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....
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.
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 .
1nuclear powered underwater sensor arrays in the arctic
If the people who gave us the Chernobyl disaster start installing nuclear power plants pell-mell in the Arctic, there might be some detrimental impact to the fragile Arctic environment. I'm sure Greenpeace will condemn Russia for this Real Soon Now.
This might be wishful thinking, but some of the Belgorod's gizmos look like vapourware to me. For example, the Paltus midget sub appears to be a rough equivalent of the US Navy's NR-1; does Russia have the technical capability to build it? (Note that the US Navy only managed to commission one NR-1, and they scrapped it in 2008 with no replacement.) OTOH, the basic premise of the Kanyon nuclear-tipped torpedoes seems disturbingly plausible to me.
Posted by: Peter the Not-so-Great at Tue Jul 26 23:08:47 2016 (iohoY)
They've had nuclear powered midget subs in service for decades. The Paltus, is I believe, the Russians second generation nuclear powered midget sub. The newest is a super deep diving bathyscaph type thing called the Losharik.
The Kremlinology is strong with that one. But he forgot to account for the fact that the Losharik the cartoon character only had 3 legs (the front legs walked like a normal horse and the rear one jumped like a horse with one of hind legs amputated).
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.
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:
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.
...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.
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.
I have to admit I'm completely lost regarding who's who in this coup attempt in Turkey. I had previously been under the impression that the current government has been more secular, and was coming under fire for trying to normalizing relations with Israel, which had the more fundamentalist factions upset. But what I'm reading now is indicating the opposite, at least somewhat.
Posted by: Ben at Sat Jul 16 13:42:42 2016 (VPo/J)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The so-called "Union of Concerned Scientists" doesn't have many scientists in its membership. Anyone can join. It's pretty much a far-left-wing mushbrain organization and I personally don't take anything they say very seriously.
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.
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.
Yet More Thoughts on That Non-Gargantuan Nork NukeBusiness 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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
Part of the process of making plutonium bombs is breeding the plutonium. That takes a special reactor (NK has one) and you put U-238 in it to be bombarded with neutrons. U-239 goes through a double beta-decay and becomes plutonium 239.
But... plutonium-239 absorbs neutrons more easily than U-238 does and becomes plutonium-240.
So there's an ideal breeding time which gives you a bit of Pu-239 without significant amounts of Pu-240. If you run longer, you get more plutonium but an increasing percentage of it is Pu-240.
For purposes of making bombs, Pu-240 has different characteristics than Pu-239. If your plutonium has a lot of Pu-240 in it (several percent) then a standard bomb design won't work properly. It detonates too soon, with much less yield.
Does that sound familiar? That's what I think happened; the NK's got greedy and ran their breeding period too long.
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.
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.
Right now she's in dry dock. If you go into the USS Constitution Museum immediately adjacent to the dry dock, you can put your signature on one of the new copper plates that will be replacing the old ones on her hull.
Posted by: thornharp at Thu Oct 22 20:39:32 2015 (nuTMQ)
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.
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...
I'm sure you'll be excited to know that Russians attacked ISIS with 26 cruise missiles today, launched by 3 MRK (Small Missile Ship) and 1 Missile Cruiser "Dagestan". If it's any consolation, MRKs expended their ordnance and had to return to base for re-arming. This being a 21st century, they posted an official video to Youtube.
Well yeah... It is logistically easier than driving ships through Bosphorus into Eastern Med, given that the missiles have sufficient range anyway. Note, however, that MRK can cross over between Black and Caspian sea, should the need arise. In fact I suspect Dagestan might as well. It was launched well upstream and it's about 1/8th size of Moskva (which is BTW nuclear powered) - only displaces 1400 tonnes. Despite the diminutive size, those are basically missile fregates and are supposedly seaworthy.
Actually, come to think of it... There's a channel that connects the Moskva river with Neva basin. I know about that because I heard of river cruises between Moscow and St. Pb.. But Neva is connected (through lakes) with White Sea. There was a famous canal, which Stalin built, basically lined with bones of dead prisoners. White Sea freezes in the winter, but otherwise those MRKs and frigates can go from Caspian to Baltics and to North sea. Well, technically.
CNN launched that rumour, without any kind of source. But frankly I would not be surprised. Flying 70 ft off the ground virtually guarantees hitting a bird or radio tower, if you do enough of it. I covered 3000 nautical miles last week and had to maneuver around a bird once, but I was between 1000 to 3000 ft off the ground. And I am quite certain those rusty Russian missiles are not entirely reliable. It's a surprise all 26 left the launch tubes this time.
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...
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.
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.
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.
Russia changed the service duration from 2 years to 1 year and was continuously drafting less as a part of the switch to the professional army, that is shown to be far more effective. Naturally a part this massive adjustment was a reaction to the demographic catastrophy they faced in the 90s. A rule of thumb in Russia is that one can form a wartime division from 1 million of population. No population - no divisions. U.S. made the same transition some time after Vietnam, and the results are for everyone to see. Russian military analytics consider U.S. actions in the two Iraq wars (against Saddam in 2003 and against Iran in 2004-2005) to be decisive victories. Naturally there were some lessons taken. Given the context, the additional call-up may be a cause for alarm. Or it may be a figment of journalism. I have no idea which it is.
The intensity of the U.S. campaign is rather low, so the actors can work out a schedule, where, for example, U.S. bombs on Tuesdays, Russians bomb on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, Syrians bomb on Fridays, and Sunday is reserved for Israel.
The American bombing campaign is a joke. It's an example of how Obama will do something just so he can defend himself by saying he's doing so, but which doesn't actually have any important effect.
It amounts to four or five sorties per day, usually, which is virtually a complete waste of time. Obama's foreign policy is to convince everyone, enemies and allies alike, that the US is no longer able and/or willing to participate in active foreign policy. Obama's America is no longer the world's policeman.
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.
When I was in college, I had some "born again" roommates who were convinced that the Book of Revelations predicted that Russia would invade Israel just before the "end times". The news about Russian troops in Syria probably has them in a religious fervor now...
Posted by: Siergen at Mon Sep 21 19:58:56 2015 (De/yN)