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,â€ (buckwheat) he tells me - the time-worn refuge for Russians stocking up on essentials in case of war.In the past two months, Iâ€™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 Koreaâ€™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 hasnâ€™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...
February 16, 2016
News That Doesn't Concern The Trumped-up Trump-Centric Trumpeting of Trumpism by the Trumpen Proletariat For many of us who grew up in the later stages of the Cold War, the region known as the Fulda Gap was a tidbit of geography that carried special meaning. Today the Sulwaki Gap seems to be replacing it in the atlas of dread.
I momentarily misread this as "Vladimir Putin Wants to Destroy Naruto" and was perplexed, but not alarmed...alas. The article lays out a scenario where Turkey, intervening in Syria, exchanges fire with the Russians and the Russians hit a facility inside Turkey. This is not at all unlikely since the two nations are historical enemies, are currently at cross purposes in Syria and have recently exchanged fire with lethal results. The goal from the Russian perspective would be to destroy NATO's credibility should they refuse to come to Turkey's aid when Turkey invokes article 5 of the NATO charter. If Russian can secure the Hellespont, they will have achieved one of their primary goals of the last 300 years....so their motivation is great, perhaps great enough that the risk of WW3 seems worth it to them.
That Russia (like China) has numerous domestic problems, does not make the risk of their engaging in ambitious foreign adventures necessarily unlikely. Such circumstances can have the opposite effect.
The mess in Syria is already disturbingly international in nature. The Washington Post goes so far as to call it a 'mini world war'. While that is certainly hyperbole, the number of nations invested in the outcome of this squalid mess has the potential to widen its reach.
Elsewhere in the Middle East the Iran Deal so doggedly sought by the current administration appears to be bearing fruit.
"We see signs that countries in the Arab world are preparing to acquire nuclear weapons, that they are not willing to sit quietly with Iran on brink of a nuclear or atomic bomb,"
Pivoting to Asia for a bit reveals that China is putting MIRVs on its big DF-5 ICBMs. This is surprising mainly in that the Chinese seem to be keeping the old missiles in service despite the existence of the new Road Mobile DF-41. Most likely the very large throw weight of the liquid fueled DF-5 is a factor. The Middle Kingdom also seems to be putting its nuclear forces on an alert footing...this is not a short term mobilization but a larger change in policy regarding how their deterrent is handled.
China is also equipping its "scientific research stations" on the Philippine reefs it has turned into islands with impressive AAA/ABM missile systems...no doubt for launching sounding rockets.
Meanwhile...In South Korea...
Won Yoo Chul, floor leader for the ruling Saenuri party, on Monday said South Korea should adopt "peacefulâ€ nuclear weapons and missiles against North Koreaâ€™s "fearful and self-destructiveâ€ ones.He said South Korea should be independent from ally Washingtonâ€™s so-called nuclear umbrella to deter North Koreaâ€™s nuclear threat, or reconsider deployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, which were withdrawn from South Korea in 1992 under a pact for the denuclearization of the peninsula.
Fecklessness...the gift that just keeps on giving.
On the economic front, Kyle Bass, who was something of a Cassandra with regard to the bursting of the 2008 financial bubble is now saying the saying similar things about China...except that he expects it to be far worse than 2008.
Silly Cassandra...I'm sure the powers that be would tell us if something were up.
In other news...well intentioned hippies should write in English or Spanish...I'm just sayin'.
February 04, 2016
Yet More Thoughts on That Non-Gargantuan Nork Nuke Business Insider is reporting that the claim by the North Koreans that they conducted an H-Bomb test may indeed be something more than a crate of commie kimchee. For one thing, recent analysis of the seismological data indicates that the detonation was actually much deeper than was initially supposed (more than twice the depth of the previous tests). There seem to be other indicators as well, that this was a test related to specific components used in an H-bomb, though officials are a tad coy about specifics, about how they have come to this conclusion or what components they might be. One interesting fact is that air samples aren't detecting any radioactives, which could mean that the DPRK is getting better at preventing any venting. (I suppose it is also possible that they popped of between 7 and 10 thousand tons of TNT; that's not without precedence but there doesn't seem to be any reason to do that as they clearly do have atomic weapons). There is more on this test here and here. American tests that tested H-bomb components prior to the first official H-bomb (Ivy-Mike) included Greenhouse-George. That test (and not Ivy-Mike) was was actually the first thermonuclear burn, though its fusion yield was far less that its fission yield. It was a proof of concept test and could well be what is being implied for the North Korean test. Something along those lines would make North Korean claims about the test substantively true.
Note that the Buisness insider piece also has this to say....
As Alex Wellerstein, a nuclear historian at the Steven Institute of Technology and creator of Nuke Map, told Business Insider on January 6, a country that's mastered thermonuclear-weapons design suddenly has a number of possible options open to it.For instance, a country with a thermonuclear capability could build "a very thin-cased bomb of low yield [in this case 1 to 10 kilotons, or 1,000 to 10,000 tons of TNT] that would emit a lot of radiation relative to its blast power."
This jives somewhat with what we posted on the subject last month, though the assumption here is that this was just a proof of concept test, and not (as Nigel Cook suggests) a test of an operational device.
In another area of weapons technology, the North Koreans have an indisputably operational unconventional weapons system, though in this case a minimal amount of R&D was required since the technology involved is quite mature, or, shall we say, quite ripe.
While the threat of these other weapons is somewhat limited, any country that bombards its neighbors with profanity-filled, exploding poop-balloons is bat-scat bonkers enough that its nuclear arsenal, however modest, should warrant considerable concern.
January 12, 2016
Thoughts About That Unexpectedly Underwhelming Blast As we mentioned earlier, the North Korean government announced that they had successfully detonated a fusion warhead. Given the apparent small yield of the warhead, (6-10 kilotons) there has been considerable skepticism expressed. This skepticism is not unfounded especially given that getting such small yields are hard to get from what we normally think of as an H-bomb. There has been further speculation that the weapon is what is called a "boosted fission weapon". This does not get the majority of its explosive force from fusion, but it does set off a fusion reaction which causes the fission reaction to burn much more completely. This can as much as triple yields on fission warheads, or reduce the amount of fissionable material necessary for any given yield. This alone would be a big breakthrough as it would allow North Korea to make more bombs for the same amount of fissile material. An increase of 2 or 3 times the number of bombs in the arsenal is a very substantial benefit.
Of course there is the problem of the very low yield. which has led many to conclude that this was a fizzle. That's possible, but the last three North Korean bombs have had very similar yields, in the 6-9 kiloton range. Small nuclear explosions are actually HARD. This was a problem the US had with the W-54 program, where some of the intended the applications (a bazooka!and short range AAM) called for a sub kiloton yield but the tests kept overshooting it.
The North Korean's first test was very small and may well have been a fizzle, but the subsequent three have been very comparable in yields. Given the difficulties of getting a reliable nuclear yield below 10 kilotons this indicates extraordinarily consistent incompetence....or that it's by design.
It is possible that the North Koreans have had a string of fizzles, but this would mean that they thrice duplicated a design flaw that did not befall the Americans, Russians, Brits, Frenchmen, Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis South Africans* and (presumably)Israelis.
Furthermore, given that a good deal of this program is aimed at chest thumping and deterrence, it seems logical that the North Korean's, if they were experiencing difficulties with an implosion system, would, have at least one very simple gun type weapon like Little Boy. Such weapons are so reliable as to not strictly need testing, so a respectable 10-20 kiloton blast could have been had for propaganda purposes easily.
They have not done this, and after their first detonations their tests have been fairly consistent in yield.
Doctor Jerry Pournelle has a discussion of this on his site...
Thereâ€™s some speculation that this is an attempted enhanced EMP weapon. Thereâ€™s other speculation. Add to that that I have never worked in weapon design, and the last time I seriously needed to know about the minutia of nuclear weapons was more than thirty years ago, and you will understand that I am not going to speculate. We know that North Korea tested something, and they call it a sophisticated fission weapon; what they tested was low yield, and the last time I looked, low yield was harder to do than higher yields: particularly lower than 10 kt....[/quote]
Pournelle, caries on a discussion with Stephanie Osbourne (a retired rocket scientist who also worked on nuclear planning in the cold war) and they both reference, but do not link to speculation that this is fission boosted weapon designed to utilize the Compton Effect in conjunction with the Earth's magnetic field to produce a powerful electromagnetic pulse.
The Compton Effect
The yield of the tests is actually in the ballpark of the yields that are expected from a first generation EMP optimized nuke. Jerry Emanuelson, who appears to be an electrical engineer, has a very extensive page on what is publicly known about EMP optimization in nuclear weapons. This is part of his larger site on EMP in general. His conclusions seem to be quite consistent with those of Nigel Cook, a former physics professor who has a very heavily researched blog on the effects of nuclear weapons. Mr. Cook posted an extensive (to the point of rambling) post on this possibility after the North Korean tests and included patent data as well as multiple links. He has an earlier more general overview of the problem here.
Note that both sources indicate that this kind of small fusion assisted warhead could allow a 10 kiloton warhead to produce comparable EMP effects to a more conventional warhead in the megaton range (with the tradeoff that it would have to be detonated lower and therefore cover a smaller area).
This tradeoff would double the number of weapons needed to blackout most of the U.S.A. and southern Canada.
"Well, maybe the Norks just want us to appreciate the night sky like they do."
This of course solves their targeting problems as the target area for this weapon is measured in states rather than meters. Additionally, it would make a small device of the type they can already deliver anywhere on earth (they can launch small satellites) an actual strategic threat.
A total power failure involving hundreds of transformers blowing up (that requires replacement from France, Finland or China) would take years to recover from. Add to that occasional widespread fires from overloaded wires and the collapse of the internet as well as the ancillary effects of no power, refrigeration, or heat and this could become a very bad thing.
If this is in fact what the DPRK is doing (and we have little way of knowing) it would be quite logical as it would give them a credible counter-value strategic capability that a few nukes, even very big ones would not provide.
Fortunately, the North Koreans have modest goals (clinging to power by the throats of their citizenry, possibly conquering the south, and killing every Japanese male on earth) . While the regime is odious, it's not like they want to return the whole planet to the 6th century...like some people.
Amongst the ranks of THOSE PEOPLE naturally are included the Iranians, who are working very closely wth the DPRK in the advancement of SCIENCE as part of their general pattern of good behavior in the wake of the nuclear deal that solved everything. One probably ought to assume assume that much of the North Korean nuclear expertise is shared by Tehran now.
Of course the notion that a nation using slave labor to put together a nuclear bomb might bollox it repeatedly should not be utterly dismissed, but the consistency of the yields and the potential payoffs, mean that this option ought to not be rejected out of hand.
December 07, 2015
An Unlikely Outcome, 74 Years Ago Today December 7, 1941: Two SOC Seagulls from U.S.S. Northhampton were patrolling near the island of Ni'ihau, (westernmost of the permanently inhabited Hawai'ian Islands) when they began to receive reports that all was not well at their home port of Pearl Harbor 150 miles to the east . What had been a peacetime training and observation mission was suddenly a war patrol.
After some time, they noted a a plane with a big red meatball on it trailing black smoke and approaching from the east. As it turned out, it was a Zero from IJNS Hiryuu. The little biplanes were completely obsolete and had no hope of besting a modern fighter in a dogfight, but this one was obviously damaged and might be easy pickings...or lead them to the Japanese task force...and in any event, the odds were two against one. Of course, they had no idea what the Mitsubishi plane was capable of....and even less of an idea about the undamaged Zero from IJNS Akagi that was escorting its companion far above them all....
Yeah...things got very interesting for the floatplane crews, very quickly. The odds were now one and a half of the most formidable fighters then in the Pacific verses two planes that were frequently used as target tugs. The dogfight lasted about twenty minutes, with the two biplanes dropping to just above the water, jinking wildly and covering each other with the flexible rifle caliber machine guns in their rear cockpits. All the while the pilots tried to present their observers with a good broadside shot. The little planes were so slow that it was hard for the Zeroes to get them in their sights and their lack of any armor, an extra set of wings and rapidly emptying fuel tanks made them sufficiently maneuverable that Radioman First Class Robert Baxter was able to get a bead on the undamaged Zero and pump it full of enough .30-06 that its status changed from "undamaged" to "little Japanese flag on side of utility floatplane"*. The already damaged Zero was beginning to come apart and its pilot made a desperate bid to reach the nearby island. The two shot up Seagulls limped back home having achieved a small victory against great odds on one of the darkest days in U.S. Navy history.
There is an odd postscript to this story: The damaged zero made it to Ni'ihau, which was (and still is) a cattle ranch. The cowboys took in the pilot, one Shigenori Nishikaichi and threw a luau for him until they got access to a news report and realized the situation. They then held him in the house of a ranch hand of Japanese origin named Harada (to facilitate communication) until the authorities could arrive. While they waited, Harada armed the pilot, helped him escape and assisted him in taking over most of the ranch and holding the island hostage, threatening to begin killing people if they could not account for everyone on the island, the names of whom Harada had given him. Since one guy had gone to get help the killing was set to commence starting with the wife of a cowboy named Ben Kanahele. This proved to be a poor choice for victims as Mr. Kanahele tackled the pilot, getting shot 3 times in the process, but while Nishikaichi was shooting him Mrs. Kanahele jumped on the pilot and bit him until the perfidious Harada pulled her off, by which point the profusely bleeding cattleman was able to get to his feet and slit the pilots throat. Yoshio Harada fled and committed suicide. ben Kanahele was hailed as a hero and the traitorous actions of Mr. Harada during this incident may well have contributed to the awful Japanese internment that started the next year.
November 18, 2015
The Russian's Strategic Situation Room is Much More Bright and Cheery Than Ours We cannot tolerate this lily gap!
This is all in Russian, but allegedly they are making a big show of the pounding of ISIS positions earlier in the week which saw the first combat use of the Tu-160 (Blackjack). Tu-22m(Backfire) as well as the ubiquitous 'Bears' were used as well. Additionally, according to RSNF, Putin orders the CO of the task force built around the big cruiser Moskva to co-ordinate with French forces.
October 26, 2015
Be Concerned. Be Prepared...But Don't Lose All Historical Perspective. IBT notes that they are shocked to learn that the Russians are poking around undersea cables with their submarines.
They are not the only paper to point tis out.
Cdr. Salamander has a sublimely titled response.
First of all, if anyone in government service in the national security arena is surprised or shocked by this, please go work somewhere else.If those who are responsible for maintaining connectivity have not been refining our branch plans to respond to this eventuality, will someone please fire them?
Do read the whole thing.
October 21, 2015
218 Years Ago Today U.S.S. Constitution was launched.
Built to fight the Barbary Pirates (yes our first war was against Islamists) the ship distinguished herself in that war as well as the War of 1812, where the ship defeated HMShips Guerriere, Java, Pictou, Cyane, and Levant and in the process earned the nickname "Old Ironsides".
Saved from the breakers by public outcry, the ship served for nearly a hundred years, circumnavigating the world, fighting pirates and slavers, serving as a a school ship, carrying out various diplomatic duties, and on occasion even supporting archeological and oceanographic expeditions. In 1874 she carried the US delegation and display to that year's Paris World's Fair.
After a spell as an accommodation hulk, the ship was restored as a museum ship in the early 1900's and is moored in Boston harbor, the oldest commissioned warship afloat.
October 18, 2015
The State of Things Business Insider has published STRATFOR's thumbnail overview of the world situation and their predictions for the rest of the year.
It's long but warrants a read (though one should probably ignore the breathless headline). STRATFOR can be hit or miss on their predictions, but they do give a decent overview of what's happening now and, more importantly, they also keep an eye on parts of the world that get less coverage.
October 07, 2015
Article 5 Article 5 of the Washington Treaty (generally referred to as the NATO Charter, to avoid confusion with that other Washington Treaty...and because it IS the NATO CHARTER) reads as follows...
Article 5 of the Washington Treaty:
The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.
As an aside, apropos of nothing, I'm sure..., here are a few of the mornings headlines...
...and a couple of analysis pieces.
(Perhaps your effort should be put into determining how we DON'T)
I am have tests coming up and no time to opine on these matters so instead I'll just leave this here.
Tam has comprehensive yet concise thoughts on the matter here as well as worrying confirmation that it's not just me looking to Fred Thompson for insight on this matter.
October 04, 2015
Shootings, Floods and Lost Ships are what the news is focused on (a not entirely unwarranted decision) but there are other things deteriorating as well that deserve some attention, as they have considerable potential to generate rather greater levels of grief...
First off, ISIS has opened two theme parks for the de-facto nation's children...
The photos show smiling children enjoying various rides, as well as landscapes featuring ferris wheels and a play train. The rides fail to disguise the ravages of war; beyond the foreground, dilapidated buildings and bombed-out areas can be seen.
I guess some positive reinforcement to go along with the punishments of children there is necessary for morale.
Meanwhile, the administrations expert responsible for overseeing the war with ISIS just resigned.
He has been joined by the nation's top cyber security advisor, and the Pentagon's top Russian expert. Three in such a short time would seem to indicate a lack of faith in the administrations policies on these matters.
On the other hand, Russia took a break from bombing the snot out of the American and European proxies in Syria to hit ISIS headquarters...which had somehow managed to elude the bombs of America's bombing campaign for a year.
Instapundit links to a Lee Stranahan editorial which comprehensively sums up the situation...assuming of course that the emerging outcomes are not the goal.
Speaking of Russia, they just drafted 150,000 troops. This seems to be a supplementary conscription, since the annual draft of 150000 (Russia has active selective service) took place in the spring.
Russia is recomissioning and upgrading 12 nuclear submarines 6 of which are identified in this article. They also announced plans earlier in the year to restart the production line for the TU-160 bomber with 50 (some sources say 60) expected to be commissioned by 2023. There has been some skepticism expressed, but the upgrade program on the existing 16 operational Backfires is actually ahead of schedule and they are producing some very large and very fast planes now so there is no reason to suspect that they can't.
Speaking of capabilities....the first Chinese indigenously built aircraft carrier, will, reportedly, be launched on December 26. (This date has been chosen to commemorate Mao TzeDong's birthday...presumably because genocidal dictators are the sorts of people the current Chinese Government wants to honor.) Note that the carrier was started earlier this year, so the ship is being launched in less than a year...unheard of for such a large vessel. Note that this is a launch and not a commissioning....lots of equipment needs to be installed, but while analysts are skeptical that commissioning will happen sooner than four years hence, the incredible speed with which the hull was constructed should give one pause.
Also concerning capabilities, Next Big Future points to a WCT article that gleefully boasts that China has demonstrated the ability to put MIRVs with its ability to launch multiple satellites on a single launcher. They also point out that the Chinese commercial space launcher the Long March 6 can launch 20 (twice as many as the Russian R-36, the biggest ICBM in the world). That a commercial space launcher takes hours to fuel and so could only be used for first strikes (and dozens of launchers fueling would give fair warning) is not mentioned in the article. NBF does point to the capacity of the bigger Long March 5 is 25 metric tonnes. Taking the conservative path of using the weight of an obsolete USAF ICBM warhead ( the W-56) and a current one (the W-76) dividing 25 tonnes by that amount (25tonnes = 55,115.500 pounds round down so 55,000 / 680 = 81.1 or 55,000 / 362 = 152.3 warheads delivered with one launch. (Capacity to an antipodal target is a bit more than 50% greater than capacity to LEO but there is still a lot of weight involved in the buss and such)...so hey perhaps they don't need but one launch. Naturally, the same basic math would apply to the Russian launchers in the same class such as PROTON.
Of course this is silly as it would be suicide. They'd still face our righteous wrath unless there were some reason to believe our nuclear deterrent was a hollow force.
Meanwhile...in completely unrelated news in the U.S., the nation's last American owned uranium enrichment plant was just shut down by the DOE.
U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, whose 2nd District includes Pike County and part of Ross County among others, expressed disbelief. Both he and Portman said that on the heels of a deal that recognizes Iranâ€™s right to enrich uranium and maintain access to thousands of centrifuges, shutting down of the only source of domestic uranium enrichment is irresponsible. The Centrifuge is the only American-owned enrichment facility operating in the United States, while foreign-owned Urenco USA operates an enrichment facility in New Mexico.
September 27, 2015
I'm SURE This Will All End Well. China is moving into the Med, allegedly they will be joining the Russians in attempting to shore up Assad. What is certain is that the Russians are coordinating with the Iranians and they, the Syrians and the Iranians have signed military agreements with Iraq.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and the French are conducting airstrikes against ISIS (which is pursuing an ambitious agenda) while the Syrian, Chinese, Iranian, Russian and Iraqi forces are conducting air and ground operations. Except for Iraq, none of those air-forces or ground forces are not coordinating with us in any way and at least the Russian planes are running with transponders off. Heck, the Russians got their planes there surreptitiously and were only detected once they arrived. Meanwhile, all sides are shooting at targets that may or may not be insurgents.
What could POSSIBLY go wrong?
In other, arguably less potentially exiting news, it looks like Catalonia may well be breaking away from Spain as the secession parties just won an election.
September 20, 2015
And Then This Stuff Happened While people are focusing on the epic fantasy fight that is Clock Boy VS Gell-Mann other things were happening in the real world.
The President has ordered US Navy ships to steer clear of the artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea, thus ceding the seized Filipino and Vietnamese islands and giving China de-facto sovereignty over one of the most important trade routes in the world.
This method of just CREATING national territory anywhere the ocean gets shallow is expected by some analysts to soon be used in the Indian Ocean.
Unless it's all a monumentally expensive and elaborate feint (with the benefit of infrastructure in place for later use) to distract from the thrust into Taiwan.
It is being reported that North Korea is likely to launch a long range missile or satellite on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean Communist Party....but that is far from certain.
What is somewhat more certain is that they are spinning up their nuclear weapons production in a big way and possibly their bioweapons as well.
Iran just released 5 top members of Al Qaeda in a prisoner swap. Odds are good they did not do so for a deserter.
Russia is moving to set up bases in Belarus...
Russia is also moving into Syria to defend the odious dictator Assad from the murderous assault on reason that is the Islamic state. A lot of people across the political spectrum seem upset by this. They probably need to analyze their pique more thoroughly. This seems like a point of convergence in our interests and has potential to be a starting point for walking back tensions in other areas.
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