Developments in Nuclear Weapons Around the World

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New Environmental Assessment Reveals Fascinating Alternatives to Land-Based ICBMs


A new Air Force environmental assessment reveals that it considered basing ICBMs in underground railway tunnels––or possibly underwater.

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Map of the ICBM missile fields contained within the Air Force’s July 2022 assessment.

On July 1st, the Air Force published its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for its proposed ICBM replacement program, previously known as the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) and now by its new name, “Sentinel.” The government typically conducts an EIS whenever a federal program could potentially disrupt local water supplies, transportation, socioeconomics, geology, air quality, and other related factors.

A comprehensive environmental assessment is certainly warranted in this case, given the tremendous scale of the Sentinel program––which consists of a like-for-like replacement of all 400 Minuteman III missiles that are currently deployed across Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming, plus upgrades to the launch facilities, launch control centers, and other supporting infrastructure.

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Cover page of the Air Force’s July 2022 Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the GBSD.

The Draft EIS was anxiously awaited by local stakeholders, chambers of commerce, contractors, residents, and… me! Not because I’m losing sleep about whether Sentinel construction will disturb Wyoming’s Western Bumble Bee (although maybe I should be!), but rather because an EIS is also a wonderful repository for juicy, and often new, details about federal programs––and the Sentinel’s Draft EIS is certainly no exception.

Interestingly, the most exciting new details are not necessarily about what the Air Force is currently planning for the Sentinel, but rather about which ICBM replacement options they previously considered as alternatives to the current program of record. These alternatives were assessed during in the Air Force’s 2014 Analysis of Alternatives––a key document that weighs the risks and benefits of each proposed action––however, that document remains classified. Therefore, until they were recently referenced in the July 2022 Draft EIS, it was not clear to the public what the Air Force was actually assessing as alternatives to the current Sentinel program.



Missile alternatives

The Draft EIS notes that the Air Force assessed four potential missile alternatives to the current plan, which involves designing a completely new ICBM:

    • Reproducing Minuteman III ICBMs to “existing specifications” by washing out and refilling the first- and second-stage rocket boosters; remanufacturing the third stages and Propulsion System Rocket Engine––the ICBM’s post-boost vehicle; and refurbishing and replacing all other subsystems;
    • Deploying a “Small ICBM”––a “reduced-size missile with lower procurement costs and enhanced accuracy;”
    • Working with “a private spacecraft company to design, manufacture, and deploy commercial launch vehicles” equipped with nuclear-capable reentry vehicles; and
    • Converting the existing Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) to be deployed in land-based silos.
The Air Force appears to have ultimately eliminated all four of these options from consideration because they did not meet all of their “selection standards,” which included criteria like sustainability, performance, safety, riskiness, and capacity for integration into existing or proposed infrastructure.

Of particular interest, however, is the Air Force’s note that the Minuteman III reproduction alternative was eliminated in part because it did not “meet the required performance criteria for ICBMs in the context of modern and evolving threats (e.g., range, payload, and effectiveness.” It is highly significant to state that the Minuteman III cannot meet the required performance criteria for ICBMs, given that the Minuteman III currently performs the ICBM role for the US Air Force and will continue to do so for the next decade.

This statement also suggests that “modern and evolving threats” are driving the need for an operationally improved ICBM; however, it is unclear what the Air Force is referring to, or how these threats would necessarily justify a brand-new ICBM with new capabilities. As I wrote in my March 2021 report, “Siloed Thinking: A Closer Look at the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent,”

“With respect to US-centric nuclear deterrence, what has changed since the end of the Cold War? China is slowly but steadily expanding its nuclear arsenal and suite of delivery systems, and North Korea’s nuclear weapons program continues to mature. However, the range and deployment locations of the US ICBM force would force the missiles to fly over Russian territory in the event that they were aimed at Chinese or North Korean targets, thus significantly increasing the risk of using ICBMs to target either country. Moreover, […] other elements of the US nuclear force––especially SSBNs––could be used to accomplish the ICBM force’s mission under a revised nuclear force posture, potentially even faster and in a more flexible manner. […]
It is additionally important to note that even if adversarial missile defenses improved significantly, the ability to evade missile defenses lies with the payload––not the missile itself. By the time that an adversary’s interceptor was able to engage a US ICBM in its midcourse phase of flight, the ICBM would have already shed its boosters, deployed its penetration aids, and would be guided solely by its reentry vehicle. Reentry vehicles and missile boosters can be independently upgraded as necessary, meaning that any concerns about adversarial missile defenses could be mitigated by deploying a more advanced payload on a life-extended Minuteman III ICBM.”
Of additional interest is the passage explaining why the Air Force dismissed the possibility of using the Trident II D5 SLBM as a land-based weapon:

“The D5 is a high-accuracy weapon system capable of engaging many targets simultaneously with overall functionality approaching that of land- based missiles. The D5 represents an existing technology, and substantial design and development cost savings would be realized; but the associated savings would not appreciably offset the infrastructure investment requirements (road and bridge enhancements) necessary to make it a land-based weapon system. In addition, motor performance and explosive safety concerns undermine the feasibility of using the D5 as a land-based weapon system.”
The Air Force’s concerns over road and bridge quality are probably justified––missiles are incredibly heavy, and America’s bridges are falling apart at a terrifying rate. However, it is unclear why the Air Force is not confident about the D5’s motor performance, given that even aging Trident SLBMs have performed very well in recent flight tests: in 2015 the Navy conducted a successful Trident flight test using “the oldest 1st stage solid rocket motor flown to date” (over 26 years old), with 2nd and 3rd stage motors that were 22 years old. In January 2021, Vice Admiral Johnny Wolfe Jr.––the Navy’s Director for Strategic Systems Programs––remarked that “solid rocket motors, the age of those we can extend quite a while, we understand that very well.” This is largely due to the Navy’s incorporation of nondestructive testing techniques––which involve sending a probe into the bore to measure the elasticity of the propellant––to evaluate the reliability of their missiles.

As a result, the Navy is not currently contemplating the purchase of a brand-new missile to replace its current arsenal of Trident SLBMs, and instead plans to conduct a second life-extension to keep them in service until 2084. However, the Air Force’s comments suggest either a lack of confidence in this approach, or perhaps an institutional preference towards developing an entirely new missile system. [Note: Amy Woolf helpfully offered up another possible explanation, that the Air Force’s concerns could be related to the ability of the Trident SLBM’s cold launch system to perform effectively on land, given that these very different launch conditions could place additional stress on the missile system itself.]



Basing alternatives

The Draft EIS also notes that the Air Force assessed two fascinating––and somewhat familiar––alternatives for basing the new missiles: in underground tunnels and in “deep-lake silos.”

The tunnel option––which had been teased in previous programmatic documents but never explained in detail––would include “locating, designing, excavating, developing, and installing critical support infrastructure such as rail systems and [launch facilities] for an array of underground tunnels that would likely span hundreds of miles”––and it is effectively a mashup of two concepts from the late Cold War.

The rail concept was strongly considered during the development of the MX missile in the 1980s, although the plan called for missile trains to be dispersed onto the country’s existing civilian rail network, rather than into newly-built underground tunnels. Both the rail and tunnel concepts were referenced in one of my favourite Pentagon reports––a December 1980 Pentagon study called “ICBM Basing Options,” which considered 30 distinct and often bizarre ICBM basing options, including dirigibles, barges, seaplanes, and even hovercraft!

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Illustrations of “Commercial Rail” and “Hard Tunnel” concepts from 1980 Pentagon report, “ICBM Basing Options.


The second option––basing ICBMs in deep-lake silos––was also referenced in that same December 1980 study. The concept––nicknamed “Hydra”––proposed dispersing missiles across the ocean using floating silos, with “only an inconspicuous part of the missile front end [being] visible above the surface.” Interestingly, this raises the theoretical question of whether the Air Force would still maintain control over the ICBM mission, given that the missiles would be underwater.

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Illustration of “Hydra” concept from 1980 Pentagon report, “ICBM Basing Options.

When considering alternative basing modes for the Sentinel ICBM, the Air Force eliminated both concepts due to cost prohibitions, and, in the case of underwater basing, a lack of confidence that the missiles would be safe and secure. This concern was also floated in the 1980 study as well, with the Pentagon acknowledging the likelihood that US adversaries and non-state actors “would also be engaged in a hunt for the Hydras. Not under our direct control, any missile can be destroyed or towed away (stolen) at leisure.”



Another potential option?

In addition to revealing these fascinating details about previously considered alternatives to the Sentinel program, the Draft EIS also highlighted a public comment suggesting that “the most environmentally responsible option” would simply be the reduction of the Minuteman III inventory.

The Air Force rejected the comment because it says that it is “required by law to accelerate the development, procurement, and fielding of the ground based strategic deterrent program;’” however, the public commenter’s suggestion is certainly a reasonable one. The current force level of 400 deployed ICBMs is not––and has never been––a magic number, and it could be reduced further for a variety of reasons, including those related to security, economics, or a good faith effort to reduce deployed US nuclear forces. In particular, as George Perkovich and Pranay Vaddi wrote in a 2021 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report, “This assumption that the ICBM force would not be eliminated or reduced before 2075 is difficult to reconcile with U.S. disarmament obligations under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

The security environment of the 21st century is already very different than that of the previous century. The greatest threats to Americans’ collective safety are non-militarized, global phenomena like climate change, domestic unrest and inequality, and public health crises. And recent polling efforts by ReThink Media, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Federation of American Scientists suggest that Americans overwhelmingly want the government to invest in more proximate social issues, rather than on nuclear weapons. To that end, rather than considering building new missile tunnels, it would likely be much more domestically popular to spend money on domestic priorities––perhaps new subway tunnels?

Background Information:

This publication was made possible by generous support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the New-Land Foundation, Ploughshares Fund, the Prospect Hill Foundation, and the FTX Future Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.
 
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CNN Exclusive: FBI investigation determined Chinese-made Huawei equipment could disrupt US nuclear arsenal communications​

 

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The Russians are preparing to test the Burevestnik-SSC-X-9 “Skyfall” nuclear-propelled cruise missile.

Pankovo Test Site – Novaya Zemlya update​

Pankovo Test Site – Novaya Zemlya activity satellite imagery – I analysed imagery that showed potential preparations for an upcoming test of a 9M730 Burevestnik (SSC-X-9 “Skyfall”) nuclear-powered cruise missile.

Whilst the imagery showed some major changes to the Pankovo site, it didn’t provide any real evidence that a test was going to be carried out soon.

The reason for looking at Pankovo in the first place was down to Russian maritime warnings (PRIPs) and NOTAMs that covered the area on and surrounding Novaya Zemlya. Between them, the warnings covered dates up until 9 September 2022. One day does remain for some of the warnings – the NOTAMs having expired on 5 September. Up until that time there had been no news from Russian sources that claimed any testing from the islands had taken place. This I would have expected had they done so.

I obtained imagery of Pankovo for 6 September 2022, extending the search further south of the test site.

Between here and the beach/harbour area, several group of buildings have been in the construction process from early 2020 – certainly the first real signs of construction show on Sentinel from July 2020. Moreover, foundation work and ground clearing had started in 2019.


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At the test site there is one thing of note that changes the previous analysis in the last blog. What I thought was a raised platform or ramp in the 28 August imagery – and then an additional structure in the 2 September imagery – were in fact one and the same. The structure was always there, it is possibly under a white cover that stretched its entirety. In the latest imagery you can see that if it is a cover it has been partially pulled off the structure to reveal it underneath.

However, most of the new roads and test area are still raised. New equipment has arrived at the southern part of the test area since the last imagery.

The potential retractable shelter looks more permanent than first assessed and has a clear entranceway to the south. This structure could be an environmental entrance linking to the other blue areas. There does not appear to be any rails for retractable shelters, however these may be being placed under the blue north-eastern structure. Time will tell.

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At the building 1.5 km south of the test site there is little to show what it’s purpose is. For now I’m calling it the “guard house/access gate” but I highly suspect this isn’t correct. There is a communications mast with what looks like microwave antennas installed, pointing north/south going by the shadows. It is approximately 50 metres in length, a little less in width./

A significant number of tracks lead cross-country from this site out to the NE. When following these, they appear to lead to nowhere, splitting off further on the routes.

There is also what looks like a white framed structure here, possibly for a further building not yet completed.

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Where things get more interesting is further down the road, heading south to the old harbour bay and beach.

Another 1.8 km south from the “gate house” is a construction site with two white structures – each approximately 30 metres in length. These are placed to the west of the road with each having two vehicle access ramps – one at each end of the building. Whilst possibly drive through shelters, the ramps are offset from each other.

At least one helicopter pad is present with what looks like a MIL Mi-8 helicopter parked there at the time if the collection. There’s possibly another to the east of the road, but it could equally be the foundations of another building.

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Drive about another 1 km south and you get to another new group of buildings, joined together by a corridor. As a whole, the buildings measure approximately 130 x 40 metres. This complex has the feel of a generator building though it can’t be fully determined at this time. The southern side of it does appear to have five or six blue fuel tanks in place. It certainly looks like a utilities building of some kind.

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Proceed 1.5 km south and you arrive at the beach and “harbour” area. This has had long-abandoned buildings on the beach for some considerable time, though the area has been used in the summer months for gaining access to the test site and some of the better buildings used for short-term accommodation.

The imagery shows a considerable upgrade is taking place here. The old jetty, which was in ruins to be honest, is now being replaced with a new one – be it with the same small footprint of the old one. The causeway to the jetty has been upgraded and potentially a new building footprint has been carved out at the old village. This could equally be a small quarry for sourcing hardcore for the tracks. Again, time will tell on this.

A large helicopter parking area has been established, with a MIL Mi-26 located here at the time of the collection. There’s a further helicopter pad at the northern group of buildings away from the beach. Communication masts are located at the village next to the helicopter parking area.

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Overall, a considerable amount of work is going on at Novaya Zemlya. However, at this time, I don’t think the area is ready for any missile tests – and it could well be another few years before it is ready.

The weather here gives them about 5 real months of construction time a year – and this could be pushing it. Once winter sets in, it will be impossible for any work to take place.

So, what of the navigational warnings if the islands aren’t being used for Burevestnik?

A little more investigation did find the likely reason for the first set of warnings.

Project 1144.2 Kirov class CGHMN Pyotr Velikiy carried out a test launch of a P‐700 3K-45/3M-45 Granit (SS‐N‐19 “Shipwreck”) SLCM at a target located off the coast of Novaya Zemlya on 24 August 2022 – the day the navigational warnings started. The ship also carried out general weapons handling in the area with anti-aircraft missiles and artillery firing at airborne targets. It is possible it also used its 2 AK-130 130 mm guns for targeting land targets. This would explain the warnings that covered the island.


It also worked with another ship in the area – likely to have been Project 956A Sovremenny class DDGHM Admiral Ushakov.

The Russian MoD stated that airspace around Novaya Zemlya was closed for this activity. They also stated the Granit test was a success, hitting the target located 200 km away.

Also operating in the area at the time were Project 1155 Udaloy class DDGHM Admiral Levchenko and Project 775 Ropucha class LSTM Alexander Otrakovskiy – along with support ships Project 1559V Boris Chilikin class replenishment ship Sergei Osipov and Project 1452 Ingul class salvage tug Pamir.

These were further north than Novaya Zemlya, operating off Franz Josef Land, for some of this time period. They then carried out a southbound transit west of Novaya Zemlya to the Gazpromneft’shel’f to carry out a security exercise at the Prirazlomnaya marine ice-resistant station located at 68.83523259654382, 58.14904110488897. The exercise simulated a terrorist attack at the station, with Levchenko sending a Ka-27 helicopter with special forces on board to resolve the situation.

The transit from Franz Josef took place exactly during the navigational warnings which means they too could have carried out weapons exercises during this period. They have now gone further east into the Kara Sea and and have carried out various combat exercises.

Two new NOTAMs that expire at 2100 UTC on 9 September 2022 now cover the area to the west of Novaya Zemlya.

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The shape, length and altitudes of these two warnings point to a missile test, but sea- launched at a target over or on the sea surface – rather than on Novaya Zemlya.

According to the latest information, Pyotr Velikiy is still operating in the area.

This latest imagery, for me, concludes that Novaya Zemlya is not ready for testing Burevestnik – and won’t be for the foreseeable future – but the area continues to be one that is used for a multitude of different weapons tests as it has does for decades.
 

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Harden the cybersecurity of US nuclear complex now​

Given Vladimir Putin’s reckless talk about his potential use of Russian nuclear weapons, the United States must ensure its own nuclear stockpile is safe, secure, and reliable. Yet, for decades, the stewards of the country’s nuclear complex — the Departments of Defense and Energy — failed to assess and remediate the cyber vulnerabilities of America’s strategic forces. An effort to reverse that neglect has been building momentum over the past five years. Both Congress and the executive branch must accelerate the pace.

On October 18, the Kremlin announced that the four Ukrainian regions recently “annexed” by Russia are now under the protection of the Russian nuclear umbrella. In plain speak, Putin suggested that attempts to aid Ukraine in the rescue of its sovereign territory could be met by a nuclear response. To deter additional aggression and dangerous escalation, Washington should ensure the U.S. nuclear triad stands ready and able, as the Pentagon says, to “deliver a decisive response anywhere, anytime.”

But deterrence is only as good as it is credible.

Two years before the February invasion of Ukraine, the congressionally mandated Cyberspace Solarium Commission called for a Cybersecurity Vulnerability Assessment across the U.S. nuclear command, control, and communications, or NC3, system.

The Commission’s rationale was simple: an adversary could breach any military system, including the NC3, reliant on computer networks built upon software and hardware of sometimes unknown provenance. A potential compromise could create a false warning of attack or prevent warning of an actual attack. A breach could render the U.S. launch capability inoperable or allow unauthorized use of weapons.

Given Moscow’s proclivity to use false flag operations to justify the use of force, America’s nuclear arsenal must be protected from manipulation by an adversary.

Buried in both the Senate and House versions of the massive 2023 National Defense Authorization Act are short provisions augmenting the cybersecurity of the NC3. This step forward builds on important work over the last few years by both Congress and the executive branch.

The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review in 2018 first underscored the risk to the NC3, noting, “The emergence of offensive cyber warfare capabilities has created new challenges and potential vulnerabilities for the NC3 system.” A Government Accountability Office report later that year warned that “until recently, DOD did not prioritize weapon systems cybersecurity.” Against that backdrop, the Solarium Commission urged Congress to direct the Pentagon to “continuously assess weapon system cyber vulnerabilities” and “routinely assess every segment of the NC3.”

Congress has passed multiple pieces of legislation into law in recent years to harden the weapons complex. In the FY21 NDAA, Section 1712 requires periodic reviews of the vulnerabilities of major weapons systems and the critical infrastructure on which those systems rely. Section 1747 requires the DoD to establish a concept for operations needed to defend the NC3 from cyberattacks.

In last year’s NDAA, Congress again addressed this issue, this time in three places: Section 1525 requires the DoD to issue regular reports on the progress of the Strategic Cybersecurity Program, an effort that evaluates the cybersecurity of offensive cyber systems, long-range strike systems, nuclear deterrent systems, national security systems, and DoD critical infrastructure; Section 1534 puts a deadline on an existing mandate for assessments of the cyber resilience of nuclear command and control systems; and Section 1644 calls for an “independent review of the safety, security, and reliability of covered nuclear systems,” which includes, but is not limited to, cybersecurity.

The Biden administration complemented these statutory requirements in May 2021 with a new executive order on “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity,” requiring, among other things, that the secretary of defense provide further details on cybersecurity practices for national security systems.

Adm. Charles Richard, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, meanwhile, affirmed in April that programs to upgrade the NC3 are “harden[ing] NC3 systems against cyber threats.” As a result, NC3′s cybersecurity protections will exceed “the DoD baseline standard” including persistent monitoring to detect and mitigate threats.

Congress now aims to build on this momentum. The Senate version of the FY23 NDAA has a provision that specifically extends the requirement for annual NC3 assessments another five years. The House version clarifies how Congress will receive briefings on vulnerabilities and remediation efforts and conduct oversight of the improvements made to the NC3 system.


The last three years of direction and funding from Congress could not be clearer: the Department of Defense must maintain a laser focus on hardening the country’s strategic forces against cyber threats. The security of these systems provides the bedrock of credible deterrence that prevents Putin from launching a nuclear war.

 

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Nuclear Sea-Launched Cruise Missile Has ‘Zero Value,’ Latest Nuclear Posture Review Finds​


The Defense Department officially abandoned the effort to pursue a nuclear sea-launched cruise missile, according to the Nuclear Posture Review unveiled today.

The SLCM-N initiative, which received support from the Joint Chiefs and U.S. Strategic Command, was found to be of “zero value,” in the most recent U.S. nuclear weapons review, a senior defense official told reporters in a Thursday briefing.

“Everyone’s voice has been heard. As it applies to the current situation – Russia [and] Ukraine – [it] has zero value because even at the full funding value it would not arrive until 2035,” a senior defense official told reporters Thursday. “Our deterrence posture is firm. Russia’s been deterred from attacking NATO. We continue to focus on Russia and China. I think as it stands right now, there is no need to develop SLCM.”

While the Fiscal Year 2023 budget proposal canceled the SLCM(N) program, officials said the nuclear posture review would assess the need for the program. The idea of a sea-launched nuclear cruise missile was introduced in the 2018 NPR to provide a low-yield warhead option to as a response to the use of an adversary’s tactical nuclear weapon. In addition, the U.S. developed the low-yield W76-2 warhead for its ballistic nuclear missile submarine fleet.

“The 2018 NPR introduced SLCM-N and the W76-2 to supplement the existing nuclear program of record in order to strengthen deterrence of limited nuclear use in a regional conflict,” reads the report. “We reassessed the rationale for these capabilities and concluded that the W76-2 currently provides an important means to deter limited nuclear use.”

The first reported use of the W76-2 was aboard USS Tennessee (SSBN-734) on a deterrent patrol beginning in 2019.

Lawmakers have questioned the Pentagon’s departure from the SLCM-N program following a USNI News report last year on a Navy budget document that called for eliminating the program.

“Our inventory of nuclear weapons is significant. We determined as we looked at our inventory that we don’t need that capability,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters on Thursday

The NPR was released on Thursday along with the 2022 National Defense Strategy that is the Pentagon’s contribution to the National Security Strategy and an update to the 2018 NDS.

In the series of strategy documents released Thursday, the Pentagon emphasized its focus on the People’s Republic of China as the so-called “pacing threat.”

The 2022 National Defense Strategy, which builds upon the 2018 NDS released under the Trump administration, cites China’s increased aggression in the Indo-Pacific region and its military modernization efforts.

“The PRC’s increasingly provocative rhetoric and coercive activity towards Taiwan are destabilizing, risk miscalculation, and threaten the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait. This is part of a broader pattern of destabilizing and coercive PRC behavior that stretches across the East China Sea, the South China Sea, and along the Line of Actual Control,” reads the NDS. “The PRC has expanded and modernized nearly every aspect of the PLA, with a focus on offsetting U.S. military advantages.

In addition to the NDS and the Nuclear Posture Review, the Defense Department also released a Missile Defense Review that identifies both China and Russia’s missile modernization, including hypersonic weapons, as a persistent challenge to U.S. forces.

The defense of Guam in particular was a concern cited in the report.

“The architecture for defense of the territory against missile attacks will therefore be commensurate with its unique status as both an unequivocal part of the United States as well as a vital regional location. Guam’s defense, which will include various active and passive missile defense capabilities, will contribute to the overall integrity of integrated deterrence and bolster U.S. operational strategy in the Indo-Pacific region,” reads the report.
In addition to precision-guided weapons, the Russian use of unguided weapons in Ukraine added concern to the missile defense beyond Europe.

“Russia has been indiscriminately using thousands of offensive missiles in Ukraine, and mainly not for precision military effects but instead as broad area terror weapons to inflict terrible hardships on innocent civilians. Their use of missiles in Ukraine shows we should expect these weapons to become a common feature of 21st-century conflict,” a defense official told reporters on Thursday.
 

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Statement of the Russian Federation on preventing nuclear war​



As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and one of the nuclear-weapon powers, in accordance with the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Russian Federation bears a special responsibility in matters related to strengthening international security and strategic stability.

In implementing its policy on nuclear deterrence Russia is strictly and consistently guided by the tenet that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Russian doctrinal approaches in this sphere are defined with utmost accuracy, pursue solely defensive goals and do not admit of expansive interpretation. These approaches allow for Russia to hypothetically resort to nuclear weapons exclusively in response to an aggression involving the use of weapons of mass destruction or an aggression with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy.

Russia proceeds from the continued relevance of the existing arrangements and understandings in the field of cutting and limiting nuclear weapons, as well as reducing strategic risks and threat of international incidents and conflicts fraught with escalation to nuclear level. We fully reaffirm our commitment to the Joint statement of the leaders of the five nuclear-weapon states on preventing nuclear war and avoiding arms races of January 3, 2022. We are strongly convinced that in the current complicated and turbulent situation, caused by irresponsible and impudent actions aimed at undermining our national security, the most immediate task is to avoid any military clash of nuclear powers.

We urge other states of the "nuclear five" to demonstrate in practice their willingness to work on solving this top-priority task and to give up the dangerous attempts to infringe on vital interests of each other while balancing on the brink of a direct armed conflict and encouraging provocations with weapons of mass destruction, which can lead to catastrophic consequences.

Russia continues to advocate for a revamped, more robust architecture of international security based on ensuring predictability and global strategic stability, as well as on the principles of equal rights, indivisible security and mutual account of core interests of the parties.
 

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Royal Navy nuclear-armed submarine forced to abort mission after catching fire​


A nuclear-armed submarine was forced to abort its mission after a fire broke out on board, the MoD has confirmed.

HMS Victorious, one of Britain’s four nuclear-armed submarines, was somewhere in the North Atlantic when the fire broke out in an electrical component around six weeks ago.

The boat’s commanding officer ordered the vessel to surface as a precaution, an action rarely undertaken due to the risk of being spotted by Russian satellites.

All crew members, including those off duty and asleep in their bunks, were called on to fight the fire and search for any other blazes that may have broken out.

The cause of the emergency was a fault in a self-contained electrical module that converts AC power to DC, for use in many of the submarine’s systems.

The module has four built-in carbon dioxide injectors specifically for such emergencies. These discharged a quantity of gas into the electrical component, thereby extinguishing the fire.

HMS Victorious is one of four such submarines charged with carrying out nuclear patrols, known as the Continuous At Sea Deterrent (CASD).

This means a Royal Navy submarine armed with nuclear missiles is always on patrol somewhere in the world, unseen and undetected, ready to launch weapons if directed by the Prime Minister.

Boat was transiting to the US for exercises​

A Royal Navy Spokesperson told The Telegraph the boat was not in the role of CASD at the time of the incident but was transiting to the US for a series of exercises. She aborted her mission after the fire was contained and returned to home base in Faslane, Scotland.

The current four Vanguard-class nuclear armed submarines are due to be replaced by an equal number of Dreadnought-class boats from the 2030s, in a procurement costing £31 billion with a £10 billion contingency fund.

The Dreadnought-class boats will be similarly armed with Trident II nuclear missiles. Each missile houses eight independently targetable 100-kiloton nuclear warheads and has a range of 4,000 nautical miles (7,400 km). For comparison, the Hiroshima blast was 15 kilotons.

A Royal Navy spokesperson said: “The Continuous At Sea Deterrent is unaffected, but we do not comment on the details of submarine operations”.
 

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