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WASHINGTON TIMES: Lessons of the China-India Blackout War
The future usually arrives before anyone is ready for it, especially in warfare.
China apparently blacked-out Mumbai, India, by cyber-attack — credibly threatening that Beijing could plunge all India into darkness through cyber warfare. Experts warn national electric grids are a technological Achilles heel.
The Mumbai blackout could be one of those “Monitor versus Merrimack” moments in military history when a revolutionary new way of warfare suddenly becomes recognizable, even to the dullest.
New military technologies that can change everything are often laughingly dismissed by establishments too busy planning for “business as usual.”
From machine guns at the Somme (1916), panzer divisions in France (1940) and (Japanese) carrier aviation at Pearl Harbor (1941), nations learned the hard way. Obsolete thinking prevails until someone gets hammered, usually by an aggressor.
The Mumbai cyber-blackout, like Russia’s annual cyber-blackouts of Ukraine, and blackouts in Mexico (2013), Yemen (2014) and Pakistan (2015) caused by terrorist sabotage of electric grids, are a new category of warfare.
These “blackout wars” foreshadow an existential threat that could end our civilization and kill millions of Americans.
Why did Beijing blackout Mumbai?
Both refrain from a “shooting war” with modern weapons for control of the high Himalayas. Instead, their combat uses shovels, clubs and fists, the two nuclear powers fighting, on top of the world, with stone age tactics.
China evidently thinks threatening cyber-blackout of India could settle matters, without escalation to conventional or nuclear conflict. Protracted blackout of India’s electric grid would be catastrophic for its economy, population and military capabilities.
Indian officials are understandably alarmed and now regretting that their national electric power grid and other critical infrastructures depend so much upon equipment imported from China — that likely increases their vulnerability.
“Military experts in India have renewed calls for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to replace China-made hardware for India’s power sector and its critical rail system,” reports The New York Times in “China Appears To Warn India: Push Too Hard And The Lights Could Go Out” (Feb. 28, 2021).
The New York Times describes technical details of China’s blackout war against India. But conspicuous by its absence is any mention of President Biden’s suspension of President Trump’s Executive Order 13920, “Securing the United States Bulk-Power System” (May 1, 2020), designed to reduce dependency on foreign-supplied equipment for the U.S. electric power grid, especially equipment from China.
Reportedly there are some 300 high-voltage transformers in the U.S. electric power grid manufactured in China. Moreover, the U.S. national grid depends upon an as yet unknown number of China-supplied control systems, called SCADAs, probably numbering in the thousands.
These China-supplied systems, critically important to the operation of the U.S. electric grid, could have built-in vulnerabilities to cyber-bugs and electromagnetic pulse (EMP). China’s version of cyber warfare includes attack by nuclear and non-nuclear EMP weapons (See my report “China: EMP Threat” June 10, 2020).
Mr. Biden would be wise to strengthen and reinstate Executive Order 13920. Electricity is foundational to U.S. national security.
Critical equipment necessary to the operation of the national power grid — that sustains the economy, military, and population — should be made in America.
The Biden administration deserves great credit for continuing implementation of the White House “Executive Order on Coordinating National Resilience to Electromagnetic Pulses” (March 26, 2019), designed to implement recommendations of the Congressional EMP Commission.
One strategy for achieving resilience of electric grids and other critical infrastructures is to require through national manufacturing standards that transformers, SCADAs, and other vital equipment incorporate EMP and cyber-protection.
Most electric equipment is already manufactured resistant to lightning, a form of natural EMP. Standards could be upgraded to protect against “super-lightning” from EMP weapons.
Defense Department experience over 50 years manufacturing military equipment with nuclear EMP protection “baked-in” the original design increases costs only 1% to 6%.
Mr. Biden and the new White House “cyber-security czar” should compel electric utilities to protect themselves from cyber-attack and EMP. Hundreds are dead from California wildfires and a Texas ice storm because FERC and NERC failed to make utilities undertake simple preparedness for severe weather. They cannot be trusted to protect against cyber-attacks and EMP.
Utility lobbyists advocate retaliatory cyber-attacks by the U.S. government for “deterrence” instead of protecting electric grids.
Retaliatory cyber warfare cannot substitute for hardening critical infrastructures against cyber-attack and EMP — and is very risky. The U.S. is far more vulnerable than its adversaries.
Moreover, Beijing apparently thinks blacking out India’s national electric grid is less escalatory than a “shooting war” in the Himalayas. In 2020, China’s strategists threatened EMP attack on the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea, as one of their “less escalatory” options.
Cyber warfare between nuclear-armed powers is not a good idea, for either side. 2021 could too easily become a nuclear version of 1914.
THE HILL: Bitcoins, tulipmania and electric grid insecurity
Are bitcoins, an electronic cyber currency skyrocketing in value — recently trading above $50,000 for a single bitcoin — the next big advancement toward a high-tech future? Or are bitcoins another big vulnerability for electronic civilization, already facing existential threats from nature and man?
In 2013, four years after the invention of the bitcoin, the former president of the Dutch Central Bank, Nout Wellink, compared the bitcoin to the ruinous “tulipmania” afflicting Holland 400 years ago. Wellink said bitcoins are “worse than the tulipmania. … At least then you got a tulip; now you get nothing.”
During the Dutch Golden Age (1600-1720), Holland was a world empire with a mighty navy, the highest per capita income in the world, and the most advanced system of banking, finance, and market trading. Tulips, newly introduced to Europe from the Ottoman Empire, became enormously popular, including with Dutch investors. By 1637, paper trading for scarce tulips drove up the price for a single tulip bulb to 50,000 golden guilders, more than a skilled craftsman could earn in 10 years.
In February 1637, at an auction in Haarlem, when no one was willing to pay real golden guilders for real tulip bulbs, the bottom fell out of the market and paper stocks on tulip bulbs became worthless. Modern historians quibble over whether the Dutch tulipmania is history’s first example of a burst economic bubble, and over the economic consequences to Holland. But the bottom line is: A single tulip bulb having little intrinsic value, once theoretically worth many times its weight in gold, virtually overnight declined in value by 99.999 percent.
Are bitcoins the tulip bulbs of the 21st century? Perhaps not.
Japan’s Satoshi Nakamoto invented bitcoin as the first digital currency, designed deliberately to be scarce so its value could increase. An estimated 18.6 million bitcoins are circulating out of a maximum supply of 21 million, a number that allegedly cannot grow because this limit is “hard-coded” into bitcoins, to create artificial scarcity.
Arguably, bitcoins, unlike tulip bulbs, have significant intrinsic value. As a cryptocurrency, bitcoins can hide wealth and financial transactions from increasingly snoopy and greedy governments. Moreover, as government deficit spending skyrockets across the world — recklessly printing dollars, pounds, and yuan to flood the global money supply — the value of traditional money is threatened by looming hyperinflation, as is the profitability of investment.
Bitcoins have become for the super-rich another hedge against a dystopian future, like gold. However, like gold, even bitcoins can be stolen. Hackers reportedly have stolen billions of dollars in bitcoins in recent years.
In February, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) National Security Division charged North Korea’s cyberwarfare agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, with plotting to steal over $1 billion in cash and bitcoins. North Korean hackers Jon Chang Hyok, Kim Il, and Park Jin Hyok are accused by the DOJ of stealing “tens of millions of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency,” and DOJ calls them “the world’s leading bank robbers.”
According to the United Nations, North Korean cryptocurrency thefts are helping to fund Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.
Bitcoins may not be a good investment, or a good hedge against a dystopian future, when national electric grids and electronic civilization may be on the brink of a new Dark Age.
The Biden administration claims the recent ice storm that crippled the Texas electric grid — causing statewide rolling blackouts, depriving water and heat to millions, and inflicting property damage and deaths — is a harbinger of catastrophic climate change.
If true, so-called “green energy” windmills and solar panels, alleged solutions to climate change, proved most vulnerable to the challenge of an unusual, but not unprecedented, Texas ice storm. Nuclear and coal-fired power plants were least affected. Climate change is not the cause of what may be remembered as the “great Texas blackout of 2021,” which really was the result of politics.
In 2017, the congressionally mandated Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Commission warned: “Current institutional arrangements for protecting and improving the reliability of the electric grids … has proven to be ineffectual” because the “power industry is largely self-regulated.” For example, Texas and California electric utilities failed to take commonsense precautions to protect themselves from severe weather. Federal and state governments are letting electric utilities cause deadly California wildfires and an ice age in Texas, essentially getting away with murder.
Government policy that trusts electric utilities to protect the nation from existential threats such as EMP and cyber warfare ultimately could prove to be genocidal, killing millions.
Maybe the super-rich do not care about the lives of 330 million Americans. But if financial wizards do not want their bitcoins to become as worthless as tulip bulbs, they should use their great political influence to advance policies that protect the national electric grid. As the EMP Commission warned: “An EMP attack that disrupts the financial services industry would, in effect, stop the operation of the U.S. economy. … The alternative to a disrupted electronic economy may not be reversion to a 19th-century cash economy, but reversion to an earlier economy based on barter.”
Will the recent SolarWinds cyber attack and Texas ice storm result in real protection for electric grids, or just more studies? Russia, China, North Korea and Iran are watching.
RUSSIA: EMP THREAT
The United States and NATO allies regularly experience from Russia major cyber-attacks penetrating government agencies and critical infrastructures for electric power, telecommunications, transportation and other sectors vital to electronic civilization. These events practice a new way of warfare, including EMP attacks, that could blackout North America and NATO Europe, and win World War III at the speed of light.
Any nuclear weapon detonated in outer space, 30 kilometers or higher, will generate a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) damaging all kinds of electronics, blacking-out electric grids and collapsing other life-sustaining critical infrastructures. No blast, thermal, fallout or effects other than HEMP are experienced in the atmosphere and on the ground.
Russian military doctrine, because HEMP attacks electronics, categorizes nuclear HEMP attack as a dimension of Information Warfare, Electronic Warfare and Cyber Warfare, which are modes of warfare operating within the electromagnetic spectrum.
Russia has “Super-EMP” weapons specialized for HEMP attack that potentially generate 100,000 volts/meter or higher, greatly exceeding the U.S. military hardening standard (50,000 volts/meter).
As a result of its HEMP nuclear tests, the Soviet Union, and today Russia, probably knows a lot more about HEMP effects than the United States.
“Super-EMP is a…first-strike weapon,” according to Aleksey Vaschenko, who describes Russian nuclear weapons specially designed to make extraordinarily powerful HEMP fields as Russia’s means for defeating the United States.
Hypersonic vehicles are potentially a new avenue for surprise HEMP attack, flying at 50-100 kilometers altitude: the optimum height-of-burst for Super-EMP warheads.
Russia has the technical capability to clandestinely orbit a nuclear-armed satellite or satellites to be maintained in orbit for years until needed to make a surprise HEMP attack.
HEMP attack could achieve for Russia a key objective the USSR could not achieve during the Cold War—neutralizing U.S. ballistic missile submarines at sea.
Russia probably remains the world’s leader in Non-Nuclear EMP (NNEMP) weapons, also called Radio-Frequency Weapons (RFWs). Marriage of NNEMP to drones or cruise missiles, equipped with sensors to follow high-power electric lines and target control centers and transformers, introduces a major new threat to national power grids.
As Russia categorizes HEMP attack as Information, Electronic or Cyber Warfare, Moscow’s already very loose strictures for nuclear employment may not even apply to HEMP.
RUSSIA: EMP THREAT
The United States and NATO allies regularly experience from Russia major cyber-attacks penetrating government agencies and critical infrastructures for electric power, telecommunications, transportation and other sectors vital to electronic civilization. Few except those familiar with Russian military doctrine are aware that these events are practice for a new way of warfare which would culminate in nuclear high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) attacks, that could blackout North America and NATO Europe, and win World War III at the speed of light.
In 2020, Russia apparently executed the most sophisticated and potentially most dangerous cyber-attack in history on the U.S. Government and private sector, penetrating the defenses of even the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)—that is supposed to be the chief guardian against such threats to U.S. critical infrastructures.
For at least 9 months, from March until December 2020, cyber-spies roamed undetected through: the National Nuclear Security Administration (responsible for U.S. nuclear weapons); the Department of Energy and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (responsible for protecting national electric grids); defense contractors designing the nation’s most advanced weapons; and 18,000 other government and corporate victims.
Still unknown is the scale and depth of damage.
The U.S. will be fortunate if the cyber-attack was “merely” an intelligence-gathering operation, as alleged by CISA and the National Security Agency, and not also a sabotage mission implanting logic-bombs, viruses, and cyber-bugs for future use.
The U.S. Government almost always claims cyber-attacks by Russia, China, and North Korea are for spying, not sabotage. Would the USG even know? Or is “cyber-spying” by Russia and others a politically convenient excuse for the U.S. to understate potential damage—and to escape acknowledging an act of war?
Washington does not know what to do.
As after past major cyber-attacks, Washington is full of sound and fury, promising reforms and retribution, that will probably come to nothing.
Washington’s impotence and irresolution will invite future, increasingly aggressive, cyber-attacks.
Yet for decades Washington has been competently counseled on cyber-threats and solutions. 23 years ago, for example, the President’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection warned in October 1997:
“In the cyber dimension there are no boundaries. Our infrastructures are exposed to new vulnerabilities—cyber vulnerabilities—and new threats—cyber threats. And perhaps most difficult of all, the defenses that served us so well in the past offer little protection from the cyber threat. Our infrastructures can now be struck directly by a variety of malicious tools.”
The Pentagon’s Defense Science Board report “Resilient Military Systems and the Advanced Cyber Threat” warned in January 2013: “While the manifestation of a nuclear and cyber attack are very different, in the end, the existential impact to the United States is the same.”
Most dangerous, Washington is ignorant of the full magnitude of the cyber-threat, that has kinetic and nuclear dimensions. The Congressional EMP Commission warns:
“Combined-arms cyber warfare, as described in the military doctrines of Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran, may use combinations of cyber-, sabotage-, and ultimately nuclear EMP-attack to impair the United States quickly and decisively by blacking-out large portions of the electric grid and other critical infrastructures…The synergism of such combined arms is described in the military doctrines of all these potential adversaries as the greatest revolution in military affairs in history—one which projects rendering obsolete many, if not all, traditional instruments of military power.”
Is it significant that the protracted 9-months attack on the U.S. in the cyber-domain preceded and coincides with Russia’s major strategic forces exercise on December 9, 2020, wherein dictator Vladimir Putin personally oversaw launching ICBMs, SLBMs, and cruise missiles, simulating a nuclear war against the United States?
Is it significant that on December 15, 2020, Russia test-launched an anti-satellite missile, threatening assets critical to the U.S. military and economy in the domain of space?
Is it significant that Russia’s VOSTOK 2018 massive military exercise, mobilizing 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks and other vehicles, and 1,000 aircraft, simulating a nuclear World War III, was preceded by cyber-attacks on hundreds of U.S. electric utilities?
Cyber-attacks by Russia, China, and North Korea are not only about stealing U.S. intellectual property and collecting intelligence on U.S. vulnerabilities, but also about testing U.S. responses.
Most ominously—they are practicing a revolutionary new way of warfare coordinating all arms for cyber, space, and terrestrial blitzkrieg.
Washington seems incapable of connecting the dots, unlike Colonel (ret.) Bob Lindseth, former Deputy Director for Intelligence on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Professor of Information Operations at National Intelligence University:
“In today’s world a nuclear conflict will be preceded by Cyber operations in every form.”9 (December 18, 2020)
Unlike Admiral (ret.) William Studeman, former Director of NSA and former Acting Director CIA:
“I see little discussion anywhere of threats which integrate cyber and nuclear (all kinds including EMP) in both the offensive and defense…All these experts seem to stay in their ‘vertical/stove-piped’ fields of expertise and thinking. I think that Cyber/Information Operations and nuclear-integrated threats/vulnerabilities considered together need more and new thinking.”10 (December 17, 2020)
HEMP—The Ultimate Cyberweapon
Any nuclear weapon detonated in outer space, 30 kilometers or higher, will generate a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP). No blast, thermal, fallout or effects other than HEMP are experienced in the atmosphere and on the ground. A nuclear detonation at 30 kilometers altitude will generate a HEMP field with a radius on the ground of 600 kilometers, damaging all kinds of electronics, blacking-out electric grids and collapsing other life-sustaining critical infrastructures. Detonated at 400 kilometers altitude, the radius of the HEMP field will be about 2,200 kilometers, large enough to cover most of North America.11
Russia has what they term “Super-EMP” weapons, nuclear warheads specialized for HEMP attack. Super-EMP warheads have very low explosive yield (10 kilotons or less) but very high gamma yield, which is what generates HEMP. According to Russian military and technical sources, Super-EMP weapons can generate HEMP fields of 100,000 volts/meter or higher, greatly exceeding the U.S. military hardening standard for HEMP (50,000 volts/meter).
Russian military doctrine, because HEMP attacks electronics, categorizes nuclear HEMP attack as a dimension of Information Warfare, Electronic Warfare and Cyber Warfare, which are modes of warfare operating within the electromagnetic spectrum.13
Commonplace cyber-theft, e-mail disruptions, and hacking, widely regarded as annoyances by most Americans, could foreshadow catastrophic nuclear HEMP attacks on the grid that would threaten the existence of society. In Nazi Germany’s blitzkrieg strategy, probing by their motorcycle corps and scout planes, looking for weakness, preceded the massed onslaught of heavy armored divisions. The same principle may be at work in cyber-space with probing attacks from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.
From the perspective of adversary military doctrine on Electronic Warfare and Cyber Warfare, cyber-thefts and intrusions look less like isolated cases of theft and hacking and more like probing U.S. defenses and gauging Washington’s reactions—perhaps in preparation for an all-out cyber offensive that would include physical sabotage, radio frequency weapons, and ultimately nuclear HEMP attack.
Russian HEMP Tests
The Soviet Union discovered the high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) phenomenon probably years before the United States. High-altitude nuclear testing at its Novaya Zemlya site would have exposed the Russian cities of Archangel and Murmansk and electric grids on the Kola Peninsula to HEMP effects. Moreover, Russia being located at a higher northern latitude than most of the U.S., on the same latitude as Canada and Alaska, meant greater exposure to geomagnetic storms and their EMP/GMD effects on communications and power grids, an awareness reflected in their military writings.
On October 22, 1962, the Soviet Union conducted a high-altitude EMP test—Nuclear Test 184—
over part of its own territory, deliberately exposing Kazakhstan’s electric grid to HEMP as an experiment. “These EMP producing tests were done over a large populated landmass in Kazakhstan,” writes Jerry Emanuelson in his study of Test 184, “Even though the economic state of Kazakhstan in 1962 was quite primitive by today’s standards, it was heavily industrialized and electrified.” The HEMP field generated by Nuclear Test 184 covered all of Kazakhstan. Emanuelson:
“Test 184 was detonated at 290 kilometers above a point that was 180 miles due west of Zhezgazghan….At an altitude of 290 kilometers above the detonation point in central Kazakhstan, the distance to the horizon would have been more than 1900 kilometers, which would have caused an electromagnetic pulse over all of Kazakhstan.”
Data from Nuclear Test 184, the results of which were kept secret for over thirty years, were partially shared with the West in a briefing by Russian General Vladimir M. Loberev in 1994. Nuclear Test 184 confirmed definitively for the Soviets in 1962 what the United States concluded independently by extrapolation from the U.S. STARFISH PRIME and other nuclear test results (conducted over the Pacific Ocean), and from experiments conducted over 50 years using EMP simulators and by computer modeling.
Nuclear Test 184 destroyed transformers, generators, communications, switches and all manner of electronics within an enormous footprint extending hundreds of kilometers—thereby proving the advantages and dangers of HEMP attack empirically. Monstrous and unethical as may have been the USSR’s decision to conduct a HEMP test against their own people, Nuclear Test 184 and other tests armed the Soviet Union with the best HEMP data in the world in 1962.
Nuclear Test 184 was part of a series of seven Soviet nuclear HEMP tests conducted over the USSR’s own territory, mostly over Kazakhstan, commencing on September 6, 1961, and ending on November 1, 1962. Whereas the U.S. was surprised by its discovery of HEMP during its 1962 nuclear test STARFISH PRIME, the Soviets were already aware of HEMP during their nuclear test series and were very well prepared with a large array of scientific instruments all over Kazakhstan to test and investigate HEMP effects from actual high-altitude nuclear detonations in a way that has never been approximated by the United States or any other nation.
The first two Soviet HEMP nuclear tests, on September 6, 1961, and October 6, 1961, were codenamed “Thunderstorm” and “Thunder” perhaps reflecting the HEMP mission. All of the tests were very realistic, using military ballistic missiles, mostly the SS-4 medium-range missile, to deliver and detonate the warheads at high-altitude. The HEMP tests used a wide variety of warheads, with yields ranging from merely 1.2 kilotons to 300 kilotons, detonated at greatly varying altitudes, ranging from 22.7 kilometers to 300 kilometers height-of-burst.
There is no question that as a result of its HEMP nuclear test series, the Soviet Union, and today Russia, probably knows a lot more about HEMP effects than the United States. “In 1962, the then Soviet Union conducted several high-altitude nuclear tests in Kazakhstan in the course of which were obtained vast facts on the damage levels from HEMP illuminating both military and civil systems,” writes Russian scientist Vasiliy Greetsai today. “Most of those ‘vast facts’ are apparently still kept secretly at the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense at the Central Institute of Physics in Sergiev Posad, Russia,” warns Emanuelson in his study of Test 184, “Only a tiny amount of those facts have been publicly released, but those facts have been extremely informative.”
Russia Shares Some HEMP Data
Why did Russia share any HEMP nuclear test data with the West, and why just Nuclear Test 184 in particular? It is generally assumed that Russian General Loberev’s 1994 briefing on Nuclear Test 184 to an international audience was a benign act, part of the post-Cold War thaw in relations under the pro-Western Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
However, a less benign interpretation of the facts is possible.
Perhaps the Russian General Staff approved Loberev’s 1994 briefing to the West on Nuclear Test 184 because they hope to mislead the United States on the real severity of the threat and preserve U.S. vulnerability to HEMP attack. Emanuelson in his study of Test 184 observes that the nuclear weapon used for this test—as impressive as were the results—was an inefficient design for HEMP, and probably produced weaker HEMP fields than the U.S. STARFISH PRIME nuclear test. Nor have the Russians disclosed, even for Test 184, the strength of the peak HEMP fields that can do the most damage.20 Yet among Western specialists Test 184 has become a sort of “gold standard” that rivals in importance STARFISH PRIME as a basis for designing HEMP protection.
Moscow jealously guards the secrets of its other HEMP nuclear tests—that includes more than the seven high-altitude detonations for the 1961-62 test series. Most Western analysts assume that Russia is sharing its best data by disclosing Test 184. Even the usually meticulous Emanuelson appears to jump to this conclusion: “The first two of the K Project high altitude nuclear tests (in 1961) over Kazakhstan were only 1.2 kilotons so the EMP…apparently did not have much of an impact on the 1961 infrastructure of Kazakhstan.”
But we do not know the impact of these HEMP tests, because Moscow is not telling.
Perhaps significantly, at least one of these Soviet HEMP tests was conducted in an Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) mode, involving a high-altitude interception of a target. Moreover, all of the tests were conducted over the Saryshagan ABM test range.22 One design of a Soviet ABM warhead is like an Enhanced Radiation Warhead, a warhead having low explosive yield but capable of producing lots of neutrons, x-rays, gamma rays and other radiation to kill incoming warheads. Such a weapon, low-yield but emitting enhanced gamma rays that make high-frequency HEMP, could produce an extraordinarily powerful HEMP field, tantamount to a Super-EMP warhead.
Is it possible that Moscow discovered, by accident or design, the secret for making a Super-EMP nuclear weapon in 1961? Did Moscow share data from Nuclear Test 184 in 1994 because they want to disinform the United States and its allies about the real maximum HEMP threat, so that the West will under-prepare, and remain vulnerable to Super-EMP?
Russian HEMP Threats
Russia’s Super-EMP weapons—that have no counterpart in the U.S. nuclear arsenal—and Russia’s superior defensive preparations against HEMP, may have emboldened the Russian Duma in 1999 to threaten an HEMP attack against the United States for NATO’s bombing of Russian ally Serbia. As witnessed by the U.S. congressional delegation to Vienna, meeting with their counterparts from the Russian Duma, Vladimir Lukin, Chairman of the Duma International Affairs Committee, and Deputy Chairman Alexander Shabonov, threatened:
LUKIN—”Hypothetically, if Russia really wanted to hurt the United States in retaliation for NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia, Russia could fire a submarine-launched ballistic missile and detonate a single nuclear warhead at high-altitude over the United States. The resulting electromagnetic pulse would massively disrupt U.S. communications and computer systems, shutting down everything. No internet. Nothing.”
SHABANOV—“And if that didn’t work, we’d just launch another missile.”
Moscow’s threatened nuclear HEMP attack on the U.S. to the face of an official congressional delegation was a contributing factor to the establishment of the EMP Commission.
Indeed, Moscow frequently flourishes its nuclear saber to threaten the United States, as if emboldened by knowledge of some decisive nuclear advantage, like Super-EMP weapons and HEMP attack. For example, Russian General Staff Chief Nikolai Makarov threatened a preemptive strike against NATO anti-missile sites in Poland and the Czech Republic in 2012.24 Increasingly aggressive nuclear threats have been made by Russia in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and especially after Vladimir Putin’s March 1, 2018 announcement of new nuclear super-weapons, that Putin threatened will compel the U.S. to, “Listen to us now!”25 According to former senior Defense Department official, Dr. Mark Schneider:
“Between October 24, 2018 and March 2019, the nuclear missile targeting threat was made at least 11 times at the highest levels—by President Putin, by the Chief of the General Staff of the Army Valery Gerasimov, by the Strategic Missile Force Commander Colonel General Sergei Ryabkov.”
Yet despite all Russia’s nuclear preparations and threats, Moscow still fears a HEMP attack. A Norwegian scientific rocket, launched on January 25, 1995, to explore the aurora borealis, was mistaken by the Russian military as a surprise HEMP attack launched by a U.S. submarine—nearly resulting in a massive Russian preemptive strike. This still little known incident, happening a half-decade after the end of the Cold War, is the closest the sides have ever come to nuclear conflict, triggered by the specter of surprise HEMP attack.
Russian Military Doctrine: HEMP Attack Decisive
Russian General Vladimir Slipchenko in his military textbook Non-Contact Wars describes the combined use of cyber viruses and hacking, physical attacks, non-nuclear EMP weapons, and ultimately nuclear HEMP attack against electric grids and critical infrastructures as a new way of warfare that is the greatest Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) in history. Slipchenko sees EMP as such a departure from traditional ways and means of warfare that he describes EMP weapons and warfare as “based on new physical principles”—a phrase that has become ubiquitous in Russian literature to describe the military revolution that is EMP:
“In practically all preceding generations of wars…weapons were employed that acted against targets primarily by kinetic, chemical and thermal energy. In addition to these arms…new ones will also appear…in wars of the future…Weapons based on new physical principles having an electromagnetic effect will see considerable development. They will represent a form of casualty and damage producing effect on targets through the energy of electromagnetic emissions of various wavelengths and levels of power generated by radio frequency and laser weapons and by means of electronic countermeasures using a conventional or high-altitude nuclear burst…Depending on the power of emission, such weapons will be capable of…suppressing practically all classic electronic equipment…causing the melting or evaporation of metal in the printed circuit boards…or causing structural changes of electronic elements…”
Like Nazi Germany’s “Blitzkrieg” (“Lightning War”) strategy that coordinated airpower, armor, and mobile infantry to achieve strategic and technological surprise that nearly defeated the Allies in World War II, the “New Blitzkrieg” is, literally and figuratively, an electronic “Lightning War” so potentially decisive in its effects that an entire civilization could be overthrown in hours. According to General Slipchenko, EMP and the new military revolution renders obsolete modern armies, navies and air forces. For the first time in history, small nations or even non-state actors can humble the most advanced nations on Earth.
An article in Military Thought, the flagship journal of the Russian General Staff, “Weak Points of the U.S. Concept of Network-Centric Warfare” points to nuclear HEMP attack as a means of defeating the United States:
“American forces may be vulnerable to electronic warfare attacks, in particular, an electromagnetic pulse that is a brief powerful electromagnetic field capable of overloading or destroying numerous electronic systems and high-tech microcircuits that are very sensitive to the electromagnetic field, even if transmitted from a distance. A single low-yield nuclear weapon exploded for this purpose high above the area of combat operations can generate an electromagnetic pulse covering a large area and destroying electronic equipment without loss of life that is caused by the blast or radiation.”
Moreover: “Today, too, a considerable body of administrative information in the U.S. armed forces goes through the civilian Internet. Many civilian commercial communication satellites, particularly satellites in low orbits, can have their functions impaired or they can be disabled by electromagnetic shocks from high altitudes.”
According to another Russian article: “Nuclear war strategy has already planned nuclear explosions at an altitude of 50-100 km to destroy enemy satellites’ electronic instruments with electromagnetic pulse”:
“There are now about 683 spacecraft in near-earth orbit. Of these about 150 are Russian and about 400 American. In the estimation of specialists, for every 100 of our ‘purely’ military espionage artificial earth satellites, there are 300 civilian satellites. Clearly, this discrepancy will increase both quantitatively and qualitatively (considering the state of the Russian military-industrial complex)…Nuclear war strategy has already planned nuclear explosions at an altitude of 50-100 km to destroy enemy satellites’ electronic instruments with an electromagnetic pulse.”
A 2015 article from Russia’s A.A. Maksimov Scientific Research Institute for Space Systems, alludes to low-yield nuclear enhanced-EMP as the most effective cyber weapon: “Even more effective are remote-controlled cyber weapons in the nuclear variant, but in this case a warhead is required with a capacity many times smaller by comparison with the charges of the typical strategic missiles.”
“Super-EMP is a…first-strike weapon,” according to Aleksey Vaschenko, who describes Russian nuclear weapons specially designed to make extraordinarily powerful EMP fields as Russia’s means for defeating the United States in “A Nuclear Response To America Is Possible”:
“The further direction of the work on the development of Super-EMP was associated with the increase of its kill effect by focusing Y-radiation, which should have resulted in an increase of the pulse’s amplitude. These properties of Super-EMP make it a first strike weapon, which is designed to disable the state and military command and control system, the economy, ICBMs, especially mobile based ICBMs, missiles on the flight trajectory, radar sites, spacecraft, energy supply systems, and so forth. So, Super-EMP is obviously offensive in nature and is a destabilizing first-strike weapon…The Russian nuclear component relies on the Super-EMP factor, which is the Russian response to U.S. nuclear blackmail.”
Hypersonic Warheads: New HEMP Threat
Russian development of hypersonic missile warheads is a dangerous new dimension of the nuclear and HEMP threat. Great speed (Mach 20, twenty times the speed of sound) and flying a flat trajectory, skimming along the top of the upper atmosphere, significantly reduces visibility to U.S. early-warning satellites and radars, while also reducing arrival time. Maneuvering makes hypersonic warheads more difficult to track and intercept, virtually impossible to intercept with existing U.S. National Missile Defenses. Former senior Defense Department official Dr. Mark Schneider writes, “The main reason for Russian hypersonic missiles is a nuclear surprise attack and America has no defense against it.”
Four-star General John Hyten, then chief of the U.S. Strategic Command that controls the nuclear Triad (now Vice Chairman Joint Chief of Staff), agrees with Schneider: “Hypersonic capabilities are a significant challenge. We are going to need a different set of sensors to see hypersonic threats. Our enemies know that.”
Russia deployed its first regiment of SS-19 ICBMs armed with hypersonic Avangard nuclear warheads at the end of December 2019.
Hypersonic vehicles fly over most of their trajectory at 50-100 kilometers altitude: the optimum height-of-burst for Super-EMP warheads.
Hypersonic weapons are potentially a new avenue for surprise nuclear HEMP attack that could defeat deterrence. We cannot see the attack coming and may not know against whom to retaliate, especially if HEMP attack blinds satellites and radars needed for early-warning and threat assessment.
Hypersonically delivered HEMP attack could win World War III with a single electronic blow.
During the Cold War, the USSR developed a secret weapon called the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS). The FOBS would disguise a nuclear attack as a peaceful satellite launch, orbiting a nuclear-armed satellite over the South Pole to attack the U.S. from the south—from which direction the U.S. is blind and defenseless as there are no BMEWS radars or anti-missile defenses facing south. The FOBS satellite could deliver a HEMP attack paralyzing U.S. retaliatory forces and C3I in the first shot of a nuclear war.
Miroslav Gyurosi in The Soviet Fractional Orbital Bombardment System describes Moscow’s development of the FOBS as part of “a long running campaign of strategic deception against the West through the whole Cold War period, and the protracted development of the Soviet FOBS nuclear weapon system presents an excellent case study of such.” Gyurosi:
“The Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) as it was known in the West, was a Soviet innovation intended to exploit the limitations of U.S. BMEW radar coverage. The idea behind FOBS was that a large thermonuclear warhead would be inserted into a steeply inclined low altitude polar orbit, such that it would approach the CONUS from any direction, but primarily
from the southern hemisphere, and following a programmed braking maneuver, re-enter from a direction which was not covered by U.S. BMEW radars.”
“The first warning the U.S. would have of such a strike in progress would be the EMP…,” writes Gyurosi.
Russia has the technical capability to clandestinely orbit a nuclear-armed satellite or satellites to be maintained in orbit for years until needed to make a surprise HEMP attack against the U.S., NATO Europe, or some other target.
If Russia is orbiting nuclear-armed satellites for HEMP surprise attack, this would be one of their deepest and best protected military secrets. In addition to obvious strategic considerations, the Outer Space Treaty bans orbiting nuclear weapons in space. Moreover, Russia has pursued a long propaganda offensive criticizing the U.S. for “militarizing space” intended to deter the U.S. from orbiting space-based missile defenses and from improving U.S. military capabilities in space.
HEMP attacks by satellite or missiles or in combination could be the key to Russian victory in a nuclear war, as U.S. strategic bombers, missiles, and C3I are not hardened to survive attack by Super-EMP weapons, as noted in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee by Dr. William Graham, Chairman of the EMP Commission:
MR. BARTLETT: “It is my understanding that, in interviewing some Russian generals, that they told you that the Soviets had developed a ‘Super-EMP’ enhanced weapon that could produce 200 kilovolts per meter at the center?…This is about, what, four times higher than anything we ever built or tested to, in terms of EMP hardening?”
DR. GRAHAM: “Yes.”
MR. BARTLETT: “Which means that, even if you were some hundreds of miles away from that, that it would be somewhere in the range of 50 to 100 kilovolts per meter at the margins of our country, for instance?”
DR. GRAHAM: “Yes. Over much of the margin.”
MR. BARTLETT: “So, we aren’t sure that much of our military would still be operable after that robust laydown. Is that correct?…I also understand that we aren’t certain that we could launch, through a series of robust EMP laydowns, that we could launch our intercontinental ballistic missiles?”
DR. GRAHAM: “We designed both the missiles and their bases and the strategic communications systems during the Cold War to be able to survive and operate through EMP fields on the order of 50 kilovolts per meter, which was our concern at the time, before we realized that weapons could be designed that had larger EMP fields.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a world televised speech on March 1, 2018, announced a new heavy-ICBM, the most powerful ever made, called “Sarmat” (“Satan II” by NATO) that is “invincible” because it can strike anywhere on Earth, and even attack the U.S. by flying over the South Pole, like the FOBs. Putin declared: “Not even future missile defense systems will offer any trouble to the Russian rocket complex, Sarmat,”
HEMP Threat To U.S. Submarines?
HEMP attack could achieve for Russia a key objective the USSR could not achieve during the Cold War—neutralizing U.S. ballistic missile submarines at sea.
Russian Super-EMP weapons could destroy or degrade U.S. bombers, ICBMs, SSBNs in port and their strategic C3I—including land-based VLF communications systems, TACAMO aircraft, and
other redundant means of strategic command and control used to convey Emergency Action Messages (EAMs) to submarines hiding at sea. Severing their communications links to the National Command Authority would neutralize U.S. submarines, rendering them useless.
HEMP could also be used to attack submarines on patrol at sea directly.
A high-yield warhead (1 megaton or more) detonated for HEMP over the ocean would cover an area 2,200 kilometers in radius, a zone nearly as large as North America, with powerful E3 HEMP that would penetrate the ocean depths and possibly damage or destroy the electronics of submarines on patrol. Submarines would be especially vulnerable when deploying their very long antennae—which they need to do precisely when trying to receive EAMS.43
On September 11-17, 2018, Russia’s VOSTOK-18 was perhaps the largest military exercise in history, happening two months after U.S. Department of Homeland Security revelations that Russia penetrated hundreds of U.S. electric utilities with cyber-weapons.
A few significant highlights:
VOSTOK-18 mobilized 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks and other vehicles, 1,000 aircraft, and 80 ships. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu described it as the largest exercise since ZAPAD-81, the largest Cold War exercise that, 40 years ago, simulated invading NATO.
VOSTOK-18 apparently utilized other forces not advertised, including Russia’s Mediterranean fleet fighting a real war in Syria and the Strategic Rocket Forces Missile Armies, simulating a global nuclear World War III.
VOSTOK-18 was a joint Russia-China exercise, signifying de facto alliance against the United States. Russia and China conduct many joint military exercises. Their nuclear collaboration began February 2001 in a combined nuclear war scenario against the U.S. over Taiwan.46 The Sino-Russian Friendship Treaty (July 2001) promises their military cooperation “will further strategic stability and security around the world.”
VOSTOK-18, though conducted in Siberia, may well be full-dress rehearsal for conquering NATO, practicing new nuclear warfighting techniques. Siberian operations are harder for the U.S. to monitor, so new strategies and tactics can be exercised secretly.48
Russia’s new nuclear doctrine (similar to Khrushchev-era thinking, like a more aggressive version of Marshal Sokolovsky’s 1962 Military Strategy) relies on nuclear firepower and relatively small armies, but highly mobile and survivable, to knife through Europe in a week or two.49 Russia’s new generation nuclear weapons for strategic HEMP attack and tactical battlefield use make this possible.
Theoretically, Russian invasion of NATO by 300,000 troops, 36,000 tanks and other vehicles, and 1,000 aircraft could overrun NATO paralyzed by EMP attack and outgunned by tactical nuclear weapons 10-to-1. A single nuclear weapon detonated 60 kilometers above NATO HQ in Brussels would generate a paralyzing HEMP field from Poland to Scotland, like a magic carpet to the English Channel.
VOSTOK-18 practiced civil defense and recovery operations unrivaled in the West. “Eastern Military District engineer formation mopped-up in aftermath of a simulated technogenic emergency during VOSTOK-18 maneuvers,” according to the Russian Defense Ministry, “The military engineers launched bridges and ferry crossings, restored demolished roads, prepared passage through rubble…evacuated the population, and cleared terrain of simulated explosive objects and radioactive and chemical waste.”
These same operations could support an invasion of NATO.
But the most important part of VOSTOK-18 was invisible.
Russian and Chinese military doctrine also advocates a revolutionary new way of warfare rendering obsolete traditional military power by relying on cyber-attacks, sabotage, and EMP to
collapse adversary electric grids and life-sustaining critical infrastructures, thereby achieving victory.
Russian cyber-attacks against U.S. and allied electric grids are the “edge of the wedge” for this new way of warfare that could culminate in unleashing of a VOSTOK-18 for real—or make VOSTOK-18 unnecessary for global conquest.
As noted earlier, in July 2018, two months before VOSTOK-18, the Department of Homeland Security revealed Russian cyber-weapons Dragonfly and Energetic Bear penetrated hundreds of U.S. electric utilities and could cause a nationwide blackout.54
Former senior Pentagon official Michael Carpenter warned: “They’ve been intruding into our networks and are positioning themselves for a limited or widespread attack. They are waging a covert war on the West.”
Warned the Cybersecurity Subcommittee’s Senator Ed Markey: “Unless we act now, the United States will continue to remain vulnerable to the 21st Century cyber-armies looking to wage war by knocking out America’s electricity grid.”
Russia during VOSTOK-18 “coincidentally” conducted a major exercise recovering electric grids in regions where are located Strategic Rocket Forces Missile Armies and their headquarters, according to Russian press: “The Ministry of Energy…conducted a large-scale complex special training on the topic Ensuring The Security Of Power Supply.”
Significantly, Moscow tried to conceal the purpose of the grid recovery exercise and divorce it from VOSTOK-18 by suggesting it was to prepare for the Siberian winter.
However, the Russian Energy Ministry scenario entailed “an emergency situation associated with a massive de-energization of consumers” that “exercised rapidly replacing transformers, towers, powerlines and temporary re-routing.”
Moreover: “Power engineering specialists…carried out work on replacement of power transformers and supports, power transmission lines…and installing a quick-erect and dismountable support of the 35-110 kV air line, which allows reducing time for emergency repairs.”
Unmanned aerial vehicles helped repair electric grids rapidly. College students were drafted to help military engineer units.
Moscow’s purpose is: “To develop the most effective approaches to mobilizing technical, material, and human resources for eliminating technological disruptions in networks and maximizing the rapid restoration of electricity supply.”
Non-Nuclear EMP Weapons (NNEMP)
Russia probably remains the world’s leader in Non-Nuclear EMP (NNEMP) weapons, more commonly called Radio-Frequency Weapons (RFWs), which have been the focus of “intense effort aimed at the development of high-power microwave and millimeter-wave sources for radio frequency weapons” since the Cold War, to the continuing alarm of the Department of Defense.62
Russia apparently has developed and deployed NNEMP weapons significantly more powerful and with longer range than any other nation. Russian military and technical sources often describe their NNEMP weapons as having ranges of 10-20 kilometers or more, while Western NNEMP weapons rarely have a range exceeding 1 kilometer in radius.
For example, according to a Sputnik article “Russia’s Electromagnetic Weapons Could Be ‘More Efficient Than Nuclear Weapons’”:
–“Russia is developing radio-electronic weapons, which use powerful UHF impulse capable of destroying all electronic equipment miles away and even changing the course of a war.”
–“The unique radio-electronic weapons based on new physical principles, which were successfully tested in Russia last fall, use mobile electromagnetic emitters to disable missile warheads and onboard aircraft electronics miles away.”
–“The electromagnetic bombs developed by Russia can be more effective than nuclear weapons because they are able to neutralize entire armies with just one short electromagnetic impulse.”
–“Moreover…they can completely take out or seriously damage even off-line weapons like tanks, grounded planes, and missiles in silos.”
Russian technology for NNEMP weapons appears to be proliferating from Ukraine via Yuri Tkach, Director of the Kharkov Institute of Electromagnetic Research. During the Cold War, Tkach and the Kharkov Institute were among the scientific and design leaders for the USSR’s NNEMP weapons program.
Independently of Russia, the U.S. and other nations are achieving a technological revolution in Non-Nuclear EMP weapons, which are becoming more powerful, more miniaturized and lighter-weight, and deliverable by cruise missiles or drones. The marriage of NNEMP to drones or cruise missiles, preprogrammed or equipped with sensors to follow high-power electric lines and to target control centers and transformers, introduces a major new threat to national power grids.
Relatively small numbers of NNEMP cruise missiles or drones—perhaps only one capable of protracted flight—could inflict a long nationwide blackout. Reportedly, according to a classified study by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, disabling just 9 of 2,000 U.S. EHV transformer substations could cause cascading failures that would crash the North American power grid.67
Thus, NNEMP might be able to achieve results similar to a nuclear HEMP attack in blacking-out power grids, though the NNEMP attack would probably take hours instead of seconds.
Moreover, the technology for non-nuclear EMP generators and drones is widely available for purchase as civilian equipment which can easily be weaponized, even by non-state actors.
For example, one U.S. company sells a NNEMP device for legitimate industrial purposes called the “EMP Suitcase” that looks like a suitcase, can be carried and operated by one person, generates 100,000 volts/meter over a short distance, and can be purchased by anyone. NNEMP devices like the EMP Suitcase could become the Dollar Store version of weapons of mass destruction if turned against the national electric grid by terrorists.
Design information for NNEMP weapons is available on the internet.
Twenty years ago, in 2000, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) sponsored an experiment that proved a small team, led by a competent electrical engineer, could build NNEMP weapons using unclassified design information available on the internet and using parts purchased from an ordinary electric supply store. In one year, the team produced two NNEMP weapons that were demonstrated successfully before the HASC at the U.S. Army Aberdeen Proving Ground.
In 2020, Northeastern University’s Global Resilience Institute (GRI) tested in an EMP simulator numerous electronic components vital to the operation of electric grids and other critical infrastructures. The GRI tests “confirmed the ability for non-state actors to outfit commercially-available platforms to conduct localized tactical EMI attacks against electronics that support critical systems…identified the thresholds at which the functioning of representative electronics in common use across multiple infrastructures could become compromised, generating catastrophic outcomes. This includes, but is not limited to, disruption in cybersecurity safeguards for critical infrastructure to include key components of the electric power grid and telecommunications system.”
GRI’s tests of the non-nuclear EMP threat “confirm that a small EMI emitter that could be carried on a commercially-available drone or terrestrial vehicle, is capable of compromising electronic components, in common commercial use, at very low-energy levels from a considerable distance.”
NNEMP generators have limited range, but if mated to a cruise missile or drone capable of protracted flight to target electric grid key nodes, the results can be spectacular.
For example, Boeing’s Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) cruise missile can be viewed on the internet where CHAMP “navigated a pre-programmed flight plan and emitted bursts of high-powered energy, effectively knocking out the target’s data and electronic subsystems.”
The U.S. Air Force has purchased CHAMP cruise missiles, deployed to Japan, reportedly to prevent North Korean missile attacks by “frying” their missiles, command and control, and power grid electronics.
Russia is probably still be the world leader in NNEMP weapons, as was the USSR during the Cold War. Russia’s nuclear-powered cruise missile, the Burevestnik (Storm Petrel, NATO designation SSC-X-9 Skyfall), now under development, makes little sense as yet another missile to deliver nuclear warheads, as advertised by Moscow. The Storm Petrel’s engines, powered by a nuclear reactor, theoretically will give it unlimited range and limitless flying time for crossing oceans and cruising over the U.S. The Storm Petrel could be a nuclear-powered version of CHAMP, able to fly much farther and longer and armed with a more potent NNEMP warhead, electrically supercharged by the nuclear reactor.
Russian HEMP Defenses
Moscow spent decades and vast resources protecting its critical infrastructures from nuclear effects. Russia today has hundreds of deep underground command posts and thousands of other underground shelters designed to survive and recover from an all-out nuclear war. Even Moscow’s subway system is equipped with nuclear blast doors. Moscow cheated on the ABM Treaty and deployed thousands of anti-missile systems and radars all over the USSR, in addition to the permitted Moscow ABM system that can protect European Russia—where lives most of the population. Russia inherited from the USSR, and continues to improve, a vast network of power grids, communications, and other critical infrastructures designed to survive and prevail through a nuclear World War III.
It is probably no accident that Russia leads all other nations in the production of vacuum tubes, Svetlana Tubes in St. Petersburg being the largest manufacturer of vacuum tubes in the world. Vacuum tube electronics are over ten million times less vulnerable to HEMP than the advanced semiconductors and microchips that are the sinews of economic and military power in the United States.
EDICT OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION ON NUCLEAR DETERRENCE (June 2, 2020)
On June 2, 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an unclassified edict “Foundations of the State Nuclear Deterrence Policy of the Russian Federation” describing the purpose of nuclear weapons in Russia’s national security policy and some circumstances that could move Russia to use nuclear weapons:
Main military dangers which, depending on changes in the military and political and strategic situations, may develop into military threats to the Russian Federation…which nuclear deterrence is implemented to neutralize.
Clarification of Russia’s nuclear doctrine was subsequently provided by officers of the Russian General Staff and President Vladimir Putin.
Major General Andrei Sterlin and Colonel Alexander Khryapin in their article published in the official newspaper of the Russian Armed Forces, Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star), warned that any incoming missile will be regarded as nuclear and prompt a nuclear response.
Two months after publication of Russia’s nuclear doctrine, on August 4, 2020: “President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday endorsed Russia’s nuclear deterrent policy, which allows him to use atomic weapons in response to a conventional strike targeting the nation’s critical government and military infrastructure.”
Russia’s new doctrine on nuclear deterrence and employment is widely interpreted by Western analysts as significantly lowering the threshold, to the lowest point in Russian or Soviet history, whereby Moscow may initiate a nuclear first-strike—including against measures the U.S. and NATO allies would probably regard as non-aggressive and defensive. (See for example provisions 12a-d and f.) Such is the interpretation of some of the best U.S. nuclear strategists, including former Defense Department senior official Dr. Mark Schneider and Dr. Stephen Blank, formerly of the U.S. Army War College.
According to Schneider: “…the Russians are talking about more than nuclear responses to conventional attacks on nuclear forces which results in a lower nuclear use threshold…this may include cyber-attack. [See provision 19c.] This clearly is not limited to attacks on strategic nuclear forces. Since essentially every Russian missile is nuclear capable, this could justify a nuclear response to just about any attack on a Russian military facility that has missiles. This would be a very low nuclear use threshold.”
The Russian edict on nuclear deterrence and employment does not mention HEMP or any other specific employment option for a nuclear weapon (exoatmospheric burst, atmospheric burst, surface burst, earth-penetrating-burst, underwater-burst, counterforce or countervalue attacks). But the edict is consistent with, and by lowering the nuclear threshold reinforces and furthers, the Russian military doctrinal concept of “de-escalation” whereby limited nuclear first-use by Russia will by “shock and awe” achieve victory.
HEMP attack, by minimizing adversary immediate casualties and maximizing damage to the electronics of adversary military forces and critical infrastructures, seems ideal for a “de-escalatory” strategy. Moreover, since Russian military doctrine categorizes HEMP attack as Information, Electronic or Cyber Warfare, Russia’s already very loose strictures for nuclear employment may not even apply to HEMP.
CHINA: EMP THREAT
China has long known about nuclear high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) and invested in protecting military forces and critical infrastructures from HEMP and other nuclear weapon effects during the Cold War, and continuing today. China has HEMP simulators and defensive and offensive programs that are almost certainly more robust than any in the United States.
Chinese military writings are replete with references to making HEMP attacks against the United States as a means of prevailing in war.
China’s military doctrine closely associates cyber-attacks with nuclear HEMP attack, as part of a combined operation in what they call Total Information Warfare. Cyber bugs and hacking are the tip of the spear, the functional equivalent of scouts and sappers who do reconnaissance and secretly prepare the beaches for the arrival of D-Day, or like the motorcycle troops that preceded the heavy armored divisions in Germany’s Blitzkrieg.
Chinese open source military writings describe the possession of Super-EMP weapons. Taiwan military intelligence in open sources credits China with having a Super-EMP nuclear weapon—based on design information stolen from the U.S. nuclear weapon labs.
HEMP appears to be the key to victory in China’s military doctrine against U.S. aircraft carriers and Taiwan.
China is on the verge of deploying or has already deployed hypersonic weapons that could potentially be armed with nuclear or non-nuclear EMP warheads, greatly increasing the threat of surprise attack against U.S. forces in the Pacific and against the United States.
China has the technical capability to make a surprise HEMP attack by nuclear-armed satellite orbited over the south polar region to evade U.S. BMEWS radars and National Missile Defenses, as planned by the USSR during the Cold War with its secret weapon the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS).
It seems highly likely that China’s development of offensive HEMP capabilities would inform and drive development of defensive capabilities too, especially protection of critical infrastructures necessary to support their war effort. Moreover, China’s proximity to North Korea and Taiwan—both potential nuclear flashpoints for an HEMP event—would likely raise Beijing’s concern about protecting its critical infrastructures in this dangerous neighborhood.
China’s alleged nuclear “No First Use” doctrine, like the USSR’s during the Cold War, is almost certainly disinformation.
In 2020, a panel of China’s military experts threatened to punish U.S. Navy ships for challenging China’s illegal annexation of the South China Sea by making an EMP attack—one of the options they considered least provocative. This too, like other evidence, suggests Beijing considers HEMP attack as something short of nuclear or even kinetic conflict, akin to “gray zone” threats like electronic and cyber warfare.
CHINA: EMP THREAT
Chinese Military Doctrine: EMP Attack Decisive
China has long known about nuclear high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) and invested in protecting military forces and critical infrastructures from HEMP and other nuclear weapon effects during the Cold War, and continuing today. China has HEMP simulators and defensive and offensive programs that are almost certainly more robust than any in the United States. China’s military doctrine regards nuclear HEMP attack as an extension of information or cyber warfare, and deserving highest priority as the most likely kind of future warfare.
Chinese military writings are replete with references to making HEMP attacks against the United States as a means of prevailing in war. The foremost People’s Liberation Army textbook on information warfare, Shen Weiguang’s World War, the Third World War—Total Information Warfare, explicitly calls upon China to be prepared to exploit HEMP offensively—and to defend against it:2
“With their massive destructiveness, long-range nuclear weapons have combined with highly sophisticated information technology and information warfare under nuclear deterrence….Information war and traditional war have one thing in common, namely that the country which possesses the critical weapons such as atomic bombs will have ‘first strike’ and ‘second-strike retaliation’ capabilities….As soon as its computer networks come under attack and are destroyed, the country will slip into a state of paralysis and the lives of its people will ground to a halt. Therefore, China should focus on measures to counter computer viruses, nuclear electromagnetic pulse…and quickly achieve breakthroughs in those technologies in order to equip China without delay with equivalent deterrence that will enable it to stand up to the military powers in the information age and neutralize and check the deterrence of Western powers, including the United States.”
China’s military doctrine closely associates cyber-attacks with nuclear HEMP attack, as part of a combined operation in what they call Total Information Warfare. Cyber bugs and hacking are the tip of the spear, the functional equivalent of scouts and sappers who do reconnaissance and secretly prepare the beaches for the arrival of D-Day, or like the motorcycle troops that preceded the heavy armored divisions in Germany’s Blitzkrieg.
Therefore, China’s cyber-attacks (for example, most notoriously in June 2015 on computers in virtually every federal agency, stealing sensitive information on millions of federal employees, Some of China’s scientists have even published openly in the West their technical assessments of “high-altitude electromagnetic pulse waveform amplitudes at satellite orbits” as in Cui Meng, “Numerical Simulation of the EMP Environment” IEEE Transaction on Electromagnetic Compatibility (June 2013). Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, “Foreign Views of Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack,” Testimony on behalf of EMP Commission before the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security, Senate Committee on the Judiciary (Washington, D.C.: March 9, 2005). EMP Commission, Foreign Views of Electromagnetic Pulse Attack (Washington, DC: July 2017).
Ibid and textbook: Shen Weiguang, World War, the Third World War–Total Information Warfare (Beijing: Xinhua Publishing House, June 1, 2001) translated in Foreign Broadcast Information System (FBIS) CPP20000517000168. See also Wang Xiaodong, “Special Means of Warfare in the Information Age,” Jianchuan Zhishi (June 30, 1999) translated in FBIS FTS19990727000426. Zhang Shougi and Sun Xuegi, “Be Vigilant Against ‘Pearl Harbor’ Incident in the Information Age,” Jiefangjun Bao (May 14, 1996) translated in FBIS FTS19960514000049.
Reportedly on every employee of the Federal government) should be regarded as possible practice or preparation for Total Information Warfare—including nuclear HEMP attack.
An article “Overview of Electromagnetic Pulse Weapons and Protection Techniques Against Them” from the People’s Republic of China’s Air Force Engineering University describes nuclear EMP weapons as the most powerful and effective variant of electronic warfare weapons for waging Information Warfare. Nuclear and non-nuclear EMP weapons in the context of Information Warfare are the crucial instruments for implementing this Revolution in Military Affairs:
“In future high-tech warfare under informatized conditions, information warfare will span multiple dimensions, including ground, sea, air, and the EM spectrum. Information superiority has already become central and crucial to achieving victory in warfare…If the communications equipment used for the transmission of battlefield information were attacked and damaged by an opponent’s EMP weapons, then the one attacked would face the danger of disruption in battlefield information transmission. EMP severely restricts the tactical performance and battlefield survivability of informatized equipment.
Moreover, the article clearly makes a distinction between nuclear weapons (designed for blast and shock) versus nuclear EMP weapons (designed to maximize HEMP effects), describing the latter as “a new type of weapon” like non-nuclear EMP weapons, both designed for waging Information Warfare:
“As opposed to conventional and nuclear weapons, EMP weapons are a new type of weapon capable of causing mass destruction by instantly releasing high-intensity EMP…They can interfere, damage, and overheat electronics, resulting in logic circuit dysfunctions, control malfunctions, or total failure. The unique destructive effect that EMP have on electronic equipment was unintentionally discovered by the United States in the 1960s during a nuclear test. In July 1962, the United States conducted a high-altitude nuclear explosion in the Pacific Ocean. This…unexpectedly overloaded the Honolulu power grid in Hawaii, 1,400 km away, even overheating lightning protection devices on powerlines. On a battlefield, this new-type weapon will cause devastating damage to electronic systems, including computers, communications and control systems, and radars, resulting in immeasurable losses.
Furthermore, according to the article: “There are 3 types of military EMP based on pulse sources: the first is the high-altitude EMP (HEMP) produced by the detonation of a low yield nuclear bomb in the atmosphere at high-altitude; the second is…produced by high explosives and related devices; the third is the HPM [High-Powered Microwave]…produced by HPM devices such as magnetrons and vircators.” Nuclear EMP weapons are, or include, Enhanced-EMP or so-called Super-EMP weapons designed to produce gamma rays and high-frequency E1 EMP: “HEMP weapons are a type of weak nuclear explosive EMP bomb that produces EMP through the detonation of low-yield nuclear bombs at high-altitudes (70 to 100 km above ground).” The E1 EMP field “produced by nuclear EMP is about 10 to 100 kV/m and can penetrate and melt any electronic components.”
China Has Super-EMP Weapons
Chinese open source military writings describe the possession of Super-EMP weapons, as seen above for example in the article from the PRC Air Force Engineering University. How to execute a nuclear HEMP attack on Taiwan using a Super-EMP weapon was described in an interview with one of the founders of the PRC’s nuclear weapons program and Deputy Director of the Institute of Theoretical Physics, General Lin Chin-ching.
Taiwan military intelligence in open sources credits China with having a Super-EMP nuclear weapon—based on design information stolen from the U.S. nuclear weapon labs. Taiwan is generally regarded as the nation most expert on China’s military capabilities, doctrine, and planning, just as Israel is generally regarded as the nation most expert on the military threat posed by its neighbors.
Taiwan’s military analysts agree with the People’s Republic of China that, “The EMP attack scenario presents the only attack option that meets the demand for making the first, paralyzing strike of a war, paving the way for the other troops to attack Taiwan.” According to a briefing from Taiwan’s Military College of National Defense University titled “Electromagnetic Pulse Attack and Defense” the People’s Republic of China:
“Used spies in the United States and engaged Russian technical consultants, resulting in the successful manufacture of a mini bomb using implosion technology…Military experts believe the Communist Armed Forces are capable of deploying a kiloton grade EMP warhead today…The EMP attack scenario presents the only attack option that meets the demand for making the first, paralyzing strike of a war, paving the way for the other troops to attack Taiwan.”
Another article “Special Means of Warfare in the Information Age” notes that Information Warfare includes computer viruses and EMP attack, and can be used to collapse an enemy’s electric grid and other national critical infrastructures:
“The methods used to achieve destruction or manipulation of the ‘byte’ can be ‘atomic’—such as electromagnetic pulse bombs and so on—or can be ‘byte’ type—such as computer viruses…The so-called strategic information warfare is the use of destruction or manipulation of the flow of information on a computer network to destroy the enemy’s telephone network, fuel pipelines, electric grid, transportation control system, national funds transfer system, various bank clearance systems, and health and sanitation systems, in order to achieve a strategic goal.”
An article by China’s National Security Policy Committee “General Trend of the Worldwide Revolution in Military Affairs” sees “electromagnetic pulse bombs” among the new “disruptive technologies” that “can change the ‘rules of the game’” by disrupting U.S. military “precision warfare capabilities centered on information technology” thereby sounding “the horn of a new round of revolution in military affairs.”
HEMP appears to be the key to victory in China’s military doctrine against U.S. aircraft carriers and Taiwan. For example, from the official newspaper of the Shanghai Communist Party Central Committee:
“The weak points of a modern aircraft carrier are: 1) As a big target, the fleet is easy for a satellite to reconnoiter and locate it, and for missiles to conduct saturation attacks; 2) A high degree of electronization is like an ‘Achilles’ heel’ for an aircraft carrier fleet, which relies heavily on electronic equipment as its central nervous system. These two characteristics determine one tactic…Electromagnetic pulse bombs (missiles) bear the characteristics that meet those requirements: 1) The strong magnetic field and electromagnetic pulse caused by an explosion can destroy all important integrated circuits and chips…thus paralyzing the radar and telecommunications system of the aircraft carrier and vessels around it as well as the ship-mounted missiles and aircraft. 2) The scope of demolition and effective action are wide, reaching dozens of kilometers. 3) The equipment is damaged without casualties. 4) An electromagnetic pulse bomb…does not have to hit the aircraft carrier but only needs to explode within dozens of kilometers around the aircraft carrier…As long as an electromagnetic pulse bomb can successfully explode, an aircraft carrier will be paralyzed. 5) If the central nervous system of an aircraft carrier is paralyzed, even a comparatively backward naval vessel or aircraft…will be able to aim at the aircraft carrier as a conventional target, thereby thoroughly changing the balance between the strong and the weak.”
“The possession of electromagnetic pulse bombs (missiles) will provide the conditions to completely destroy an aircraft carrier fleet, and the way to complete victory in dealing with aircraft carrier fleets,” according to “Using A-Bomb To Deal With Aircraft Carrier.”11
An article in the newspaper of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) notes that: “The United States is more vulnerable than any other country in the world” to attacks by EMP and cyber warfare:
“Some people might think that things similar to the ‘Pearl Harbor Incident’ are unlikely to take place during the information age. Yet it could be regarded as the ‘Pearl Harbor Incident’ of the 21st century if a surprise attack is conducted against the enemy’s crucial information systems of command, control, and communications by such means as electronic warfare, electromagnetic pulse weapons, telecommunications interference and suppression, computer viruses, and if the enemy is deprived of the information it needs as a result. Even a super military power like the United States, which possesses nuclear missiles and powerful armed forces, cannot guarantee its immunity…In their own words, a highly computerized open society like the United States is extremely vulnerable to electronic attacks from all sides. This is because the U.S. economy, from banks to telephone systems and from power plants to iron and steel works, relies entirely on computer networks…When a country grows increasingly powerful economically and technologically…it will become increasingly dependent on modern information systems…The United States is more vulnerable to attacks than any other country in the world…”
Hypersonic Weapons: New EMP Threat
China is on the verge of deploying or has already deployed hypersonic weapons that could potentially be armed with nuclear or non-nuclear EMP warheads, greatly increasing the threat of surprise attack against U.S. forces in the Pacific and against the United States.
Hypersonic weapons are of two types: Hypersonic Glide Vehicles (HGVs) and Hypersonic Cruise Missiles (HCMs). HGVs are boosted by a missile to an altitude of 40-100 kilometers where they skim along the upper atmosphere unpowered, using control surfaces on the glide vehicle to maneuver unpredictably, evading missile defenses, and highly accurately when they descend to target. HCMs are launched by an aircraft and have engines to power themselves to the upper atmosphere where, like HGVs, they speed toward target evasively and accurately.
Both HGVs and HCMs are capable of extraordinarily high speeds, depending upon design ranging from at least 5 times the speed of sound or 6,200 kilometers per hour to 25,000 kph. The combination of hypersonic speed, a flat non-ballistic trajectory that flies below radar, and maneuverability that frustrates interception and provides for highly accurate delivery, makes HGVs and HCMs an unprecedented threat to strategic stability and the balance of power.
U.S. Strategic Command’s General John Hyten, chief of the nuclear Triad deterrent, in 2018 sounded alarms about developing hypersonic weapons threats from China and Russia.
Former chief of U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris, testified to the House Armed Service Committee in February 2018 that “hypersonic weapons were one of a range of advanced technologies where China was beginning to outpace the U.S. military, challenging its dominance in the Asia-Pacific region.”
DOD’s Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Michael Griffin, in April 2018 testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that “China had deployed, or is close to deploying, hypersonic systems armed with conventional warheads. These can travel thousands of miles from the U.S. coast and threaten American forward bases or carrier battle groups.”
Griffin warned: “We do not have defenses against these systems.” Reportedly, by early 2016 China had performed six successful tests of hypersonic weapons and by 2019 deployed at least two, the DF-17 HGV with a range of 1,500 miles and the CM-401, a short-range (180 miles) anti-ship ballistic missile.17 If armed with a nuclear or non-nuclear EMP warhead, either of these could perform a surprise EMP attack.
Hypersonic weapons are ideally suited for nuclear HEMP attack because their operating altitude (40-100 kilometers) is the optimum height-of-burst for maximizing HEMP field strength against a surface target that might be EMP-hardened, like an aircraft carrier group or an ICBM wing. Super-EMP warheads, in design resembling a low-yield tactical nuclear weapon like a neutron artillery shell, would likely be much smaller and lighter, and certainly much more effective, than any conventional high-explosives warhead for China’s HGVs and HCMs.
If China arms its ICBMs and SLBMs with hypersonic warheads designed for Super-EMP attack, then Beijing could virtually overnight transform its relatively (allegedly) small nuclear deterrent into a giant killer, capable of flying below U.S. radars and outracing U.S. reaction-time to deliver a HEMP “Pearl Harbor.”
China has the technical capability to make a surprise HEMP attack by nuclear-armed satellite orbited over the south polar region to evade U.S. BMEWS radars and National Missile Defenses, as planned by the USSR during the Cold War with its secret weapon the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS).
China also has the technical capability to clandestinely orbit a nuclear-armed satellite or satellites to be maintained in orbit for years until needed to make a surprise HEMP attack against the U.S., India, Russia, or some other target.
China has a wide array of Space Launch Vehicles and satellite launch centers at Jiquan, Taiyuan, Xichang, and Wenchang that could be used for the above HEMP surprise attack options by satellite. China’s space and military programs are integrated. For example, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) “is China’s largest and most important organization for the research, development and production of space launch vehicles (SLVs), liquid-fueled surface-to-surface missiles, solid-fueled surface-to-surface and submarine-launched ballistic missiles” including ICBMs, IRBMs, and SRBMs.
China has great strategic incentives for a clandestine capability to perform HEMP attack by satellite as a means of preempting or retaliating against its many nuclear-armed potential adversaries—the U.S., India, and Russia. Moreover, HEMP attack could enable China to “level the playing field” or defeat the U.S. by being the most effective means of quickly neutralizing large numbers of LEO satellites that are crucial to U.S. military operations.
HEMP propagates downward through the atmosphere, not through the vacuum of space, so no PRC satellites would be at risk from HEMP, unless the HEMP field is over China so satellite ground stations could be damaged—a highly unlikely scenario, that China would make a HEMP attack on itself.
Satellites are at risk from an exo-atmospheric detonation for HEMP from the gamma rays which, if they reach the satellite and are close enough, can damage satellites by a phenomenon called System Generated EMP (SGEMP).19 But China has almost certainly hardened its satellites against SGEMP and other phenomena that might be generated by the worst-case SGEMP threat they plan to employ: a Super-EMP weapon which is designed specifically to produce powerful gamma rays.
The U.S. hardens military satellites against SGEMP too, but probably not against the SGEMP produced by Super-EMP weapons, as the U.S. has no Super-EMP weapons. The U.S. does not even have simulators for Super-EMP weapons to test against this threat.
China can further protect its LEO satellites (those most at risk) from SGEMP by timing its HEMP attack so PRC satellites are over-the-horizon and will not be illuminated by gamma rays.
An exo-atmospheric nuclear detonation for HEMP can also damage LEO satellites by “pumping” the Van Allen belt with ionized particles, as happened after the 1962 STARFISH PRIME high-yield exo-atmospheric nuclear test that inadvertently damaged U.S. satellites.20 Satellites can be hardened to survive this environment too, and presumably would be if HEMP attack is an important military option, as it is for China.
Ionization of the Van Allen belt is a much bigger threat to LEO satellites if the HEMP attack uses a high-yield weapon detonated above 100 kms HOB, but Super-EMP weapons are very low-yield and the HEMP scenarios that make most sense for China entail detonations at 30-100 kms HOB.
The U.S. should be very concerned about a scenario where China uses nuclear space weapons, perhaps ICBMs and IRBMs with specialized warheads, to quickly sweep the skies of U.S. satellites, even at the risk of losing PRC satellites, which could then be replaced with a surge of satellites launched by China to capture the “high frontier” and cripple U.S. military capabilities.
If China is orbiting nuclear-armed satellites for HEMP surprise attack, this would be one of their deepest and best protected military secrets. In addition to obvious strategic considerations, the Outer Space Treaty bans orbiting nuclear weapons in space, and China has pursued a long propaganda offensive criticizing the U.S. for “militarizing space” intended to deter the U.S. from orbiting space-based missile defenses and from improving U.S. military capabilities in space.
Interestingly, one of China’s foremost EMP scientists, Cui Meng, has published an unclassified technical article in Western press—“Numerical Simulation of the EMP Environment” IEEE Transactions on Electromagnetic Compatibility (June 2013)—that examines the “high-altitude electromagnetic pulse waveform amplitudes at satellite orbits.”
China EMP Defenses
It seems highly likely that China’s development of offensive HEMP capabilities would inform and drive development of defensive capabilities too, especially protection of critical infrastructures necessary to support their war effort. Moreover, China’s proximity to
North Korea and Taiwan—
both potential nuclear flashpoints for an HEMP event—would likely raise Beijing’s concern about protecting its critical infrastructures in this dangerous neighborhood. The neighborhood is made more dangerous by China’s own plans, described in open sources, to make HEMP attacks against Taiwan and U.S. aircraft carriers that may try intervening by entering the Taiwan Straits. A nuclear HEMP attack on Taiwan or on U.S. carriers in the straits could have catastrophic collateral effects against China, if its critical infrastructures are unprotected.
Much less is known about the extent of China’s efforts to protect its critical infrastructures from HEMP compared to Russia, which always had much higher priority as a U.S. intelligence target during the Cold War. However, recent analysis suggests that the United States has grossly underestimated the size and sophistication of China’s nuclear arsenal and of the infrastructure to support it. Analysts have discovered that China, like the former USSR and Russia today, has an enormous complex of underground tunnels and command posts to hide nuclear forces, support nuclear operations, and to protect at least the military critical infrastructures. The deceptively named 2nd Artillery Corps (since 2016 the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force), that is China’s version of U.S. Strategic Command and Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces, has constructed 5,000 miles of tunnels for military infrastructure, a complex that is described as “the Underground Great Wall.”
China appears to have been much more successful than Russia, in part because of U.S. negligence, in hiding its preparations for nuclear conflict. Given China’s knowledge of HEMP effects, and development of Super-EMP weapons as potentially decisive instruments for winning a war, seems a virtual certainty that China’s preparedness to survive and recover from a manmade HEMP or natural EMP/GMD event is much greater than that of the United States.
If Russia and China are prepared to survive and recover from the HEMP effects of a nuclear war, they would also be well prepared to survive and recover from even the worst natural EMP/GMD effects generated by a geomagnetic superstorm, like recurrence of the 1859 Carrington Event. The EMP/GMD fields created by a geomagnetic superstorm, though they can cover a much larger area, are not as severe as the HEMP from the most powerful nuclear weapons. Geomagnetic storms produce no E1 HEMP, the powerful electromagnetic shockwave from a nuclear weapon that can couple into small targets and cause deep systemic damage. The natural EMP/GMD generated by a geomagnetic superstorm would be significantly less powerful than the E3 HEMP generated by some high-yield nuclear weapons.24
China’s “No First Use” Fiction
Many China experts in government and academia, and especially among anti-nuclear activists like the Union of Concerned Scientists and Federation of American Scientists, are unworried by China’s rapidly growing nuclear capabilities, hypersonic and Super-EMP weapons, because Beijing’s official policy promises they will not be first to employ nuclear weapons in a conflict.25 Beijing promises that their nuclear forces are for deterrence and retaliation only—not for aggression.
Western analysts consistently fail to understand that, for both Beijing and Moscow, nuclear war plans and C3 to execute those plans are national security “crown jewels” that they try to protect and conceal behind a bodyguard of lies and disinformation. Trusting open sources and commentary—especially when they are intended to cast nuclear doctrine and C3 in the most benign possible way—is a big mistake.
For example, during the Cold War the USSR went to extraordinary lengths to disinform Western policymakers and the public that Moscow had a nuclear “No First Use” doctrine. This was intended to conceal their real nuclear war plans—that we now know entailed a massive nuclear first strike early in a conflict. The “No First Use” disinformation campaign was also intended to mobilize Western anti-nuclear activists, in and out of government, to constrain U.S. nuclear programs and operational plans.
“No First Use” for China does not withstand the test of common sense. No conservative military planner would adopt “No First Use” when China lacks BMEWS and satellite early warning systems that would enable China to launch on tactical warning. “No First Use” would doom China’s nuclear deterrent to certain destruction by a U.S. or Russian conventional or nuclear first strike, or to a nuclear first strike by India.
China’s nuclear posture, especially the lack of early warning radars and satellites, is “use it or lose it” which logically should drive PRC military planners toward nuclear first use—indeed toward surprise first use early in a crisis or conflict, based on strategic warning.28
Regardless of the PRC’s declaratory “No First Use” policy, it strains credulity Beijing’s political leaders would adhere to “No First Use” if confronted with compelling political and military intelligence of an imminent U.S. attack. Such strategic warning was the basis for the former USSR’s secret plans for a disarming nuclear first strike under their VRYAN (Surprise Nuclear Missile Attack) intelligence program, that nearly resulted in a nuclear apocalypse during NATO’s theater nuclear exercise ABLE ARCHER-83.29
Fortunately, at least some U.S. military leaders are not as naïve as academics about China’s “No First Use” pledge. Chief of U.S. Strategic Command, Admiral Charles Richard, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2020 that he could “drive a truck through China’s no first use policy.”
China’s unprecedented rapid expansion of its nuclear and missile capabilities is not consistent with a belief in “Minimum Deterrence” and “No First Use” but looks imitative of Russia’s policy seeking escalation dominance for nuclear diplomacy and nuclear warfighting. Lt. General Robert Ashley, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, warned in 2019: “China is likely to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile in the course of implementing the most rapid expansion and diversification of its nuclear arsenal in China’s history…China launched more ballistic missiles for testing and training than the rest of the world combined.”
China’s political and military leaders have often threatened nuclear war, and in 2011 reportedly: “Former Chinese General Xu Guangyu…suggested China was planning a surprise missile attack on the American homeland.”
The PLA Second Artillery Corps (now the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, equivalent to U.S. Strategic Command) leaked a planning document “Lowering the Threshold of Nuclear Threats” that stipulated some conditions where, in response to U.S. conventional attacks, China would launch a nuclear first strike. For example: “Targets that could draw such a response include any of China’s leading urban centers or its atomic or hydroelectric power facilities.”
China’s military doctrine—including numerous examples presented here of using HEMP attack to win on the battlefield, defeat U.S. aircraft carriers, and achieve against the U.S. homeland a surprise “Pearl Harbor” writ large—is replete with technical and operational planning consistent with a nuclear first-strike. Indeed, China’s classification of HEMP attack in military doctrine as “electronic warfare” or “information warfare” indicates that HEMP is not even considered a form of nuclear attack, but would be equivalent to non-nuclear EMP weapons and cyber warfare.
In 2020, a panel of China’s military experts threatened to punish U.S. Navy ships for challenging China’s illegal annexation of the South China Sea by making an EMP attack—one of the options they considered least provocative, because the crew would be unharmed, but most effective, because the ship would be disabled.34 This too, like other evidence, suggests Beijing considers HEMP attack as something short of nuclear or even kinetic conflict, akin to “gray zone” threats like electronic and cyber warfare.
Time to replace mutual assured nuclear destruction with a shield of space-based defenses
- Nuclear deterrence fundamentals are that the U.S. cannot afford to allow any adversary to achieve real or perceived numerical, technological, or operational decisive advantages. Cold War lessons now seemingly forgotten.
- The U.S. Triad comprises bombers, ICBMs, SLBMs and SSBNs that are decades old, requiring decades to modernize, while Russia, China, and North Korea have mostly new systems, including new delivery vehicles that have no U.S. counterparts, like nuclear-powered cruise missiles, autonomous submarines and hypersonic warheads.
- The U.S. has not tested a nuclear weapon in a quarter-century, has been patching-up old weapons built decades ago that are now long past their original service lives, weapons designed for blast and shock and the antiquated strategic contingencies of the Cold War. Scientists who run the so-called “science-based stockpile stewardship program” warn, without testing, reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons is increasingly doubtful.
- Russia, China, and North Korea, despite the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, conduct nuclear tests developing advanced new generation nuclear weapons that have no counterparts in the U.S. deterrent. New Russian nuclear weapons range from 100-megaton doomsday bombs to ultra-low-yield “clean” tactical nuclear weapons for land, sea, and air combat. Even North Korea probably has Super-EMP weapons.
- The U.S. does not even plan or exercise integrated conventional and nuclear operations, having an unrealistic “firewall” between conventional forces and nuclear forces, as if they would not operate together. A 2020 CSIS report warns: “Since the end of the Cold War, the integration of nuclear weapons into conventional war planning has faded as nuclear warfighting has been largely siloed off to USSTRATCOM and separated from the rest of the U.S. military.” Most of the U.S. armed services are not well-educated on nuclear effects or prepared to conduct joint conventional/nuclear operations. In contrast, Russia, China, and North Korea routinely conduct exercises integrating conventional and nuclear forces.
- U.S. and allied top political leaders never conduct military exercises together involving nuclear forces. Would NATO or Pacific allies support U.S. strategic or tactical nuclear use, including U.S. employment of nuclear weapons stored on or launched from allied territory, requiring permission of allied political leaders? Before a nuclear World War III happens, it might be nice to know how Germany’s Angela Merkle, France’s Emmanuel Macron, Italy’s Sergio Mattarella, Belgium’s Charles Michel and NATO’s 23 other members might react in various nuclear scenarios. In contrast, the dictators of Russia, China, and North Korea routinely lead nuclear exercises.
Technological trends — Super-EMP, cyberwarfare, hypersonic warheads, super-accuracy and ultra-low-yield — increasingly favor offensive operations and surprise attack: the much practiced forte of Russia, China and North Korea. The next administration must give highest priority to deterring a nuclear World War III. Space-based defenses could work a new revolution in military affairs: making nuclear missiles obsolete; canceling the powerful technological advantages and incentives that presently favor nuclear blackmail and aggression, striking first, and surprise attack; and inaugurating a much safer, more stable era dominated by strategic defenses. The long nuclear nightmare called Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) could be replaced with the shield of space-based defenses and a new strategic principle — Strategic Assured National Existence (SANE). SANE would replace the “mutual hostage relationship” of MAD, that threatens destruction of populations, with intercepting the mass destruction weapons that threaten life. SANE and space-based weapons to implement this defensive strategy is consistent with the ethos of democracies and Judeo-Christian “just war” principles, and so should be more popular and politically sustainable than the offensive nuclear capabilities necessary to underwrite MAD. Americans would rather be protected than avenged.
A nuclear 'Pearl Harbor' in our future?
Hypersonic warheads being deployed by Russia and China, because of their great speed, accuracy and ability to evade radar, could surprise and destroy America’s intercontinental ballistic missiles. ICBMs, always on high alert, are the chief deterrent against surprise attacks. The Department of Defense is working on new space-based sensors and improved strategic command-control-communications intelligence (C3I) systems to defeat a surprise attack. But the best C3I in the world cannot compensate for the biggest U.S. vulnerability — a strategic culture inhabited by Washington elites who, although informed by the most sophisticated intelligence apparatus in human history, through stupidity, incompetence and ideological blindness are consistently surprised. For example, after Pearl Harbor, Washington was surprised by North Korea’s invasion of South Korea (1950); North Vietnam’s Tet Offensive (1968) that began the eventual U.S. defeat in the Vietnam War; the Yom Kippur War (1973); the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington (2001); Russia’s annexation of Crimea (2014); and China’s annexation of the South China Sea (2013-2016).
As recounted by former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan in his autobiography, even though warned by Israel, the New York Times reported in a Sept. 12, 1975, article: “The United States Intelligence Community acknowledged that it failed to predict the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and that several intelligence agencies even predicted there would be no war only hours before hostilities broke out,” according to a leaked secret report. Hours before the Yom Kippur War, the CIA reportedly dismissed as “exercises” massive Egyptian and Syrian mobilization: “The exercise and alert activities may be on a somewhat larger scale and more realistic than previous exercises, but they do not appear to be preparing for a military offensive against Israel.” We may hope that Washington will be more suspicious of large-scale nuclear exercises by Russia, China or North Korea, but the record is frightening. Because U.S. strategic culture is conditioned to regard nuclear war as “unthinkable” — and most “unthinkable,” a nuclear surprise attack — U.S. elites and intelligence officers almost certainly will not believe even clear indicators of a possible impending surprise attack:
- November 1983, during NATO theater nuclear exercise Able Archer 83, U.S. intelligence failed to warn of Soviet preparations to preempt what Moscow mistakenly believed was an impending U.S. surprise attack.
- August 1991, during the attempted coup d’etat against Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, U.S. intelligence failed to warn that Soviet nuclear forces went on alert to detect and preempt a possible U.S. surprise attack.
- October 1993, during the attempted coup against Russian President Boris Yeltsin, U.S. intelligence failed to warn of elevated nuclear threat from Russian strategic mobilization disguised as an “exercise.”
- January 1995, U.S. intelligence failed to warn of unprecedented nuclear overreaction by Moscow to Norway’s launch of a meteorological rocket, initially mistaken as a U.S. surprise attack. Yeltsin almost “pushed the button.”
During the 2017 nuclear crisis with North Korea, then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis reportedly “generated” himself for a possible North Korean nuclear attack by having emergency communications available in his car, in his bedroom, and by sleeping in his clothes, ready to go. But the media and policymakers were allowed to believe that the North Korean nuclear threats were mere “bluster.” The U.S. Triad never generated to a more survivable posture during any of these nuclear crises. If Russia or North Korea had struck the United States during any of the nuclear episodes described above, they would have caught the U.S. Triad vulnerable, in a “nuclear Pearl Harbor.” It matters not that U.S. intelligence and defense communities are aware of rising tensions, nuclear indicators, or even if a conventional world war is raging (as prior to Pearl Harbor). If, despite these warnings, the U.S. nuclear Triad is not generated to a survivable posture, the enemy can successfully execute a nuclear surprise attack that will have the same destructive effect as a “bolt from the blue.” What is to be done? Technological trends such as hypersonic warheads, radar-evading stealth, and super-accuracy increasingly favor aggressors and nuclear Pearl Harbors. The U.S. must be competitive in these dangerously destabilizing first-strike technologies while modernizing the Triad.
However, simultaneously the U.S. should launch a technological counter-revolution in strategic defenses. Space-based anti-missile defenses, such as Brilliant Pebbles, can be deployed in five years for $20 billion. Upgrade and expand the National Missile Defense. Deploy Iron Dome and Phalanx anti-missile systems to protect bombers, submarines, and ICBMs. Strategic defenses can finally make obsolete the principle of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), innovating a new principle: Strategic Assured National Existence (SANE). Dr. Peter Vincent Pry was chief of staff of the Congressional EMP Commission and served on the staff of the House Armed Services Committee and at the CIA. He is the author of several books on weapons and warfare.
The Real Nuclear Balance
What I want us to have is a nuclear arsenal that is sufficient to deter anyone from thinking that it makes sense to start a nuclear war. We have a nuclear arsenal that still envisions ‘winning a nuclear war’…That’s what I find insane. It’s worth having the debate to envision what our nuclear deterrence policy should look like, and what do we need to build to achieve it?”[i] In March 2019, Chairman Smith held hearings before the HASC that called for unilaterally banning U.S. ICBMs and strategic bombers, replacing the nuclear Triad of land-based missiles, bombers, and ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) with a Monad of SSBNs reduced from 14 boats to 6 SSBNs. Radical anti-nuclear activists from such groups as Ploughshares, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Federation of American Scientists have testified before Congress as strategic “experts” advocating for such a posture of “Minimum Deterrence.”[ii] Thus, the longstanding consensus among Democrats and Republicans that prevailed through the Cold War that the U.S. nuclear deterrent should be “second to none” appears to be broken. If the U.S. under a Biden Administration embarks on re-thinking the nuclear Triad, perhaps it will also be time to re-think other fundamentals driving U.S. nuclear strategy and policy, like how we measure “the nuclear balance.”
“Bean-counting” numbers of nuclear weapons is an obsessive focus of the U.S. intelligence community, policymakers, and academics that is fundamental to U.S. assessments about the likely and relative nuclear threat from Russia, China, and North Korea. Yet “bean-counting” is not really an objective measure of the nuclear balance, but a subjective fixation of a U.S. (and Western) strategic culture dominated by arms control theory that requires omniscience about U.S. and adversary nuclear arms in order for them to be limited and so supposedly “controlled.” Nor is “bean-counting” an accurate and reliable indicator of the nuclear threat, since potential nuclear adversaries, unlike the United States, do not accurately report their nuclear inventories, as these are regarded as vital state secrets. Nonetheless, “bean-counting” and arms control is such a strong strategic cultural imperative for the U.S. that estimates of the nuclear balance, which are probably largely fictional, are treated as gospel. Perhaps it is time for a more mature and sophisticated approach to calculating the nuclear threat based on such metrics as adversary targeting requirements to achieve various damage goals against the United States—as is the focus in Moscow, Beijing, and Pyongyang.
The Nuclear Stockpiles
The press, both liberal and conservative press, and many equally uninformed Washington officials think of the nuclear balance as the “nuclear stockpile” as estimated by the anti-nuclear Federation of American Scientists (FAS). According to FAS nuclear stockpile estimates, the U.S. has 5,800 weapons, Russia has 6,370 weapons, China has 320 weapons, and North Korea has 35.[iii] An enormous problem with measuring the nuclear balance by the “nuclear stockpiles” is that this includes thousands of U.S. weapons (over 4,300) that are not operational, are warehoused and retired, are awaiting dismantlement, have been cannibalized for spare parts, and would require months or years to be made operational, if possible at all. By counting non-operational U.S. weapons, the anti-nuclear FAS can greatly inflate U.S. nuclear strength relative to adversaries and inflate the global total of nuclear bombs FAS wants to ban. Moreover, Russia, China, and North Korea’s “nuclear stockpiles” are unknown to the U.S. Government and to FAS. Credible estimates vary greatly, sometimes by tenfold. For example: According to a recent highly controversial DoD estimate, China has only 200 nuclear weapons, making the anti-nuclear FAS estimate (320) look hawkish. Former senior DoD official, Dr. Mark Schneider, debunks the almost certainly erroneous DoD estimate and exposes DoD’s history of underestimating China in a recent article. Schneider notes: Russian General Viktor Yesin in 2012 estimated China had enough fissile material for 3,600 nuclear warheads and built 1,600-1,800. Russian General Vladimir Dvorkin in 2012 estimated China had 1,600 nuclear weapons. A three-year study by former DoD analyst Phillip Karber assesses China could be hiding up to 3,000 nuclear warheads, including mobile missiles, in their Underground Great Wall.[iv]
How can China have only 200 weapons when they have deployed 32 DF-41 ICBMs capable of delivering up to 10-12 MIRVed warheads, which would give Beijing 320-384 warheads on the DF-41 ICBM alone?[v] China’s “Underground Great Wall” comprising 5,000 kilometers of tunnels belonging to the PRC’s Strategic Rocket Forces could conceal hundreds of mobile ICBMs.[vi] U.S. senior arms negotiator Marshall Billingslea said in October 2020 that Washington is trying to end China’s “great wall of secrecy” about its nuclear weapons. “Billingslea contrasted the more than 100-page document the United States has released on nuclear strategy to the five paragraphs China has publicly released on its nuclear programs and strategy.” While DoD recently estimates China has 200 operational nuclear weapons, Billingslea notes China has “as many as 2,000 intermediate-range ballistic and cruise missiles.”[vii] Perhaps the truest thing ever said by FAS President Hans Kristensen is, “Only the Chinese Government knows how many nuclear weapons China has”—and this is also true of Russia and North Korea.[viii]
A more accurate representation of the nuclear balance is the number of operational warheads that can be delivered by missiles and bombers, limited by the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) to 1,550 warheads for the U.S. and Russia. According to New START data as of September 1, 2020: the U.S. has 1,457 deployed warheads, and Russia declares 1,447 deployed warheads.[ix] However, Russia is notorious for violating arms control treaties and commitments. For example, Moscow is violating the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (deploying prohibited INF missiles), the Presidential Nuclear Initiative (cheating its way to a tenfold advantage over the U.S. in tactical nuclear weapons), and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (developing advanced, new generation nuclear weapons).[x] Although the State Department contends Russia is complying with New START, independent experts, like Dr. Mark Schneider, a former DoD senior official, make a compelling case that New START verification provisions are grossly inadequate. Russia could be far above New START levels, according to Schneider, having perhaps 3,300 deployed warheads. Usually, reliable, independent Russian analysts, Pavel Felgengauer and Sergei Rogov, estimate Russia could have, operational and stockpiled, 6,000 strategic nuclear warheads and 10,000 tactical nuclear weapons, noting “the number and readiness state” of these weapons “has never been disclosed.”[xi] Intelligence, arms control, and academic communities pretend to have omniscience about the numbers of nuclear weapons deployed by adversaries, despite often being wrong, and despite extraordinary efforts by Russia, China, and North Korea to conceal their nuclear forces. Prudent policymakers and military planners should have low-confidence in the intelligence community and other estimates of the nuclear balance—and prepare for the worst.
ICBM Warheads: Planning for the Worst-Case Scenario
As there are very significant unknowns and uncertainties about the number of adversary nuclear weapons, either “stockpiled” or supposedly “limited” by arms control, a better way of weighing the strategic nuclear balance may be by U.S. capability to respond to the worst-case scenario—an adversary “bolt from the blue” surprise attack. This amounts to the balance of ICBM warheads. ICBMs, unlike U.S. strategic bombers and ballistic missile submarines, do not have to be generated to a survivable posture. All U.S. strategic bombers, none of which are maintained on strip-alert, and at least two-thirds of SSBNs, which are normally in port, would be destroyed in a surprise attack. Because of their high alert rates and responsiveness, ICBMs are probably the only nuclear forces that would really matter in a worst-case scenario “bolt from the blue” surprise attack, which is likely to be an ICBM exchange. If U.S. ICBMs can deter or defeat the worst-case scenario, America may be safe from less challenging nuclear scenarios, and the unknowns about “nuclear stockpiles” and “operational warheads” unconstrained by arms control may not matter. Russia probably greatly outnumbers the U.S., and China probably has at least parity in the crucial category of ICBM warheads:
- Russia, in addition to having silo-based and mobile ICBMs, has armed its submarines with ICBMs (unlike U.S. SSBNs that carry IRBMs) so they can strike intercontinental targets from their ports and have dockside C3 so they can launch while berthed.
- Russia, China, and North Korea have mobile ICBMs (the U.S. has no mobile ICBMs) because they are more survivable against a first strike, can better elude surveillance for “bean counting” and other intelligence purposes, and by launching from unexpected locations, can better execute a surprise attack.
- Russia, China, and North Korea favor ICBMs over bombers and submarines because of their high-alert constant combat readiness to respond to, or initiate, surprise attack.
- Russia and China favor MIRVed ICBMs, armed with multiple warheads having yield/accuracy combinations for destroying hard targets like missile silos, so one ICBM can destroy many targets in a surprise attack. North Korea paraded possibly the world’s largest MIRVed mobile ICBM.[xii]
Russia’s ICBMs like the SS-18 Mod 5 (10 warheads) and the Sarmat (Satan II, reportedly 10-15 hypersonic warheads) and China’s DF-41 mobile ICBM (10-12 warheads) are ideal instruments for surprise attack.[xiii] If Main Street USA is right and the most likely scenario is a “bolt from the blue” surprise attack, then the nuclear balance that matters most, perhaps the only firepower that really matters, are the ICBM warheads. We do not know how many operational ICBM warheads are deployed by Russia and China, but the balance might well look like this: United States 400, Russia 1,000-3,300, China 400-1,000.[xiv] Since Russia and China, both have ICBMs that can achieve high (90%) single-shot kills against U.S. ICBMs silos, Russia has a preponderant advantage, and so might China, in what is arguably the most important dimension of the strategic nuclear balance. “Winning” a nuclear war, in theory, if not in fact, relies on having the capability to make disarming counterforce attacks very promptly. By this thinking, a policy that unilaterally abolishes U.S. ICBMs and relies only on strategic bombers and SSBNs, or only on a Monad of SSBNs, invites aggression. An adversary surprise attack would have to strike just five targets—the three U.S. bomber bases and 2 SSBN ports—to destroy all U.S. nuclear bombers and two-thirds of SSBNs. This is presently within the capability of even North Korea.
Exchange Modeling and Targeting Requirements
The strategic nuclear balance is best assessed by force-on-force exchange modeling under the widest range of plausible scenarios, simulating various possible nuclear wars. Often so complex that the calculations are done by computers, the construction, execution, and outcomes of nuclear wargames yield the most accurate and nuanced understanding of the relative capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses of the opposing sides.[xv] As a practitioner of nuclear exchange modeling during the Cold War decades and afterward, the vast complexity so consistently results in the same outcomes that the following lessons learned are almost axiomatic:
- He who strikes first wins;
- The U.S. wins if it strikes first from a fully generated posture;
- U.S. force generation is highly visible and may result in the adversary striking first;
- The adversary (the USSR and now Russia) wins if they strike first and is postured to do so without generating forces, relying only on ICBMs.
These lessons learned from decades of exchange modeling probably also apply to nuclear war between the U.S. and China, either now or soon, when China deploys enough DF-41 ICBMs to make a disarming counterforce attack on the U.S. target set: 400 ICBM silos, three bomber bases, and 2 SSBN bases. China’s DF-41 ICBM is like a mobile version of the U.S. Peacekeeper ICBM, the most lethal strategic missile ever deployed by the United States. The lessons learned above might also even apply to a nuclear war between the U.S. and North Korea. As noted earlier, North Korea can destroy about two-thirds of the U.S. Triad by a surprise attack destroying just five targets—the three U.S. nuclear bomber bases and 2 SSBN bases. North Korea probably has Super-EMP weapons (generating 100 kilovolts/meter or more) which could enable it to damage missile, command and control electronics, and so paralyze U.S. ICBMs (which during the Cold War were EMP hardened to 50 kvs/meter).[xvi] These operational and technological realities suggest the real nuclear balance of capabilities between the U.S. and North Korea is much more dangerous than the “bean counting” comparisons often made in the press to dismiss the North Korean nuclear threat. The real nuclear balance between North Korea and the U.S. is not adequately or accurately captured by the ratio of North Korean operational warheads (30-60) vs. U.S. operational warheads (1,457), a 24-fold U.S. advantage; and much less so by the ratio North Korean operational warheads (30-60) vs. U.S. warheads in the nuclear stockpile (5,800), a 96-fold U.S. advantage. Such false metrics may seem reassuring to the U.S. public and policymakers but are dangerously misleading. The 120-pound weakling, armed with a gun, is a potentially mortal threat to anyone, including a much bigger and better armed and trained policeman. Even more dangerously misleading is the arms control notion that “parity” in numbers of strategic nuclear weapons between the U.S. and Russia is equal security and equal risk for the sides. No arms control agreement, including New START, takes account of the great disparity in targeting requirements between the sides. For example, unlike the U.S., Russia has many thousands of underground command posts and thousands of nuclear-capable SAMs protecting everything. From the exchange modeling and nuclear targeting perspective, arms control “parity” between the U.S. and Russia in numbers of strategic weapons very significantly disadvantages the United States. The same is true, or soon will be true, for the nuclear balance between the U.S. and China.
The MADness of Minimum Deterrence
A Biden Administration that thinks like HASC Chairman Adam Smith may well reject all paradigms for assessing the nuclear balance and worry not at all about significant disparities and potential vulnerabilities. Or as Chairman Smith recently put it: “We have a nuclear arsenal that still envisions ‘winning a nuclear war’…That’s what I find insane.”[xvii] Chairman Smith advocates replacing the Triad of bombers, ICBMs, and SSBNs with a Monad of submarines, perhaps reduced from 14 to 6 SSBNs, a posture of “Minimum Deterrence.”[xviii] After an adversary surprise attack, residual U.S. nuclear forces for a fleet of 14 SSBNs would be the 4 SSBNs on patrol (240 warheads). Or if SSBNs are reduced to 6, residual U.S. nuclear forces would be the 2 SSBNs on patrol (120 warheads). This assumes the boats at sea are not destroyed or their EAM communications severed by EMP or other means. Every SLBM fired in counterforce retaliation will subtract from the reserve intended to deter nuclear attacks on U.S. cities. During the Cold War, the criteria for Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) against Russia required blasting 75% of industry and killing 25% of the population, supposedly achievable with 400 Equivalent Megatons (EMTs).[xix] MAD calculations did not include other nuclear capabilities necessary for counterforce attacks and warfighting, just the bottom-line for “city-busting.” The hope was that, if the U.S. could assuredly execute MAD even after a surprise attack, Russia would be deterred from attacking, or at least would not escalate a nuclear conflict to attacks on U.S. cities. MAD was the Cold War “Minimum Deterrent.” Today, if the U.S. Triad is reduced to a Monad of 14 or 6 SSBNs after a surprise attack, the residual 240 or120 U.S. warheads are far short of the 400 EMTs necessary for MAD. Chairman Smith, Ploughshares, Union of Concerned Scientists, and other anti-nuclear activists propose radical surgery on the U.S. Triad and unprecedented deep reduction of U.S. nuclear capabilities to dangerously deficient levels, offering no justification for their new “Minimum Deterrent”—except their conviction that nuclear warfighting is “insane.” Yet Russia, China, and North Korea are nuclear warfighters in their military planning, exercises, force posture and other behaviors (like nuclear blackmail)—and they are the ones the U.S. must deter, not Ploughshares. Chairman Smith and the anti-nuclear Left believe, with the fervor of a secular religion, that nuclear weapons are “unusable” and nuclear war “unthinkable” to everyone, including Russia, China, and North Korea. To them, all these complicated calculations about the nuclear balance and exchange modeling are pointless and obfuscate the essential truth that the mere existence of a small number of U.S. nuclear weapons will be enough to deter. If a Biden Administration follows their path, it will break radically with consensus strategic thinking that enabled the U.S. to prevail in the Cold War while deterring a thermonuclear World War III, gambling U.S. survival on fantasies of the Ploughshares, Union of Concerned Scientists, and others of the “ban the bomb” Left. The West has long nurtured in its universities and politics a radical minority cult that damns the United States for inventing the atomic bomb, the fruit of a social-political system they condemn as fundamentally evil. For the original sin of being itself, America must atone and suffer. 75 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, America’s nihilists are on the threshold of getting their wish.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is Executive Director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security, served as Chief of Staff of the Congressional EMP Commission, and on the staffs of the House Armed Services Committee and the CIA.
Armenia’s ‘Pearl Harbor’ will be a case study in technological surprise
- Peter Vincent Pry, director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, served as chief of staff on the Congressional EMP Commission, and on the staffs of the House Armed Service Committee and the CIA. He is author most recently of “The Power And The Light” (Amazon.com).
5th Nobel Peace Prize Nomination for President Trump
MAD Is Bad U.S. Policy for Iran and North Korea
MAD proponents still believe the U.S. population should remain vulnerable against large Russian and Chinese nuclear missile attacks. The proponents argue that defending against such attacks would be destabilizing, even as both adversaries continue to deploy more deadly nuclear armaments in the absence of significant U.S. defenses, and the U.S. contemplates spending hundreds of billions to modernize its own nuclear arsenal. MAD also appears to be the only U.S. deterrent to even very small nuclear attacks from space by emerging nuclear powers Iran and North Korea. With one or at most a few space-based nuclear explosions, both adversaries could mount electromagnetic-pulse (EMP) attacks that could disable America’s electricity supply for very long times, possibly resulting in the deaths of 2/3 or more, up to 90%, of the U.S. population (well over 200 million fatalities) after a year and collapse of American society.  Incredibly, nuclear weapons like the Soviet’s Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS), which in theory could complete multiple orbits before attacking a target, are deemed acceptable in space [3a]. In contrast, non-nuclear space-based defense systems are vilified [3b]. Both Iran and North Korea have demonstrated the ability to orbit nuclear-weapon-carrying satellites. Iran may also have an initial nuclear capability (on its own or from a partner).  One FOBS-type orbiting nuclear weapon could be used against a U.S. city with tragic results. However, a nuclear EMP attack from space could be much worse, a catastrophic number of eventual U.S. deaths, and the end of most U.S. industrial activity.
With EMP, a nuclear Iran and already-nuclear North Korea would possess abundant assured destruction capability against America. To deter them, does it make sense for the U.S. to rely on a retaliatory threat of immediately killing perhaps 1/3 of their much smaller populations (Iran: ~84 million; North Korea: ~26 million), destroying much of their relatively meager industries? The answer is NO! Kill 2/3 instead? Still NO! To illustrate, Iran’s mullahs could decide it is worth accepting the favorable MAD death ratio (possibly as high as 10 U.S. deaths for 1 Iranian death, or 10:1) of an EMP attack to destroy the Great Satan. On the world stage, Iran could deny the attack by shifting blame, such as to a secret U.S. space-defense weapon that went awry or to terrorism. A U.S. response would likely not be immediate as various leaders argue in Washington, D.C., and nations debate in the United Nations, where Russia and China would support Iran. Stressful or disastrous outcomes could follow. For example, Russia, China, or both could offer Iran protection by threatening massive nuclear attacks on an already suffering America. Suppose the U.S. did eventually retaliate against Iran. In that case, Russia, China, or both could decide to finish off a much weakened America, possibly by starting with more EMP attacks to destroy feeble recovery efforts. With EMP-damaged electronics, prolonged national power outages, and already having expended part of its arsenal on Iran, a U.S. response to Russian-Chinese attacks could be fragmented and much less effective than before Iran’s EMP attack. Similar discussions would apply to North Korea, except that North Korea’s MAD death ratio relative to America could be on the order of 30:1 for an EMP attack. With one or a few nuclear weapons and delivery mechanisms, small nations and tiny terrorist organizations can gain tremendous leverage over MAD-obsessed large nations! If not MAD, what? The EMP Commission and President Trump’s Executive Order on Coordinating National Resilience to Electromagnetic Pulses call for protecting America’s electric grids by hardening transformers and control systems and protecting other life-sustaining critical infrastructures from the catastrophic consequences of EMP. [4a] [4b] Glacial-paced responses to the Executive Order and to related needs for implementing protection measures must be accelerated. In parallel with hardening the national grid, U.S. military systems and bases worldwide should no longer remain vulnerable to extended offsite power outages and associated fuel shortages stemming from EMP attacks. The U.S. should ensure that (a) its key military bases and federal emergency centers have their own off-grid protected power supplies, like very small nuclear power plants (including mobile nuclear-powered generators), to provide grid-independent backup for military operations and recovery assistance; and (b) adequate fuel storage for extended periods. Also, the electronics in all essential military systems and federal civilian-assistance systems should be certified to withstand anticipated severe EMP-generated effects. Finally, the Space Force should immediately deploy capabilities to examine space-based systems suspected of carrying nuclear weapons. An example would be a fleet of X-37Cs (modified X-37Bs ), which could also assist in deploying advanced missile-tracking satellites and space-based interceptors, adding a space layer of defenses against hostile global launches of ballistic missiles, new Russian and Chinese hypersonic missiles, and suspect satellites.
Diplomatic and economic steps to curtail Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear and missile developments should continue, but it is probably too late for non-military measures to nullify their EMP-delivery capability. More U.S. offensive weapons won’t work either. However, adding non-threatening space-based defenses to protect America would strengthen deterrence against nuclear attacks by balancing and complementing the current offense-dominated posture preferred by MAD proponents. The result would be SANE (Strategic Assured National Existence). The costs of all of these steps would be far less than the many trillions America has already lost and spent while battling the Chinese virus. The costs would be trivial compared to America’s ultimate losses experiencing an Iranian or North Korean EMP attack!
Loss of ICBMs: Biden will almost certainly abolish this indispensable deterrent
“Both in politics and war, what matters is speed.” — Julius Caesar
In the 2020 elections, perhaps the most important, and least appreciated, issue: a Biden administration will almost certainly abolish unilaterally America’s 400 land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). ICBMs, according to U.S. Strategic Command, are “the bedrock of our strategic posture” but the Minuteman III, a half-century old, needs to be replaced by a new ICBM. The anti-nuclear left has persuaded top Democrats ICBMs are unnecessary. ICBMs are the most important weapon in the U.S. nuclear Triad — faster, more combat-ready, and more responsive than strategic bombers and missile submarines. Every day, anytime, in the few minutes required to receive an Emergency Action Message and turn two keys, U.S. ICBMs can launch 400 of the most powerful, accurate, effective nuclear warheads, delivering them anywhere in 30 minutes or less. of Republicans say the election was stolen from Trump: Fox News poll
The awesome capabilities of U.S. ICBMs for decades prevented the Cold War from becoming World War III. Today, U.S. ICBMs continue their role as the most immediate and most powerful nuclear deterrent, overshadowing every big military and diplomatic move on the global chessboard by Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. U.S. ICBMs are the Sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of America’s enemies, protecting the U.S. homeland and allies from surprise attack. Yet, almost immediately after the 2018 elections gave Democrats control of the House, the House Armed Services Committee held hearings to make the case for abolishing U.S. ICBMs and nuclear bombers — two-thirds of the nuclear Triad — and relying only on ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). House hearings also proposed halving U.S. SSBNs from 12 to six boats, barely enough to sustain just two SSBNs on patrol at sea. These radically irresponsible ideas, that used to be the fantasies of the anti-nuclear left — including groups like Ploughshares, Union of Concerned Scientists, Federation of American Scientists and the Arms Control Association — are now mainstream thinking for Democrats. President Clinton’s former Secretary of Defense, William Perry, and many other Democrat defense professionals likely to influence a Biden administration, vociferously advocate banning ICBMs. (See the report “Rethinking Land-Based Nuclear Missiles” Union of Concerned Scientists: June 22, 2020). Democrats now subscribe to nuclear deterrence minimalism, which theory assumes that only a small number of SSBNs are needed to deter nuclear war, and that nothing can go wrong with their warheads, missiles or submarines — assumptions that defy all of military history. The Nuclear Triad was invented by the Great Generation who survived and won World War II where, for the Allies at the beginning, confidently propounded pre-war military theories and sophisticated weapons went wrong. France’s “impregnable” Maginot Line was rendered obsolete by Nazi Germany’s Blitzkrieg strategy. Allied infantry and tanks were overwhelmed and outclassed by Axis panzer divisions. Battleships were rendered obsolete by aircraft carriers at Pearl Harbor. U.S. torpedoes did not work, but dive bombers miraculously saved the day at Midway. As in World War II, a lot can go wrong with the best laid plans and weapons in a nuclear World War III. The nuclear Triad is designed with multiple redundant delivery and weapon systems just in case things go wrong, to assuredly deter and defeat a nuclear aggressor: • Bombers can deliver nuclear or conventional weapons and can be recalled. But they need to be generated, are the slowest delivery system, might not penetrate air defenses, and could all be destroyed on their 3 bases with just a few warheads in a surprise attack. • ICBMs can strike fastest, deliver the most accurate and effective warheads, are rapidly retargetable, have the most secure-survivable communications, each carries one warhead so can be used singly and selectively or massively as circumstances demand. Located in 400 hardened silos spread across several states, destruction of all U.S. ICBMs would require a big, highly coordinated and costly attack, needing at least 400 enemy warheads. However, as adversary weapons become more accurate and stealthy, U.S. ICBMs are increasingly vulnerable. • SSBNs are far more vulnerable than ICBMs to surprise attack, as two-thirds of U.S. missile submarines are berthed at two ports, where they could be destroyed by nuclear or conventional weapons, highly tempting targets as every submarine sunk eliminates 20 strategic missiles and 60-80 warheads. SSBNs at sea are supposed to be “invulnerable.” Assumptions about “invulnerability” are often the first fatalities in war. Surprise attack is the nightmare scenario — most likely to happen because it maximizes U.S. vulnerabilities — against which 400 ICBMs that can launch-on-tactical-warning are sentinels. Surprise attack would find at sea just 4 U.S. SSBNs — none responsive as ICBMs. Most submarine missiles are MIRVed with 3-4 warheads, unsuited for many limited nuclear operations. SSBNs are designed never to be used, a survivable reserve at sea intended to deter attack on U.S. cities. Instead of banning U.S. ICBMs, critics should support space-based missile defenses and terrestrial Phalanx or Iron Dome defenses for ICBM silos to make unnecessary launch-on-tactical-warning, and ease unwarranted fears about an alleged nuclear “hair-trigger.” U.S. ICBM critics fear the wrong ICBMs. While U.S. ICBMs exist to prevent war — Russia, China, and North Korea favor ICBMs because they are ideal for nuclear blackmail and surprise attack.
Iran's Other Threat to Civilization
- The US and its allies need to do everything possible never again to be caught in a state of unpreparedness.
- The Congressional EMP Commission estimates that, given U.S. current unpreparedness, within one year of an EMP attack that causes a nationwide blackout… up to 90 percent of the U.S. population could perish from starvation, disease and societal collapse. An EMP attack, therefore, would confer upon Iran an “assured destruction” capability against the United States.
- The Congressionally created EMP Commission assesses that North Korea already has super-EMP nuclear weapons and the capability to deliver them…. Iran may also already — or soon — have the capability to deliver an EMP attack.
- “By sending a military satellite into space, Iran now has shown that it can target all American territory; the Iranian Parliament had previously warned [the U.S.] that an electromagnetic nuclear attack on the United States would likely kill 90 percent of Americans.” — Iran’s state-controlled Afkar News.
- The formal end of the UN arms embargo — at the end of September 2020 — could provide Iran with even more missile and nuclear technology possibly from Russia or China.
- “Iran should be regarded by national security decision makers as a nuclear missile state capable of posing an existential threat to the United States and its allies… The fact of Iran’s ICBM capability and their proximity to nuclear weapons necessitates that Iran be regarded as a nuclear missile state — right now.” — William R. Graham, Henry F. Cooper, Fritz Ermarth and Peter Vincent Pry, Newsmax, February 1, 2015.
|The Islamic Republic of Iran may soon have the capability, if it does not already, of carrying out electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks against its enemies. An EMP attack could blackout not only the US national electric grid but also virtually all life-sustaining equipment that relies on electrical power and computer systems. An EMP attack could thus pose an existential threat to modern civilization. (Image source: iStock)|
The Islamic Republic of Iran may soon have the capability, if it does not already, of carrying out electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks against its enemies. Such an attack involves exploding a nuclear warhead some 30-400 miles above the United States, for instance, and unleashing a downward electronic pulse that can destroy the (currently unprotected) infrastructure. That would include such as critical electronic systems in virtually all civilian systems: food manufacturing and supply chains, automobiles, airplanes, trains, elevators, communications and the US electric grid — actually, just about everything on which a modern country relies. An EMP attack could black out not only the US national electric grid but also virtually all life-sustaining equipment that relies on electrical power and computer systems. An EMP attack could thus pose an existential threat to modern civilization. This would totally alter the risk-benefit calculations for the United States and its allies for being able to defend the post-1945 world order. Recently, the Iranian state-controlled Afkar News claimed that Iran is now able to carry out just such an EMP attack over the United States:
“By sending a military satellite into space, Iran now has shown that it can target all American territory; the Iranian Parliament had previously warned [the U.S.] that an electromagnetic nuclear attack on the United States would likely kill 90 percent of Americans.”
Does Iran Already Have Nuclear Weapons?
Washington’s conventional consensus is that Iran does not yet have nuclear weapons or missiles capable of threatening the United States with a nuclear attack. The Obama Administration assessed that Iran could develop an atomic weapon in six months to two years, prior to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which pretended to stop an Iranian A-bomb. Iran ostensibly agreed to the JCPOA five years ago, on July 14, 2015. Iran never signed the agreement, and started violating its terms almost immediately. A 2020 assessment by Israel confirmed that Iran continues to cheat on its JCPOA obligations and will be able develop atomic weapons in six months to two years. Some senior Israeli analysts and U.S. experts disagree with the “consensus view” and assess that Iran already has nuclear weapons. According to a report in Newsmax, titled “Experts: Iran Now a Nuclear-Ready State, Missiles Capable of Hitting US”:
“Regardless of intelligence uncertainties and unknowns about Iran’s nuclear weapons and missile programs, we know enough now to make a prudent judgment that Iran should be regarded by national security decision makers as a nuclear missile state capable of posing an existential threat to the United States and its allies…The fact of Iran’s ICBM capability and their proximity to nuclear weapons necessitates that Iran be regarded as a nuclear missile state—right now.”
The North Korea Connection
The Congressionally created EMP Commission estimates that North Korea already has super-EMP nuclear weapons and the capability to deliver them. North Korea and Iran are collaborating and have signed an agreement to cooperate in “science and technology.” Iran may already — or soon — have the capability to deliver an EMP attack. It has successfully launched several civilian satellites — in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2015 — including on southern polar trajectories, assisted by North Korean missile technology and North Korean technicians. On April 22, 2020, Iran orbited a military satellite over the United States, launched by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) — the world’s deadliest terrorist organization. The IRGC’s Noor-1 satellite is tiny, weighing only about 30 pounds, but the Space Launch Vehicle’s third stage also went into orbit, demonstrating a capability to circle over the U.S. a net payload weighing several hundred pounds — enough for a nuclear weapon. North Korea sold the mullahs much of the technology for Iran’s most sophisticated ballistic missile, the Shahab-III, which is an improved version of North Korea’s Nodong missile. Iran’s Shahab-III is capable of delivering a high-altitude EMP attack over America’s heartland if the missile is launched, say, from a freighter in the Gulf of Mexico. Iran has apparently already practiced launching and fusing Shahab-III missiles that could carry out a high-altitude EMP attack. Iran has also demonstrated that it is capable of launching a ballistic missile from a vessel at sea. Worse, the formal end of the UN arms embargo — at the end of September 2020 — could provide Iran with even more missile and nuclear technology possibly from Russia or China.
The Terrorist Connection
“Terrorists or state actors that possess relatively unsophisticated missiles armed with nuclear weapons may well calculate that, instead of destroying a city or military base, they may obtain the greatest political-military utility from one or a few such weapons by using them — or threatening their use — in an EMP attack.”
Congressional testimony in 2004 by US President Ronald Reagan’s Science Adviser and one of the EMP Commissioners warns of the prospects of an anonymous EMP attack launched from a freighter by Iran hired terrorists:
“DR. GRAHAM: Iran, the world’s leading sponsor of international terrorism, has practiced launching a mobile ballistic missile from a vessel in the Caspian Sea. Iran has also tested high-altitude explosions of the Shahab-III, a test mode consistent with EMP attack, and described the tests as successful. Iranian military writings explicitly discuss a nuclear EMP attack that would gravely harm the United States.”
Iranian Military Doctrine Endorses EMP Attack
An official Iranian military textbook from 2010, but not released until 2017, endorses a nuclear EMP attack against the United States, as well as deception measures to conceal nuclear weapons — in violation of international agreements. The textbook is used to train officers at Iran’s prestigious military academy and think tank, the Martyr Lt. General Sayad Shirazi Center for Education and Research. Strangely for a book titled Passive Defense, its overarching focus is offensive — how to black out electric grids — including by nuclear EMP attack. Calculations in the book that America could be vanquished by a nuclear EMP attack appear to be correct.
The Congressional EMP Commission estimates that, given U.S. current unpreparedness, within one year of an EMP attack that causes a nationwide blackout, two-thirds or more, up to 90 percent, of the U.S. population could perish from starvation, disease and societal collapse. An EMP attack, therefore, would confer upon Iran an “assured destruction” capability against the United States. The geopolitical consequences of this development are so grave that U.S. and global security would, in effect, go into free-fall. Where the U.S. would land, into what kind of future, is of course unknown. If Iran and North Korea both decided to use threats to America or its allies with an EMP-generated genocide, it could destroy the foundations of the existing world order. If the US can no longer be the superpower that since 1945 has halted the cycle of world wars and sustained the global advancement of freedom, the consequences would be existential and catastrophic. An EMP assured destruction capability changes the strategic calculus of risk for the United States in being able to uphold its role as a superpower and would necessarily erode the confidence of U.S. allies — perhaps to the point where they would feel the need to develop their own nuclear weapons. Most alarmingly, the U.S. is fast moving to a place where, for the first time, smaller failed states such as Iran and North Korea would have the power to blackmail or destroy the largest and most successful societies on Earth. These rogue states have long perceived themselves to be at war with the United States, and have already demonstrated that they are desperate, highly dangerous characters. The US and its allies need to do everything possible never again to be caught in a state of unpreparedness. We know how to protect our electric grid and the President of the United States has ordered the government bureaucracy to take the necessary steps to do so. Progress, however, regrettably remains slow. The emerging threats from Iran and North Korean outlined here should compel the United States to take faster action — now.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security. Peter Huessy is Director of Strategic Deterrent Studies at the Mitchell Institute. He is also senior consulting analyst at Ravenna Associates, a strategic communications company.
With Russia and China violating the CTBT, U.S. must resume nuclear testing
Sept. 23, 1992 — date of the last U.S. nuclear test — 28 years ago. Nuclear weapon scientists and strategists are increasingly concerned about the safety and reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons, none tested in nearly three decades, obeying the unratified Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The CTBT was the bright idea of President Clinton and anti-nuclear ideologues, increasingly dominant in a radicalized Democratic Party that would have the U.S. lead the way toward President Obama’s “world without nuclear weapons” even though Russia, China, North Korea and Iran are not following.
Decades late, the State Department finally admits Russia and China are violating the CTBT, conducting low-yield nuclear tests (“Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments” April 2020). Defense Intelligence Agency Director and Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, on May 29, 2019, warned: “Our understanding of nuclear weapon development leads us to believe Russia’s testing activities would help it to improve its nuclear weapon capabilities. The United States, by contrast, has forgone such benefits by upholding a ‘zero-yield’ standard.”
Consequently, Russia and China are probably decades ahead in developing advanced nuclear weapons. Accordingly, President Trump and Senate Republicans wisely include funding in the new defense bill to de-mothball U.S. capabilities to perform nuclear testing. Yet, despite nuclear testing by Russia, China and North Korea, House Democrats oppose funding even preparations to resume U.S. nuclear testing in an emergency. They would bind the U.S. to the CTBT and an obsolescing nuclear deterrent forever. Democrats and their anti-nuclear allies in the Department of Energy (DOE) argue so-called science-based nuclear stockpile stewardship relying on computer models and engineering judgment is adequate to sustain the safety and reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons — without testing. Democrats and the press trumpet recent testimony, supposedly supporting their “no testing” policy, before the Senate Armed Services Committee by chief of U.S. Strategic Command and Adm. Charles Richard: “At this time, there is no condition … where I would recommend the need for nuclear testing.” However, Adm. Richard also testified: “But I would say though that it is important for the nation to maintain an ability to do a nuclear test should an issue arise in the future.” Adm. Richard surely knows that a recommendation to immediately resume nuclear testing would guarantee rabid opposition and no funding from congressional Democrats. Left-stream media mischaracterize President Trump’s support for nuclear testing as merely a negotiating ploy. They often belittle the president for exaggerating U.S. nuclear capabilities and asserting the existence of secret nuclear superweapons superior to those of Russia and China. Public admission by Mr. Trump and the U.S. Strategic Command that America’s nuclear deterrent is obsolete and outclassed could invite World War III. U.S. nuclear capabilities must deter, not Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats, but Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un — whose nuclear arsenals are proven by testing. Twenty-four years ago, the late great Floyd Spence, then-chairman of the House National Security Committee, warned cessation of nuclear testing could eventually result in U.S. unilateral nuclear disarmament in “The Clinton Administration and Nuclear Stockpile Stewardship: Erosion By Design” (HNSC Oct. 30, 1996). Time has proven Spence was right. John Hopkins and David Sharp, former senior scientists in the Los Alamos stockpile stewardship program, call for resumption of nuclear testing. See “The Scientific Foundation for Assessing the Nuclear Performance of Weapons in the U.S. Stockpile Is Eroding” Issues in Science and Technology (Winter 2019): • “Nuclear tests gave decisive, direct evidence about the behavior of new weapons destined for the stockpile … Virtually no comparable data exist on the nuclear performance of stockpiled weapons in their current state.” • “Nuclear testing provided a solid foundation for the development and evaluation of scientific judgment because it unequivocally tested performance predictions.” • ”Confidence that today’s nuclear weapons will perform properly is predicated on the assumption that there will be no surprises … The history of testing complex systems, nuclear and nonnuclear, is punctuated by unpleasant surprises.” • “The above arguments are not ones that proponents of a continuing test moratorium or a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty wish to hear.” DOE is trying to crush such “politically incorrect” thinking and hamstring the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Nuclear Weapons Council (NWC), according to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Imhofe: “Recently, I’ve learned that individuals from the Department of Energy have worked behind the scenes with House Democrats on ill-advised legislation that would bury the Nuclear Weapons Council in unneeded bureaucracy and bring its decision-making process to a grinding halt; prohibit all cooperation between NNSA and the NWC for maintaining the safety and security of our nuclear weapons; destroy the NNSA’s congressionally-mandated independence and drag us back to the dysfunction of the Clinton years; and do lasting and possibly irreversible harm to the President’s efforts to preserve and improve our deterrent …” Mark Schneider, former senior Pentagon nuclear strategist, observes: “Today, we do not have ‘science-based stockpile stewardship,’ but more like ‘political science-based stockpile stewardship’ while, conversely, Russia has science-based development of new and improved nuclear weapons” (“Yes, the Russians Are Testing Nuclear Weapons and it is Very Important,” RealClearDefense.com Aug. 14, 2019). The U.S. must resume nuclear testing.
Losing World War III inside America's borders
Foreign adversaries planning the next big war now have two examples of the United States being unable to cope with revolutionary violence in the homeland. During the 1960s, the New Left, anti-war, Black liberation and counterculture movements spawned rioting, looting, burning, killing police and 4,000 bombings. Today, Antifa and Black Lives Matter are stoking revolutionary violence — 4,000 bombings haven’t happened yet, but the revolution is just starting. Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang and Tehran see the U.S. government helpless to stop mayhem in America’s cities, mayors and governors cowed, police “taking the knee” in token surrender, revolution right outside the White House. Tyrannies never tolerate much if any peaceful protest, let alone violence. They ruthlessly crush dissent. For example, China killed at least 10,000 of the Tianamen Square peaceful protesters, according to a secret U.K. estimate. Human Rights Watch estimates North Korea has 120,000 concentration camp inmates and killed 400,000 suspected of disloyalty. Dictatorships know America’s free and open society is potentially a wartime Achilles heel. The USSR planned operations by elite Spetsnaz and GRU special forces to paralyze U.S. warfighting and nuclear retaliatory capabilities at home, including by vaporizing the White House and Pentagon with man-delivered “nuclear suitcases.” (See GRU Col. Stanislav Lunev and KGB Col. Oleg Gordievsky’s testimony, House Armed Services Committee, Jan. 24, 2000; Oct. 26, 1999 and Col. Lunev’s book “Through the Eyes of the Enemy” 1998).
Enemy special forces could blackout national electric grids, crippling U.S. power projection (the national grid supplies 99% of electricity used by CONUS military bases), coordinated with an Information Warfare campaign blaming Antifa and Black Lives Matter. Then the real aggressor — Russia, China, North Korea or Iran — could make their overt move against the Baltic states, Taiwan, South Korea or Israel. The president and Pentagon would be reluctant, and perhaps deterred altogether, from a major war opposing overseas aggression with a crippled military, while believing, mistakenly, that the United States is already facing an existential threat from domestic terrorists. Security at U.S. military bases and even for U.S. bombers, ICBMs and submarines is designed for a 1950s “Ozzie and Harriet” America where Antifa and Spetsnaz were unthinkable. Enemy special forces masquerading as domestic or international terrorists could shootdown bombers and tankers. Modern shoulder-fired SAMs like Russia’s SA-7, SA-14, SA-16 and SA-18 have proliferated around the world (50,000 manufactured) and can range outside peacetime security zones for USAF bases. ICBMs can be shot-down during boost-phase by snipers armed with hunting rifles or shoulder-fired SAMs.
The loss of just a few, or even one, bomber, tanker or submarine to “terrorists” during “peacetime” could become enormously consequential when Russia, China, North Korea or Iran make their “big play” overseas. Even unsuccessful attacks on U.S. strategic forces or critical infrastructures by “domestic terrorists” could deter or significantly slow U.S. reaction to overseas aggression, until the homeland is assuredly secure. The present worldwide advertisement of U.S. homeland insecurity in places like Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Kenosha, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C., coincides with a revolution in special forces super-weapons: • China’s Pterodactyl drone can fly 15,000 miles, from Beijing to Chicago and back, carrying smart bombs while jamming radars and conducting electronic warfare. • China’s CH-500 unmanned mini-helicopter carries laser-guided missiles, can shoot through windows and destroy tanks.
• Russia and China both have battle robots armed with guns that can deliver high-explosives. • Russia and China both have sniper super-rifles that can fire armor-piercing rounds over 3 kilometers. • Even Iran has armed drones that can travel hundreds of kilometers and deliver strikes with great accuracy. Such drones could be equipped with a non-nuclear EMP warhead and programmed to follow powerlines to blackout electric grids. Most of Russia and China’s special forces super-weapons are available to client states North Korea and Iran. Some super-weapons used during a “Gray-Zone War” inside the United States could give away the game that attacks are not from Antifa. But the best, most effective, weapons could be used last, just before the conflict goes big and overt, becoming a major war against the United States or allies. Another military disadvantage of being a free and open society is that bad guys can easily stockpile special weapons within U.S. borders long before hostilities. America must not become a “surveillance state” like China. However, we do need better security for military bases, including “Iron Dome” anti-missile/drone defenses and hardened shelters for submarines. America’s life matters.
The great debate over Russian nuclear doctrine
Now the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which is supposed to be nonpartisan but has been on the dovish side of the debate, appears to have begrudgingly surrendered (without admitting it) to the hawks. The surrender is reflected in two new CRS reports by Andrew Bowen (“Russian Armed Forces: Military Doctrine and Strategy”) and Amy Woolf (“Russia’s Nuclear Weapons: Doctrine, Forces, and Modernization”). Bowen sets up a hawk straw man so he can pretend to knock it down later, stating that “many analysts assert that Russia maintains an ‘escalate to de-escalate’ strategy, where Russia might threaten the use of nuclear weapons early in a crisis if it risked losing a conflict.” In fact, Russian nuclear doctrine provides for not merely threatening but actually using nuclear weapons early in a crisis or conflict — not just to avoid losing but to win from the outset through “shock and awe.” Bowen then offers a “rebuttal” to the above, but it doesn’t sound very dovish: “Other analysts contend, however, that this explicit policy [‘escalate to de-escalate’] does not exist. They note that Russian military doctrine focuses on escalation management rather than thresholds for nuclear use and escalation control. Additionally, Russian doctrine gives policymakers flexibility in identifying the type and nature of its responses and does not exclude possible use of NSNW [non-strategic nuclear weapons]. However, damage would be applied progressively and in doses to demonstrate the potential for further punishment and provide incentives for settlement.” Yet, Bowen’s description of Russian nuclear doctrine is perfectly consistent with the “escalate to de-escalate” strategy as one of Russia’s many possible nuclear warfighting options. His bottom-line: “Accordingly, Russian military doctrine appears to utilize escalation management to control the growth of conflicts, deter outside actors, and support resolutions that are acceptable to Russia.”
Of the original dovish view of Russian nuclear doctrine — that, even for Moscow, nuclear war is “unthinkable” — hardly a feather remains. With the June publication of Russia’s “On the Fundamentals of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Field of Nuclear Deterrence,” and Moscow’s threat that it would view “the launch of any ballistic missile toward Russia as nuclear,” the doves’ goose is cooked. Bowen is right that “Russia’s newly published nuclear doctrine notwithstanding, some ambiguous language and the secretive nature of the topic means that analysts continue to debate the true nature of strategic deterrence and the role of nuclear weapons in Russian military doctrine.” However, the great debate over Russian nuclear doctrine now appears to be more quibbling over semantics and nuances than real disagreement over substance. Hawks and doves will continue arguing vehemently, despite really agreeing on essentials, because our strategic culture, like everything else, is so polarized. For the unadulterated view of Russian nuclear doctrine, read the Russians themselves and Dr. Mark Schneider’s “Russian Nuclear ‘De-Escalation’ of Future War” in the journal Comparative Strategy (March 25, 2019); “Russia’s Military Strategy and Doctrine” by Glen E. Howard and Matthew Czekaj (Jamestown Foundation, 2019); and Dr. Stephen Blank’s 2019 publication, “The Russian Military in Contemporary Perspective.” For doves, the great debate never really was over Russian nuclear doctrine but about stopping U.S. nuclear-weapon modernization, deeply reducing nuclear arsenals and “banning the bomb.” Doves continue to see nuclear weapons — not Russia — as the real threat. Doves may now agree that Russian nuclear doctrine is alarming — but do not expect to see a new consensus on modernizing the U.S. nuclear deterrent. Some doves already insist that the increasing nuclear threat from Russia, China and North Korea means it is more urgent than ever for the United States to lead toward “a world without nuclear weapons” by setting a good example.
Not too long ago, the House Armed Services Committee held hearings on abolishing U.S. nuclear bombers and ICBMs, and reducing ballistic missile submarines from 14 to 6. Doves may yet get their way, after the 2020 elections.
The Enemy Within Our Nuclear Weapon Labs
“Critical race theory (CRT), the view that the law and legal institutions are inherently racist and that race itself, instead of being biologically grounded and natural, is a socially constructed concept that is used by white people to further their economic and political interests at the expense of people of colour.” “The way Systemic Racism and White Privilege are represented and taught today are, at a minimum, controversial and vastly overblown.” “Much of the mainstream claims and data are outright false.” “Racism is NOT a public health crisis.” “Systemic Racism is NOT a major problem in 2020 America.”
Peterson notes that Sandia employees are “scared to speak out” because of a “repressive lab culture.” Peterson correctly observes: “We need to completely rip [CRT] out of Sandia root and stem… It is cancer and we need to get it out of the labs right now.” For bravely telling these truths, Sandia is punishing Peterson by putting him on paid administrative leave while launching an “investigation” to get him fired. “Sandia executives have made it clear: they want to force critical race theory, race-segregated training, and white male reeducation camps on their employees — and all dissent will be severely punished. Progressive employees will be rewarded; conservative employees will be purged,” Tyler Durden concludes from Sandia’s persecution of Peterson. Christopher Rufo reports, “According to multiple sources, the executives who have pushed the most toxic elements of critical race theory and race-segregated trainings are James Peery, Dori Ellis, David White, and Mark Sellers”:
- James Peery is Director of Sandia National Laboratory (SNL).
- Dori Ellis is SNL’s Associate Lab Director for Energy and Department of Homeland Security Programs, also affiliated with the University of California and the Russian Academy of Sciences, according to her SNL biography.
- David White is SNL’s Director of Cyber Research and Development, whose SNL biography indicates his gender preference is (He/Him).
- Mark Sellers is SNL’s Associate Director for the Mission Assurance Division for Department of Defense weapon systems.
President Trump should immediately suspend these SNL executives before they do more damage to U.S. national security. Although there is an Inspector General (IG) investigation ongoing, more often than not, IGs — who are funded by and work for the departments and agencies they are supposed to investigate — provide political cover for executives. Dangerously for America’s survival, all the so-called “nuclear weapon labs” have become countercultural sinecures for the Left. Politicization of the labs deeply corrupts their capabilities to do science, for example: Sandia’s gross underestimation of the EMP threat, hysterical views on “climate change,” and irrational commitment to a so-called “science-based stockpile stewardship program” that cannot really guarantee the safety and reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons. A former senior scientist at SNL shared these observations with me:
“A well-known university scientist who was a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists told me that he would not send good students to the National Laboratories but would write strong recommendations for poor students in order to help sabotage its staff.” “The young current workers at Sandia were all fervent Bernie supporters whereas the retirees (from a former generation) were quite different. The present people will not have the sense of duty and commitment that motivated the development of the weapons of the past.” “Edward Teller [inventor of the H-bomb]… wished that the weapons laboratories would change from being multi-purpose laboratories to being devoted to their original task [nuclear weapons]. I was present with Edward when he suggested to a laboratory director that a dedicated laboratory of one-third the size would better serve the nation than an aimless multipurpose laboratory. Needless to say, Edward’s suggestion was not well received.”
Sandia, Los Alamos, and Livermore are more accurately “anti-nuclear weapon labs.” Their Left-leaning cultural climate, imposing “Critical Race Theory” on employees, undermines loyalty to the United States and greatly increases risk of treasonous activities, including betraying nuclear secrets to hostile foreign governments.
Arms Control Addiction
- In 2020, the State Department finally acknowledged Russia and China have been violating the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), clandestinely conducting low-yield tests for advanced nuclear weapons for 25 years. The U.S. has faithfully observed the unratified CTBT unilaterally, conducting no nuclear tests since 1992.
- Russia cheated on the 1991 Presidential Nuclear Initiative, wherein Moscow and Washington agreed to abolish tactical nuclear weapons. The U.S. dismantled its Cold War inventory of 15,000 tactical nuclear weapons, reducing to 180 operational weapons today, while Russia retains at least 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons — an advantage of at least 10-to-1.
- Russia cheated on the 1988 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The Obama Administration covered-up Russian testing and deployment of prohibited intermediate-range nuclear missiles, compelling President Trump to withdraw from the INF Treaty in 2019.
- North Korea cheated on President Bill Clinton’s 1994 Agreed Framework, that gave Pyongyang economic support in exchange for supposedly abandoning development of nuclear weapons. Today North Korea has the H-bomb and nuclear missiles capable of striking any city in the United States.
- Iran is cheating on President Obama’s Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) that gave Tehran billions of dollars, a pass for being the world’s leading sponsor of international terrorism, and even a legitimate pathway toward the “Islamic Bomb.” Yet Iran probably already has nuclear missiles (see “Underestimating Nuclear Missile Threats From North Korea And Iran” National Review February 12, 2016).
Although the State Department assesses Russia is in compliance with New START (which limits both sides to 700 long-range strategic bombers and missiles and 1,550 nuclear weapons), the verification provisions are grossly inadequate to ensure Russia is not cheating. Experts like Dr. Mark Schneider and Dr. Stephen Blank warn that Russia is cheating on New START (see Schneider “Does Russia Have 2-to-1 Advantage In Deployed Strategic Nuclear Weapons?” RealClearDefense January 12, 2019). Given Moscow’s long record of cheating on arms control agreements, it is highly unlikely Russia is in compliance with New START. The U.S. keeps getting suckered, and national security increasingly imperiled, because Washington is addicted to arms control. Arms control is a great vulnerability in Western strategic culture. Democratic polities have blind faith that all differences can be negotiated, all negotiations can become “win-win” outcomes, and national security guaranteed by treaties (see “The Case Against Arms Control” RealClearDefense January 12, 2019). Unlike Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, in the United States the ideology of arms control is deeply embedded in our foreign policy and defense establishments. Universities teach that “strategic studies” and “arms control” are virtually synonymous. State Department arms control negotiations are their bread and butter, and ratification of another treaty the acme of a successful career. Presidents and the press mistakenly equate maintenance of past and conclusion of new arms control agreements with betterment of national security and the ultimate test of statesmanship. America as a free and open society is unilaterally vulnerable to disinformation operations designed to persuade U.S. policymakers and the public to swallow “poison pill” arms control proposals that are increasingly outrageous and dangerous. For example, Communist China’s “analyst” Tong Zhao recently published an article for an American audience “Managing the Sino-American Dispute Over Missile Defense” and an English-language book on the same theme “Narrowing the U.S.-China Gap on Missile Defense: How To Help Forestall A Nuclear Arms Race” published by the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy. Very well written propaganda, crafted to appeal to the “logic” of the U.S. arms control community. Zhao’s modest proposal is that the U.S. Space Force should never deploy space-based missile defenses, which U.S. “threat” is supposedly driving China and Russia to greatly build-up their offensive nuclear missiles. Beijing has also proposed that, if China joins New START, the U.S. should reduce its nuclear deterrent from 1,550 weapons to 300 weapons, supposedly the size of China’s strategic nuclear arsenal (according to the U.S. arms control community.) However, only Beijing knows how many nuclear weapons China really has — some estimate not 300, but 3,000. Another recent article, “Democrats and Republicans Agree: Phase Out Land-Based Nuclear Missiles” Forbes (August 12, 2020), describes a poll by the University of Maryland designed to persuade 80,000 Americans that U.S. ICBMs are unnecessary. Russia and China would love elimination of U.S. ICBMs. They can destroy all U.S. bombers and two-thirds of missile submarines with just five warheads, but destroying all U.S. ICBMs requires at least 400. Let’s hope New START negotiations are dead, since Washington’s arms control establishment is dumb enough to trust the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy.
The Swamp Is Winning
75 Years of Nuclear Terror
The Space Force Needs New Space-Based Systems to Defend America
What about against terrorists or unsophisticated adversaries? F-15EXs could be useful, but the Air Force does not need to spend new money for that kind of fight. Experts have decried this F-15EX buy! “It is perhaps the most un-cost-effective expenditure ever made by DOD,” said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, head of AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.  Retired Air Force General Mike Loh, former Air Force Vice Chief and Commander of the Air Combat Command, said, “Buying new F-15X fighters for the U.S. Air Force is unsolicited and unwise.”  Loh also criticized the F-15EX buy on the grounds that, “In its haste, the Air Force is buying the engines, two per F-15EX, on a sole-source contract from General Electric rather than on a competitive basis, despite the availability of Pratt & Whitney engines already flying on nearly all its F-15Es. The GE engines will be provided to Boeing from the Air Force as government-furnished equipment.”  What else could be done with that $23 billion (or more)? It could buy many more modern F-35s or new B-21s than funds now permit. But with this F-15EX decision, the Air Force has decided that more of those advanced stealthy fighters and bombers have a lower priority for available dollars.
To really help America, that $23 billion (or more) could buy new space planes and 1,000 space-based interceptors to defend GLOBALLY against attacks on U.S. satellites and against ballistic and hypersonic missile attacks on U.S. interests! Vividly illustrating the current threat, Russia just flexed its anti-satellite (ASAT) muscles again when one of its military satellites “launched a mysterious projectile into orbit at high speed.”  U.S. X-37C space planes, upgrades of Boeing’s current two X-37Bs, could be built and made operational within a couple of years to help counter anti-satellite attacks. Spaceplanes could also be used to perform close reconnaissance against Russian, Chinese, and North Korean satellites to ascertain if they are ASATs, or even clandestinely and illegally nuclear-armed for an EMP attack. For example, the Congressional EMP Commission warned that two North Korean satellites that regularly orbit over the U.S. might be a clandestine EMP threat.  In addition, the small space-plane fleet could assist in testing new U.S. low-earth-orbit satellites in conjunction with the space-based interceptors, all 1,000 of which could be in place within five years to defend against ballistic and hypersonic missile attacks, including attacks on Air Force bases. Two retired Air Force generals (Kevin Chilton and William Shelton) recently joined the experts’ chorus, urging attention to America’s space-based deterrent. “Successful deterrence in space requires the development of both offensive and defensive capabilities that will force adversaries to question the wisdom of interfering with U.S. space systems.”  National Defense leaders in Washington D.C. should reverse the F-15EX mistake and put the $23 billion (or more) into much-needed space-based systems to defend America!
Have Russia And China Already 'Militarized' Space?
Space “Militarization” Hypocrisy
President Trump’s U.S. Space Force is constantly under attack, from critics both foreign and domestic, as a giant step toward supposedly violating long-standing international norms and treaties against “militarizing space.” Russia, China, and perpetual domestic critics of U.S. defense programs like the Arms Control Association, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Federation of American Scientists are particularly opposed to U.S. space-based missile defenses.[i] According to Beijing, Moscow, and their like-minded U.S. allies, it is OK to use space satellites for sensors, communications, and global positioning to support terrestrial military operations on land, sea, and air. It is also OK to launch nuclear-armed ballistic missiles and hypersonic warheads through space without being guilty of its “militarization.”
But to base defensive weapons in space capable of intercepting nuclear warheads would violate international norms, destabilize the principle of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), and ignite another costly and dangerous arms race for control of the “high frontier.” Or so it is argued not only by Russia, China, and the American Left but by enough officials in the U.S. Departments of State and Defense to thwart the near-term deployment of space-based missile defenses.
Disappointed Hopes for U.S. Space Force
Those of us who cheered President Trump’s establishment of the U.S. Space Force hoped—and I believe President Trump intended—that it would become the vehicle for quickly resurrecting President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), the so-called “Star Wars” program. President Reagan’s SDI envisioned a space-based “shield” to intercept nuclear missiles, replacing MAD’s immoral concept of national suicide with the moral principle of defending life—call the new concept Strategic Assured National Existence (SANE). But officials at State and Defense worry that “militarizing” space by orbiting anti-missile systems to defend the U.S. homeland will ignite an anti-satellite arms race by Russia and China to threaten America’s over 900 satellites.[ii] By this thinking, U.S. national security will lose far more than it would gain from space-based defenses—because the U.S. economy and military depend far more on satellites than Russia, China, and other potential adversaries. Accordingly, even though it is well within U.S. technological capabilities to deploy Brilliant Pebbles space-based missile defenses now, over the next five years for $20 billion, the Defense Department and U.S. Space Force have no such plans.[iii] Space-based missile defenses are currently relegated to long-term research and development. If State and the Pentagon have their way, “Star Wars” will never become a reality and “Dr. Strangelove’s” MAD will continue forever.
MAD versus SANE
One big problem with this thinking is that MAD is no longer what it used to be. Since the 1960s, the criteria for enforcing MAD, established by then Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, is a residual U.S. capability—after a Russian first strike—to deliver 400 equivalent megatons (EMTs), enough to destroy 25% of Russia’s population and 75% of its industry.[iv] However, due to the New START Treaty, the U.S. has reduced its number of strategic nuclear weapons to 1,500 warheads. This is grossly insufficient, after a Russian disarming first strike, to meet the criteria for enforcing MAD.[v] Perhaps unsurprisingly, since Moscow consistently does better than the United States in arms control negotiations, Russia can absorb a U.S. nuclear first strike and exceed MAD damage goals against the U.S., killing more than 25% of U.S. population and 75% of U.S. industry by delivering 100 EMTs. Even though the sides have equal numbers of strategic warheads (assuming Russia is not cheating on New START), Russia can do more damage to the United States because U.S. population and industry are much more concentrated in big urban-industrial areas.[vi] Moreover, U.S. National Missile Defenses have fewer than 100 interceptors while U.S. civil defenses are virtually non-existent, in contrast to Russia’s many thousands of anti-missile systems and robust civil defenses. Another big problem with banking on MAD instead of SANE and space-based defenses to deter World War III is that “strategic stability” is not what it used to be, as during the bipolar Cold War between the U.S. and USSR. Russia, China, North Korea, and soon (if not already) Iran comprise a more complex and aggressive multi-polar constellation of nuclear powers. The possibilities for nuclear war by design or miscalculation have increased exponentially. Finally, it could be a fatal mistake for the U.S. to forego SANE’s “Star Wars” and continue relying on MAD’s “Dr. Strangelove” trusting that China, Russia, and perhaps others have not already “militarized” space with aggressive clandestine programs designed to sweep the skies of U.S. satellites, and thereby win the next war at the outset. Indeed, given China and Russia’s contempt for international norms and noncompliance with treaties, it is likely norms and treaties are no significant obstacles to their clandestine militarization of space. Therefore, State and the Pentagon should consider not only the known space threats from China and Russia, but possible hidden threats, as yet unknown, but well within their technological capabilities. Perhaps the Pentagon and State should weigh too much for forgoing “Star Wars” and leave U.S. space assets naked to clandestine threats from Russia and China that are not only technologically possible but even likely.
Russia and China: Space Threats
The Defense Department’s Defense Space Strategy recognizes that Russia and China pose “immediate and serious threats to U.S. space operations” through hunter-killer anti-satellites, directed energy weapons, and cyber and electronic warfare. The Pentagon warns that North Korea and Iran have growing capabilities to threaten U.S. space assets.[vii]
Hunter-killer anti-satellites appear to receive the most attention from DoD and the press, as Russia and China are both experimenting with novel anti-satellites. Russia has four known potential anti-satellites in orbit that appear to have practiced stalking a U.S. KH-11 reconnaissance satellite.[viii] But DoD has recently acknowledged that a far bigger threat to U.S. satellites, instead of picking them off one at a time with hunter-killers, is the use of a high-altitude nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) to disable U.S. satellites in large numbers, simultaneously, at the speed of light. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy, Stephen Kitay, in May 2020 warned: “The challenge of a nuclear detonation is that it creates an electromagnetic pulse and signal that could then take out indiscriminately many satellites in space and essentially fry the electronics. That is a threat that we have to potentially be prepared for—a nuclear detonation in space.”[ix] Space-based defenses are the best preventive for a nuclear detonation in space delivered by missile, as it could be intercepted during boost-phase before breaching the atmosphere to threaten U.S. space assets. This mission alone—protecting U.S. space assets—should be enough to warrant rapid deployment of space-based defenses. However, instead of letting the U.S. Space Force “ be all that it can be” by deploying space-based defenses, the Pentagon seems content to continue relying on deterrence and hardening satellites against attack. This could be a big mistake.
Russia and China have the technical capability to make a surprise EMP attack by nuclear-armed satellite orbited over the south polar region to evade U.S. BMEWS radars and National Missile Defenses, as planned by the USSR during the Cold War. During the Cold War, the USSR developed a secret weapon called the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) that would disguise a nuclear attack as a peaceful satellite launch, orbiting a nuclear-armed satellite over the South Pole to attack the U.S. from the south—from which direction the U.S. is blind and defenseless as there are no BMEWS radars or anti-missile defenses facing south. The FOBS satellite could deliver an EMP attack paralyzing U.S. retaliatory forces and C3I in the first shot of a nuclear war. Miroslav Gyurosi in The Soviet Fractional Orbital Bombardment System describes Moscow’s development of the FOBS as part of “a long-running campaign of strategic deception against the West through the whole Cold War period, and the protracted development of the Soviet FOBS nuclear weapon system presents an excellent case study of such.” Gyurosi: “The Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) as it was known in the West, was a Soviet innovation intended to exploit the limitations of U.S. BMEW radar coverage. The idea behind FOBS was that a large thermonuclear warhead would be inserted into a steeply inclined low altitude polar orbit, such that it would approach the CONUS from any direction, but primarily from the southern hemisphere, and following a programmed braking maneuver, re-enter from a direction which was not covered by U.S. BMEW radars.” “The first warning the U.S. would have of such a strike in progress would be the EMP…,” writes Gyurosi.[x] China and Russia also have the technical capability to clandestinely orbit a nuclear-armed satellite or satellites to be maintained in orbit for years to make a surprise EMP attack against the U.S. or other adversaries when needed. China has about 300 satellites in orbit, and Russia about 150, that could conceal among this large constellation one or a few illegal nuclear-armed satellites for EMP attack.[xi] Russian Colonel A.V. Kopylov writes in the flagship journal of the General Staff: “Nuclear war strategy has already planned nuclear explosions at an altitude of 50-100 kilometers to destroy enemy satellites’ electronic instruments with electromagnetic pulse.”[xii] China has a wide array of Space Launch Vehicles and satellite launch centers at Jiquan, Taiyuan, Xichang, and Wenchang that could be used for EMP surprise attack options by satellite. China’s space and military programs are integrated. For example, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) “is China’s largest and most important organization for the research, development and production of space launch vehicles (SLVs), liquid-fueled surface-to-surface missiles, solid-fueled surface-to-surface and submarine-launched ballistic missiles” including ICBMs, IRBMs, and SRBMs.[xiii] Russia has equally or more impressive capabilities to harness for space warfighting. Russia and China have great strategic incentives for a clandestine capability to perform EMP attack by satellite as a means of preempting or retaliating against their many nuclear-armed potential adversaries—including each other. An EMP attack could enable China and Russia to “level the playing field” or defeat the U.S. by being the most effective means of quickly neutralizing large numbers of LEO satellites that are crucial to U.S. military operations.
HEMP and SGEMP
High-altitude EMP (HEMP) from a nuclear detonation in space propagates downward through the atmosphere, not through the vacuum of space, so no Russian or PRC satellites would be at risk from HEMP, unless the HEMP field is over China or Russia so satellite ground stations could be damaged—a highly unlikely scenario, that Moscow or Beijing would make a HEMP attack on themselves. Satellites are at risk from an exo-atmospheric detonation for HEMP from the gamma rays. If they reach the satellite and are close enough, they can damage satellites by a phenomenon called System Generated EMP (SGEMP).[xiv] But Russia and China have almost certainly hardened their satellites against SGEMP and other phenomena that might be generated by the worst-case SGEMP threat they plan to employ: a Super-EMP weapon which is designed specifically to produce powerful gamma rays. The U.S. hardens military satellites against SGEMP too, but probably not against the SGEMP produced by Super-EMP weapons, as the U.S. has no Super-EMP weapons. The U.S. does not even have simulators for Super-EMP weapons to test against this threat. China and Russia can further protect their LEO satellites (those most at risk) from SGEMP by timing the HEMP attack so their satellites are over-the-horizon and will not be illuminated by gamma rays. An exo-atmospheric nuclear detonation for HEMP can also damage LEO satellites by “pumping” the Van Allen belt with ionized particles, as happened after the 1962 STARFISH PRIME high-yield exo-atmospheric nuclear test that inadvertently damaged U.S. satellites.[xv] Satellites can be hardened to survive this environment too, and presumably would be if HEMP attack is an important military option, as it is for Russia and China. Ionization of the Van Allen belt is a much bigger threat to LEO satellites if the HEMP attack uses a high-yield weapon detonated above 100 kms HOB—and this too is another way of using a nuclear detonation in space to sweep the skies of U.S. satellites. However, if China and Russia wanted to minimize Van Allen belt ionization to protect their own satellites, they could do so by employing Super-EMP weapons which are very low-yield (10 kilotons or less) to be detonated at 30-100 kms HOB which would maximize EMP field strength against such targets as a U.S. aircraft carrier group or ICBM wing. As explained earlier, attacking U.S. targets on land and sea with HEMP, SGEMP from a Super-EMP weapon could potentially “fry” U.S. satellites simultaneously. If China and Russia are orbiting nuclear-armed satellites for EMP surprise attack, this would be one of their deepest and best protected military secrets. In addition to obvious strategic considerations, the Outer Space Treaty bans orbiting nuclear weapons in space. Moscow and Beijing have pursued a long propaganda offensive criticizing the U.S. for “militarizing space” intended to deter the U.S. from orbiting space-based missile defenses and from improving U.S. military capabilities in space.[xvi] Interestingly, one of China’s foremost EMP scientists has published an unclassified article in a Western technical journal—that examines the “high-altitude electromagnetic pulse waveform amplitudes at satellite orbits.”[xvii]
Losing World War III in Space?
Decades of experience dealing with Moscow and Beijing should have taught Washington that their unwarranted criticisms of U.S. defense policy—planning for nuclear first use, cheating on arms control, and militarizing space—are usually reliable indicators of their own plans and behavior. Is it possible that Russia and China object so vehemently to U.S. “militarization of space” because they have already done so with nuclear-armed satellites, and themselves have secret plans to rapidly deploy space-based missile defenses in wartime? President Reagan’s vision of a space-based missile shield would have been stabilizing during the Cold War and would be an excellent deterrent now because it could, at a minimum, greatly complicate adversary plans for a nuclear first strike. “Star Wars” could even render nuclear missiles obsolete and inaugurate a Revolution in Military Affairs that would shift technological advantage away from offensive operations to defensive operations. U.S. deployment of space-based defenses now, in peacetime, would establish a “new normal” replacing “Dr. Strangelove’s” threatened megadeaths of MAD with SANE’s promise of civilizational survival. U.S. forbearance on space-based defenses is dangerously wrong-headed, potentially yielding a decisive advantage to Russia and China that could make war more likely. What if Russia and/or China already have or are developing a space shield, to be deployed immediately after destroying U.S. satellites or after attacking the United States itself, to neutralize U.S. nuclear retaliatory capabilities? 30 years ago, U.S. scientists working in the Strategic Defense Initiative, assessed that—using then existing commercial off-the-shelf technology—a Brilliant Pebbles space-based interceptor could be made weighing only about 1.5-2.5 kilograms (3.3-5.5 pounds).[xviii] After their first strike, Russia or China could theoretically loft a Brilliant Pebbles missile shield comprising 2,000 space-based interceptors (weighing collectively 5,000 kilograms) using only one heavy Space Launch Vehicle. The U.S. should be very concerned about a scenario where China or Russia uses nuclear space weapons to quickly sweep the skies of U.S. satellites, even at the risk of losing their own satellites, which could then be replaced with a surge of military satellites and space-based defenses to capture the “high frontier” and defeat the United States.
Air Force Bases Need Space-Based Missile Defenses As Soon as Possible .
Air Force Chief General Charles Brown wants the Air Force to develop more mobile airbase defenses in light of longer-ranged Chinese missile threats. Given the panoply of existing and potential threats, General Brown is fortunate to be closely connected to the new Space Force, which can complement current land- and sea-based defenses to provide substantially better protection of potential Air Force bases.
Looking first at threats and defense capabilities
China and Russia have long-range kinetic attack capabilities with missiles launched from land or sea. North Korea and Iran have regional kinetic attack capabilities with missiles launched from land, future longer-range missiles appear possible, and both are developing sea-launched missiles. [2a, 2b, 2c] The current land-based and properly placed sea-based missile defenses could be effective against unsophisticated North Korean and Iranian missile attacks. However, if China or Russia were to mount sophisticated attacks with ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, or hypersonic missiles—particularly in combination—such defenses would likely be severely challenged or defeated. It is openly acknowledged that the U.S. cannot currently defend against hypersonic missiles, which have much lower trajectories than ordinary ballistic missiles. 
China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran with nuclear developments, could also launch missiles or deploy satellites containing high-altitude electromagnetic (HEMP) warheads. “China’s classification of HEMP attack in military doctrine as ‘electronic warfare’ or ‘information warfare’ indicates that HEMP is not even considered a form of nuclear attack, but would be equivalent to non-nuclear EMP weapons and cyber warfare.” Insufficiently hardened essential electronics in Air Force, Army, and Navy systems at or defending airbases could be disabled by a HEMP field (10-100 kilovolts/meter). , 
What, specifically, does Space Force offer?
Space Force operates throughout the ultimate global “high ground,” which enables looking down and attacking hostile missiles during launch when they are most vulnerable, as well as in flight all along their paths to targets. These look-down capabilities, which are slowly advancing, include developing new LEO (low earth orbit) satellites.  But more than sensors are important for countering advanced missiles! Space-based missile-defense systems, which were proven cost-effective decades ago, could be quickly deployed to provide global coverage of Air Force bases and potential missile-launch avenues toward those bases. Spaceplanes, which also have other mission capabilities (such as countering attacks on U.S. satellites), could significantly assist the missile-defense mission during its development and deployment and their ability to closely observe and, if necessary, eliminate satellites determined to be HEMP-capable.  Space-based defenses could be deployed on top of an optimal combination of land- and sea-based defenses, as determined for different airbase locations. The space-based layer of, for example, 1,000 interceptors and a squadron of space planes, would enormously complement the Earth-based defenses, seriously complicate an attacker’s planning, and greatly improve America’s ability to deter or defeat missile and satellite attacks on global U.S. interests. This kind of space-based layer could have relatively short initial deployment timelines (space planes, 2-3 years; interceptors, 5 years) and relatively modest costs—in the range of 3-4% of the approximate $1 trillion likely needed to simultaneously modernize America’s nuclear arsenal to sustain MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) and catch up, at scale, in the arms race for hypersonic weapons. Throughout history attacking forces, routinely had to re-evaluate their tactics and strategies for penetrating enemy defenses, which could deter or defeat prior planned attacks. Why should adversaries planning to attack U.S. airbases have the luxury of not confronting the strongest array of defenses? Regarding America’s nuclear deterrent, adding space-based defenses would not diminish the need for a capable triad of bombers plus land- and sea-based missiles; rather, it would balance and complement that purely offensive posture a substantial defensive component to increase deterrence.
To those who oppose space-based defenses because they could be perceived as “weaponizing” space, there is no malevolence to using space to defend America against other nations’ weapons that threaten us by flying through or existing in space. Indeed, robust space-based defenses could revolutionize the threat environment presently dominated by offensive missile systems and strategies, deterring and making less likely the use of space for offensive weapons.
Norm Haller has led and assisted analyses, planning, and preparing reports for DoD and Congress on nuclear and non-nuclear forces for deterrence and defense against missile attacks; now a consultant, he served in the Air Force, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Nuclear Regulatory Commission as the Chairman’s Executive Assistant.
China's 'no first use' nuclear fiction
China’s alleged nuclear “no first use” doctrine, like the USSR’s during the Cold War, is almost certainly disinformation. “No first use” for China does not withstand the test of common sense. No conservative military planner would adopt “no first use” when China lacks ballistic missile early warning system (BMEWS) radars and satellite early warning systems that would enable China to launch on tactical warning. “No first use” would doom China’s nuclear deterrent to certain destruction by a U.S. or Russian conventional or nuclear first strike, or to a nuclear first strike by India. China’s nuclear posture, especially the lack of early warning radars and satellites, is “use it or lose it,” which logically should drive Chinese military planners toward nuclear first use — indeed, toward surprise first use early in a crisis or conflict, based on strategic warning. Regardless of China’s “no first use” declaration, it strains credulity that Beijing’s political leaders would adhere to such a policy if confronted with compelling political and military intelligence of an imminent U.S. attack. Such strategic warning was the basis for the former USSR’s secret plans for a disarming nuclear first strike under their VRYAN (surprise nuclear missile attack) intelligence program, that nearly resulted in a nuclear apocalypse during NATO’s theater nuclear exercise Able Archer 83. Fortunately, at least some U.S. military leaders are not as naïve as academics about China’s “no first use” pledge. Adm. Charles Richard, chief of U.S. Strategic Command, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee in February that he could “drive a truck through China’s ‘no first use’ policy.” China’s unprecedented rapid expansion of its nuclear and missile capabilities is not consistent with a belief in “minimum deterrence” and “no first use.” It looks imitative of Russia’s policy seeking escalation dominance for nuclear diplomacy and nuclear warfighting.
Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, warned in May 2019: “China is likely to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile in the course of implementing the most rapid expansion and diversification of its nuclear arsenal in China’s history. … China launched more ballistic missiles for testing and training than the rest of the world combined.” China’s political and military leaders often have threatened nuclear war. In 2011, columnist Gordon Chang reported: “Former Chinese general Xu Guangyu … suggested China was planning a surprise missile attack on the American homeland.” The People’s Liberation Army Second Artillery Corps — now the PLA Rocket Force, equivalent to U.S. Strategic Command — leaked a planning document, “Lowering the Threshold of Nuclear Threats,” that stipulated some conditions under which, in response to U.S. conventional attacks, China would launch a nuclear first strike. For example: “Targets that could draw such a response include any of China’s leading urban centers or its atomic or hydroelectric power facilities.”
China’s military doctrine — including numerous examples of using nuclear EMP attack to win on the battlefield, defeat U.S. aircraft carriers, and achieve against the U.S. homeland a surprise “Pearl Harbor” writ large — is replete with technical and operational planning consistent with a nuclear first strike. Indeed, China’s classification of nuclear EMP attack in military doctrine as “electronic warfare” or “information warfare” indicates that EMP is not even considered a form of nuclear attack, but would be equivalent to non-nuclear EMP weapons and cyber warfare. In March, a panel of China’s military experts threatened to punish U.S. Navy ships for challenging China’s illegal annexation of the South China Sea by making an EMP attack — one of the options they considered least provocative because the crew would be unharmed, but most effective because the ship would be disabled. Like other evidence, this, too, suggests Beijing considers EMP attack as something short of nuclear or even kinetic conflict, akin to “gray zone” threats such as electronic and cyber warfare.
China's surprise, years in the planning: An EMP attack
Adversaries also have noticed the ongoing U.S. “cold civil war.” According to federal authorities, radicalized young people on both sides of the political divide and criminals have been infiltrating recent protests — rioting, toppling statues and setting fires. The swelling counter-culture anarchy and self-condemnation is reminiscent of 1968, a year of riots and anti-war protests in America that is recognized by most historians as the psychological turning point toward U.S. defeat in the Vietnam War. North Korea applauds America’s domestic chaos as proof that democracy does not work and the future belongs to totalitarian states such as China. America looks fragile to dictators who would replace the U.S.-led world order with a new one dominated by themselves. China, for example, has been planning to defeat the U.S. with an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and cyber “Pearl Harbor” attack for a quarter-century. As I warned the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security in 2005, Chinese military writings — such as the following excerpt — make reference to U.S. vulnerability to EMP attacks: “Some people might think that things similar to the ‘Pearl Harbor incident’ are unlikely to take place during the information age. Yet it could be regarded as the ‘Pearl Harbor incident’ of the 21st century if a surprise attack is conducted against the enemy’s crucial information systems of command, control and communications by such means as electronic warfare, electromagnetic pulse weapons, telecommunications interference and suppression, computer viruses, and if the enemy is deprived of the information it needs as a result. Even a super military power like the United States, which possesses nuclear missiles and powerful armed forces, cannot guarantee its immunity. … In their own words, a highly computerized open society like the United States is extremely vulnerable to electronic attacks from all sides. This is because the U.S. economy, from banks to telephone systems and from power plants to iron and steel works, relies entirely on computer networks.” As noted in a May 14, 1996, People’s Liberation Army newspaper about a surprise attack on U.S. critical information systems: “When a country grows increasingly powerful economically and technologically … it will become increasingly dependent on modern information systems. … The United States is more vulnerable to attacks than any other country in the world.”
Instead, non-expert bureaucrats conduct endless studies and conferences to wrangle over technical issues — in effect, reinventing the wheel regarding EMP — that was resolved long ago by real EMP experts. The “coordination process” for national EMP preparedness is the same kind of bureaucratic fumbling that Washington regards as “action,” which gave us the biological warfare unpreparedness and inability to properly respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully, the U.S. Navy is better prepared to cope with an EMP attack than are DOE and DHS. A nuclear EMP attack against U.S. aircraft carriers is the key to victory in China’s military doctrine, as noted in a Feb. 12, 2000, article in the official newspaper of the Shanghai Communist Party Central Committee: “The weak points of a modern aircraft carrier are: 1) As a big target, the fleet is easy for a satellite to reconnoiter and locate. … 2) A high degree of electronization is like an Achilles’ heel for an aircraft carrier fleet, which relies heavily on electronic equipment as its central nervous system. These two characteristics determine one tactic.” Therefore, military strategist Ye Jian said in the article in Jiefang Ribao: “The possession of electromagnetic pulse bombs (missiles) will provide the conditions to completely destroy an aircraft carrier fleet, and the way to complete victory in dealing with aircraft carrier fleets.” In March 2020, a panel of China’s military experts threatened to punish U.S. Navy ships for challenging China’s illegal annexation of the South China Sea by making an EMP attack — one of the options they considered least provocative because the crew would be unharmed, but most effective because the ship would be disabled. Now three U.S. aircraft carriers are in the Pacific to challenge China’s aggression in the South China S
Dan Gallington, a former senior Defense Department official, asks in his recent Washington Times article, “Is America on the path to another Pearl Harbor, but with China?”
China may offer the answer soon.
Intelligence Community Needs Purge of Left's Groupthink
Intelligence Reform: An Open Letter to New Director of National Intelligence the Honorable John Ratcliffe
- Office of the Director of National Intelligence
- Central Intelligence Agency
- National Security Agency
- Defense Intelligence Agency
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research
- Department of Homeland Security
- Drug Enforcement Agency
- Treasury Office of Intelligence and Analysis
- Department of Energy
- National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
- National Reconnaissance Office
- U.S. Air Force
- U.S. Army
- U.S. Navy
- U.S. Marine Corps
- U.S. Coast Guard
Condolences too, DNI Ratcliffe, on your appointment when the intelligence community is in a profound and unprecedented crisis, desperately in need of monumental reform. Some of the most essential parts of the intelligence community were weaponized by the Obama Administration to frame President Donald Trump with false allegations of “colluding with Russia” to win election. They sought to delegitimize the Trump Administration, cripple President Trump’s ability to govern through endless investigations, and set-up a legitimately elected President of the United States for impeachment on false charges concocted by the intelligence community.[i] Leaders of what amounted to an attempted coup d’etat against President Trump included DNI General James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, and FBI Director James Comey. The coup attempt included a phony January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment designed to tar President Trump as Russia’s “Manchurian Candidate”—the spurious Intelligence Community Assessment has still not been recalled—and a so-called counterintelligence program “Crossfire Hurricane” of international dimensions. DNI Ratcliffe, your job #1 should be to root out and purge from service in the intelligence community anyone who, knowingly or unknowingly, participated in the coup plot. Hundreds of agents and intelligence officers must have been involved. Their participation, wittingly or unwittingly, is a breach of their oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and signifies, at a minimum, judgment so harmful and so destructive that they might as well have been working for Russia and China.
DNI Ratcliffe, your job #2 should be to begin organizing the termination of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). The ODNI has not only failed in its original purpose to improve intelligence but has overseen a string of major intelligence failures, has politicized intelligence to support the “politically correct” worldview of the Obama Administration, which was probably a significant contributing factor to ODNI’s leadership of the coup plot. Only Congress can abolish the ODNI, but your support and preparation for abolition would help make it happen. DNI Ratcliffe, your job #3 should be reforming the intelligence community’s culture to minimize “groupthink” that is so often responsible for major intelligence failures. Senior analysts should be empowered to express their unvarnished individual views as intelligence products, published under their names so they can get credit, or blame, for the accuracy or inaccuracy of their analysis. Intellectual diversity should be immediately introduced to counteract intelligence community “groupthink” and “political correctness” by sponsoring competitive and alternative analysis by “Team-Bs” by independent analysts and “politically incorrect” conservative think tanks like the Center for Security Policy, National Institute for Public Policy, Hudson Institute, and the Heritage Foundation. Some examples of major intelligence failures resulting from “groupthink” and “political correctness”:
- Climate Change is the greatest existential threat to the United States and the world, according to an intelligence community brainwashed by the Obama Administration, despite skepticism by President Trump and copious evidence from climate scientists that the alleged “impending climate catastrophe” is a hoax.[ii]
- The intelligence community has consistently underestimated North Korea’s intercontinental missile and nuclear weapons programs in the spring of 2017, alleging North Korea was still years away from developing an ICBM that could strike anywhere in the mainland U.S. and a decade away from an H-bomb. A few months later, in the summer of 2017, North Korea demonstrated both.[iii]
- The ODNI’s unclassified 2019 “Worldwide Threat Assessment” made no mention of the existential threat from natural (solar) or manmade electromagnetic pulse (EMP), despite recent warnings by the EMP Commission in 10 unclassified reports, heeded by President Trump who has issued a series of executive orders designed to protect the national electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures from EMP and cyber-attacks (the latter grossly underestimated in the 2019 “Worldwide Threat Assessment”).[iv]
- The ODNI refuses to recall the deeply erroneous classified Obama-era Joint Atomic Energy Intelligence Committee report on EMP (2014), which continues circulating doing grave damage to national EMP preparedness, despite rebuttal by the EMP Commission. One of the six core recommendations of the EMP Commission is to recall the erroneous JAEIC EMP Report, which so far has been ignored by ODNI.[v]
- The intelligence community is cocksure Iran does not yet have nuclear weapons or nuclear-armed missiles, despite evidence to the contrary.[vi] Their assessment implicitly, if not explicitly, supports President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA), from which President Trump has wisely withdrawn.
Purge the Intelligence Community
Far too many intelligence community leaders and managers are incompetent, arrogant, and entrenched. More dangerous than the incompetence of the intelligence community is their hostility to President Trump and attempted coup d’etat that imperiled the Constitution, described above. Treasonous corruption cannot have been limited to the top leadership of the intelligence community. The complex “Russia Hoax” orchestrated with foreign actors and the ongoing “resistance” to President Trump manifested by illegal leaks and betrayals by National Security Council staffers from the intelligence community, indicates the rot runs deep. Protecting our constitutional republic from the totalitarian mindset manifested by a politicized and out-of-control intelligence community justifies and may even require draconian action—like firing everyone remotely connected with the coup attempt, or even purging wholesale everyone in the intelligence community Senior Executive Service, and promoting replacements from below. Intellectual diversity is far more important to a healthy and trustworthy intelligence community than the diversity of race and sexual preference, the latter has long been the intelligence community’s obsessive focus. Too many intelligence officers come from inside the “Washington bubble” and radicalized universities, so the intelligence community worldview is skewed leftward. Intellectually, the intelligence community should look more like Main Street USA.
The “best and brightest” do not all live in Washington or graduate from Harvard. “Flyover America”— that used to be known as the American Heartland— has plenty of untapped talent to man the ramparts of the intelligence community, including former and serving military officers, police, and detectives, national security experts from Air University (Maxwell AFB, Georgia), the U.S. Army War College (Carlisle, Pennsylvania), and international relations scholars from heartland universities and colleges, for example. The less the intelligence community resembles the faculty lounge at Harvard, the more intelligence assessments will start getting the world right. And intelligence officers from Main Street USA, whose worldview is built around the Constitution and not Das Kapital, will be a bulwark against a future coup d’etat.
Abolish the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)
President George W. Bush and Congress established the 9/11 Commission to find out: What led to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks that killed 3,000 Americans? How could such a massive intelligence failure happen? What are the deep systemic flaws within the intelligence community that need to be fixed? The 9/11 Commission found three big problems in the intelligence community:
- “Stove-piping”: The failure of intelligence agencies to share information with each other.
- “Groupthink”: A tendency in the intelligence community toward intellectual homogeneity, a lack of competitive analysis, a lack of diverse views and opinions.
- HUMINT: Weak human intelligence, too few spies, too much reliance on satellites, no sources penetrating al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations.
The 9/11 Commission made recommendations to fix these deep-rooted problems in the intelligence community.[vii] The Commission’s primary solution was to create an “intelligence czar” to be called the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) armed with his own organization, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). The DNI has legal and budgetary authority to force the various intelligence agencies to cooperate and share information. Many disagreed with the wisdom of establishing a DNI and ODNI to run the intelligence community. Ambassador R. James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) at CIA, warned that the DCI was already capable of coordinating the intelligence community, and creation of an ODNI could suppress analytical diversity and reinforce “groupthink.” Former House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Il.) cautioned: “I believe creating a national intelligence director is a huge mistake…it’s another bureaucracy, it’s another layer of government. It would not have prevented 9/11, and it will not prevent another 9/11.”[viii] The President’s Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, which delivered its report on March 31, 2005, also had reservations regarding a DNI. The bipartisan commission—which faulted the intelligence community for massive intelligence failures estimating WMDs in Iraq—called for deep and rapid reform of the intelligence community, but was not enthusiastic about the idea of an intelligence czar. The Commission pointedly noted that the DNI was established “about halfway through our inquiry” and “became a sort of deus ex machina in our deliberations…While we might have chosen a different solution.”[ix] Critics of establishing the DNI and ODNI have been proven right. The ODNI has solved none of the problems in the intelligence community that resulted in 9/11 and the deaths of 3,000 Americans. Indeed, ODNI has made intelligence performance worse. Subordinating the agencies under ODNI has reinforced the dangerous proclivity toward “groupthink” and “political correctness” by discouraging what little analytical diversity exists among the agencies. In the end, when the ODNI controls everyone’s budget, all want their intelligence to please the “czar.” Predictably, controversial views that displease the ODNI do not long survive.[x] Fred Fleitz, former Chief of Staff and Executive Secretary of the National Security Council until 2018, who was himself on the short-list of candidates to be the next DNI, has written an excellent article “America Does Not Need A Director of National Intelligence” (Center for Security Policy, March 23, 2020) explaining why the DNI and ODNI should be abolished:
- “The record is clear that creating the DNI has made America less safe. Centralization of the intelligence community forced a surge in groupthink and risk-averse intelligence analysis. Bureaucratic culture and intellectual integrity fell victim to an enforced politicization and virtue signaling. Intelligence professionals with different perspectives fell silent, were pushed aside or penalized, or retired early.”[xi]
- “According to a 2016 Heritage Foundation report, since the creation of the DNI position, intellectual and bureaucratic decay resulted in a series of intelligence failures. Those included failure to predict the Arab Spring, the resurgence of al-Qaeda, the adventurism of Putin, the aggressiveness of China, and a number of terrorist attacks on the U.S….”[xii]
- “On top of all that, a priority of ODNI officials over the past 10 years has been to force politically correct policies on intelligence professionals, and imposing pop culture issues like climate change and social fads as major functions of America’s spy services.”[xiii]
- “ODNI spending and personnel have grown like deformities since 2004. ‘In classic government agency fashion, the ODNI quickly self-bloated, requesting 1,500 highest-salaried Senior Executive Service (SES) billets and becoming a promotions playground for the Intelligence Community,’ former assistant FBI director Ken Brock wrote recently in The Hill. ‘For comparison purposes, the FBI, 20 times larger, has 200 to 300 SES positions…’”[xiv]
- “President Trump has been skeptical of the ODNI as a wasteful and out-of-control bureaucracy since the beginning of his presidency. His concerns grew over the past three years after repeated inept and politicized activity by Intelligence Community officers. These included DNI Dan Coats’ unclassified congressional testimony last year undermining the president’s diplomacy with North Korea, the discredited and debunked January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, politically driven leaks by intelligence officers to hurt the elected leader of the country, and the so-called CIA whistleblower whose actions sparked the impeachment proceedings against President Trump. This whistleblower now reportedly works for the ODNI.”[xv]
Although an act of Congress will be necessary to abolish the ODNI, Fleitz makes excellent suggestions about steps President Trump and new DNI Ratcliffe can take to reduce ODNI’s damaging influence: “As many as 2,000 ODNI staff are on detail from other intelligence agencies. They can be sent back to their home agencies immediately. Many ODNI bureaucracies like the National Counterproliferation Center, the ODNI Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center, and the regional and functional mission managers should be shut down. The National Intelligence Council and the Presidential Daily Brief should be sent back to the CIA.”[xvi]
Reforming Intelligence Community Analytical Culture
“Groupthink” and the tendency toward intellectual homogeneity stem primarily from the way the intelligence community conducts analysis, not from its organization. The bottom line is that if intelligence community managers remain the same, and if the culture of intelligence analysis is not changed, the intelligence community will continue “business as usual.” Sources of “Groupthink”: Intelligence agencies and the intelligence community as a whole place a high premium on “speaking with one voice.” The theory is that policymakers want “an answer” from individual intelligence agencies and from the intelligence community as a whole, and do not want to be “confused” with multiple, conflicting views. Advocates of “speaking with one voice” argue that the intelligence community is a practical arm of government, not an academic institution and that offering a diversity of views would reduce the value of the intelligence community to policymakers. Intelligence managers fear that policymakers would not be pleased to hear a cacophony of voices from the intelligence community, but would prefer firm, solid, and single answers. Consequently, intelligence agencies place a high premium on producing an “agency view” or “corporate view” on major intelligence issues. Likewise, the intelligence community, as a whole, attempts to produce an intelligence community view—a single view that all intelligence agencies can support—in National Intelligence Estimates. Although National Intelligence Estimates and individual agency reports allow for dissenting views, these are discouraged and usually placed in footnotes. There is enormous pressure to keep dissent in intelligence products to a minimum. Another motive for a uniform “corporate view” is that intelligence agencies, like all bureaucracies, have vested interests. The outcome of particular intelligence issues often does have important implications for the size of intelligence budgets and for future opportunities for the various intelligence agencies. What analytical and intellectual diversity exists within the intelligence community grows from the rivalry between agencies defending their particular interpretations of intelligence that tend to support their own bureaucratic interests. There is tremendous pressure within intelligence agencies to conform to the corporate view. Indeed, analysts are already motivated to adhere to the corporate view, since their own careers depend on the success and importance of their particular agency. “Groupthink” Leftward Bias: “Groupthink” has a leftward analytical bias strongly reinforced by eight years of Obama Administration leadership that had a radical New Left worldview. Intelligence community leaders, managers, and analysts have been rewarded and promoted for “political correctness,” which is why the intelligence community worldview so closely conforms to that of the Democrat National Committee. Thus, “climate change” is supposedly a greater threat to the United States than the nuclear arsenals of Russia, China, and North Korea. “Groupthink” in the intelligence community tends to embrace several core optimistic assumptions that account for why their threat assessments are so often wrong, and they are so often surprised:
- Nuclear weapons and missile proliferation depend largely on a nation’s indigenous technology because Russia and China are unlikely to help rogue state nuclear and missile programs.
- Cheating on arms control treaties is likely to be only marginal, not large-scale, so the constraints of arms control provide a good guide for estimating adversary military capabilities.
- U.S. National Technical Means ensures “what you see is what you get” in terms of the dimensions of adversary nuclear and missile threats, making it highly unlikely adversaries can conceal a large clandestine nuclear missile force.
- U.S. technology is the best in the world, so technological surprise by potential adversaries is unlikely.
- Underestimating threats is better than overestimating, as the former is cautious, prudent, and professional, whereas the latter is unprofessional and alarmist.
Coordination as “Groupthink”: The intelligence community and intelligence agencies impose “groupthink” on intelligence officers through a process called “coordination.” Coordination attempts to build consensus within first an intelligence agency and then within the entire intelligence community. At the agency level, intelligence reports must be coordinated; that is, submitted for peer review by all other analysts who have an interest in the issue. However, the coordination process does not involve merely soliciting the opinions of others. Without corporate consent, the analyst cannot publish his report. Finally, once peer review is accomplished, the intelligence report must be coordinated with managers in the branch, division, and office of the particular intelligence agency. At the intelligence community level, in the National Intelligence Council, where National Intelligence Estimates are produced, a similar process of coordination occurs. National Intelligence Estimates attempt to build consensus between agencies on intelligence issues. As noted earlier, dissenting footnotes are sometimes allowed, but strongly discouraged. The National Intelligence Council goes to great lengths to negotiate between agencies so that differences can be blurred and a National Intelligence Estimate produced that speaks to the policymaker with “one voice.” The end result of “groupthink” and the coordination process is intelligence products that reflect the lowest common denominator of views within an agency and, at the intelligence community level, the lowest common denominator between agencies. In short, the result is mediocrity. The coordination process explains why the intelligence community, though staffed with some of the most brilliant scholars and scientists in the nation, so often produces poor analysis, where sharp differences of opinion are softened or concealed, and the insights of genius watered down with the “common wisdom” of the average majority. The end product is usually bland, and often inferior to analysis produced by solitary, brilliant individuals working in academia or independent think tanks. “Groupthink” and the coordination process give rise to another evil, a sin associated with all forms of collectivism: no sense of ownership or sense of responsibility for the product. Collectivism does not produce a sense of common responsibility for intelligence products. It breeds, instead, a sense of anonymity and a sense of helplessness among individuals that they can have an impact on whether the product is ultimately good or bad. Countering “Groupthink”: The destructive effect of “groupthink” is probably the single greatest weakness of intelligence community analysis. “Groupthink” can be countered by changing the analytical culture to give more emphasis to diverse and alternative views, and especially to encourage the replacement of “groupthink” with intellectual individualism. We must restore excellence to intelligence analysis. The surest way of achieving excellence is by letting individual analysts have their say, take responsibility by signing their reports, and encouraging competing schools of thought. In the late-1970s, the CIA, to its credit, recruited a team of outside experts to examine data on Soviet military and strategic nuclear doctrine, to see if a plausible better interpretation of the data than that made by CIA could be produced. According to the “Team-B,” the Soviets were more focused on war-winning strategies than on deterrence. In effect, the “Team-B” found that the CIA was “mirror-imaging”—ascribing to the Soviet Union doctrines and strategies that closely resembled Western doctrines and strategies. In the aftermath of the Cold War, we now know from examining Soviet and Warsaw Pact archives that the “Team-B” was right and the CIA was wrong. Soviet plans for waging nuclear war were not just for deterrence—and did not subscribe to Western theories about Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD)—but were designed for achieving victory. Unfortunately, an embarrassed CIA never repeated the “Team-B” experiment and did not learn from it. Indeed, the CIA purged the unpopular Team-B Report. When I was an analyst at CIA, I inherited the last surviving copy of the original Team-B Report, which had been hidden away and protected from destruction by a retiring conservative “dissident” analyst, CIA’s version of samizdat. Team-Bs should be mandatory and become regular features of intelligence community analysis, at least on the most important national security issues. National Intelligence Estimates, Intelligence Community Assessments, and other major intelligence products should cease and desist, focusing only on the corporate view. Alternative views, a range of possible interpretations of intelligence data, should be offered. Finally, intelligence community honesty and integrity can be immediately and quickly improved by prohibiting the use of the phrase “there is no evidence” to imply the nonexistence of a threat, and that the intelligence community is omniscient. Instead, “there is no evidence” should be replaced with the phrase “we do not know.”
North Korea Case Study
Intelligence community leaders, managers, and analysts will vehemently disagree with my critique and recommendations to reform analytical culture. They should carefully read an essay by Torrey Froscher, one of the intelligence community’s best and brightest, “North Korea’s Nuclear Program: The Early Days, 1984-2002”.[xvii] Froscher led the analysis of foreign nuclear testing and weapons proliferation issues during his 36-year career at CIA. Froscher appears to agree with fellow intelligence officer Greg Treverton that politicization of intelligence is not much of a problem: “Greg Treverton has laid out a spectrum of politicization ranging from direct pressure from senior policy officials to a shared ‘mindset’ whereby intelligence and policy share strong predispositions. He points out that the first almost never happens, while the last is a ‘limiting case’ in that it may be self-imposed.”[xviii] But consider these other observations by Froscher that appear to admit, though it may not be his intention, that politicization is a serious problem in the intelligence community because of corporate views (“house lines”), the bias of individual analysts, and pressure from policymakers:
- “Polarization may occur in the I.C. when organizations develop strongly opposing ‘house lines’ that unduly color their interpretation of events. Individuals may also let strong personal views affect their analytic judgment.”[xix]
- “When there is little or no concrete evidence to go on, there may be a temptation to offer a firm opinion anyway. It is sometimes difficult to say, ‘I don’t know’ or suggest a range of possibilities when the policymaker wants an answer.”[xx]
- “…analysts—as often as not—are strongly tempted to make their judgments as definite and certain as possible—‘make the call,’ as the expression goes. This is what customers want, after all. So there is an expectation that intelligence analysts can and should provide the right answers, with little uncertainty.”[xxi]
- “There were consistent warnings about the potential for nuclear weapons development [by North Korea], but the possibility of peaceful use was also taken seriously. In retrospect, this even-handed approach seems overly cautious…One important downside of the even-handed, cautious assessment of the North Korean nuclear problem in the 1980s is that it made it easier for policymakers to ignore the problem…Arguably, the I.C. could have and should have done more to sound alarms.”[xxii]
Froscher’s bottom-line recommendation for reforming the culture of intelligence community analysis is similar to my own: “Is there a way to find a happy medium between ‘making the call’—a firm judgment that goes beyond what can be known—and offering a banal ‘on the one hand, on the other hand’ formulation that sheds little light? Perhaps one fruitful approach would begin by spending less time reporting current developments and devoting more effort to thinking through possible future developments, how they might materialize, and what factors might affect their likelihood. Ideally, policymakers and academics would join with intelligence analysts to consider the historical context, uncertainties, and unknowns and layout alternative future pathways that events might follow. Such a program could provide a stimulus to new thinking as well as a breakdown of the polarization that harms working relationships, inhibits creative thought, and does not serve the interests of consumers.”[xxiii] Footnotes and references can be found HERE
Our Freedoms May Not Survive Left's Totalitarianism
America Needs Spaceplanes Now, and Space-Based Missile Defenses As Soon as Possible
In February, two Russian satellites were reported to be closely “observing” a secret U.S. satellite, thus illustrating capability for a space-based ASAT attack. The Space Force called this “unusual and disturbing” and potentially “dangerous.”  Other U.S. responses were (for Iran) “a cover for nuclear weapons advancement”  and (for Russia’s ASAT missile) a Space Force commitment “to deterring aggression and defending the Nation” . Such statements are likely interpreted by Iran, North Korea, Russia, and China as mere words, and toothless, without a visible U.S. means to directly counter such actions. Spaceplanes would put immediate teeth behind such words. Two flyable prototypes are in service as part of the Air Force’s rocket-launched X-37B space experiment, which has been conducting space missions since April 2010.  These planes have spent much time in orbit, can change orbits, carry sizable payloads to support many tasks, and land on runways. One of these planes is scheduled for launch on May 16 and reported to contain a service module that enables the X-37B “to expand the capabilities of the spacecraft and host more experiments than any of the previous missions.”  Hopefully, one element of these experiments will be relevant to countering ASAT attacks.
Both X-37Bs should be upgraded to contain initial counter-ASAT capabilities—sensors and interceptors for all ASAT types—thus making real the Space Force’s commitment to deter aggression and defend America. The next X-37B launch should occur by late-2020 or early-2021 and be counter-ASAT capable. More planes should then be built quickly to produce a formidable deterrent and defense against continued aggressive acts in space. One squadron of space planes (13-16 new X-37C models plus the two modified X-37Bs) should be deployed—initially during 2022 and fully in 2023-2024—with at least 10 planes always in orbit. The others would be available for surge, spares, and testing new capabilities and concepts of operation in space. As a minimum, these planes would have modules containing clusters of counter-ASAT interceptors and sensors, ample two-way communications for broad connectivity to sources of data and command-control information, and special-purpose equipment, all based on existing technologies and upgraded as improvements develop. In addition to their obvious application for countering ASAT weapons, space planes could perform a multitude of important in-space missions. One example is inspecting suspect foreign space objects—particularly from North Korea and Iran—to ensure America knows what they are as well as being able to negate objects determined hostile, such as armed for an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. [8a, 8b] Another example is helping defend globally against small attacks by rogue-state ballistic missiles. Current land- and sea-based missile defenses have very limited capability. In contrast, space-based defenses against missiles can attack ballistic-missile payloads during launch, when they are most vulnerable, as well as along flight paths before re-entry, both valuable additions to existing U.S. missile defenses. Unfortunately, space-based missile defenses, which were proven cost-effective decades ago, have been avoided, mostly because proponents of MAD (mutually assured destruction—in essence, a mutual suicide pact) have successfully argued it should be the primary deterrent . Deployment of dedicated space-based missile defenses would begin turning America’s self-restricted missile defenses into a robust, layered global system for deterring and defending against ballistic missile attacks.
Spaceplanes would complement and support space-based missile defenses as they are being deployed and later as they mature. For example, the planes could aid testing the missile-defense interceptors in various configurations and orbits as well as in conjunction with existing and soon-to-be-deployed launch warning and tracking satellites. This approach would help validate concepts of operation, communications, performance, and costs. One defense analyst put it this way, “We do not have to have a space-based interceptive layer that … right out of the gate has to provide this global defense. We can have an initial capability… adapt it and learn from it and provide just a qualitatively different kind of boost-phase [defense] capability … in some parts of the globe. That is a completely cost-effective way to do that.” [Heinrichs, 10] That initial space-based defense layer should be deployed as soon as possible, which is by about 2025. It would consist of 1,000 space-based missile-defense interceptors. As with the counter-ASAT interceptors, existing technologies are readily available. Several months ago, LtGen Steven Kwast (USAF ret) warned, ”If we do not master space, our nation will become indefensible.”  On May 6 Air Force Secretary Barrett said, “So many of our systems are not defended and are vulnerable, and so it is important for us to deter aggressive action against American assets; but if deterrence fails, we need to be prepared to defend and, if necessary, shoot back.” Space Force Commander General Raymond added that the nation is at a “strategic inflection;” noting U.S. dependence on space assets like never before, he said, “This is an opportunity to remain the best in the world, to stay ahead of those world threats.”  America has been warned. Space Force recognizes both the dangers and opportunities. Whatever challenging paths in space lie ahead, sophisticated space planes—U.S.-built or otherwise—will eventually be in operation, and space-based threats will persist, almost certainly grow. America must “remain the best” and not fall behind in space as it did over recent decades with hypersonics. In particular, U.S. research and development should proceed toward expeditious development of the hypersonic propulsion capabilities needed to enable much more capable space planes by the late-2020s, with the goal of conducting both remote-controlled and manned operations with new planes by the early 2030s. In summary, space planes would do much immediately, as well as in the coming decades, to help America deter and defend against aggression in space. A companion layer of space-based missile defenses by the mid-2020s would initiate a robust American ability to deter and defend against ballistic missile attacks. The budget cost of rapidly deploying both defensive systems would be relatively small—in the range of 3-4% of the approximate $1 trillion likely needed to simultaneously modernize America’s nuclear arsenal to sustain MAD and catch up, at scale, in the arms race for hypersonic weapons. This modest commitment to defenses, for a change, is worth a try. The costs to America of not making such a commitment could be enormous.
Iran's Satellite Is No "Tumbling Webcam"
If U.S. Space Command will not take seriously that terrorists can now orbit a military satellite over the United States, that the IRGC is developing space weapons, then who will? Warning about possible threats from space weapons should be U.S. Space Command’s first priority. The IRGC’s Noor-1 (“Light-1”) satellite, orbited on April 22, is easy to mock, if you are a sunny optimist determined to “see no evil.” Noor-1 is tiny, having a volume of only a few liters and variously estimated as weighing only 5-14 kilograms (11-30 pounds)—too small for an effective “spy in the sky” or for much else militarily useful. Noor-1 is certainly too small for a nuclear weapon. But wait. Orbiting with Noor-1 is the third stage of the Qased (“Messenger”) missile that lofted Noor-1. The third stage is a now expended solid fuel rocket motor, either the Arash-24 probably weighing over 100 kilograms (220 pounds) or the Salman probably weighing over 300 kilograms (661 pounds). So counting Noor-1 and the third stage together, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps demonstrated capability to orbit over the U.S. a net payload weighing about 105-334 kilograms (231-691 pounds)—enough for a nuclear weapon. Suspicious minds, like mine, think the IRGC might deliberately try to deceive us into underestimating their space weapon capabilities by separating Noor-1 from the third stage, hoping we will dismiss the significance of the tiny Noor-1 satellite, as done by U.S. Space Command. U.S. Space Command and virtually all analysts are focused on the IRGC’s Qased missile as the real threat, not the satellite. Rightly, U.S. Space Command and others are concerned about: —Qased missile’s use of solid rocket motors in the second and third stages, a great leap forward in Iran’s missile technology. —Solid rocket motors enable a missile to be launched quickly, with minimal preparation, increasing capability for surprise attack. —Qased’s new Transporter-Erector-Launcher (TEL) enables the IRGC to launch from anywhere, increasing capability for surprise attack. —The IRGC launched Noor-1 unannounced, attempting to achieve surprise. —If Iran can develop solid-fueled ICBMs and a mobile TEL to launch them, they will join Russia, China, and North Korea as the only nations in the world with a mobile ICBM: a missile optimized for surprise attack. Not even the United States has mobile ICBMs. Iran has orbited civilian satellites in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2015, and now a military satellite; has sub-orbited a monkey into space and returned it safely (2013); has medium-range military missiles, more than any other nation in the Mideast; but has not demonstrated a military intercontinental missile equipped with a reentry vehicle capable of penetrating the atmosphere, accurate enough to strike a city. So U.S. Space Command worries about ICBM threats from Iran in the distant future, but not the potential threat from IRGC satellites here and now. U.S. Space Command does not think like a terrorist organization. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps thinks they are at war with the infidel West for the global triumph of Islam during the “end time” of history. They are willing to do anything to prevail, to take desperate strategic and technological chances. Is it likely the IRGC will wait to weaponize their space capabilities until they can develop a “true ICBM” as defined by U.S. Space Command? Right now, the IRGC is probably thinking about how to maximize the harm they can do to the U.S. by satellite delivery of a few hundred kilograms of payload. Anthrax spores? Radioactive waste? Not militarily effective, but psychologically terrorizing — which is what terrorists like the IRGC do. If North Korea, Iran’s strategic partner, gives the IRGC a Super-EMP nuclear weapon, they would not have to wait for a “true ICBM” but could use a satellite to blackout North America and terminate the “Great Satan.” The EMP Commission Chairman’s Report warns North Korea’s KMS-3 and KMS-4 satellites are potential Super-EMP threats because of technology transfer from Russia including possibly “ultra-small warheads weighing less than 90 kilograms . . . Such weapons would be small enough for North Korea’s satellites.” The Greatest Generation who won World War II and the Cold War understood instantly the strategic threat from Russia’s Sputnik satellite orbited in 1957. Sputnik was merely the size of a beachball, weighing only 184 pounds. General Amir Hajizadeh, Commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force, is pleasantly surprised by America’s passive response to Noor-1, telling Iranian press on April 23: “I did not believe they [the U.S.] wouldn’t respond. We had chosen 400 targets to strike in case the U.S. attacks.” General Hajizadeh says the IRGC will orbit Noor-2 in June. The U.S. should EMP harden its national electric grid and deploy space-based defenses now.
How to lose a war without firing a shot? Ignore our enemies' arms-control violations
Dangerously — with rare exceptions — the White House, Congress and Washington foreign policy and defense establishments regard U.S. unilateral compliance with arms control agreements, while Russia and others routinely violate agreements, with complacency. It’s “business as usual.” The State Department’s Compliance Reports, so-called in shorthand, do not assess the threat to the United States from unilateral U.S. compliance with all arms control agreements while Russia, China and others are cheating. Perhaps the Department of Defense (DOD) Office of Net Assessment should begin supplementing State’s reports with a National Security Impact Report for U.S. unilateral compliance while our adversaries cheat on arms control. Some examples:
- Russia’s violation of the INF Treaty, by deploying new-generation nuclear missiles threatening Europe, undermines security of NATO and credibility of U.S. extended nuclear deterrence. Fortunately, President Trump and his administration understand this, which is why they withdrew the U.S. from the treaty.
- Russia’s violation of the PNI to dismantle tactical nuclear weapons, while the U.S. proceeded to deeply cut such weapons, has resulted in giving Moscow at least a 10-to-1 advantage in tactical nuclear weapons, and superiority in the overall nuclear balance.
- Violations of the NPT increase the nuclear threat to the United States from fanatical and unpredictable actors such as Iran and North Korea.
- Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and others violating the BWC and CWC potentially risks exposing U.S. troops and the American people to “bugs and gas,” against which we have no defenses. We could lose a war.
- Russian violation of the CFE, which Moscow has openly abrogated, could enable Russian tanks, mobilized under the guise of a big exercise, to overrun NATO front-line states in 72 hours. DOD and RAND Corporation have warned about this.
- Russian violation of OST further diminishes the United States’s already grossly inadequate capabilities to verify compliance with arms control agreements.
The big news in the 2020 Compliance Report is that Russia and China have been violating the TTBT and CTBT by conducting nuclear tests, while the U.S. has complied with the agreements and conducted no tests since 1992. “Russia has conducted nuclear weapons experiments that have created nuclear yield and are not consistent with the U.S. ‘zero yield’ standard,” the report cautions.
The report further states that China’s “possible preparation to operate its Lop Nur test site year-round, its use of explosive containment chambers, extensive excavation activities at Lop Nur, and lack of transparency on its nuclear testing activities — which has included frequently blocking the flow of data from its international monitoring system (IMS) to the international data center operated by the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization — raise concerns regarding China’s adherence to the ‘zero yield’ standard.” Thus, the U.S. is probably 28 years behind Russia and China in developing advanced nuclear weapons based on new designs and technology. Russia openly writes about having new-generation nuclear weapons based on “new physical principles” such as Super-EMP, neutron and X-ray warheads; “clean” warheads that produce no radioactive fallout; “dirty” super-high-yield (100 megatons) doomsday warheads; and ultra-low-yield warheads “useable” by land, air and naval forces. What all this means is that the U.S. could lose a nuclear war. Knowing this, would the U.S. dare risk war with Russia or China? Will U.S. allies trust our security guarantees and continue to be allies? Is the U.S. already losing the “new cold war” because of arms control? Worse, the violations of arms control agreements by Russia, China and others almost certainly are far worse than the Compliance Reports acknowledge. The State Department’s bread and butter is arms control. Historically, State has been reluctant to acknowledge violations of arms control agreements; the department and the intelligence community covered up Russia’s violations of the INF Treaty for years during the Obama administration. Both the State Department and the intelligence community are unreformed from the Obama years, still preferring to “see no evil” when it comes to violations of arms control sacred cows. They still have not declassified President Reagan’s General Advisory Committee report, “A Quarter-Century of Soviet Compliance Practices Under Arms Control Commitments, 1958-1983” that exposed the long history of failed arms control. Predictably, many left-leaning organizations — such as the Arms Control Association, the Federation of American Scientists, Union of Concerned Scientists, and former Obama administration officials — will defend Russia and China, claiming that they are not really cheating. It seems we still have not learned the Latin adage, “Si vis pacem, para bellum” — If you want peace, prepare for war.
Iran Launched a Military Satellite, A Nuclear Device Could Be Devastating
Why 'Arms Control' Remains Delusional - April 2020
US Still Unprepared for Electric Armageddon - March 2020
America Racing Toward Nuclear Obsolescence - February 2020
- The B61-12 gravity bomb (variable yield 0.3, 1.5, 10, and 50 kilotons: 1968.)
- The W80-4 cruise missile warhead (variable yield 5-150 kilotons: 1979.)
- The W87 warhead for the Minuteman III ICBM (475 kilotons: 1986.)
- The W88 warhead for the Trident SLBM (475 kilotons: 1988.)
- The W76-1 warhead for the Trident SLBM (90 kilotons: 1978.)
- The W76-2 warhead (5-7 kilotons) modified from the W76-1 to serve as a tactical nuclear weapon for the Trident SLBM, entered service in February 2020.
President Trump’s greatest gamble to rescue the U.S. nuclear deterrent from obsolescence is the recently announced W93 warhead — which will be the first genuinely new U.S. nuclear weapon designed and manufactured in decades. The W93 warhead breaks the longstanding self-imposed prohibition on the U.S. building new-generation nuclear weapons, genuinely modern weapons, designed and built using the best science and technology currently available. So-called “modernization” of U.S. nuclear weapons has meant patching-up Cold War antiques. In 1993, during the Clinton Administration, congressional Democrats passed the Spratt-Furse Amendment that in effect made it illegal for NNSA and the U.S. nuclear weapon labs to design or build new-generation nuclear weapons. Congressional Republicans repealed this prohibition a decade later, in 2003, but failed to dispel the “penumbra” of Spratt-Furse by mandating and funding new-generation nuclear weapons. In contrast, Russia, China, and North Korea are deploying new-generation nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Russia’s Defense Minister, General Sergei Shoygu, boasts 80% of Russia’s nuclear deterrent is modernized. While the U.S. has not tested nuclear weapons since 1992, 28 years ago, in observance of the unratified Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), Russia has conducted low-yield and hydrodynamic nuclear tests to develop new-generation nuclear weapons. (See former senior Defense Department official Dr. Mark Schneider, “Yes, the Russians Are Testing Nuclear Weapons” Center for Security Policy, 14 August 2019). For example, Russian officials credibly claim to have advanced “third-generation” nuclear weapons that are “clean” and produce little or no radioactive fallout, including very low-yield tactical nuclear weapons for land, sea, and air combat; nuclear weapons for specialized effects like neutron, X-rays, and gamma radiation; and monster very high-yield 100-megaton nuclear weapons designed to inflict a radioactive Doomsday. Even North Korea probably has Super-EMP nuclear weapons that could blackout North America and potentially win a nuclear war with a single blow. The U.S. has no advanced new-generation nuclear weapons to deter these new threats with an equivalent and proportional response. Indeed, even the W93 will take NNSA 14 years to design and build, and not be available until 2034. The Congressional Strategic Posture Commission warned 11 years ago in “America’s Strategic Posture” (2009) that the U.S. nuclear scientific-industrial base is obsolete and needs reconstruction. For example, no scientist currently serving in U.S. nuclear weapon labs has ever designed, built, and tested a nuclear weapon. Defense industries for making tritium, enriched-uranium, and plutonium have so atrophied that the U.S. must scavenge these and critical parts from stockpiled nuclear weapons. NNSA is making heroic efforts to rebuild U.S. capability to make plutonium pits (nuclear weapon triggers) hoping to make 80 pits per year by 2030. Today, Russia can make 4,000 plutonium pits annually. The president’s FY2021 NNSA budget request includes $850 million for Sandia to design electric capacitors suitable for U.S. nuclear weapons. Capacitors are so fundamental, necessary, and simple their lack is especially alarming — like carpenters having to re-invent the nail. Drs. John Hopkins and David Sharp — former chief scientists in the Los Alamos nuclear stockpile program — in “The Scientific Foundation for Assessing the Nuclear Performance of Weapons in the U.S. Stockpile Is Eroding” (Issues in Science and Technology, Winter 2019) warn that the safety and reliability of weapons is increasingly doubtful without nuclear testing. Unfortunately, the Cold War bipartisan consensus that the U.S. nuclear deterrent should be “second to none” is broken. Future Democrat Presidents and Congresses are unlikely to support rebuilding the U.S. nuclear scientific-industrial base or developing new nuclear weapons (cost $700 billion). President Trump should supplement our aging nuclear deterrent with crash programs to deploy active and passive defenses now. Brilliant Pebbles space-based defenses (cost $20 billion) could be deployed in 5 years and make nuclear missiles obsolete. EMP hardening electric grids and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures could be accomplished in less time, paid for with private money, and neutralize the easiest to execute and most dangerous nuclear threat. Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) may become a fact unless we revolutionize defensive military technologies to ensure Strategic Assured National Existence (SANE).
Saving Electronic Civilization - 2019
In 2010, DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission published several excellent reports assessing a nuclear EMP attack or solar superstorm could destroy hundreds of transformers and inflict a protracted nationwide blackout. The congressionally mandated EMP Commission has rebutted other deeply erroneous “rosy-hued” analysis of the EMP threat by EPRI, the Edison Electric Institute, and North American Electric Reliability Corporation in our unclassified reports available at www.firstempcommission.org The USAF EDTF rightly faults the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for relying on “engineering judgment” (which often amounts to wishful thinking) instead of EMP testing to ensure the safety of nuclear reactors: “EMP tests conducted on actual equipment show that modeling can be wrong by orders of magnitude. Suggest actual physical testing. USAF nuclear command and control facilities and missile silos are often underground and even covered by tens of feet of concrete and metal rebar. This does not negate the need for EMP hardening. Such facilities are hardened to careful military specifications.” The EMP Commission Chairman’s Report recommends that “the President direct the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to launch a crash program to harden the active nuclear power reactors and all spent fuel storage facilities against nuclear EMP attack. Even if the reactors and storage facilities survive an initial EMP attack, they currently are not able to restart generating power if there is no electric power available on its grid, and they typically only have enough emergency power to cool reactors and spent fuel facilities for several days, after which they would ‘go Fukushima’ spreading radioactivity over adjacent areas.” Moreover: “The NRC has regulatory power to compel the nuclear power industry to incorporate nuclear reactor design features to make nuclear power safe…failure to…mandate protection from EMP…[risks] the safety of…people living in the vicinity of these reactors.” For the U.S. electric power infrastructure, widespread failure of control electronics for generation, transmission, and distribution systems could cause long-term power outages. Overall, much work remains to be done to test and protect U.S. critical electrical infrastructure systems. The White House should heed the U.S. Air Force Electromagnetic Defense Task Force: “EDTF…recommends that the Congressional EMP Commission Reports, supported by real-world data, be used by government and industry as the most accurate assessment of the high-altitude EMP threat. EDTF recommends that the Congressional EMP Commission’s recommendations be implemented.”