August 03, 2015

A Few Things That Make One Just Throw Up Ones Hands And Go Watch Cartoons

For many, the major concern regarding the high octane nightmare fuel that is Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is loose nukes getting into the hands of one of the many Islamist organizations that operate in the country with and without official sanction. For instance:
PESHAWAR, Pakistan—Six leading figures of the Pakistani Taliban pledged allegiance to the terror group ISIS, one of them claimed in an audio message released Tuesday
(There is no word on their position regarding Lion hunting.)

 However, the possibility of Pakistan straight up using their atomic weapons in a war is nontrivial. A lethal 12 hour long gunfight in an Indian border town has thrown tinder on the hot-plate that is India and Pakistan's relationship. This despite the fact that no lions were harmed during the incident. 

 It is part of a general pattern of deterioration of India/ Pakistan relations..

Conditions are ripe for a crisis in this strained environment, even more so if a terrorist attack on Indian soil—such as Monday’s—is traced back to extremist groups supported by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). These rising tensions make crisis management more difficult and increase the risk of a conflict with nuclear dimensions.

Pakistan and India have been to war several times and Pakistan's statement that they consider battlefield nuclear weapons to be legitimate equalizers should certainly give one pause since once nukes start popping off all in a conflict where both sides have them, all sorts of nastiness is likely to ensue. 

Here is an estimate of the soot cloud that would be generated by 100 nuclear weapons of 15 kiloton yield going off over cities. 

The scale on the bottom measures reduction in watts per square meter.

These estimates tend to lean towards the pessimistic, however, this study assumes blast yields somewhere between approximately one half and one quarter those of the underground tests the countries have conducted and since both countries had stockpiles of around 100 weapons in 2011 (and have been building them up since) the number of blasts modeled is perhaps half what one would see in a real war. It concludes that growing seasons would be reduced between 10 days and a month in many parts of the world.
 Smoke emissions of 100 lowyield urban explosions in a regional nuclear conflict would generate substantial globalscale climate anomalies, although not as large as in previous "nuclear winter”scenarios for a full-scale war (11, 12). However, indirect effects on surface land temperatures, precipitation rates, and growing season lengths (see figure, page1225) would be likely to degrade agricultural productivity to an extent that historically has led to famines in Africa, India, and Japan after the 1783 1784 Laki eruption (13) or in the northeastern United States and Europe after the Tambora eruption of 1815 
This does not include estimates of ozone layer depletion which might persist for as much as 5 years. These models should be taken with a grain of salt of course, but it is apparent that if India and Pakistan go at it full on it would cause problems worldwide.

There has been little coverage of the deteriorating situation between the two nations in the U.S. media which is remarkable given that many of the hypothetically targeted cities in the studies contain zoos, which in turn might contain....lions. 


Fortunately, no negative impact upon any lions is considered imminent, hence the lack of interest by the media. 

Ukranian 'rebels' are reportedly building a dirty bomb, ie: a conventional explosive laced with radioactive substances to increase its lethality, or at least fear inducing effect. Like everything coming out of the confused region this should be treated with some skepticism, especially since the media has determined that it does not merit extensive coverage despite the fact that, if true it would be an obvious threat to the proud people eating lions of Kiev


Puerto Rico is defaulting on its debts. This is the U.S. Greece, fortunately no lions seem to have been harmed. 


China's stocks fell 29% in July. This is having some ripple effects, but may, in the short term, lower the number of Chinese businessmen able to pay for safaris to hunt lions. 

Poaching lions is a thing worthy of notice, but when the Jews start to flee a nation, it is warning sign of dreadful ugliness in the works .


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July 19, 2015

Meanwhile...This Happened...

Someone has been cutting fiber optic cables in California.

There is also the matter of the nontrivial terrorist attack in France recently that is not getting anywhere near the coverage it warrants.  

On the Russian front....wait...lets not put it that way.
Regarding Russia, there is some relief about the reports that the Russian air-force is having a bad month. This is an understandable sentiment , but it doesn't necessarily mean that their planes are no threat. It could just be a byproduct of training at a high tempo under realistic conditions...which they'd be doing if they were anticipating trouble.

Iran will not be allowing US nuclear inspectors to...inspect. 

In what I'm sure must be completely unrelated news, North Korea is hinting at a new series of nuclear tests in October. 

Pakistan, that bastion of reason and stability in South Asia, is greatly expanding their nuclear arsenal.

Venezuela has laid claim to two thirds of Guyana.

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July 08, 2015

Betting Against Ourselves

We here at Brickmuppet Blog were somewhat surprised at just how fast the topic of the post below went from obscure to focus of major interest. 

It is our sincere hope that that pattern does not repeat with THIS story. 

 A Patriot missile defense battery operated by Germany on the Syrian-Turkish border received "unexplained commands” from a "foreign source,” sparking fears it has been hacked...,

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June 08, 2015

Methods by Which a "Junior Varsity Squad" Might Reach Critical Mass

This post was initially a long, rambling tangent to an earlier post where it didn't really fit. Now it is a slightly longer rambling post that attempts to build off this article with a creative dateline that that was linked to Saturday by Elizabeth Price Foley. . In my estimation it does warrant some more extensive consideration. 

The linked piece talks about the likelihood of ISIS buying a complete atomic bomb. It is a worriesome read to be sure, however, that is not the only way they could mischief with fission. 

The notion of a "dirty bomb" which is an explosive that disperses radioactive waste is already well known. Less well appreciated however, is the very real possibility that  a terrorist outfit could actually build an actual fission device that could realistically be in the same class as the weapon that devastated Hiroshima in 1945. 

Matthew Bunn, who was involved in nonproliferation issues during the Clinton Administration testified before Congress in 2008. amongst his testimony was this bit of joy...
   One study by the now-defunct congressional Office of Technology Assess- ment summarized the threat: "A small group of people, none of whom have ever had access to the classified literature, could possibly design and build a crude nuclear explosive device . . . Only modest machine-shop facilities that could be contracted for without arousing suspicion would be required. 

"How is that possible?" one might ask? After all The Manhattan Project, was a vast undertaking that took six years , thousands of people and most of the electrical capacity of the TVA so one might be excused for skepticism.. 

However, the crux of the endeavor was not manufacturing Little Boy, Little Boy was an afterthought. William Tobey and Pavel Zolotarev suggest (on page 7 of this presentation) that over 90% of the effort of the Manhattan project was getting the fissionable fuels (Oralloy and Plutonium) for the bombs.  The initial bomb  bomb design"Thin Man" was found to be a dud, so effort went into developing the complex implosion system needed to detonate plutonium for what became the Mark 2 bomb design (Gadget, Fat Man, Able and Baker) Mark 1 was redesigned and simplified as Little Boy, a weapon that was so simple that it was not even considered necessary to test it.

 In fact to keep from impacting the main (Fat Man) effort,  its construction was contracted out to 3 machine shops! According to Wikipedia, these were The Naval Gun Factory in Washington D.C. , a Naval Ordinance Contractor in Centerline Michigan and The Expert Tool and Die Company in Detroit. These Government and commercial contractors were given plans for only the components they were to build (so none of them knew what they were building). Little Boy was a hedge in case the much more efficient Fat Man design did not work. 

Well they both worked, but the big difficulty was not their design or construction, it was getting the plutonium and enriching the uranium. 

So...If ISIS can get its hands on 140 odd pounds of Oralloy (highly enriched uranium), and if they somehow had access to a machine shop,...
...then it's entirely possible that they could build something akin to Little Boy. Its significant that the people who built Little Boy were not atomic scientists and did not even know what they were building, only that they were building machine parts to spec.

This is in actuality,  probably more likely than getting ahold of a working nuke. It's disturbingly non-far-fetched in fact, as both the Tobey / Zolotarev presentation linked above and a seperate presentation by the aforementioned Mathew Bunn have overviews of relevant incidents involving weaponizeable fissionables.

This CRS Report for Congress comes to similar conclusions and makes for sobering reading. The scenario involving a crude nuke in a supertanker taking on oil in the Houston Shipping Channel is particularly worrisome, given that so many of out geopolitical opponents would really like to get oil prices up. 

It should be noted that oralloy is not terribly common and the crude, Little Boy type weapons we are discussing here are quite wasteful (needing 140 pounds of oralloy for a critical mass) so any conceivable heist is unlikely to enable for than a few bombs. On the other hand,  global stockpiles of the stuff are measured in tons

How much damage could a small, crude nuke do? 
Well, Little Boy was the crudest of crude bombs ever made. It probably serves as a template for what a non-state group could realistically do given that it was right at the minimum amount of Oralloy for a Uranium weapon without really advanced gadgetry. Bombs made by state actors such as Iran or stolen from Pakistan are likely to be significantly more powerful unless they are advanced weapons designed to be small.  

Little Boy therefore should probably be taken as good ballpark estimate of the yield a crude terrorist weapon might have.

There are uncertainties about how powerful  Little Boy was, with estimates ranging between 13 and 16 kilotons with most references saying around 15 kt, therefore, it seems appropriate to again post a video of the 15 KT Upshot Knothole-Grable test. 

(An extensive overview of the damage assessment can be seen here

A good overview of what would be done to something other than a desert can be found in this report by FEMA and Lawrence Livermore which details the effects of a 10 kiloton improvised nuclear device on Washington DC.

Reactor grade plutonium is much more accessible, but is harder to handle and requires challenging processing. Additionally, if plutonium is used in a gun type weapon (which is what "Thin Man" was) it will fizzle and blow apart before a full detonation, however the Tobey and Zolotarev presentation mentioned previously seems to indicate that a fizzle could approach a kiloton. 

Even if significantly less than a kiloton such a weapon could cause considerable havoc. A Texas City sized explosion with the added effect of radiation pulse, fallout and dispersing toxic plutonium would be devastating. Even a near total fizzle, an Oklahoma City sized blast with the added contamination and associated terror of "OMG!! ATOMIC!1!" would cause panic beyond that seen on 9-11-01. 

More sophisticated implosion devices are extremely challenging, but their use should not be completely dismissed. Such weapons, after all, require the sort of advanced, cutting edge technologies as were available in the late 1930's to mid 1940's. They would allow 4-10 times as many bombs to be made for any given amount of fissionable material, as well as much larger yields. Still, the technical skill, physics knowledge and manufacturing ability required are at once so diverse and specialized that they are vanishingly unlikely to be used by non-state actors. They additionally might, due to their sophistication, require a test, that, upon occurring in ISIS or Boko Haram territory, would most likely inspire a sudden intensity, clarity and unity in response from the western nations heretofore unseen.  So the picture isn't completely grim.

But it is certainly cause for vigilance.

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June 01, 2015

A Necessarily S.W.A.G. Based Overview of the North Korean SSB

Over at Covert Shores, H.I. Sutton has put together an analysis of the North Korean SSB, which is tentatively called the Sinpo class. 

The striking thing is how small it is. This, of course, means it has limited capabilities, but even those limited capabilities should give one pause. Furthermore, it also puts such a vessel within the capability of small countries. 

It is notable that Iran, which has expanded its sub building capability from costal midgets to mid sized submarines, has an active technology exchange program with the DPRK. Indeed, their domestic submarine industry is largely based on North Korean technology and they have tested a similar launch rig already.

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Mobile Crematoria and Other Foreign Affairs Developments

It is being reported that Russia has dispatched mobile crematoriums to burn their dead and thereby cover up the casualties they are suffering in East Ukraine from the world and their own public. 

Apropos of nothing to be sure, but noting that Putin has gotten very vociferous in his defense of the sanctity of the Russian Orthodox Church, I looked up their views on cremation. Golly....

It is unclear what the HELL is actually going on in Kharkov and the Donbass but there are indications that the Ukranians are not collapsing quite yet...

...which may explain this

Looking askance at these developments, Poland and Lithuania, in addition to massively upping their own defense expenditures, are both offering NATO bases and asking the U.S. to deploy troops there....
...Canada and Germany look posed to step up if NATO decides to accept the bases. More from a Canadian perspective here

Such developments have some people anxious which no doubt contributed to this tweet going a bit viral...


Fortunately there is nothing else happening in the w....oh wait.
China is putting artillery and jets on the islands that it has, with incredible speed, made out of reefs it stole from the Philippines and Viet-Nam. Even the Guardian is noting that the Chinese island construction project is unprecedented and worrisome.

In response, the US and the Philippines have just signed an agreement setting up a defensive line in the SCS. Of course the most worrisome issue is that after all the redlines, fecklessness and lassitude of the last 7 years, the Chinese reportedly don't think that the US is a concern. This could lead to a considerable miscalculation on their part.  

The situation with ISIS/ISIL is...sub-optimal to be sure, but take heart. It could be worse...I mean it's not like...oh wait....
ISIS Isn't Wrong About Being Able to Get Nuclear Weapon From Pakistan, India's Defense Minister Says

Meanwhile the efforts to keep the other denomination of crazy from getting nukes is going about as well as expected. It should be noted that Iran has close technical relationships with North Korea which is already a nuclear power. 

North Korea is also facing a terrible drought again which could lead to another round of nuclear rocket testing trying to get food...or it could destabilize a paranoid, insular nuclear power. 

Happily, we can all rest assured that none of the above is of any concern, because all of these things are denied the position of "top story" by the fact that Bruce Jenner looks quite hot for a 65 year old in a one piece, presumably meaning that we can now use plastic surgery and photoshop to make the scary stuff go away. 

Nothing to see here...Move along. 

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Two Hours Well Spent

Here is an FPRI panel with three scholars giving talks on on the First World War. The whole thing is worth your time. The first covers just how unexpected the disaster was and why that was. The second talk (25 and a half minutes in) is also quite interesting, with Rutger's Kate Epstein debunking some long held misconceptions about the British Empire's position and strategy at the beginning of the war. To me the third is particularly fascinating. In it, John R. Schindler (who blogs at Double Cross Committee) goes into detail about role Austria-Hungary played in the genesis of the catastrophe.  That one starts about 43 minutes in.

I was aware that things went to worms for the KuK early on, but Schindler makes it clear that their setbacks were far worse than is generally supposed, making the fact that held on till the end a fairly impressive feat. 

The Q&A is generally worthwhile too. 

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April 04, 2015

While We All Wait

.... with baited breath, to discover who amongst us will make the next misstep on the constantly shifting tightrope of acceptable discourse and get inducted into the Emmanuelle Goldstein society, we should not ignore the wackiness transpiring elsewhere. 

Norway has...well...mislaid something....

Only six years ago, Norwegian politicians decided that Russia no longer posed a significant threat and that it was time to sell its top secret base called Olavsvern, which was hewn into a mountain and equipped with the most sophisticated electronics available. It’s located near the small town of Ramfjord near Norway’s border with Russia.

That's certainly...awkward.


In other news the negotiations with Iran regarding its nuclear program has produced some tentative results.
None of Iran’s nuclear facilities — including the Fordow center buried under a mountain — will be closed. Not one of the country’s 19,000 centrifuges will be dismantled. Tehran’s existing stockpile of enriched uranium will be "reduced” but not necessarily shipped out of the country. In effect, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will remain intact, though some of it will be mothballed for 10 years. When the accord lapses, the Islamic republic will instantly become a threshold nuclear state.

That from the bastion of reactionary rightwingery that is the Washington Post. 

Actual footage of our crackerjack negotiating team negotiating.

Next Big Future looks at the numbers and notes that alarmist claims that Iran will be able to make 32 bombs a year are overblown. In fact the worlds largest state sponsor of terrorism will only be able to make 25 nuclear bombs a year. 


China seems to be building a naval base in Namibia


The Middle East continues to deteriorate.
The US is asking all Americans to leave Yemen...but won't provide an evacuation.


Al Shabab has killed nearly 150 people at a university in Kenya. Neo has thoughts and links here


My State's bar association turns out to be a little bit evil


Finally, on a arguably less serious note, the President of Russia's Academy of Geopolitical Problems demonstrates why he does not run the Academy of Geological Problems...
"Geologists believe that the Yellowstone supervolcano could explode at any moment. There are signs of growing activity there. Therefore it suffices to push the relatively small, for example the impact of the munition megaton class to initiate an eruption. The consequences will be catastrophic for the United States - a country just disappears," he said.  

Even multi-megaton nukes pale in sheer scale to geological processes. Besides, while the Yellowstone magma chamber is huge, it is currently about 85% solid. Now a 20 megaton nuke ( the largest the Russians have) would leave 800 foot deep crater, so there might be a tiny chance that several of them going off simultaneously might suddenly excavate enough material to relieve enough pressure to cause something to happen (besides a Russia ending retaliatory strike), but it would probably not be a VE-8 eruption. They'd likely be infinitesimally  better off targeting Clear Lake, Newberry, Medicine Lakes or Long Valley and would be better served still by not being so silly. 

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March 18, 2015

Nothing to See Here

It seems that while we weren't looking,  the Chinese agreed to provide Argentina with 5 offshore patrol vessels (actually in this case, small corvettes). The Argentines, for no reason whatsoever, we are sure, have decided to name them the Malvinas class. 


This is part of a larger deal where the Argentines got debt forgiven, infrastructure and "stuff" in exchange for mineral wealth, corn and beef. The "stuff" includes several nuclear reactors in exchange for a Chinese spacecraft tracking station in Patagonia and other, undisclosed concessions.

Terra Del Fuego, Sri Lanka, Dominica, all those atolls in the South China Sea, the new Nicaraguan canal, and feelers along the Cape of Good Hope.

China has issues to be sure, but the Middle Kingdom also has the choke points covered. 

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March 02, 2015

Brodie Rig

Here is some interesting color footage of the Brodie landing system which the Army used during WW2 to operate their light observation planes without airstrips. Towards the end of the war the devices were adapted for use at sea on Navy and Army transports.

This system is wacked, and it doesn't work with planes much bigger than a Piper Cub, but it had one obvious advantage over the Hurricat

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I have contracted a case of the Martian Death Flu which has kneecapped my creativity. In the interests of content here are a few random links. 

First some good news: A Boko Haram force, while attempting to move into southern Chad encountered a Chadian Army unit which curb-stomped them. Boko Haram's losses were 207 killed against Chad's one dead and nine wounded. Chad also seized large quantities of small arms and ammunition left behind by the murderous, feral nutbars.

A US Military satellite has exploded in orbit. The 20 year old DMSP-F13 reported a temperature spike before breaking into 43 pieces. The loss occurred on February 3rd but was only reported Saturday.

The U.S. Korea Institute has issued a projection of how many nuclear weapons North Korea will have in 2020. The estimate is between 20 and more than 100. That's a rather....large spread.  There is an interview with the researchers over at The Diplomat. It can be heard here

We've mentioned before that America's B-61 nuclear bombs are being reduced in yield from 340KT to 50KT (while at the same same time massively increasing the accuracy). There is much more on this here. Note the buried lede 29 paragraphs down:
As part of this plan, the U.S. would eliminate the megaton-class B83 gravity bomb.

With a yield variable from a few kilotons to 1.2 megatons B-83 is by far the most powerful weapon remaining in the arsenal. The B-83 is also a much more modern nuclear bomb than the B-61. Yet this weapon is being removed from the arsenal, to be replaced with two downgraded versions of the old B-61 with 50 and 100 kiloton maximum yields. While lower yields and greater accuracy do reduce collateral damage, nuclear deterrence involves having the potential to maximize damage to the infrastructure of the country being deterred.  Also, ones accuracy is only as good as one's targeting, and while missile silos and military bases might well be eliminated with 50 kiloton blasts, the great SCUD hunt reminds us that hunting for the mobile land based missiles is not at all easy and could well involve a lot of imprecise targeting in a general area, where the greater 'earthquake effect' of the earth penetrating B-83 might be valuable. Finally, there is the possibility that a nation with a different values set than ours might conclude that even 1000 or more 50-100kt  weapons hitting their strategic targets would be survivable as a nation, whereas a similar number of megaton class weapons would allow no recovery for us, thus in their twisted logic, victory. This is more likely if one has 4 times our population and a Maoist outlook that might consider one's large population to represent...spares. Increasing the accuracy of the arsenal is surely a good idea, as it makes the deterrent more credible, but getting rid of our most powerful bomb (which is variable yield in any event) seems rather ill considered.

As we have again mentioned "nukes", here is a picture of 21 kilotons of 'splody. 

Pete Zaitcev takes a break from aviation blogging to express his thoughts on the Ukrainian situation

What is being described as "vandalism" resulted in internet, phone, and cell service being disrupted across a wide swath of Arizona on Wednesday

Something is quite rotten at UCLA

Carly Fiorina asks a reasonable question

Ebola has not been in the news lately as it has not been spreading as fast as feared, but it has managed to kill 10,000 thus far and get into the vice Presidential offices of Sierra Leone...oh and it is now believed that airborne transmission is very likely in certain circumstances. ISTR those who suggested this earlier were called bad names. Additonally, it has recently been revealed via a freedom of information request that Ebola does, in fact seem to be a serious concern to the military with regard to its weaponization by terrorists

The first scenario outlined is completely redacted, illustrating the acute sensitivity about the issue. The second scenario is heavily blacked out but, according to the memo, "would be both logistically and technically challenging for a non-state group to undertake".

Well...that's reassuring. And I mean that with the same level of sarcasm that I say this is reassuring as well. 

Finally, some Taiwanese news outfit has thoughts on Net Neutrality.

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February 21, 2015

Suddenly: A Roving Pedant Appears

Reading this article on Russian bomber incursions into UK airspace, this bit at the end jumped out at me. 

The warnings came after military chiefs said Britain "could not cope” if Russia attacked because our defence forces have been "decimated”.
Sir Michael Graydon, former head of the RAF, said: "I very much doubt whether the UK could sustain a shooting war against Russia. We are at half the capabilities we had previously.”

To decimate something means to reduce it by a tenth. Yet in the next paragraph it is clearly stated that the UK military is at half their previous capability. What's more, the number of carriers has gone from 3 to zero in recent years and three is greater than one half of three so even that assessment is off by 50%.

Thus the objective truth is is that the UK Military isn't even close to being decimated. 

See? That doesn't sound so bad now, does it?

"That's a relief! Everybody dance!"

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February 10, 2015

Oh My

China is expressing an interest in supporting the Hawaiian independence movement. Given that Oahu and Midway are arguably the most strategic points in the Pacific, I bet they are. Of course, there is also this...

 Michael Pillsbury, a Pentagon consultant and author of the recent book 100 Year Marathon, said Chinese military hawks, known as "ying pai,” told him they are ready to provide arms to Hawaiian independence activists in retaliation for U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

Regards the particular little bit of cheer in that quote, I'm a little skeptical of this sentiment being a real thing, at least with regard to the politburo members who would have to approve such a risky move. However, given the outright seizure of Philippine atolls, and moving the border with India unilaterally, it bears scrutiny. In any event, it certainly continues China's policy of trolling us. Far less asinine brinkmanship can easily lead to epic miscalculations

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January 31, 2015

The Answer is Sarmat

The question is : "What is Russia's new ICBM called?"

Wow. There had been reports that Russia was developing a new heavy ICBM to replace the old R-36 (NATO reporting name SATAN). However,  it was assumed that the new heavyweight missile would be a bit smaller than the massive old cold war relic, perhaps something with a payload along the lines of the MX-Peacekeeper

It was also assumed that ISIS was a JV team, that "Never again" was more than hollow posturing and that we would notice a Russian submarine in the Gulf of Mexico before it left. In keeping with the sterling record of our designated assumers, the stats for the new Russian ICBM have been released.

SARMAT, the replacement has a declared throw weight of 10 tonnes and can hit targets in the US while firing over the south pole. That is the opposite direction most US early warning radars point. 

 R-36 (SS-18 SATAN) being launched (via the Military today article)

22,046 pounds is an awful lot of ordinance. Keep in mind that the R-36, is, by a WIDE margin the most powerful ICBM in the world. It has a "throw weight" (as reported to comply with the START treaty), of 8.5 tonnes. There was an improved version with a payload of 9.5 tonnes that was cancelled. Reportedly, this was cancelled in order to comply with arms limitation talks. Wikipedia lists some payload options that were cancelled to comply with the 10 warhead treaty limit.  
 Three of these versions would carry regular warheads—38 × 250 kt yield, 24 × 500 kt yield, or 15–17 × 1 Mt yield. Two modifications were supposed to carry guided warheads ("upravlyaemaya golovnaya chast")—28 × 250 kt or 19 × 500 kt. 
Note that one of the two latest versions of the R-36 is a single warhead version as well, carrying a huge 20 megaton warhead that was, in part developed to maximize EMP effects. These huge warheads were removed and stored in 2009 as the Russians sought to maximize the number of warheads given the 10 warhead limit and the dwindling number of serviceable missiles. The R-36 was manufactured and serviced in Ukraine and recent events....well...the replacement program is a rather high priority. It need not, however be a challenging one. The Russians are quite capable at rocketry and the characteristics are a modest improvement on 1970's technology, but without parts made in Ukraine. Indeed, it appears that testing will begin this year. There is more on this (in Russian) here (google translate version behind spoiler tag)

This rocket is fearsome, but it is not a huge advance over the missile it replaces. However, it may itself represent a further rejection of the arms limitation treaties. and it drives home the fact that the Russians are very serious about relying on their nuclear forces.

 What could possibly go wrong?

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January 03, 2015

Mixed Emotions

Over the last 3 days there's been a bit of back and forth on the veracity of this story, but as I type this it is looking like there has been an ebola outbreak within the ranks of ISIS. Now this could not happen to a more deserving bunch of scumbags, so the first impulse is to just snark.

However, this is actually a dreadful development if true. 

For one thing, you will be shocked...SHOCKED to learn that ISIS, is not responding to the situation with the rational calm of a civilized military (Eisenhower with the Spanish Flu) or religious (Samaritan's Purse against Ebola) organization. Instead, they are killing the doctors who won't go near ebola patients without protective are killing the sane competent doctors. One of the reasons ebola spread so fast in East Africa was due to the fact the area had been ravaged by a recent war. The areas under ISIS influence are being ravaged by an ongoing one, and ISIS is being particularly efficient at spreading blood around in ways not seen since Tamerlane. 

But it gets worse:

The disease will go wherever the blood is spattered and that means into the local population which means it could easily get into the waves of refugees....

...or pilgrims.

...and that has the potential to be an unspeakable calamity. 
The hadj is not until September this year, but Mecca is open to pilgrims year round. (Medina too)

The Saudis have astutely banned entry to Mecca for people from Ebola affected areas. However,  ISIS is not known for respecting border restrictions. Furthermore, one of the more likely ways ebola could have reached Mesopotamia is via jihadis traveling from Africa. If these people were willing to travel all the way from West Africa to fight in a war, little will stop them from making the much shorter hop to a place their faith requires them to visit before they die. 

Fortunately ebola victims tend not to be terribly mobile while contagious, but given that they tend to become quite messily contagious it's easy to see where this could get out.

The doctors of East Africa are not incompetent, yet a huge number of them have died even after getting proper equipment. Samaritan's Purse and Medicines Sans Frontiers have highly trained and well equipped  people yet they have both had their people infected and despite heroic efforts the disease is still ravaging the area. ISIS is ill equipped, untrained and stark raving mad. 

The question of how it got there is troubling as well. While the most likely vector was jihadis traveling from the infected area it is conceivable that given their megalomanic outlook ISIS was trying to weaponize the bug. Ebola is a poor bioweapon (though its terror potential is considerable) and the chances of ISIS being able to successfully transport and deploy the thing is quite remote. However given that they are stark raving nutters the chance that they might try and fail spectacularly has always been much higher. 

Closer to home....

As bad as this could be it is still likely that the higher death toll this year will be from the flu, especially given that this years flu shot did not work. New Jersey is reporting its hospitals are full due to the current outbreak, which the CDC has just officially declared an epidemic
I think its possible that we could see the worst flu season since 1968

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 12:35 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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