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 gear....so...they 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

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