They hide within range of their targets, waiting for a Very Low Frequency radio transmission telling the crews to fire, and what to target. They carry 24 Trident II missiles. Each carries up to eight warheads of at least 100 kilotons each. They are formidable weapons of war. …
By 2025, the Ohio fleet is impressive but aging—and shrinking. Budget cuts have reduced the number of nuke-carrying Ohios to just eight by 2020 [Joel Skousen often points out that the USA has agreed to dock half of our fleet of 8 subs, so only 4 will be at sea at any given time], creating a retirement schedule of one boat a year between 2015 and 2020. Their replacements are not due to be deployed until 2030. “Fewer submarines would make it easier for a potential adversary to track and target U.S. forces,” the Congressional Budget Office reported in 2013. “The operating areas for those submarines would be more predictable because missiles must fly a certain trajectory to hit key targets.”
The Russians know about where the submarines will be. Thanks to satellites, spies, and sensors, intelligence agents know which U.S. subs ones are in port and which ones are on patrol. Even so, Ohio-class subs are hard to find and harder still to kill. There’s no time for cat-and-mouse sub hunting games. So what can Putin use to be sure? He turns to nuclear depth charges.
…by 2018, the Pentagon confirms that the Russians were once again working on nuclear depth charges. The idea is simple: When hunting elusive subs, it helps to use a weapon that kills everything in a wide area.
Putin’s generals calculate their best guess at the locations of the U.S. subs and search intensively with their own submarines and drones. Any that are spotted are followed, and anywhere that doesn’t have an American sub will be spared a nuke.
Delivery comes from a couple vehicles. The Mi-14, an aged Soviet–era workhorse helicopter, may be an old design, but it was made to carry a nuclear bomb that could blast everything within almost a square mile of ocean. From 60 miles away, Oskar-class submarines can launch N-16 Stallion missiles that drop strings of nuclear warheads into the water. Bombers that take off from Russian airfields near the coast carry warheads set to detonate at various depths and strengths. Warheads that can be set for different yields are the most useful, with the rule being that smaller nukes are effective in shallower water. The bomber crews play Battleship, with each peg in the board a subsea nuclear explosion.
These warheads cause massive shock waves that reflect off the seafloor. Each time they bounce, the ocean’s surface rises in a column of frothy water hundreds of feet high. The immense pressure beneath the surface crushes submarine hulls. It’s the best way Putin has to knock out those submarines on patrol. The ones in the submarine pens are nuked by ICBM warheads where they sit.