Monthly Archives: November 2015

Key Able Archer 83 Report

Why The Key Able Archer 83 Report Should Be Released Under UK FOIA

Unredacted | Nate Jones | November 18, 2015

A British report entitled “The Detection of Soviet Preparations for War Against NATO” was the first comprehensive report that warned that a November 1983 nuclear release exercise called Able Archer 83 could have spooked the Soviets into a preemptive nuclear attack against the West. Within weeks, a First Tier British tribunal on Information Rights will decide if this key 32-year-old report will be released to the public or will remain censored by the Cabinet Office for the foreseeable future.

As has been widely reported, the British FOIA law is under attack.  MP Chris Grayling has alleged that journalists “misuse” the Freedom of Information Act to create stories.  (Here are 103 stories that journalists utilized the British FOIA to write, presumably “correctly.”)  More threateningly, a British government commission has been created “to consider new restrictions to the [Freedom of Information] Act.”  According to The Guardian, the five-member commission is composed of “Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary, who is already on the record calling for the act to be rewritten; Lord Carlile of Berriew, who accused the Guardian of ‘a criminal act’ when it published stories using National Security Agency material leaked by Edward Snowden; Lord Howard, whose gardening expenses were criticised after being exposed following FoI requests; and Dame Patricia Hodgson, the deputy chair of Ofcom, which has criticised the act for its ‘chilling effect’ on government.”

But even without the law’s pending wing-clipping, the British Cabinet Office (the office responsible for supporting the Prime Minister) is arguing that a 32-year-old report of an historic event of immense public interest should be withheld –without even being reviewed– forever.

Continue here

Entire Nuclear Arms Industry is ‘Based Upon Fear’

Sputnik News | 18 November 2015

1030353237

Major superpowers continue to modernize their nuclear weapons because there is an entire industry fueled by fear that helps to justify the development of nukes, nuclear disarmament expert Paul Ingram told Radio Sputnik.

Just recently the United States completed tests of its newest B61-12 atomic bomb. The test was conducted from an F-15E bomber at Tonopah Test Range in Nevada on October 20, according to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The agency underscored that the bomb “demonstrated successful performance in a realistic guided flight environment.”

Radio Sputnik

“Completing this guided B61-12 flight test provides additional evidence of the nation’s continued commitment to our nation’s security and that of our allies and partners,” the NNSA said in a press release.

The world doesn’t need any more nuclear weapons, as they’re essentially useless for world superpowers to address major strategic threats that they face, said Ingram, the executive director of the think-tank British American Security Information.

Nuclear weapons aren’t valid for the deterrence of terrorism, one of the major threats to the international community. Despite this the United States, Russia and China continue to modernize their nuclear weapons systems, Ingram said.

Partially there is a legacy dragging from the times of Cold War, but more importantly there is “an entire industry that is based upon fear,” Ingram told Radio Sputnik.

Nuclear weapons create a major split among those few countries that have nuclear arms and the rest of the world. States that don’t have nuclear weapons are frustrated with the fact that nuclear states aren’t willing to reduce, let alone eliminate, their nuclear stockpiles. This creates tensions and distrust within the international community, Igram said.

“This nuclear dimension harms the ability of Americans and Russians to collaborate on issues such as ISIS and Syria,” Ingram argued.

That’s why when it comes to dealing with common problems both Washington and Moscow are skeptical of each other’s commitments.

Russian underwater drone

Is Russia building an underwater drone to deliver a dirty bomb?

New Scientist | Daily News – 17 November 2015

dn28498-1_600

Threatwatch is your early warning system for global dangers, from nuclear peril to deadly viral outbreaks. Debora MacKenzie highlights the threats to civilisation – and suggests solutions

Is Russia trying to develop a weapon straight out of the classic Cold War era movie Dr. Strangelove? A secret military document leaked on Russian TV this month revealed plans for a long-distance underwater drone carrying a nuclear bomb designed to dump high levels of radioactive contamination onshore.

Weapons experts suspect the leak was deliberate – and aimed at US efforts to develop missile defences, something Russia has been worried about for years. On the basis of this leak, it is not possible to determine whether Russia is developing the system, or merely threatening to, never mind whether it can build one as ambitious as the specs suggest.

But the experts are alarmed that Russia’s highest command is even talking about such a weapon – and, apparently, letting us know about it. They say it is high time the US addressed Russian fears that missile defence will upend the nuclear balance.

“If it’s a deliberate leak, it’s extraordinarily provocative,” says Daryl Kimball, head of the Arms Control Association in Washington DC. “I am deeply concerned about who is in charge and whether they have any sense of restraint.”

On 9 November, Russian president Vladimir Putin met with generals to discuss the defence industry and a report of the meeting ran on Russian television network NTV. At 1:45 minutes, the camera lingers on one general’s briefing book, which details an underwater drone called Status-6, due for delivery in 2025 by the Rubin submarine design bureau in St. Petersburg.

Pavel Podvig of the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University says it describes a submarine-launched, nuclear-powered drone that could travel under remote control up to 10,000 kilometres, enter harbours undetected, and detonate its payload – a megaton thermonuclear device.

Intentional leak

Putin’s spokesman admitted the leak, and the video was taken off the NTV website. Its clumsiness, and technical errors in the drawing, says Podvig, make many weapons experts believe the leak was intentional.

Just shutting a port down would cause massive economic damage. But this bomb would also inflict “unacceptable damage to a country’s territory by creating areas of wide radioactive contamination that would be unsuitable for military, economic or other activity for long periods of time”.

“The payload looks like a massive dirty bomb,” says Podvig. Its details aren’t visible in the video, but Jeffrey Lewis in Monterey, California, thinks it would most likely be a nuclear bomb “salted” with a metal, such as cobalt, that captures neutrons from the explosion to create large amounts of long-lasting fallout. Detonated in shallow water, it would hit nearby cities with a “shower of radioactive slurry”.

This technique for enhancing fallout was the basis of the imagined “doomsday machine” in the 1964 movie Dr. Strangelove, which gave the salting ingredient the more impressive name “cobalt thorium G”.

But is the project real? A report citing unnamed Pentagon sources claims that Russia is building a nuclear-armed drone. “As I understand, some elements of this programme do exist,” says Podvig.

Veiled threat

Why leak it? In the NTV report, Putin talks about the need for weapons to circumvent planned US missile defences, which Russia has long feared could neutralise its nuclear deterrent. Status-6 would do that.

“The nightmare for the Russians is if the US destroys most of their nuclear ballistic missiles with a high-precision conventional weapons strike, then mops up anything left for a counter-strike with missile defence,” says James Acton of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Current US missile defence is not very effective, he says, but Russian strategists have to assume that it will be.

“Either they are saying they are going to develop this capability, or that they will if the US doesn’t address their concerns,” says Acton. “As Dr. Strangelove said, for a weapon to work as a deterrent you have to reveal that it exists.”

“I think it is a threat, and clearly intended as such,” says Joe Cirincione, head of arms control think tank The Ploughshares Fund. All agree that the weapon is unthinkable.

“Ordinary nuclear weapons can at least be used on purely military targets. This has no conceivable purpose other than killing civilians,” says Acton. “Whether the weapon is real or not,” says Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists, “the Russian government must distance itself from this.”

There are other ways to address Russia’s concerns. “Both sides could have a serious discussion about measures to make each side more confident in the survivability of its nuclear forces,” says Acton. But lately, he says, Russia has shown little interest in arms control.

Image credit: Russian State TV

India-Australia agreement complete

WNN | 16 November 2015

The prime ministers of India and Australia have announced the completion of procedures necessary for a bilateral nuclear safeguards agreement between the two countries to enter into force.

Modi_Turnbull_(PM_of_India_)-460
Prime Ministers Modi and Turnbulll meet on the sidelines of the G20 (Image: Prime Minister of India)

Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Malcolm Turnbull announced the completion of procedures, including administrative arrangements, for the India Australia Civil Nuclear Agreement in a meeting held on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey. According to a statement from the Prime Minister of India’s office, Modi thanked Turnbull and said the nuclear agreement was “a milestone and source of trust and confidence”.

The bilateral agreement was signed in September 2014 during a state visit to India by Tony Abbott, Australia’s prime minister at the time. The agreement will open the door for Australian uranium to be exported for use to fuel India’s nuclear power plants.

All of Australia’s uranium production – over 5000 tU in 2014 – is exported under strict controls to ensure that it is only for civilian use. Australia is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but also requires any countries to which it sells uranium to put in place a rigorous bilateral safeguards treaty.

Earlier this year, Australia’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) recommended that the bilateral agreement should be ratified but urged that uranium sales to India should only begin after concerns about non-proliferation, nuclear regulation and safeguards had been addressed, including India’s establishment of an independent nuclear regulator.

India, with an ambitious nuclear power program but few indigenous uranium resources, is not a signatory of the NPT. It was effectively isolated from world nuclear trade until 2008, when it signed a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group agreed to exempt the country from rules prohibiting trade with non-members of the NPT. Since then, India has signed nuclear cooperation agreements with several countries.

In April, Canadian uranium producer Cameco signed its first contract with India after the nuclear cooperation agreement between Canada and India came into force in September 2013. According to the Canadian government, the contract to supply 7.1 million pounds of uranium concentrate (about 2730 tU) to India’s Department of Atomic Energy was worth around CAD 350 million ($286 million).

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

The A-10 Lives: America’s Lethal ‘Flying Tanks’ Won’t Be Retired Just Yet

[Note: nothing about depleted uranium (DU), HvdK]

An_A-10_from_the_81st_Fighter_Squadron_flies_over_central_Germany

The National Interest | Dave Majumdar | November 11, 2015

The U.S. Air Force delayed its plans to retire the A-10 Warthog in favor of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The service has been trying to scrap the venerable flying tank—a darling of U.S. ground troops—in favor of the stealthy single-engine jet despite resistance on Capitol Hill by 2021.

“We have to retire the airplanes, but I think moving it to the right and starting it a bit later and maybe keeping around the airplane a bit longer is something that’s being considered based on things as they are today and what we see in the future,” Air Combat Command commander Gen. Hawk Carlisle told reporters at the Defense Writers Group breakfast according The Hill reporter Kristina Wong. “I think if you look at what we’d like to do is probably a couple of squadrons maybe early, because we have F-16s coming out of Hill [Air Force Base], and we’d like to transition A-10s to F-16s in a couple of different places, but I think the majority of it we would move it a couple of years, two to three years, to the right.”

Carlisle told reporters that he deployed the jets to Turkey because of their unique capabilities which are particularly useful against enemy ground forces—like ISIS. “I will tell you, I have A-10s and I will use them because they are a fantastic airplane.” Carlisle said. “The guys are incredibly well-trained and they do fantastic work in support of the joint war fight…They’re doing fantastic work and we’re very proud of them.”

Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), a former Air Force A-10 squadron commander, was dismissive of the service’s latest move. McSally has often spoken out about the capabilities gaps the Pentagon would face if the A-10 were retired. “As it has always been, the plan to retire the A-10 ahead of schedule is irresponsible and reckless. No plane in our inventory or under development can match the A-10’s unique capabilities to provide Close Air Support – capabilities that are in increasing demand,” McSally said in a statement. “A-10s are now deployed in the fight against ISIS, in Europe to deter Russian aggression, and along the border with North Korea. We just invested over $1 billion to keep this asset flying until 2028. Until there’s a suitable replacement, we absolutely need to keep this life-saving capability in the air.”

McSally dismissed Carlisle’s move to defer the A-10’s as a political ploy. “This is the Administration’s same ploy only in a different disguise to whittle away at a critical capability, “ she said. “Over the last three years, the Administration has already mothballed the equivalent of four A-10 squadrons, leaving us with only nine to carry out the critical missions for which the A-10 is best suited.”

 

‘Assured unacceptable damage’: Russian TV accidentally leaks secret ‘nuclear torpedo’ design

RT | 12 Nov, 2015

2734490 11/09/2015 Lieutenant General Andrei Kartapolov, the chief of the General Staff main operational authority, and Army General Valery Gerasumov, Deputy Defense Minister, the chief of the General Staff, seen at the Bocharov Ruchei residence before a meeting on the development of the Russian armed forces, November 9, 2015. Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti

Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti

The Kremlin has confirmed “some secret data” was accidentally leaked when Russian TV stations broadcast material apparently showing blueprints from a nuclear torpedo, designed to be used against enemy coastal installations.

During President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with military officials in Sochi, where the development of Russia’s military capabilities were being discussed, a number of TV crews were able to capture footage of a paper that was certainly not meant for public viewing.

The presentation slide titled “Ocean Multipurpose System: Status-6” showed some drawings of a new nuclear submarine weapons system. It is apparently designed to bypass NATO radars and any existing missile defense systems, while also causing heavy damage to “important economic facilities” along the enemy’s coastal regions.

The footnote to the slide stated that Status-6 is intended to cause “assured unacceptable damage” to an adversary force. Its detonation “in the area of the enemy coast” would result in “extensive zones of radioactive contamination” that would ensure that the region would not be used for “military, economic, business or other activity” for a “long time.”

According to the blurred information provided in the slide, the system represents a massive torpedo, designated as “self-propelled underwater vehicle,” with a range of up to 10 thousand kilometers and capable of operating at a depth of up to 1,000 meters.

It remains unclear if such a system is indeed being developed or the slide was presented as just one of the options the Russian military could hypothetically offer. However, according to the leaked paper, the weapons system could be developed by the Rubin design bureau for marine engineering, and may potentially be delivered using nuclear-powered “Project 09852” and “Project 09851” submarines.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that major TV channels had leaked some classified data on Tuesday following the meeting in Sochi.

“It is true some secret data got into the shot, and it was subsequently deleted,” Peskov said on Wednesday. “We hope that this won’t happen again.”

During Tuesday’s meeting Putin stressed that Russia will counter NATO’s US-led missile shield program through new“strike systems capable of penetrating any missile defenses.”

“Over the past three years, companies of the military-industrial complex have created and successfully tested a number of prospective weapons systems that are capable of performing combat missions in a layered missile defense system,” Putin said.“Such systems have already begun to enter the military this year. And now we are talking about development of new types of weapons.”

Russian TV stations broadcast secret nuclear torpedo plans

Document was left out in view when NTV and Channel One filmed Vladimir Putin meeting with military officials in Sochi

The Guardian | 12 November 2015

The Kremlin has admitted that Russian television accidentally showed secret plans for a nuclear torpedo system on air.

Two Kremlin-controlled channels, NTV and Channel One, showed a military official looking at a confidential document containing drawings and details of a weapons system called Status-6, designed by Rubin, a nuclear submarine construction company based in St Petersburg.

The nuclear torpedoes, to be fired by submarines, would create “zones of extensive radioactive contamination making them unsuitable for military or economic activity for a long period”, says the document, which is clearly visible in the footage for several seconds.

The images were filmed during a meeting of President Vladimir Putin with military officials in the Black Sea city of Sochi on Monday.

The footage was aired on Tuesday and later deleted by the channels, but several websites still published screenshots from it.

“It’s true some secret data got into the shot, therefore it was subsequently deleted,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told journalists.

“In future we will undoubtedly take preventive measures so this does not happen again.”

It remained unclear how the images ended up being broadcast on the tightly controlled channels.

The document was shown at a meeting where Putin warned that “Russia will take necessary retaliatory measures to strengthen the potential of our strategic nuclear forces”