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Implications for Military
Deeply Buried Facilities:
Implications for Military Operations
Deeply Buried Facilities:
Implications for Military Operations
Eric M. Sepp, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF
The Occasional Papers series was established by the Center for Strategy
and Technology as a forum for research on topics that reflect long-term
strategic thinking about technology and its implications for U.S. national security. Copies of No. 14 in this series are available from the Center for Strategy and Technology, Air War College, 325 Chennault Circle, Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, Alabama 36112. The fax number is (334) 953-1988;
phone (334) 953-2985.
Occasional Paper No. 14 Center for Strategy and Technology Air War College Air University Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama 36112 Contents Page Illustrations Tables Disclaimer The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense, the United States Government, or of the Air War College Center for Strategy and Technology.
Lt Col Eric M. Sepp earned an undergraduate degree in Business Management and received his commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Miami University of Ohio in 1980 He subsequently served as a Project Manager for both Foreign Weapons Evaluation and theAGM-130 at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida After earning anundergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering from Auburn University, Alabama, he served as the Small ICBM guidance and control Branch Chief and as Chief of Program Operations Division at Norton Air Force Base, California from 1986 to 1991.
While at Norton Air Force Base, earned a graduate degree in Systems Management from the University of Southern California In 1991 he was assigned to the Pentagon where he was the ICBM Acquisition Program Element Monitor for the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition.
While at the Pentagon, he alsoserved as a weapons inspector with the United Nations SpecialCommission (UNSCOM) in Iraq, and provided Air Force support toworldwide missile non-proliferation programs. In 1995, he was assignedas Chief, B-2 Requirements Branch, and later served as the ExecutiveOffcer to the Aeronautical Systems Center Commander A graduate ofSquadron Offcers School, Air Command and Staff College, and the AirWar College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, as well as a graduateof the Defense Systems Management College, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, hecompleted this research under the auspices of the Center for Strategy andTechnology. Lieutenant Colonel Sepp is currently serving as MilitaryAssistant to the Chief of Staff, Headquarters Allied Forces North Europe(NATO), Stavanger, Norway.
The existence of deeply buried Underground facilities has emerged as one of the more difficult operational challenges to confront U.S. military forces in the twenty-frst century While these types of facilities are not new, they are signiScant when one considers the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. The problem is that deeply buried facilities can be used by rogue governments to manufacture and store weapons of mass destruction (WMD), as well as house the critical command and control and governmental functions that are central to the successful prosecution of a war It is unfortunate that, with the exception of nuclear weapons, the current technologies for locating and neutralizing these types of facilities may not be suffcient for holding these facilities at riskThe purpose of this study is to outline the diff~culties that are involved in locating and neutralizing deeply buried facilities, and suggest alternate methods and technologies, other than nuclear weapons or advanced conventional weapons, for holding these targets at risk This study describes deeply buried facilities and their typical functions, assesses their vulnerability, and presents ideas for neutralizing these facilities with nonconventional means The broad objective of this study is to ensure that U S national and military objectives can be achieved in contingencies that involve deeply buried facilities.I would like to express my appreciation to my Air War College faculty advisors Dr William Martel and Col (Ret.) Theodore Hailes for their invaluable encouragement and assistance I would also like to express my thanks to my wife and children for their constant support and encouragement That being said, I alone am responsible for the ideas outlined in this paper.
The problem in the early twenty-first century is that deeply buried underground facilities are becoming an increasingly important part of the defense establishments in many states. These facilities allow states to conceal the personnel, equipment, and command and control functions that are essential to the successful prosecution of a war. In general, these facilities can protect a state's most critical governmental and military functions and contribute to victory during war, or at least make it more difficult for the adversary to destroy critical military capabilities.
There are numerous historical examples in which states have used underground facilities in warfare, including the use of underground manufacturing facilities by the Germans in World War II to conceal and protect valuable industry from destruction. During the Vietnam War, North Vietnam developed an extensive system of underground tunnel for concealing transportation routes, storage facilities, and temporary troop containment areas Since the beginning of the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union located their intercontinental ballistic missiles and associated command and control centers in underground sites in order to increase their survivability against nuclear attack. The continuing evolution of underground facilities has provided increasing levels of concealment and protection for a state's critical military components.1 The event that has elevated the general level of concern among modern military planners is the prospect that underground facilities are used for the manufacture and storage of weapons of mass destruction, particularly by such rogue states as Libya, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea.
In the years since the Persian Gulf War, deep underground facilities have become even more desirable to rogue states because it allows them to protect valuable military assets from attack with the increasingly precise and effective conventional bombs and missiles that are at the disposal of U S.
military forces. For example, during the Persian Gulf War, precision guided weapons held at risk virtually every above-ground building, including command and control facilities and hardened aircraft shelters. In response, rogue states have devoted considerable effort to constructing hardened, deeply buried facilities by converting existing caves and abandoned mines into bunkers, or constructing new facilities by tunneling deep underground.2 Recently, the New York Times reported that Libya is constructing a 2000mile long network of underground pipes with passageways that are sufficiently large to move military troops and equipment in an undetected and protected fashion.3 According to that report, these pipes intersect with an underground facility that is being constructed in Tarhunah, Libya, which is a suspected of manufacturing site for chemical weapons. Furthermore, there are reports suggesting that North Korea has built an elaborate underground network of tunnels with storage facilities and routes that are suitable for use by the vehicles and troops that would be used in a military invasion of South Korea. These tunnels lie as deep as 100 meters beneath the surface and can support the movement of an estimated 8,000 troops per hour, along with the heavy equipment and jeeps that would support an invasion of South Korea.4 While at least tour of these tunnels have been located and neutralized, it is suspected that many other tunnels are located along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea.
Deeply buried facilities have significant implications for national security, principally in terms of giving a state an effective sanctuary for protecting its weapons or command and control functions from attacks with modern precision guided weapons. At the same time, these facilities pose a difficult challenge for U S military forces, which will want to locate and destroy them in the event of a military confrontation. The development that is most worrisome to the defense establishment in the United States is the possibility that deeply buried facilities will contain nuclear, biological, or chemical agents, and that the destruction of these facilities may lead to the release of these agents with devastating environmental and political consequences.
While one military plan for defeating deeply buried targets was to use nuclear weapons delivered by B-2 bombers,5 the Clinton administration overturned this policy and banned the use of nuclear weapons to defeat such targets. The reason behind this decision is the concern that the use of nuclear weapons would have grave political consequences, especially in an era when nuclear weapons are less central to defense planning.6 While the use of nuclear weapons is a militarily practical way to destroy targets that may be hundreds of meters below the surface, their use involvespolitical and environmental risks that increase when one considers that the location, configuration, and contents of underground targets are often unknown.
The political repercussions of employing nuclear weapon may be greater than the United States would want to contemplate, and the environmental consequences of potentially spreading a warehouse full of potentially deadly biological or chemical agents would be unacceptable. The reality is that the use of nuclear weapons is not a practical option for dealing with underground targets in most circumstances.
The problem with using conventional weapons against such targets is that the depth and hardness of the targets can exceed the physical ability of the weapon to survive passing through tens of meters of rock and rubble.
Some experts estimate that new materials will need to be developed to penetrate modern concrete structures.
The result is that the U S military strategy and operational capabilities for holding hardened and deeply buried targets at risk will be deficient until the appropriate technologies and tactics are developed that will allow the United States to put such targets at risk. One element is training military personnel to perform these missions, which is consistent with the guidance provided by the U S Special Operations Command that such specialized skills do not "grow overnight." The second issue is to develop the technologies that permit U.S and allied forces to detect the presence, depth, layout, and contents of underground facilities, and simultaneously possess the weapons that will allow military forces to destroy or neutralize these facilities. These operational strategies should include the ability to achieve various levels of neutralization, including the ability to disrupt life support functions, create internal environments that are unsuitable for human operations, entomb those facilities, and in the extreme case, completely annihilate these facilities.
This study examines the nature of deeply buried facility, explores the problems associated with detecting these sites, and focuses on unconventional approaches for defeating these targets. This study has three central purposes. The first is to establish a framework for the U.S. defense establishment to understand the challenges posed by these facilities for the conduct of modern warfare. The second is to improve the ability of the U S military to successfully destroy deeply buried facilities, and the third is to suggest that the United States must develop new technologies and methods for overcoming the challenges associated with defeating deeply buried facilities.
The sheer complexity of underground facilities, including their location, depth, configuration, and military functions, suggest that this problem will plague U. S. defense planners for years to come.