The United States’ thousands of nuclear warheads have the explosive equivalent of over 1 gigaton of TNT. It’s an amount of energy that could literally move mountains, reroute rivers, alter climate, and result in the deaths of hundreds of millions or even billions of people, through fire, radiation, and starvation. Like everything else on Earth, those warheads are getting older. But unlike anything else on Earth, that mere aging may have profound consequences for the national security of the United States. Most of the nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal date from the late 1970s and the 1980s, with anticipated lifetimes of 20 to 25 years; the most recent ones, the submarine-launched W88s, were added in 1988. Most of the warheads, in other words, are now past or nearing their estimated expiration dates. If nothing is done to maintain these hugely complex systems, they will in time fail, leaving the United States with no nuclear arsenal at all. In fact, U.S. President … [Read more...] about What About The Nukes?
North korea missile fail
For a developing country, India has pursued a uniquely ambitious and far-reaching nuclear technology program. During the last six decades, it has developed expertise and facilities covering the entire nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mining and milling to reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. India also operates a pilot fast breeder reactor, one of seven countries to have built one, and it has started constructing an industrial-scale breeder. The Indian government’s long-held vision is that nuclear energy—and especially breeders, which are designed to produce more fresh fuel than they consume—will play a large part in the country’s ambition of becoming energy-independent by the year 2030. But progress has fallen far short of that goal. Early on, the country’s top nuclear officials forecast that by 1987 nuclear energy would generate 20 to 25 gigawatts of electricity. Later estimates inflated that figure to 43.5 GW by the year 2000. Today, India’s 17 … [Read more...] about More Missiles Than Megawatts
It took 20 years, but in April a treaty finally went into effect banning chemical weapons. While the Chemical Weapons Convention is an important step toward a safer world, it may have the undesired effect of encouraging some countries to redouble their efforts to acquire biological weapons-disease-causing microbes and natural poisons such as anthrax, pneumonic plague, and botulinum toxin. Biological weapons are not only more potent than chemical weapons but they are easier to produce in small, clandestine facilities. A biological attack could create an almost unimaginable catastrophe. According to an estimate by the U.S. Congress’s former Office of Technology Assessment, 100 kilograms of anthrax, released from a low-flying aircraft over a large city on a clear, calm night, could kill 1-3 million people. This figure is comparable to the casualties from a one-megaton hydrogen bomb. When disseminated as an aerosol, anthrax spores (analogous to microscopic seeds) are inhaled deep … [Read more...] about Putting Teeth in the Biological Weapons Ban
Since the beginning of warfare, humans have sought defenses against offensive weapons. Not surprisingly, then, the deployment of nuclear-armed missiles by the United States and the Soviet Union early in the Cold War prompted each to begin building missile defenses to protect themselves against these extremely destructive weapons. What is perhaps surprising is that both countries soon recognized that this undertaking would be destabilizing and pointless and agreed in the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty not to defend their countries against each other’s ballistic missiles. The two superpowers both based their nuclear policies on the notion of deterrence-that maintaining the ability to launch a nuclear counterattack that would inflict massive destruction on the other side was necessary to ensure that the other country would not attack first. Missile defense could weaken or even negate the retaliatory capability of the other side, since a retaliatory attack would be small … [Read more...] about Missile Defense: The Sequel
It is conceivable, as one of his colleagues has suggested, that Theodore Postol could be more effective “if he did not eventually accuse just about everybody of fraud or malfeasance or stupidity.” Over the past two years, for instance, the MIT professor of science, technology and national security policy has publicly accused the defense technology corporation TRW of perpetrating a hoax on the U.S. government. He has charged the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (formerly known as the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization) with committing an “elaborate scientific and technical blunder,” compounded by fraud and misconduct. He has charged the authors of a report investigating those alleged frauds-who include two staff scientists at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory-with committing scientific fraud themselves to cover up the frauds they were allegedly investigating. He has charged the Pentagon’s Defense Security Service, in a letter to John Podesta, who … [Read more...] about Postol vs. the Pentagon
Scenario one: If North Korea fired a nuclear-armed missile that devastated an American city, how would the U.S. government respond? The state-sponsored attack would fit within the Cold War paradigm; therefore, the certain American response would be an overwhelming retaliation aimed at destroying Pyongyang, Kim Jong Il’s nuclear and missile programs, and North Korea’s million-man army. Such a response would result in enormous collateral damage, killing millions of North Koreans. Despite reservations about the morality of such a response, those who established the Cold War nuclear doctrine recognized – and accepted – the unintended deaths of millions of innocents. Whoever occupied the White House during such a nuclear attack would understand this also. Scenario Two: If North Korea were discovered to have sold a nuclear bomb to al-Qaeda, which smuggled the weapon into the United States and used it to destroy a city, how would the U.S. government respond? As … [Read more...] about Nuclear Accountability
A test above the Pacific Ocean early this month was characterized by a Pentagon official as a “huge step” in proving technologies to intercept long-range ballistic missiles, such as ones North Korea is developing. But some expert observers say it was unremarkable because it largely reiterated earlier achievements and did not–unlike some earlier tests–attempt to overcome potential counter-measures that an enemy could deploy. What’s more, critics have expressed dismay about the classification of the test data, which makes it impossible to conduct an independent evaluation. In the September 1 test, an interceptor launched from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base struck a mock warhead fired from Kodiak, Alaska. Similar tests in December 2004 and February 2005 had failed, prompting the U.S. Missile Defense Agency to suspend tests. But in this test, the interceptor hit the target, the agency said. The recent test also included a successful … [Read more...] about Missile Defense: Hit or Miss?
As I write this, the U.S. has deployed a battle group to Syria in preparation for a missile strike against the government there, and Russia has deployed what appears to be a counter force. What most seem not to be factoring in is that Syria has already fired its warning shot with attacks on Twitter and The New York Times, at least.I say "at least," because reporting of attacks isn't comprehensive, and other attempts may have failed, so Syria's first strike may have been far larger than initially reported. (Update: Many other attempts have now been reported.)The U.S. has a tendency to overreact, and it is clear there's insufficient preparation for the infrastructure collapse that could occur when Syria responds to a missile attack -- and Russia exists as a wild card that could cause the conflict to spread rapidly out of control.It's been common knowledge for some time that the U.S. infrastructure is vulnerable to outside attack and that governments like Syria and China have been … [Read more...] about OPINION World War 3: The Cyber-Risk of a Missile Attack on Syria
North Korea is dealing with an international fallout following the country’s weekend launch of a satellite-carrying rocket. The country reportedly launched a rocket and successfully deployed the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 satellite in orbit, reports CNN. According to U.S. Department of Defense officials who were monitoring the launch, the satellite reached its orbit, but is tumbling and nonfunctional.The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) launched its Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 satellite on Sunday despite objections internationally that the deployment violates earlier agreements prohibiting missile testing. Officials from concerned countries believe the rocket launches could be a front being used by North Korea to test and develop intercontinental ballistic missile technology. North Korean officials claim the launch was for “peaceful purposes” with officials asserting the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-4 satellite is an “earth observation … [Read more...] about North Korean satellite nonfunctional and ‘tumbling in orbit’ following weekend launch
Simulation US Air Force Keeps Fleet of Aging Warhorses FlyingFor decades, the U.S. Air Force has grown accustomed to such superlatives as unrivaled and unbeatable. These days, some of its key combat aircraft are being described with terms like geriatric or decrepit.The aging of the U.S. Air Force, a long-simmering topic in defense circles, made a brief appearance in the presidential debates when Republican nominee Mitt Romney cited it as evidence of the decline of U.S. military readiness. His contention that the Navy is the smallest it's been since 1917 got more attention, thanks to President Barack Obama's quip that the Navy also has fewer "horses and bayonets."But analysts say the Air Force has a real problem, and it will almost certainly worsen. It was created in part by a lack of urgency in the post-Cold War era, and by design glitches and cost overruns that have delayed attempts to build next-generation aircraft.Looming budget cuts limit the force's ability to correct itself, they … [Read more...] about US Air Force Keeps Fleet of Aging Warhorses Flying