Skip navigation

I announce the launch of scisec.net

That is now my own domain name here at wordpress.

So, go to www.scisec.net for the new set up

I have decided to fully take up the opportunity offered by self-publishing on the internet.

I hope that scisec.net will become something bigger over time.

I welcome collaborators.

The US Navy may well have conducted a successful flight test of the Trident II D5 SLBM. The interesting thing about this flight test, if the story is accurate, would be that it was an unannounced test.

My early warning radar was set off on seeing this because I know that the Navy conducted two flight tests in May from the USS Nebraska.

Why the surge in activity on Trident II D5 testing? This latest test, if true, would mean that the missile has been tested successfully 123 times in a row. Surely, the tempo on testing in May, especially in relation to the apparent third test, owes little to concerns about the reliability of the D5 to meet the damage expectancy criteria of OPLAN-8044 (formerly known as the SIOP).

The earlier May test was a Commander Evaluation Test which means that it involved the simultaneous launch of more than one missile, in this case two Trident D5’s. This time last year the Navy conducted a Commander Evaluation Test consisting of two SLBMs as well.

Could the apparent latest test be a Life Extension Test Bed-2 related measure (see my blog entry below)? Could this be related to RRW? It is interesting that the Navy should have conducted an unannounced test so soon after the Commander Evaluation Test.

The Guam story on this starts by stating,

…Two days ago, part of a missile washed up on the Island of Yeew in Yap, about 500 miles southwest of Guam. The front “nose fairing” is from a Trident II D5 missile, expended in a routine flight test from an Ohio Class submarine, according to Lt. Donnell Evans, public affairs officer for U.S. Naval Forces Marianas…

Are these missile parts in fact the parts from the Commander Evaluation Test? I do believe we need more information to really nail that the Navy has conducted a Trident II D5 test in addition to the earlier Follow On Commander Evaluation Test.

This story is not enough to make a proper conclusion.

I think we need a blog on US strategic nuclear forces of the sort that Podvig maintains on Russian strategic nuclear forces. He documents every test and even every satellite launch that he comes across that is in any way shape or form related to the Strategic Rocket Forces.

It is a shame that there isn’t one that does the same for the US. In fact, I have a better idea. Why not a collaborative project on a Podvig style blog on global strategic nuclear forces that would monitor developments very closely, like semi-daily, in the nuclear weapon states?

Actually, I have just got my own domain name and space so this blog is getting a major boost and upgrade. I’ve decided to get a little bit more serious about this. I will reveal all at the appropriate juncture.

In the meanwhile I promise an Iran entry (I see that ISIS has leaked the latest IAEA safeguards report) in the near future.

I know I have promised to blog on the latest weaponisation development regarding Iran but I’ve been swamped with other stuff. However, semester ends this week so I expect to get the time to review this.

At any rate the IAEA has drawn up and is circulating to the UNSC and the Board of Governors the latest safeguards report on Iran which is eagerly anticipated both for what it has to stay about what is usually referred to as the “alleged studies” on RV development for nuclear warheads and related weaponisation developments and reports that Iran is developing a new more advanced IR-3 centrifuge (i.e. a successor to the Pakistan P-2 design). Anyway, the IAEA has released a press release which states that

…The IAEA Board of Governors will discuss the report when it next convenes in Vienna on 2 June. The report´s circulation is restricted and cannot be released to the public unless the IAEA Board decides otherwise…

Hopefully we won’t have to wait as I am sure ISIS will leak it as usual. It would seem as if someone has leaked it already for AFP reports that

…The report, to be discussed by the IAEA’s board of governors at a June 2-6 meeting, said intelligence from a number of sources suggest Iran has conducted the studies. Iran has repeatedly dismissed the allegations as “baseless” and the intelligence as “forged”.

The IAEA demanded that Iran, which already faces UN Security Council sanctions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, disprove the allegations.

“Substantive explanations are required from Iran to support its statements on the alleged studies and on other information with a possible military dimension,” the report insisted.
“The alleged studies … remain a matter of serious concern. Clarification of these is critical to an assessment of the nature of Iran’s past and present nuclear programme.”

The IAEA “is continuing to assess the information and explanations provided by Iran. However, at this stage, Iran has not provided the agency with all the information, access to documents and access to individuals necessary to support Iran’s statements.”

The IAEA “is of the view that Iran may have additional information, in particular on high explosives testing and missile-related activities, which could shed more light on the nature of these alleged studies and which Iran should share with age…

For its part Iran is claiming that it has answered these allegations but it would seem not. It seems, given the citations of the US ambassador to the IAEA in the AFP report, that it was the US delegation that leaked it.

Hopefully, ISIS will leak the thing in the next couple of days. It would be a shame if we have to rely on AFP.

I kinda don’t want to bury my Reliable Replacement Warhead entry below but I just came across an interesting little article in The Times of London which cites former US Prez Jimmy Carter as stating that Israel has 150 nuclear weapons.

Notice the headline actually stated that Israel “had” 150 nuclear weapons. Carter left office in 1980.

So, how much nuclear weapons does Israel have? More importantly, how many targets does have Israel hold at risk? How would Tel Aviv rationalise a nuclear strategy built around 150-200 nuclear weapons?

This is the entry for Israel in the famed Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists nuclear notebook

… Although Israel has neither confirmed nor denied that it possesses nuclear weapons, the DIA concluded in 1999 that Israel had produced 60–80 warheads. Israel is estimated to have produced enough fissile material for between 115 and 190 warheads. The DIA projected that Israel’s stockpile would increase only modestly by 2020…

It seems that Carter is claiming that the DIA estimate is too low. By weapons I assume he means actual warheads rather than quantity of fissile material. Or does he? The old timer might be confused or the DIA is under-estimating Israel’s warhead stockpile.

Once again we here reports of the end of the Reliable Replacement Warhead and once again we must express caution. It is indeed true that the House has zeroed out funding for RRW but the attitude that Congress is taking to RRW is one that is very much dependent upon the results of a review on US nuclear strategy post 9/11. As shown in this FCNL press release congress is looking for a bi-partisan consensus on nuclear strategy.

Long range programmes like RRW cannot proceed absent strategic consensus.

Given the situation in Congress it is to be expected that there would be an update to the CRS report on RRW. Alas, we are not disappointed.

The report was updated on May 19.

I am of the firm belief, as I have said previously, that Team Bush is conducting nuclear strategy with reference to what they refer to as a second nuclear age. The updated May 19 CRS report has some gems that help me to convince you of this,

The report states that the critics of RRW note that

…that there are no military requirements for new weapons…

Even supporters have been forced to adopt this line when countering the proliferation and strategic stability implications of RRW (think of the Rice et al statement to Congress) but the CRS report goes on to state (at another section)

…Advocates of RRW note further that while the current stockpile — most units of which were manufactured between 1979 and 1989 — was designed to deter and, if necessary, defeat the Soviet Union, the threat, strategy and missions have changed,leaving the United States with the wrong stockpile for current circumstances.

Ambassador Brooks said that current warheads are wrong technically because “we would [now] manage technical risk differently, for example, by ‘trading’ [warhead] size and weight for increased performance margins, system longevity, and ease of manufacture.” These warheads were not “designed for longevity” or to minimize cost, and may be wrong militarily because yields are too high and “do not lend themselves to reduced collateral damage.” They also lack capabilities against buried
targets or biological and chemical munitions, and they do not take full advantage of precision guidance…

That all sounds like RNEP and the Advanced Concepts Initiative. The RNEP was considered by supporters not to be a new weapon because the physics package was envisaged to be based on the B83 (a gravity bomb) although clearly the RNEP was configuring the B83 package for new missions.

I think RRW is about developing new warheads so that they can be configured for earth penetration and TSV’s for the next generation of ballistic missiles to replace MMIII and D5. Even with Minuteman Elite and the LETB-2 one can develop lower yield warheads and still maintain the damage expectancy criteria of OPLAN-8044’s deliberate plans. That means more useable nuclear weapons and less self-deterrence. You need that if your response to what you perceive to be a second nuclear age is regional intra-war deterrence. It also means using strategic ballistic missiles to support any negligence doctrine for the deterrence of nuclear terrorism.

That’s my hunch….like I say it’s a hunch. I’d need more work to develop that properly.

If, after the review, Congress accepts the strategic assumptions adopted by the Bush Administration post the 2001 NPR then RRW will rise again.

RRW is not dead.

Just a small post on the “negligence doctrine” and the deterrence of nuclear terrorism. I will have more, a big article after I finish my marking duties, in due course.

We have seen that STRATCOM has stated that in the context of nuclear terrorism that they have created a “deliberate plan.”

What would a STRATCOM strike package look like? The attack would have to be proportionate. Say if a ~10kt terrorist bomb were to be detonated in New York. If the US were to follow the absurd “negligence doctrine” after Russian fissile material attribution it is clear that the strike could not be made with either the MMIII or the D5.

The yield of the warheads, such as the W88, are too large. Most likely we would be talking about a B61 based Stealth Bomber strike. The B61 can come in a number of mods and yield ranges, it’s a “dial a yield” weapon, but it seems that the B61 yield ranges from 0.3kt to 340kt.

The strike would come from one of the B61 B-2 based weapons that was slated for what was called a “limited attack option” in the old days of the SIOP.

The strike also would not be made with the MMIII or the D5 to try and avoid accidental nuclear war scenarios.

So, a strike plan like this would be a form of signaling very much in line with intra-war deterrence thinking. At best, Moscow will play the game and trade blows with the US or if the Russians are consistent, they have never bought intra-war deterrence (because Moscow’s military-industrial complex did not exist within a democracy the Soviet era defence sector did not need to come up with such doctrines to justify a strategic buildup that went beyond overkill), then they would respond with all of their strategic weapons on alert.

Either way, the likely outcome would not be controlled escalation.

Whatever may be the actual strategic nuclear war plans produced by the nuclear weapon states one thing is certainly clear. The dominant theme of declaratory policy has been nuclear deterrence. So with this view we are concerned with such questions as; what is the best way, using nuclear weapons, to deter another state from using them in a first strike?

That is nuclear deterrence has hitherto (not necessarily in action policy) been about deterring another state from using them against another state. It has also been about deterring “weapons of mass destruction” use (PDD60) and it has also been used to deter large scale conventional attacks.

Nuclear deterrence has now gone a notch further to include the deterrence of terrorism specifically nuclear terrorism.

It would appear that the “negligence doctrine” that I have spoken of previously has been actually, that is officially, adopted in new presidential guidance that definitely includes the deterrence of nuclear terrorism by way of nuclear weapons.

I have written a short article about it that is currently looking for a publisher.

I am very tempted to circumvent that process and leave it here.

ISIS has two great reports on the Al Kibar reactor. The
first provides
a pretty detailed analysis of the measures Syria used to conceal the reactor. I quite like the pipes from the box to the water treatment plant and the earthen walls. A nice touch.

ISIS makes some good points about some of the larger consequences of all this, for instance the limitations of safeguards, but their political correctness let’s them down. For example, the role that Syria plays in US strategic nuclear war planning is not discussed nor is the role that Israeli nuclear weapons play here much discussed either.

If Al Kibar was a plutonium production reactor then surely these demand side issues are worth reflecting upon if we want to be comprehensive in our analysis of the wider proliferation consequences of Al Kibar. But you can’t do that because that would mean that instead of discussing some other state’s nuclear programme you end up discussing your own.


The second ISIS analysis
has some pretty good stuff too. This one, interesting enough, comes from an Israeli analyst. He states that the IC assesses the power output of Al Kibar to be 20MWt. Yongbyon is about 25-30MWt.

He makes the following observation. Firstly there is discussion on the piping of the heat removal system

…Because the heat removal system is dependent on the return piping to the river, inspectors are likely to concentrate on this piping. From ref.1 in can be seen that the outlet into the river is situated downstream of the inlet pumps, which is standard engineering practice…

Which opens up the following

…The diameter of this pipe is the best indication of the design power of the reactor. The diameter can be assessed by two methods: use of remote sensing or by simply uncovering the pipe. Remote-sensing equipment would include ground penetrating radar and magnetometers. These actions should not take place at the outlet, but at several places along the route from the main building to the river. If Syria disputes the results of the measurements, or if the inspectors are not satisfied with them, the pipe could be excavated at least at one untampered site along the pipe’s route. This is not a major undertaking, but the ground moving equipment must be made available by local authorities…

Hence IAEA inspections could provide us with verification about the crux of the matter that being the power output of the reactor.

Let them proceed.

Of course, the Israeli analyst won’t tell us much about Dimona.

I call this the proliferation fallacy…let us concentrate on everybody else’s nuclear activities except our own. For a proliferation expert to be a true moral agent he must concentrate on the activities of his own state first and foremost.

Israel’s role, and the US for that matter, in creating a structural demand side push for proliferation in the Middle East is not trivial.

I have promised to blog about some interesting stuff (a) the deterrence of nuclear terrorism and (b) Trident II D5 RV news. I’ll start with the D5.
The exists good reason to believe that the US Navy is working on Trident D5 RV modernisation to enhance the counterforce or first strike capabilities of this nuclear weapons delivery platform. It may also provide some evidence for the revival of intra-war deterrence (although I’m not convinced that intra-war deterrence was actually abandoned by Clinton in PDD60. Remember it was NSDM-242 that started to put intra-war deterrence on the map officially. PD 59 was a further evolution and NSDD-13 just used nutty language to justify an absurd strategic buildup. PDD 60 just got rid of the nutty language only I feel now and added in rogue state targeting into Presidential Guidance.)
What is at issue is the D5 Life Extension Test Bed 2 or LETB-2. The LETB-2 package will actually figure in a 2009 D5 SLBM flight test. Let us cite a very important report on this from the GSN

…Budget documents recently submitted to Congress suggest that the Pentagon intends to continue research and development on submarine weapons closely related to Trident. Specifically, the Defense Department is proposing to develop technologies that could be fitted onto the Trident D-5 to make it more accurate as a conventional or nuclear weapon…

Notice the duality? Let us proceed

…In one budget document sent to Capitol Hill last month, the Pentagon says it intends to spend $59 million in this fiscal year and $69 million next year to “assess the feasibility of producing ballistic missiles [launched] from an underwater environment” for conventional prompt global strike…

Prompt global strike plays an important role in LETB-2 but it is also nuclear.

…The funds would lay the groundwork for a 2009 flight experiment “using a Life Extension Test Bed (LETB-2) re-entry body [on] a currently planned Trident D-5 missile flight,” states one Navy document. During the test, officials would demonstrate a communications and data link that could prove useful for subsequent experiments, the service says.
The LETB-2 was designed to go on the front end of a Trident D-5 missile, and comprises a Mk-4 re-entry body warhead and a tail kit containing a Global Positioning System receiver. “The tail kit also includes flaps that would allow the weapon to maneuver precisely to its target.”…

We have seen previously “Minuteman elite” programmes that seek to develop GPS navigation for the Minuteman III ICBM. The LETB-2 would also have this apply to the Trident II D5.
Futhermore,

…The Lockheed Martin technology was derived from an “Enhanced Effectiveness” modification the company flight-tested on a Trident D-5 in October 2002, according to company and defense sources. The Navy requested funds in fiscal 2003 to demonstrate Enhanced Effectiveness on the D-5.
Congress canceled the effort, though, citing concerns about the possibility that giving the Trident re-entry body maneuvering capabilities might encourage nuclear exchanges…

Question to ponder here is does “Enhanced Effectiveness” seek to develop a Mk-4 MaRV or rather a Trajectory Shaping Vehicle? TSV’s have been spoken of in the context of Prompt Global Strike and are good for command and control targeting.

…Nonetheless, the Navy was able to perform enough research and development in the Enhanced Effectiveness initiative to generate an initial design for a more-precise Mk-4 re-entry body, one defense official explained last year. The service capitalized on that design work in its nascent plans for the Conventional Trident Modification effort, according to officials…

More precise means more accurate.

…Now “following the conventional Trident’s legislative demise the Navy is proposing to breathe new life into virtually the same designs under the Life Extension Test Bed moniker.” Lockheed Martin first flight-tested that version of its re-entry body design in 2005, officials said…

So LETB-2 is just Enhanced Effectiveness.

…In the run-up to next year’s LETB-2 demonstration, the Pentagon wants to use nearly $60 million from the 2008 multiservice funding account for Navy “test completion and delivery of flight software; assembly and integration of components into LETB-2; fabrication and delivery of heat shield, nose tips and flaps; and, assembly and delivery of power distribution unit and telemetry systems,” according to budget documents…

Is the telemetry systems part a window on a possible TSV capability?
Global Security dot Org has some good stuff on the LETB-2.

…The Navy CPGS Technology Refinement and Demonstration sub-project supports Navy Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) technology development and will assess the feasibility of producing an affordable solution (i.e., ballistic missiles from an underwater environment) to fill the CPGS capability gap. It will assess CPGS technologies that could lead to a weapon system with the stealth, availability, accuracy and rapid response of today’s ballistic missiles. The technologies developed will have cross-service and cross-concept applicability and will be developed through close coordination among DoD components. In FY09, a CPGS Flight Experiment (FE1) using a Life Extension Test Bed (LETB-2) re-entry body (RB) will be conducted using a currently planned TRIDENT II (D5) missile flight to demonstrate communication and telemetry link overhead for future experiments.
In preparation for the FY09 FE1, FY08 activities will involve: test completion and delivery of flight software; assembly and integration of components into LETB-2; fabrication and delivery of heatshield, nosetips and flaps, and; assembly and delivery of power distribution unit and telemetry systems. In addition, two other CPGS technology efforts will be pursued/developed in FY09 to support a future (FY11 timeframe) Flight Experiment (FE2) utilizing a Sandia STARS A3 launch vehicle: the Medium Lift Re-Entry Body (MLRB), and; Warhead and Fuze (WF). For MLRB, deliverables in FY09 include: completion of detailed design, and; an 80% completion of RB software modules. For WF, deliverables include completion of the following items: Kinetic Energy Projectile (KEP) warhead static test; KEP and penetrator lethality modeling; full-scale penetrator gun test; KEP/aeroshell interaction test; KEP warhead arena test, and; KEP warhead sled test number one…

I ask the reader here to note the WF, penetrator lethality and so on that suggests something akin to a nuclear earth penetrator given the notion of “cross-concept applicability.”
If LETB-2 is Enhanced Effectiveness it pays to have a peek at what that was all about. From Global Security dot Org again we have

…Separate from the applications programs, a specific technology solution, D-5 Enhanced Effectiveness (E2), has been identified and included in the FY2004 budget request. The E2 program is designed to provide the D-5 SLBM force enhanced capability to conduct prompt, highly accurate strike; defeat hard and deeply buried targets; and reduce collateral damage with selective nuclear options. The E2 program is a 3-year effort culminating in a flight test of a Trident reentry body with dramatically improved accuracy…

Notice the link with the nuclear earth penetrating warhead concept? But notice the “reduce collateral damage with selective nuclear options?” Yep, that is first strike counterforce and that is intra-war deterrence. Notice that also includes intra-war deterrence nuclear strategy vis a vis not just the so called rogue states but would apply to Russia and China as well.
We have further

…The approach is to integrate existing GPS and inertial measurement unit (IMU) technologies with a flap steering system and a reentry body extension. The extension would attach to the existing Mk 4 (W76) warhead, giving it the size and weight of the larger Mk 5 warhead…

Which means that we have a link with RRW (WR1). Remember that the WR1 would have a slightly lower yield than the W76 but a bigger Mk4 RV means that the WR1 can be fitted snugly into the Mk4 RV and it would be one with a penetration capability, presumably a fuze supporting penetrator capability, greater accuracy and more maneuverability thereby demonstrating a link between RRW and EPWs.
To proceed further

…Since the current D-5 missile is capable of carrying either the Mk 4 or Mk 5 warhead, the changes to the missile are minimal. The concept is to initialize the E2 IMU with the missile guidance system, apply a GPS update during reentry body exoatmospheric flight, and use the IMU and control flaps to steer the warhead with GPS-like accuracy during atmospheric reentry.
Although strategic systems do not traditionally rely on GPS for their operation, the usefulness of a limited number of these highly accurate warheads reflects new NPR-articulated strategic strike missions. The demonstration was to culminate in flight tests and provide a final demonstration assessment report and recommended transition plan to the Navy and Strategic Command (STRATCOM) in early FY2007.

The Navy’s initial funding requests for the D-5 Enhanced Effectiveness (E2) initiative were rejected by Congress in fiscal years 2003 and 2004 and it has not requested funds again since then…

It’s clear that LETB-2 is Enhanced Effectivness and this is meant to enhance the nuclear strike options and nuclear war fighting capabilities of US Strategic Command. At the armscontrolwonk a seminar is advertised on US nuclear weapons policy in DC that states that nuclear weapons have received little attention amongst high level officials.

Pig’s ass they haven’t.

I feel that Minuteman Elite and LETB-2 will provide a certain proportion of the triad to be devoted specifically to those limited attack options of OPLAN-8044 that are designed for “nuclear signaling.” They also relax the requirement for higher yield warheads and thereby limiting “self-deterrence.”
Nirvana for a nuclear strategist is a nuclear weapons capability that would render nukes as a useable instrument of policy. This stuff is just supposed to give nukes a little Clausewitzian touch.

In a most fascinating example of irony the National Security Archives in September 2007 (the Al Kibar bombing was in Sept 2007) published a series of declassified documents on the Es Salam nuclear reactor built by Algeria with assistance from China.

There is more than a little sense of deja vu here given the Syrian situation. Recall that US officials are absolutely categorical that Al Kibar equates to a Syrian bomb programme.

Hardliners in the first Bush administration made the same allegation with respect to Algeria and the Es Salam reactor. The key evidence centered on the largish cooling towers for Es Salem said to be able to support the operation of a 50MWt reactor. Yongbyon is about 25-30MWt (assuming 5MWe this breaks the rule of thumb for converting MWe to MWt) and the Iranian IR-40 is 40MWt.

Notice that there was no cooling tower at Al Kibar.

But notice also from the documents that the State Department labeled the whole Algerian episode as the “great Algerian nuclear weapons scare.”

The State position was based on analysis suggesting that Es Salam, despite the cooling tower intelligence, was a low enriched uranium fueled 15 MWt reactor and therefore not of proliferation concern given the low output of plutonium.

That’s just about the estimate for the power level of Al Kibar (natural uranium fueled) based on the fuel channel information.

So, why are we so categorical this time around?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.