August 19, 2018
More News From the World of 'Splody!
We've mentioned Russia's horrific, supersized, Strangeglovian, torpedo of terror here before. Well, the Russian government recently held an online poll to determine what this abomination is going to be named. The winning name was, sadly, not Nukey Mc Nukeface, but Poseidon.
Reports on this system are somewhat contradictory. The Russians seem to be giving 2027 as the date it is fully operational, while it appears that the system is in service now aboard RFS Belgorod, which has the capacity to carry 6 of these devices. The press reports also report that this thing has a yield of 2 megatons, (down considerably from 100MT)but that makes exactly no sense.
Unlike the U.S. the Russians never stopped designing new nukes. They are at least as advanced as us in this regard. In 1963 the U.S. had a one megaton warhead that weighed only 600-680 pounds and was less than 18 inches in diameter. A 21 inch torpedo like the MK 48 has a 650 pound warhead. The Russians use 660mm torpedos. I have no idea what their warhead weight is but the smaller 610mm Japanese Type93 (Long Lance) had a maximum warhead weight of over 1700 pounds in its mod 3 version. Thus one could conceivably put a 1-4 Megaton warhead in their submarine's standard tubes and carry a dozen or more with no expensive mods to the sub. This weapon has been photographed (in its tube) and is bigger than a WW2 Japanese midget sub. Modern 21 inch Torpedoes already have a 140 kilometer range, and one can assume that the 660mm russian weapons are longer legged still, so it seems unlikely that the entire Russian sub force could be stopped from tossing a dozen of these into major US ports, which aren't moving targets after all. This weapon on the other hand is limited to one boat at the moment, with 1 or 2 more in the pipeline. The only reason to add that vulnerability is if there is a huge increase in capability. This blog has explored cratering and seiche effects on a port before. Now let's look at secondary effects.
Belgorod reportedly carries six of these things, What happens if ONE sub fires a full spread and positions them for maximum effect?
Quick! To Nukemap for Justice!
"Holy crap! What the hell am I looking at?"
This is 6 x 100Megaton groundbursts in 5 deepwater ports and a Fishing harbor (Bangor, Astoria, Crescent City, San Fransisco, Sacramento, Long Beach) plus a 2 megaton groundburst for perspective in a salt marsh next to Vandenburg AFB. I had the fallout pattern from the smaller blast go south to make it stand out.
Note that the orange circles are the zone of burnination. At the outer edge of those circles, on a clear day, people outside go blind, get third degree burns, leaves, hair and dark clothing can catch fire, everything inside of that gets steadily more combustible. This means that EVERYTHING inside the inner orange ring is on fire. Recent headlines have implications for that effect, and how hard it might be to get under control.
The light grey bit just inside that is the outer limit of smashed windows and associated lacerations of people who might already be blind and on fire . Damage, gets worse in from that, the darker grey circle on each blast pattern is the 5 PSI limit. The effects of 5 pounds per square inch of overpressure can be seen in this helpful .gif .
(The .gif on the right actually.)
Everything inside that circle gets progressively more unpleasant. None of those effects save the outer burn limit are visible at this scale on the 2mt bomb, which is the smallest that really shows effects at this scale. Still, I very much would not want to be at Vandenburg in this instance.
I picked the west coast not because I hate J.Greely, and Mauser nor because I think that my home next to the largest naval base in the world is not a target, but because of the orange and yellow pointy bits coming out of the blast radii.
Fallout. This is how the Nukemap site explains the visuals for the streamers coming out of the circles.
Fallout contours for a 100 megaton surface burst (52% fission) with a 15 mph wind:
Fallout contour for 1 rads per hour:
Fallout contour for 10 rads per hour:
Fallout contour for 100 rads per hour:
All of those fall under the category of "bad", with10 rads per hour giving acute radiation syndrome in about half a day.
The fallout contours vary in length because I varied the wind speed. The mushroom cloud from a full yield RDS-220 is estimated to get over 30 miles high so it's going to be blown east by high speed upper level winds, especially if it intersects the very high speed winds of the jet stream(s). The wind speeds in the above image vary from 10mph to 180mph.
In practice such fallout patterns would follow a lazy s curve well into Canada (I would not want to be in Saskatoon or Winnipeg) before arcing down intothe U.S. breadbasket and possibly (depending on wind speed) looping up through the northeast and poisoning New England & the Maritimes. This is, of course highly dependent on the time of year (things like is the subtropical jet stream active as well as effects of North America's comparatively mild continental Monsoon pattern).
Here for comparison are three different fallout estimates from the federal government.
Images all nicked from Modern Survival Blog.
Note that these all date from the '80s or earlier and are all based on cold war scenarios involving a thousand or more bombs. The estimate in the first image is for 6.
So a full spread of 6 high yield weapons from Belgorod killed or poisoned at least half of North America and probably killed a majority of Canadians as an afterthought. That is a capability that makes the huge scale and complexity of this system actually make some sense, in exactly the same way that the 2megaton yield being reported doesn't.
I strongly suspect that IF this is not a Potemkin torpedo, that the yield is much higher than the 2 megatons that has been surfacing in news reports lately. I'm sticking with between 50 and 150 megatons.
Note too that 150MT was, according to The Johnston Archive, the final maximum design yield for the RDS-220 physics package, when it was intended as a warhead for the ICBM that was re-purposed as the Proton launcher.
Even given space and weight restrictions in the torpedo, 100 MT doesn't seem unreasonable. It seems like a middle of the road estimate.
If you take the parachute, and lay down casing off the old, 1963 Tsar Bomba the actual 'splody bits should just fit into a Poseidon. That weapon fit into the T-15 torpedo designed for it with just fine and its dimensions are similar to Posiedon's (albeit it was a tad shorter). It's been a long time since 1963...a lot of progress has been made.
Nuclear war is hideous to contemplate, but we lived unbder its spectre for decades. However, 'total atomic anihilation' used to require hundreds or even thousands of warheads. An EMP is a real threat, but doesn't involve direct damage or any meaningful fallout. Of course, in the unlikely event they ever use these things then the Russians will be hitting us with everything they have. Even if only to make the rubble bounce.
Ceres vs. Mars?
Pro's and cons.
August 05, 2017
Meanwhile, on the Roof of the World For two months now, China and India have been having a tiff over a Himalayan mountain pass. This is nothing new, a good deal of the border between the two nations is disputed and the two countries fought a war in 1960 over its exact position.
Now for the second time in three years there are large numbers of troops involved. Unlike the 2014 crisis, this is complicated by a third party and the fact that the diplomatic exchanges between the two most powerful players consist mainly of ultimatums.
OK. What happened? China also claims a parts of Bhutan. India has a defense agreement with Bhutan. While the China Bhutan border dispute was being reviewed by international bodies China marched into a Bhutanese mountain pass called Doklam (which borders India and China) and began building a highway (part of their New Silk Road project). India then sent in troops (as per their agreement with Bhutan) and forcibly removed the Chinese contractors and escorting soldiers out of Bhutan. Both sides have been moving troops into the area ever since and diplomatic exchanges have gotten more heated.
While this was going on, India has been rocked by a spy scandal involving their perpetual rival (and China's ally) Pakistan. In the last few days, Pakistan has just started poking along the Indo-Pakistani border and Kashmir is heating up again which is likely further unnerving India as they send troops north to Sikhim.
China India and Pakistan are all nuclear powers.
Kyle Mizokami goes over the impact of a China India war that escalates beyond the skirmish level.
A hypothetical war between India and China would be one of the largest and most destructive conflicts in Asia. A war between the two powers would rock the Indo-Pacific region, cause thousands of casualties on both sides and take a significant toll on the global economy.* Geography and demographics would play a unique role, limiting the war’s scope and ultimately the conditions of victory.
He notes that both India and China have "no first use" policies regarding nukes. However, in war, especially with high stakes, agreements get thrown out. (Remember use of Poison gas was forbidden by the Hague Convention in 1907. Parts of France are still uninhabitable today in part because of its use between 1915 and 1918 ).
Pakistan, something of a wild card in this affair, does NOT have a no first use policy and has expressed a willingness bordering on enthusiasm for battlefield nuclear bombardment. Once nukes start popping, anything goes.
The estimated short term impact of soot from a very limited exchange between India and Pakistan (low yields and only 100 detonations) is visualized here. It's comparable to a big volcano and could affect crop yields for a year.
An exchange that went all out between China and India or just India and Pakistan would be worse of course. This doesn't even touch on the extent of fallout affecting nearby countries or the incomprehensible suffering and slaughter that will result from a couple going off over Shanghai, Delhi, Mumbai or Hyderabad.
Mizokani's piece above notes that this could turn on naval action. (Ironic given the location of the dispute). A good chunk of China's trade passes through the Indian Ocean and India has a sizable navy. Furthermore, Aridhaman and Arihant, (India' two SSBNs) would be high priority targets for China, so you'd expect the Chinese to be taking measures in that direction if things were going to get serious.
With that in mind...
China just purchased the rights to a Sri-Lankan port.
While all this was happening, the U.S. Japan and India recently conducted joint naval operations incase, for whatever reason, they have to fight together.
While unlikely to actually take sides in such a fight, the U.S.N. is heavily engaged in the Arabian Sea right now...
What happens when Brahmos missiles and their Chinese equivalents start flying around the U.S. ships in the area?
Do we continue operations against ISIS?
Do we run neutrality convoys and protect the tankers coming out of the Persian Gulf?
Does the fact that three submarine cables in the Arabian Sea have gone dead in as many weeks indicate something we should be concerned about?
There's more on this situation and the strategic incentives in play for both India and China here.
In other words, control over the Doklam plateau constitutes a "win-win” for the PLA; both a knife to India’s jugular and shield to blunt its sharpest spear. With existential stakes for Delhi, and Beijing posturing growing more uncompromising by the day, there’s no end in sight to the longest standoff at the China-India border in over three decades.
Hide all the Archdukes.
May 23, 2017
Beslan Comes to Manchester. High school and younger kids were the target demographic, of Ariana Grande as well as these fiends.
There is very little that I can add except to say that a phobia is an irrational, unreasonable fear of something. Therefore, Islamophobia should not be a word.
While the sheer depravity of blowing up little girls leaves me speechless, Cdr. Salamander is not so handicapped.
April 13, 2017
Big Bomb is Big, but The Tautology is Not the Story The news today has been abuzz with reports that the U.S.A.F. dropped a GBU-43/b bomb on an I.S.I.S tunnel network in Afganistan. Much of the reporting has been breatlessly reporting on the fact that this bomb is REALLY BIG. Some reports have implied that this is like nothing ever used before and is as big as a small nuke.
The bomb in question is about the same sizer as a British Grand Slam bombs used in WW2.
This bomb has a much higher percentage of explosive to its total weight but its not anywhere near even the smallest nuke.
A Kiloton is the explosive equivalent to one kiloton (that is one thousand TONS) of TNT. This can be chamically simulated (minus flash and radiation) with....one thousand tons of TNT.
Which brings us to Operation Sailor Hat...
...in which the U.S. Navy wanted to test the effects of nuclear blasts on its ships without actually popping a nuke. They stacked up a pile of explosives big enough to simulate one half a kiloton of TNT, that is, one 30th the yield of the Hiroshima bomb. Naturally, this assembly consisted of a detonator and 500 TONS of TNT. Note the sailor in the lower right hand corner for scale (and the fire extinguisher...'cause they REALLY didn't want a fire there.)
Here's the GBU-43/b.
Much smaller than the bungalow sized bundle of boom above
It's also called MOAB (Massive Ordinance Air Burst) which is a somewhat tortured application of the G.I. Joe system of acronyms that enables it to be unofficially referred to as the Mother of All Bombs.
It is NOT in the same ballpark as even the smallest known nuke.
It is a very good weapon for delivering a huge concussive force to a mountain and collapsing tunnels, which is what it was used for here. The target seems to be a massive underground system of tunnels and caves that is part of a chain of such fortresses set up by the Taliban and AlQuaeda in Nangahar province stretching from the northeast to south of Jalalabad of which Tora Bora is the most well known. that complex was well equipped with hydroelectric generators, and other equipment one would associate with the Maginot Line rather than a terrorist cave.
Note though the buried lede in this story.
The operation in Nangahar not only warranted the use of a concussion weapon of this size, the weapon in question was targeted against an ISIS stronghold.
Not Taliban, not Al-Quaeda, but ISIS...in Afganistan. There have been several islamist groups around the world that have sworn aliegence to ISIS, and the their operations in Africa have been known for some time. The scale of the operation in Afganistan, very near the Pakistan border, on the heels of numerous terror attacks inside Pakistan should give everyone pause.
Pakistan is a nuclear power and its arsenal consists mainly of tactical nukes, that while small are multiple orders of magnitude more destructive than the very impressive firecracker we just dropped on a mountain fortress. They also have dubious security.
In the past five years there have been at least half a dozen attacks on the facilities that reportedly store Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. The Kamra Air Base near Islamabad has been attacked three times by terrorists belonging to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
This bomb strike, or more correctly the battle that it was part of, therefore, may well be consequential indeed. Not so much for what was dropped, but who it was aimed at.
Having ignored it until it got dangerous, it appears that we waited too long to cut the cancer that is ISIS out of Iraq....it seems to have metastasized most alarmingly.
April 06, 2017
100 Years Ago Today
Woodrow Wilson had run his successful 1916 presidential campaign on the notion that he would keep the US from becoming involved in the unspeakable mess in Europe.
"He kept us out of war" might as well have been "If you like your peace you can keep it."
March 05, 2017
Status Six in the News Again Well, not really, Next Big Future has a piece on this nasty Russian weapon that we've discussed here before.
Most of the articles linked in the NBF post are from last year and the post focuses on the tsunami aspect of the weapon, which is not likely to be that much of a strategic threat.
For those unfamiliar with this most clickbaity of weapons, "Status 6" is a new Russian torpedo carrying a nuclear warhead. Nothing new there except that this torpedo is over 5 feet wide and nearly 80 feet long and the warhead is between 50 and 150 megatons, with 100 megatons being the general consensus. The torpedo is big enough to carry the 100 megaton "Tsar Bomba" or RDS 220 physics package which was tested at half yield back in the 1960s producing 57 megatons of 'splody and cracking windows over 200 miles away.
It is designed to be fired into harbors, rendering them unuseable due to cratering and radioactive contamination. In the semi-enclosed waters of San Fransisco and San Diego bays, Puget Sound and possibly the Chesapeake Bay seiche effects would likely result in impressive wave heights, but the energies released by this weapon pale in comparison to what an earthquake releases and you can't just blow one up offshore and devastate the coast.
However, the effect is not nonexistant.
Table from here. A 22-74 foot wave 100 miles away is kind of scary.
The bigger concern is the blast and radiation, even if not salted with cobalt 60 or something a high yield version of the old RDS220 would be horrifically radioactive. From the Nuclear Weapon Archive article...
The effect of this bomb at full yield on global fallout would have been tremendous. It would have increased the world's total fission fallout since the invention of the atomic bomb by 25%.
Since the effects of a ground burst are orders of magnitude worse for radioactive contamination than an airburst, the effect on the targeted harbors and those downwind is likely to be so dreadful that cobalt is unnecessary.
There are 2 operational carriers of this delightful piece of technology, one is an experimental submarine that has one monstrous torpedo tube for this weapon. There is also a converted cruise missile submarine that reportedly has six tubes, though it is a combination spy- sub and work boat. In a year or so, the purpose built Khabarovsk comes into service, which will carry at least 6 tubes.
Using Alex Wellerstien's Nukemap simulator I looked at what 1 sub (assuming six tubes each) on each coast could do...
Assume 1 is hitting Pearl Harbor, 2 were used n Puget Sound because of the geography, the SSBN base OR the cities can be hit, but not both. Targets are major commercial ports and the most important naval bases. I assumed that no subs were in the gulf of Mexico, but they do have one addition sub to shoot at New Orleans. Additionally, certain Inland ports like Sacramento or Albany might be fairly easy shots for this weapon if maximum fallout is desired.
..the thing that is most striking is the sheer size of the affected areas, even not taking into account the fallout. The fireball that plasmaglobe of utter destruction in the center of a nuclear blast is 10 miles across. The orange area is where fires would be started on a clear day and the lightest shade of grey is the 1.5 psi area where all the windows are blown out, the darker shades of grey has most homes demolished and inside that it's...unpleasant.
For scale I nuked Washington DC with a B-83, the most powerful weapon in the U.S. arsenal. It doesn't really show up at this scale.
Of course if the Russians actually used these, they'd be using their other nuclear weapons too, but the sheer amount if devastation caused by 11 of these things on CONUS ports is kind of sobering.
February 27, 2017
How About...Can We...I mean...If They're Just Little Bitty Ones?
Some small ones. Mostly under 3 kilotons.
Because small is relative.
Do not click on the You Tube channel, it appears to be run by crazy people.
But the 'splodies are pretty.
October 03, 2016
Gir Brings Us News Befitting a Monday
Foreign Policy has more on the simmering water conflict between India and Pakistan. Pakistan is threatening to use nuclear weapons on India in response to an Indian raid that killed numerous Jihadists which the Pakistani's claim to have nothing to do with. India is still pondering a redirection of the Indus river and now China is threatening India over an Indian state that China claims under the principle that if Chinese pottery has been found by archeologists...that region is part of China. this has been going on for a while, Foreign Policy points out that China is looking at cutting off the Brahmaputra ...which would be rather more challenging than closing the flow gates on the Indus but would screw India good.
The U.S. is responding to the multiple Russian Mock attacks on NATO by Russian nuclear bombers by launching mock attacks of their own for the first time in over 20 years.
More history than news now and not representing any direct threat, this story is,, nevertheless, sufficiently horrifying to be included in a Monday news dump.
Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton turned away a high-ranking Chinese defector who sought political asylum after the communist police chief sought refuge in a U.S. consulate in southwestern China four years ago.That is sickening. What could possibly be worse than....OH MY GOD! Fortunately we have another option hopefully with the perspective and maturity to...Oh for frack's sake.
I started to type something very terrifying in this space, but upon tracking down the source for the story, all references to it led back to Zero Hedge. Whew!
The USGS is taking the unusual step of issuing an advisory, that the chances of a major earthquake in Souther California is much greater over the next few days. Note that the San Andreas isn't the only potentially aggravating geological feature within 10 miles of these quakes.
Oh yes. This.
Realizing that their exploding phones are unlikely to get iPhone or Blackberry users, Samsung is making an effort to get the rest of us with exploding washing machines. I guess Whirlpool was the correct choice!
September 27, 2016
India and Pakistan are having a tiff.
At least 18 soldiers were killed in a terror attack on an Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on September 18. All four terrorists, who attacked the camp, were killed.
Pakistan's defense minister, last week decided this an oppertune moment to clarify Pakistan's stance.
Amidst growing tension over Uri attack by Pakistani terrorists on Sunday, a video of the country’s Defence Minister Khawaja M Asif threatening to use nuclear weapon against India is doing the rounds on social media. The video shows the Pakistani defence minister telling Geo News: "If Pakistan’s security is threatened, we will not hesitate in using tactical (nuclear) weapons.”
And patience is running thin in India which has decided that they need to take action.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi after a fiery speech in Kerala where he blamed Pakistan for exporting global terrorism has now called for a briefing on the Indus Waters Treaty.
One of the suggestions is to turn off the Indus river tap that waters much of Pakistan
India and Pakistan have a bit over 100 nukes each.
Following a war between India and Pakistan, in which 100 Hiroshima-size (15 kiloton) nuclear weapons are detonated in the large cities of these nations, 5 million tons of smoke is lofted high into the stratosphere and is quickly spread around the world. A smoke layer forms around both Hemispheres which will remain in place for many years to block sunlight from reaching the surface of the Earth. One year after the smoke injection there would be temperature drops of several degrees C within the grain-growing interiors of Eurasia and North America. There would be a corresponding shortening of growing seasons by up to 30 days and a 10% reduction in average global precipitation.
September 21, 2016
Meanwhile: The Ceasefire in Syria Continues Apace The U.S. may or may not have hit a Syrian army unit. The Russian's, who hit a U.S. airbase back in July have probably hit an aid convoy. The Russian carrier is en route to the area, the Chinese have gotten involved. We have troops on the ground, in Syria, a country whose government we have said we are going to overthrow, which is an ally of Russia who also has troops on the ground protecting Syria by shooting at the Jihadists we are ostensibly backing while we fight the mostly different crazy-nuts jihadis in ISIS which Russia is also fighting without any coordination with us so Russian and U.S. troops are on opposite sides of a civil war, armed and shooting at people who are trying to kill them in an area in which at least two factions are using poison gas.
WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG!?
(As an aside, the King of Spain technically carries a subsidiary title of Archduke, so we should probably guard him quite closely...just as a precaution.)
September 11, 2016
Remember The Rememberance On September 11, 1683 the Ottoman forces besieging the city of Vienna were on the verge of victory. The City, under siege since July 14, was starving, Ottoman engineers had greatly weakened the city's walls and its collapse appeared imminent. However that evening relief arrived in the form of an army from Hungary and one from the confederation somewhat misleadingly known as the Holy Roman Empire...They brought with them roughly 40,000 troops, not good odds against a force of 90,000 Caliphate troops that included a large number of Janissaries. However, the situation was dire and this was a final desperate attempt to turn the tide of this months long battle, for with the loss of Vienna the Islamic armies would have free reign throughout Europe. The enlightenment was about to be snuffed out.
Early on the morning of the 12th the allied armies were reinforced by 27,000 fresh Polish troops under John Sobieski, who bolstered the European forces as they pressed their attack against the Ottomans. Even with the reinforcements, Europe and had only a bit more than 2/3 of the Ottoman forces, however the Ottomans were also having to deal with the guard of the city they were besieging, which astutely chose this time to get very frisky.
By the end of the 12th, the Islamic forces were routed. Along with the Battle of Lepanto, the siege of Vienna is generally regarded as the end of the large scale Islamic expansion into Europe. September 11th, 1683 thus marks the end of the period when the threat of Jihadi conquest was a constant threat...over the previous thousand years, Western civilization had been pushed into a small peninsula on the ass end of Asia which, for reasons of self esteem is still referred to as a "continent". This erosion was sometimes slowed, occasionally reversed for a time, but it was inexorable until 333 years ago today.
Islamists do not take these reversals lightly, particularly since this geographically tiny exception to their civilizations expansion turned out to be (for a time at least) annoyingly consequential to their efforts to fufill their faith's demand that they kill or convert...everyone. This date marked a profound slowing (for a time at least) of a thousand years of expansion and the halt, (for a time at least) of their expansion west. It is the date that, to their mind their civilization lost its way.
They, quite unlike our cultural trendsetters, have a keen sense of history, and so 15 years ago, this was the date was chosen to kill Westerners,. in remembrance of the day that, to these murderous fiends, the course of history went off the rails.
15 years on, nearly all of those who put together this celebration of butchery are dead, but their inspiration has worked better than one might have expected. The enemy of the west, and reason itself is again on the march. What it lacks in wealth, it makes up for in verve and they have lost none of the habits that Europe fought so hard and desperately against for a thousand years.
Stories of great evils; dark, malign forces, which threaten civilization itself and that, even if defeated, bide their time, perhaps for centuries awaiting a chance to crawl forth again thirsty for vengeance...these were once parables told by adults to their children to instill in them on a profound level that monsters are real and even when out of sight may still bide their time. Today, we are ruled by children who use such tales to reassure themselves that such things cannot possibly happen...even as the ancient enemy is inside the gates.
The greatest advantage that these people have is that they have long memories, and we tend to forget all that we have learned through the blood and terror of our ancestors.
So do not listen to those who would have you "move on". Remember it, for the atrocity that was inflicted on 3,000 of our own 15 years ago, was itself a memorial service performed by those who thirst for our blood, and who themselves never forget.
August 28, 2016
It Doesn't Repeat; It Rhymes Regarding China:
It’s not clear, however, that even well informed Americans realize how dire the situation is. It’s time they paid better attention, because China’s lawless pursuit of resources and territory is coming to resemble nothing else so much as the behavior of the Japanese empire before World War Two—a disconcerting comparison I have heard more than once from analysts and government officials here...
"Russia is getting ready for a big war which they assume will go nuclear, with them launching the first attacks,”
See also this...
Regarding North Korea:
North Korea on Wednesday test-fired a submarine-launched missile 500 kilometres (around 300 miles) towards Japan, marking what weapons analysts called a clear step forward for its nuclear strike ambitions.The flight distance, which was tracked by South Korea's military Joint Chiefs of Staff, far exceeded any previous SLBM tests, suggesting significant progress in technical prowess....
... If fired at the optimum angle, it could cover more than 1,000km, the source said.
Do note the neighborhood it it would have landed in if it had fired at optimum angle.
The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and allied tribal fighters recaptured the Waleed Border Crossing on the Syrian-Iraqi Border on August 3. ISIS mounted a counterattack on August 8 - 9 against the Waleed Border Crossing as well as the Tanf Border Crossing in Syria, which is held by the U.S.-backed New Syrian Army. Both attacks were repelled. ISW is thus changing the status of Waleed Border Crossing to ISF Control.
Iraqi Peshmerga affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) launched clearing operations southeast of Mosul on August 14 - 15, seizing at least twelve villages in the Ninewa Plains. The operation originated from positions near the Khazir Military Base between Mosul and Arbil, and progressed south towards the town of Gwer. ISW is thus changing the status of this area from contested to KDP Peshmerga Control.The ISF recaptured the city of Qayyarah on August 25 following more than a month of operations to secure terrain on the southern and western outskirts of the city after security forces seized the Qayyarah Airbase on July 9. The ISF breached the city limits of Qayyarah on August 23, encountering limited resistance in the southern neighborhoods. The ISF secured the city center and government complex on August 24 and Joint Operations Command announced full control over the city on August 25. ISW is thus changing the status of Qayyarah to ISF Control.
Note that....Wait! That's GOOD news!
Maybe things are finally looking u....
July 26, 2016
Arguably Less Disturbing Than The Previous Post It looks like the Russians are commissioning not one, but two classes of big submarines to carry their new heavyweight torpedoes, which we've blogged about before. These torpedoes, which are variously referred to as KANYON or Status-6, are believed to have a warhead with a yield somewhere between 50 and 150 megatons. This sounds like a plot point from a summer blockbuster or comic book, but as a practical matter, these would be fiendishly hard to stop and they would utterly destroy (and render uninhabitable for years) the ports upon which we rely for our Navy and trade.
One of these submarines, a brand new ship believed to be named KHABAROVSK appears to be a dedicated carrier for six or so of these port busters and basically would serve much the same function as a ballistic missile sub, doing deterrence patrols. The other one is something of an oddball....
Click here for SUPAH-SIZE
BELGOROD is a Russian cruise missile submarine being refitted as a sort of research vessel/spy sub/ underwater support ship. Yet this vessel is also reported to have six of these weapons fitted. While this contradictory set of requirements is perplexing, Covert -Shores is a fairly well regarded site and was way ahead of the curve on their analysis of the North Korean Ballistic Missile sub. Why an underwater reconnaissance vessel/work boat is carrying strategic weapons is unknown, but the vessel seems to be designed to support nuclear powered underwater sensor arrays in the arctic and conduct reconnaissance. This may simply be a second large hull that can get the weapons out to sea so they can start "deterring". After all, a navy needs at least three ships to keep one on patrol at all times. Alternatively, the extensive spy sub equipment might have applications for sneaking these weapons into U.S. ports.
Obviously our European allies would be vulnerable to this weapon too but I can't see the Russians setting off something that dirty in Europe. Japan might be a target as the jet stream and currents would carry the contamination East, but Japan is not a threat to Russia, so this is probably only aimed at the U.S.
Obviously our European allies would be vulnerable to this weapon too but I can't see the Russians setting off something that dirty in Europe. Japan might be a target as the jet stream and currents would carry the contamination East, but Japan is not a threat to Russia, so this is probably only aimed at the U.S.
Of course, there is actually a bigger story here than just operationalizing some doomsday torpedoes, and that is the ongoing construction of a series of nuclear powered sensor arrays in the Arctic. This is after all purported to be the primary function of this new submarine. Such a sensor array is reminiscent of the old SOSUS but it has the potential to be far more capable thanks to the raw power available from the underwater nuclear reactors associated with it. When completed, this sensor net has the potential to very much turn the Arctic into a Russian lake in which US or Canadian subs will exist only at Russian indulgence.
In a related story (related in that it involves Russians, submarines and breathless, apocalyptic clickbaitery) here is an AEI article that has been making the rounds in the consevosphere. It attaches some considerable significance to the names of Russian Strategic submarines. Note though, that the author's premise does not hold up with regard to the name KHABAROVSK .
July 24, 2016
I HAVE A CRAZY THEORY This is my crazy theory.
There are many crazy theories, but this one is mine!
The Democrats are about to nominate a singularly repulsive candidate for president. Hillary Clinton is a fractally-corrupt-Mandelbrot -Set of malfeasance, who has seriously endangered the country and even if one ignores the venal corruption the sheer incompetence of her tenure as America's Chief foreign policy officer caused untold suffering in North Africa, the Middle East and now Europe by destabilizing the area and creating a refugee crisis and this doesn't even get into the general weakening of the international order that happened on her watch. She's also a petty, abusive and singularly unlikeable politician, which begs the question....wHY did the democrats go all in for her.
Well, my theory is that their reasoning was along the lines of "BWAHAHAHAHA!!!! Those republicans will NEVER be able to lose to us now!" (dancity dancity dancity dance).
Which dovetails into the rest of my theory...that the Republicans did not take this lying down. The establishment kept multiple of their favored sons in the race to split the vote, ensuring that Trump would get the nod. Remember above, when I said that Hillary was SINGULARLY repulsive?
Well....perhaps dually is a better word....if it's a word.
Trump is a corrupt real estate mogul who makes his living off scams and trying to run old ladies off their land to build casinos that go out of business. He has called for US soldiers to commit war crimes and helpfully posited that since he, the president will be telling them to do it it won't be illegal. He has suggested expanding the libel laws to stifle criticism of him, talks openly of defaulting on the debt and our treaty obligations. He's also a jerk, and exhibits Obama's petty vindictiveness turned up to 11.
Image via Dame Tam of Slick
One possible explanation for this is that the Republican Party hacks are sitting in a Potpourri filled room congratulating themselves and saying things like "Those Democrat bastards, don't stand a chance. They'll never loose to this asshole!"...and yet they might.
Why the inversion this year?
Well that is the crux of my crazy theory.
Neither side actually WANTS to win, because neither side wants to be in the White House during the next four years. They do not want to be the ones tasked with the Sisyphean and possibly impossible task of dealing with the fire breathing hydra with rabies that is the deteriorating world situation. Their best case scenario is to loose, and in the unlikely event there are any survivors, come out of their bunkers and pick up the pieces, while blaming the other party for the catastrophe that they fortuitously dodged having to deal with.
I base my crazy theory in part upon the following:
We don't see it as much here, but the Europeans, especially those closest to Russia are openly talking about war as inevitable.
At the office I ask a Russian employee about the mood in his working-class Moscow neighborhood. The old people are buying salt, matches and "gretchka,” (buckwheat) he tells me - the time-worn refuge for Russians stocking up on essentials in case of war.In the past two months, I’ve traveled to the Baltic region, to Georgia, and to Russia. Talk of war is everywhere.
There does seem to be a consensus that the Baltics are a very likely place for things to go pear shaped.
...the possibility of nuclear war between America and Russia not only still exists, but is probably growing. And the place where it is most likely to begin is in a future military confrontation over three small Baltic states -- Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
But fear not! There's always Moldova.
Meanwhile, the U.S.A.F. is having to canibalize planes to keep some in the air.
Tensions, between India and China are re-escalating both are nuclear powers, and of course, Pakistan, also nuclear capable, building lots of tactical nukes, and rather crazy to boot can be counted on to pounce upon India in any existential crisis.
China is, elsewhere acting an awful lot like Japan did in the 1930s.
And all those "little" nukes in Pakistan...well the Venn diagram between those and Al-Quaeda or ISIS has considerable overlap.
While all that is going on we find out that the Russian's aparrantly bombed a U.S airbase...last month.
Do note that Brickmuppet Blog is not alone in worrying about the nukes in Turkey given that the country's coup may have been a false flag operation and in any event is likely to bring about an Islamic dictatorship in a NATO member.
We'll refrain from discussing domestic racial, social and infrastructure issues, as we are already in teal deer territory.
But, there is this....scarcely worth mentioning.
The US national security industry is planning for the impact of an unprecedented global food crisis lasting as long as a decade, according to reports by a government contractor.The studies published by CNA Corporation in December 2015, unreported until now, describe a detailed simulation of a protracted global food crisis from 2020 to 2030
Take heart though.
Remember, this is a CRAZY theory.
The crazy part is the assumption of sufficient competence and foresight in our leaders that they would anticipate a coming crisis. So don't go all to pieces over my crazy theory.
Like the girl says...
July 16, 2016
The B-61 Nuclear Bomb
Designed in the early 1960s and by far the oldest nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal, the B-61 is the designation for a family of bombs that weigh around 700 pounds, are 13.5 inches wide (not including the fins) and just a bit under 12 feet long. It is a variable yield weapon which can have the amount of 'splody it provides adjusted from 1/3 of a kiloton to between 80 and 340 kilotons depending on the exact model, though as part of an upgrade being undertaken now the maximum yield is to be reduced to 50 kilotons in the near future. It can also be used as a depth charge.
The weapon is on loan to certain NATO countries, Italy(around 90), Germany (20), Belgium(10-20) and...er...Turkey, which has about 90.
In what is most certainly unrelated news.....the latest news from the coup in Turkey is that the Bosphorus is closed and there is some sort of naval action going on. F-16s seem to be launching raids on the Presidential Palace and there appears to be a near 50/50 split in public opinion between those who are cheering or opposing the ouster of the increasingly Islamist Turkish president and the Military coup, which, depending on who is talking is either securing the country, or getting routed.
April 02, 2016
Suddenly, in Russia....
The Russians now appear set to perhaps double the number of nuclear warheads that they have deployed. This seems unpossible U.S and R.F warhead totals are limited to 1550 each by a treaty which has all the binding power of....
It gets worse. While the State Department disputes this, the article is reporting that...
Officials said that in addition to adding warheads to the new missiles, Russian officials have sought to prevent U.S. weapons inspectors from checking warheads as part of the 2010 treaty.
Russia also enjoys a strong civil defense system and some years ago constructed 5000 blast/fallout shelters around Moscow alone. They've recently begun an inventory and inspection of them, you know, just because.
Puchkov said on August 14 that his ministry has its "fixed attention" on making sure Russia's bomb shelters are "ready to use for their intended purposes."
Russia is also increasing its ties to China which, likewise, is greatly increasing its warhead numbers, and MIRVing its missiles.
While all that's going on, the U.S. is going in rather the opposite direction.
March 26, 2016
Hey! They Got The Scale Right! The Dumpy Despot of the DPRK has released a new propaganda video, which exhibits his typical subtle and nuanced approach to foreign relations.
Interestingly, the size of the blast and mushroom cloud are not wild exaggerations, but rather, given its size in comparison to the Lincoln Memorial, it's about what one would expect from a 10 to 15 kiloton blast. Given the quality of the video's FX, especially that business around the 24 second mark, this level of verisimilitude is...surprising.
Sadly, they missed an opportunity, given that if they'd set the detonation for this weekend, they'd have been able to show apocalyptic cherry blossoms flying everywhere. Of course they probably don't appreciate that.
March 20, 2016
Meanwhile, In, Over and Underneath the DPRK In the course of discussing the recent photo-op involving Kim Jong Un and a nuclear warhead mock-up, Jeffery Lewis makes the following observation...
One of the big questions about North Korea’s nuclear program is whether or not North Korea can design a reentry vehicle that will protect the warhead during its journey from launch to target. The KN-08 missiles that North Korea paraded in 2012 and 2013 were almost certainly mock-ups. Although the quality of the mock-ups improved between parades, the nosecones were particularly unconvincing. North Korea has now shown a reentry body that looks like early US and Soviet ones. The reentry body still hasn’t been tested, but this is the first credible reentry vehicle design that North Korea has displayed.
Well, that last sentence may need to be amended now ...
Now that the doughy despot has announced further missile and warhead tests (at least one of which appears imminent), there is some speculation that one of the upcoming tests might be a combined affair. That is, there is concern that the North Koreans might launch an ICBM with a live warhead on it against a test range in the DPRK resulting in an above ground nuclear test.
Such a test would crank the violation of international propriety up to 11 and would, no doubt, result in very harshly worded letter written by the most august of calligraphers and transcribed onto gold leafed bond paper. However, it would give the Norks a rock solid credibility to their small deterrent. Even in the days when the U.S. was conducting over 900 above ground nuclear tests, America only conducted one such test. There were some small antiaircraft missile tests, a single shot fired from a cannon and a handful of ballistic missile tests where the target point was almost directly overhead, but only one long range ballistic missile fired with a live nuclear warhead.. That was shot Frigate Bird of Operation Dominic which involved firing a Polaris missile from a submerged submarine at the ever hapless Johnston Island. Interestingly, the Chinese only conducted one such test as well. Thus one can assume that such a test would be rather challenging.
It's unclear how much of this concern is based in actual intel rather than prattle, but given that North Korea's missile program has a checkered history, such an endeavor has the potential for truly spectacular bedlam.
March 13, 2016
A Few ISIS Links ISIS has had some reversals in Iraq recently but it is still a large and formidable entity in that region with considerable potential. At the very least, it is adding to the dreadful suffering of the area and is continuing to accelerate the phenomenon of more middle aged Muslim men trekking into Europe.
This paper, by the Institute for The Study of War notes that there is the real possibility of an alliance and merger between iSIS and another Islamic terror group, the Jabhat Al Nursa. This is an Al-Quaeda group and as such has a different focus from ISIS. They, being Al-Quaeda, have tended to focus on highly trained operatives who act like special forces, doing precision strikes on one hand but also organizing local partisans. ISIS by contrast has its unconventional wing but is, in many ways a much more conventional military force. The two groups have been at odds, but Jabhat Al Nursa now seems to be seeking some common ground with ISIS. One of J.A.N's group specific, goals is to establish an Emirate run by its leaders. This has been a long term goal in conjunction with A-lQuaeda's eventual Caliphate, but ISIS, one will note has an operational caliphate right now. Note that there are considerable strategic and eschatological differences between the two groups. However, if the two groups combine their efforts to any great extent it will be a major boon to ISIS, since Jabhat Al Nursa has, while no formally claimed territory, a considerable area of operations and influence in the area and a set of capabilities that complement ISIS nicely. Their organization also is quite focused on the precise sort of terror operations and terror cell logistics that ISIS is trying to develop in Europe to take advantage of the vast numbers of disaffected military aged men they are sending there. It should be remembered, that ISIS was initially an Al-Quaeda affiliate with much the same position in that organisation as the Al Nursa Front has today.
Further afield, as International Business Times notes. ISIS has been quite active in Libya. Their operations there are, in fact considerably more than a flags and footprints mission. This map (also by The Institute For the Study of War) shows that pretty much the entire coastline of Libya east of Tripoli has been attacked at one point or another during ISIS's recent offensive.
There is more on this here. Note that the actual areas under ISIS control, are very close to Italy and Malta and, as per the map above, the Caliphate has already made its presence in the area felt at sea with some very small scale maritime attacks. Raids on Italy are certainly a possibility, but are, while scary, not a strategic threat at this time. The real danger here beyond the ISIS access to the oil fields is that they use this staging area for smuggling in weapons and leadership cadres for a more sustained campaign of terror. The muslim areas of the Balkans are not much farther and a more troubling destination long term. While ships from ISIS controlled ports would be easy to stop, it should be remembered that ISIS has contacts with others, that, while in no way aligned with them, are perfectly willing to sell them expertise in how to,with limited infrastructure take measures to complicate the targeting problem.
Note too that the Balkans are much closer to Libya than the U.S. is to Columbia.
That bears watching.
February 17, 2016
Compare and Contrast We mentioned yesterday that it looks like the Chinese may be putting their nuclear force on hair-trigger alert.
According to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Beijing is considering a small but scary change to the way it stores its nuclear weapons. China may be reversing its decades-old nuclear policy and putting its nuclear weapons on permanent high alert. This would make China's nuclear deterrent more credible, but also heighten the possibility of accidental nuclear war.The full report from the Union of Concerned Scientists is here. As is typical for them their suggestions all involve the U.S. coming off of a strike on warning status. Of course they also think that GMO foods should be banned so take their suggestions with a grain of (iodized) salt.
What is clear, is that China is engaged in a massive modernization of its nuclear forces. Little in the way of specifics is available, but this excerpt of a report from last year gives a good idea of what's in the works. Note that we have NO arms control treaties with China and no joint inspection agreements unlike those we have with Russia, so there is a LOT of room for surprises, particularly on numbers of warheads.
Meanwhile in the U.S.A. It is unclear if this is the hope or the change, but it does seem consequential whichever it might be.
Even before the 10-warhead mega-missile retired, plans were hatched for the Air Force to retrofit MX-like accuracy into remaining land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, called ICBMs.But that never happened. Somewhat amazingly, nearly nobody's noticed.
The Minuteman 3 is about 50 percent less accurate than the less old Peacekeeper missiles which were retired some years ago. The minuteman originally compensated for this by having a 1.2 MEGATON warhead. This was, later supplemented by other missiles with 3 smaller warheads, first the W-62, then the W-78. All the Minuteman missiles with the single Big warhead were retired some years ago and when the Peacekeeper missiles were retired, their mid yield warheads (the fairly modern and much safer W-87) were transferred to the much older Minuteman missiles.
However. The Minuteman missiles were reduced from 3 warheads to 1 each so that they now have about a third the yield of the original Minuteman 1 (and obviously a third the yield they had before the "upgrade"). More significantly, they were supposed to be retrofitted with the much more accurate guidance package of the Peacekeeper missile to compensate for this. However, the Obama administration nixed this along wth several other upgrades to the nuclear arsenal. Thus the ability of these smaller and fewer warheads to deal decisively with a large nation's military is significantly reduced. This is because that while nuclear warheads are very powerful, they still require precise placement to take out a hardened bunker or missile silo, this is especially true with the much fewer and smaller warheads currently deployed.
It gets worse:
Ironically, Carter and the nation's commander in chief, President Obama, may be unaware that the U.S. arsenal cannot actually accomplish what's enshrined in the nuclear-contingency blueprints they've approved, according to defense sources. The promise of greater accuracy for the land-based missiles reportedly helped lay the groundwork for reductions in the 2011 New START agreement between Washington and Moscow, and many have assumed the precision now exists.
It's conceivable, strangely enough, that the Kremlin has already taken stock of the U.S. targeting deficiency. Considerable data about the capabilities of U.S. Air Force and Navy ballistic missiles can be found in open sources and online.
I suspect that neither the word "Ironically", nor the phrase "strangely enough" is being used properly in that quote.
Note that one of the many hurdles to rectifying this is fears of civil service job security.
But the ICBM program headquarters at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, also stands to lose jobs and clout if the advanced accuracy technology is adopted. Repair personnel based at Hill keep busy maintaining the old Minuteman 3 mechanical guidance units, which break down once every three years on average.
By contrast, solid state uses fewer moving parts and can run for 20 years between breakdowns, according to Air Force Research Laboratory data.
Oh...what EVER would we do with a reliable deterrent that didn't break down every three years? Perhaps not reducing our 400 single warhead missiles to...less at any given time.
Of course, it is possible that the old '60s era guidance system is less prone to EMP and hacking and doesn't use the GPS satellites that would be knocked out swiftly in any nuclear attack, so perhaps commercial off the shelf upgrades are not actually the panacea that the article suggests. The blue-screen of ATOMIC death should be limited to Cherenkov radiation on a CCTV.
An extensive overview of hypothesized scenarios and effects involved in a China-U.S. Nuclear exchange can be found here. Note that this study is from a few years ago and does not take into recent Chinese developments and assumes that the U.S. actually upgraded the Minuteman guidance to render it effective against hardened targets.
The calculus in these matters for a totalitarian dictatorship or oligarchy is vastly different than a representative republic. The possibility that a large nation which places a low value on human life might think that they can "take the hit" and deal a death blow to an adversary should not be ignored, especially since the vastly reduced numbers of active nukes in the world mean that a nuclear war today would not be a global extinction event. This, ironically could increase the possibility of these terrible weapons use. As such our deterrent should be as robust and credible as possible.
UPDATE: And in other nuclear news...
UPDATE: And in other nuclear news...
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