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...
There’s some speculation that this is an attempted enhanced EMP weapon. There’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 Iran’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.
September 09, 2015
A Blast From the Past ...in the multi megaton range.
Via the Secret Projects Forum comes information indicating the Russians have been developing a weapon system that involves an autonomous underwater drone intended to penetrate U.S. harbors. This is no surprise, but this drone is reportedly intended to carry a warhead with a yield measured in "tens of megatons". This weapon system has been given the designation KANYON by the Pentagon.
It's not exactly a new concept for the Russians. As we've reported here before, the initial delivery system contemplated for the RDS-220 (Tsar Bomba) warhead was a rather large torpedo, the T-15. This was initially intended to be the main armament of the project 627 submarines (November Class), though the concept was later abandoned.
KANYON would appear to be a completely terrifying interesting and logical refinement of the concept. Though not explicitly stated, it would seem to allow the weapon to situate itself much farther inland than could be reached with a simple torpedo shot. The article suggests that the weapon is specifically targeted at the U.S. Navy's SSBN bases in Kings Bay and Bremerton, the latter being a particularly challenging targeting problem as it is reachable only through a winding channel through an archipelago that is fairly far inland. This would indicate that other targets with inland deepwater ports would be within its reach. The junction of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers comes to mind, as does Houston which is a major port and energy center.
This weapon would, of course, precipitate all of the usual mayhem one associates with a high yield nuclear blast (and a ground blast to boot...so fallout would be horrific). However, there is one particularly interesting effect that this sort of unsolicited dredging operation would have.
Assuming use of the relatively new 20 megaton 8F675 warhead which the Russians recently removed from their ICBMs, the Nukemap online sum of all fears simulator suggests a crater depth of 800 feet. More importantly the crater extends for 1.05 km from the center, so there is a circular reef of trinitite glass completely blocking the harbor's channel. Here we see one at the mouth of Hampton Roads (home to the worlds largest naval base...and the Brickmuppet).
The harbor....isn't one any more. Even after the radioactivity subsides.
The expanse of the effect naturally increases (though less than linearly) with yield, so the 57megaton yield of the 1963 Tsar Bomba test would virtually close the whole harbor mouth.
Of course the more generally appreciated effects still apply....
From center out, little black donut=crater seen above, dark red circle=200PSI blast which destroys pretty much everything, green=radiation instant death which is redundant in this context because...light red circle=20PSI which corresponds to ground zero at Hiroshima, dark grey=5psi light grey=windows break with enough force to cause injuries, dark orange=trees burst into flames (weather dependent) light orange=people standing outside get third degree burns (weather dependent) Note that fallout is not shown, but I'd advise against eating the oysters for several decades.
Doing this to Beaumont, Long Beach, South Louisiana, Houston and New York could permanently close those ports and would remove over half of the nations capacity for foreign trade for a very long time. In the case of Louisiana, it would shut down a good bit of internal trade as well.
Of course, such a weapon would violate the Seabed Treaty and we all know how fastidious the Russians currently are about arms-control treaties.
UPDATE: The reason that something as whacked as a multi-megaton robot submarine nuke is is of any interest is that such a device is inherently a first strike weapon. It doesn't actually deter anything unless its deployed and if its deployed it will likely result in the balloon going up. Kanyon is a stupid concept if one is looking for deterrence rather than destabilization. The Russians aren't stupid. Thus, that a weapon like this is, apparently, being developed in a country that is rather strapped for cash indicates that this sort of attack is in the rolodex of options that are actually being considered by their war plans division.
September 07, 2015
Island Re-Taking Battle As part of their contribution to peace, stability and good vibes, the Chinese government released this a bit over a week ago.
The island they are "re-taking" looks a lot like Okinawa.
UPDATE: In other China News, there appears to have been ANOTHER explosion at a chemical plant in eastern China.
August 31, 2015
More On Grid Hardening and Related Issues We've taken breaks from our usual fluf-blogging to post about electro magnetic pulse before, tentatively running the math on some worst case scenarios, but we don't pretend to be experts on the topic.
However, here is a panel of actual experts including James Woolsey and Henry Cooper (who some of you will remember from his work with HIGH FRONTIER) who, in 2013, held forth on the matter for a bit over an hour.
Amongst the things discussed is the possibility of multiple cascading Fukishimas. I was also surprised at the offhanded comment about the North Koreans being caught smuggling missiles into/ out of Cuba.
One other interesting bit of information we've turned up on the topic pertains to the more modest nukes and delivery systems that a group with ambition and cleverness could extemporize. In 1958 the US conducted a series of nuclear tests called Hardtack 1. This included a test to determine the effects of a anti aircraft missile warhead that was simulated by lofting a small fission device via a ballon. The yield of shot Yucca was only 1.5 -1.7 kilotons but according to this article, the detonation was just high enough to trigger the High Altitude EMP effect. The fact that most of the observation equipment was destroyed by power surges was chalked up to improper calibration until the later high altitude tests that had populated areas (Like Hawaii) in line of sight revealed that the problem was not with the test equipment. Note that the tropical location would result in far lesser effects than one in a middle latitude location like the continental United States or Europe or Australia....or Kasputin Yar.
So a nuke as small as 1.5 kilotons delivered via balloon could still cause considerable mayhem by tripping breakers and burning out transformers.
August 19, 2015
News of the 21st Century This Iran deal just gets better and better...I knew they weren't allowing the U.S.A. to do inspections of the Iranian nuclear sites, but if this AP story is correct then the agreement is not merely dreadful...it's clinically insane.
VIENNA (AP) — Iran, in an unusual arrangement, will be allowed to use its own experts to inspect a site it allegedly used to develop nuclear arms under a secret agreement with the U.N. agency that normally carries out such work, according to a document seen by The Associated Press.
"Unusual arrangement"...well that is not an inaccurate assessment.
Read the whole thing. This is not somer obscure site, but rather Parchin, where Iran is perfecting explosive lenses.
This is so batscat bonkers that I'm a tad skeptical. However, it would fit with a certain school of thought that the issue on our end is neither fecklessness nor naiveté, but rather motivation.
Russia has imprisoned (for 15 years) an Estonian they abducted.
The Russian economy may be much worse than thought...which could have either calming or incendiary effects upon that states behavior.
China is not retiring the old DF-5 ICBMs. Rather, they are upgrading the series of liquid propellant missiles. The new models increase their range to be able to hit targets anywhere on earth, with multiple warheads. This is similar to the arrangement that Russia has, with a few dozen heavyweight missiles complementing their road mobile ICBMs.
Finally..the kind of story that would not be out of place in an 80's film SET in the 21st century....
August 12, 2015
Desperation Can Lead to Poor Choices Nations that are under stress from within or without have historically been prone to attempt unifying their populations and ameliorating or postponing their economic reckoning by military adventure.
In other news...there is this.
....Russia is within the perfect storm of an economic crisis. So, the Russian economy started stagnating in 2013. It was never really able to recover after the 2008-2009 recession, and in 2013 the economy really started to slow down. It's just grinding to almost a halt outside of energy. And so that was the very start of it. Then we had 2014 happen. The situation between the West and Russia over Ukraine eventually, of course, led to sanctions. And then, at the same time as sanctions against Russia, we had oil prices pretty much fall in half. And so it was multiple items put together, in which you had the Russian economy just take a nosedive over the past year and a half.
To the southeast of Russia, China is devaluing its currency.
The wild couple of days in the currency market compounded the damage already done by July’s stock market crash to the Communist Party and President Xi Jinping’s reputation as competent stewards of the country’s economy. Xi has amassed unprecedented political control and eliminated potential rivals through a massive crackdown on both corruption and political dissent. That might be all fine by Chinese citizens as long as the government continues to provide strong economic growth, but it works less well when the government seems incompetent on economic matters. The "Chinese dream” Xi has promised citizens includes not just national greatness but personal wellbeing.
However, despite this, the Chinese government is still hoarding oil....
More than 80 million barrels of new strategic reserve capacity is scheduled to start operations this year, and China will continue purchases to fill those tanks, according to Chauhan.
...and are saying that they may be the worlds largest oil importer this year.
North Korea has the advantage that its economy is already rock bottom and has nowhere to collapse to. However, the drought is causing problems for a country where forestry is serious business.
Naturally, the hermit kingdom is ramping up its uranium enrichment and mining as well as making noises about another nuclear test in October.
August 05, 2015
OK This is Neat An old ad for the Seawolf amphibian variant that was aimed at military customers. I'm skeptical about the claim this you tuber made in the title, but I particularly like the boarding operation at 7:00 and "ninja mode" at 8:25.
This would be my dream plane.
August 04, 2015
How Much Will 150 Billion Dollars Buy? Obviously, production and sales tax issues aside, one could purchase 150 billion of those sketchy Dollar Tree steaks. However, one would not be Iran, which is getting 150 billion in frozen assets freed up as part of the deal to...ummm....slow their acquisition of nukes.
Anyway, it is rumored that they have made some interesting purchases:
150 Chinese J-10 fighters (Guestimated at 5.625 billion)
250 Russian SU-30 Strike fighters (Guestimated at 9.375 billion)
100(!) Russian IL 78 refueling tankers (Guestimated at 3.5 billion)
That is a hell of a lot of planes. It's an especially large number of tankers, though if they are serious about power projection 4 fighters per tanker is not unrealistic...it just means the Iranians have given a lot of thought to logistics and other non-flashy assets an air-force needs.
The cost estimates come from Wikipedia and Global security and are WAGs only that don't take into account associated ordinance purchases, training or fuel costs. However, 18.5 billion leaves a lot of wiggle room for these and other pointy, sharp things before 150 billion is reached and its not like the 150 billion is their budget...it's extra.
A few things about this story.
Iran can't actually take delivery for a few years under the terms of the agreement and it's likely that most of the planes couldn't be built /delivered for some time anyway. However a chunk of the Chinese order (and possibly the Russian one as well) actually appears to be a preexisting order from 2007, which was frozen because of the sanctions, so its possible that some of the planes have been built and also conceivable that the ex-post facto nature of the arrangement could allow delivery sooner than normally allowed. That is unclear, but the deal is so full of unpleasantness that it is not beyond the realm of possibility.
This story itself is thinly sourced. It has popped up in a couple of places, but it seems to always refer back to the DEBKA story or a Wall Street Journal article currently behind a paywall. However, It is well within Iran's financial means and similar numbers of planes were being ordered in 2007 so it is very plausible.
This story also gives some idea of what a windfall Iran has gotten irrespective of the nuclear aspects of the deal by having its assets unfrozen. In adjusted dollars this is a slightly bigger infusion of cash than The Marshall Plan was for Europe.
Dennis Prager has a good overview of the situation....
August 03, 2015
A Few Things That Make One Just Throw Up Ones Hands And Go Watch Cartoons
It is part of a general pattern of deterioration of India/ Pakistan relations..
For many, the major concern regarding the high octane nightmare fuel that is Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is loose nukes getting into the hands of one of the many Islamist organizations that operate in the country with and without official sanction. For instance:
PESHAWAR, Pakistan—Six leading figures of the Pakistani Taliban pledged allegiance to the terror group ISIS, one of them claimed in an audio message released Tuesday.
(There is no word on their position regarding Lion hunting.)
However, the possibility of Pakistan straight up using their atomic weapons in a war is nontrivial. A lethal 12 hour long gunfight in an Indian border town has thrown tinder on the hot-plate that is India and Pakistan's relationship. This despite the fact that no lions were harmed during the incident.
It is part of a general pattern of deterioration of India/ Pakistan relations..
Conditions are ripe for a crisis in this strained environment, even more so if a terrorist attack on Indian soil—such as Monday’s—is traced back to extremist groups supported by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). These rising tensions make crisis management more difficult and increase the risk of a conflict with nuclear dimensions.
Pakistan and India have been to war several times and Pakistan's statement that they consider battlefield nuclear weapons to be legitimate equalizers should certainly give one pause since once nukes start popping off all in a conflict where both sides have them, all sorts of nastiness is likely to ensue.
Here is an estimate of the soot cloud that would be generated by 100 nuclear weapons of 15 kiloton yield going off over cities.
The scale on the bottom measures reduction in watts per square meter.
These estimates tend to lean towards the pessimistic, however, this study assumes blast yields somewhere between approximately one half and one quarter those of the underground tests the countries have conducted and since both countries had stockpiles of around 100 weapons in 2011 (and have been building them up since) the number of blasts modeled is perhaps half what one would see in a real war. It concludes that growing seasons would be reduced between 10 days and a month in many parts of the world.
Smoke emissions of 100 lowyield urban explosions in a regional nuclear conflict would generate substantial globalscale climate anomalies, although not as large as in previous "nuclear winter”scenarios for a full-scale war (11, 12). However, indirect effects on surface land temperatures, precipitation rates, and growing season lengths (see figure, page1225) would be likely to degrade agricultural productivity to an extent that historically has led to famines in Africa, India, and Japan after the 1783 1784 Laki eruption (13) or in the northeastern United States and Europe after the Tambora eruption of 1815
This does not include estimates of ozone layer depletion which might persist for as much as 5 years. These models should be taken with a grain of salt of course, but it is apparent that if India and Pakistan go at it full on it would cause problems worldwide.
There has been little coverage of the deteriorating situation between the two nations in the U.S. media which is remarkable given that many of the hypothetically targeted cities in the studies contain zoos, which in turn might contain....lions.
Fortunately, no negative impact upon any lions is considered imminent, hence the lack of interest by the media.
Ukranian 'rebels' are reportedly building a dirty bomb, ie: a conventional explosive laced with radioactive substances to increase its lethality, or at least fear inducing effect. Like everything coming out of the confused region this should be treated with some skepticism, especially since the media has determined that it does not merit extensive coverage despite the fact that, if true it would be an obvious threat to the proud people eating lions of Kiev.
Puerto Rico is defaulting on its debts. This is the U.S. Greece, fortunately no lions seem to have been harmed.
China's stocks fell 29% in July. This is having some ripple effects, but may, in the short term, lower the number of Chinese businessmen able to pay for safaris to hunt lions.
Poaching lions is a thing worthy of notice, but when the Jews start to flee a nation, it is warning sign of dreadful ugliness in the works .
A hitchiking robot has been mauled beyond repair in the city of brotherly love. No lions have been implicated at this time.
July 19, 2015
Meanwhile...This Happened... Someone has been cutting fiber optic cables in California.
The JV team continues to do the JV stuff they do, like hitting warships with missiles and useing chemical weapons.
There is also the matter of the nontrivial terrorist attack in France recently that is not getting anywhere near the coverage it warrants.
On the Russian front....wait...lets not put it that way.
Regarding Russia, there is some relief about the reports that the Russian air-force is having a bad month. This is an understandable sentiment , but it doesn't necessarily mean that their planes are no threat. It could just be a byproduct of training at a high tempo under realistic conditions...which they'd be doing if they were anticipating trouble.
Iran will not be allowing US nuclear inspectors to...inspect.
In what I'm sure must be completely unrelated news, North Korea is hinting at a new series of nuclear tests in October.
Pakistan, that bastion of reason and stability in South Asia, is greatly expanding their nuclear arsenal.
Venezuela has laid claim to two thirds of Guyana.
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