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By Christopher Coker

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It requires little effort to demolish their five key objections to TNF modernisation. First, there is the claim that the SS-20 is not a new threat and provides the Soviet Union with no more options than it had before. This is questionable. The SS-20 is six times more precise than the SS-4 and four times more than the SS-5. It has three independently retargetable warheads, whereas the older rockets had only one warhead each with only half the range. If they were not more powerful they would not have been deployed at the rate of one a week since 1977.

In these circumstances, it would seem sensible to pre-position equipment with units in the field, a move which would have the additional advantage of helping units integrate much more quickly upon arrival. The Legacy of the 1970s 21 hope that its frontline forces will hold firm in the initial days of an attack has meant that the United States has neither had to make nor take seriously proposals for improving the deployment of its forces. Rhine might well be destroyed, making it difficult for allied reserves to get to the front in time.

In time of war, it should be possible to increase the force by 25 per cent in a matter of days. If the SLBM is at the moment the least vulnerable arm of the triad, this could change very rapidly if satellite or sonar detection were to enable the Soviet Union to pinpoint the presence of nuclear force submarines at any given moment. That age has not yet arrived but for a country like the United States, which relies so much on technology, it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility that by the end of the decade, if not well before, the Russians might score a breakthrough which would render the sea-based deterrent a much less attractive option.

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