Dr. Peter Vincent Pry
For those who come regularly to his page here, it is with sadness that we announce the passing of a dear friend, cowriter and American patriot. He was at the forefront of educating America.
America lost one of its most formidable national security practitioners and most inspiring patriots Friday (9/23/22) evening with the untimely passing of Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, PhD. In the course of a career spanning nearly forty years, Dr. Pry served with distinction first in the executive branch of the federal government as a Verification Analyst in the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (1984-1985) and as an Intelligence Officer in the Central Intelligence Agency specializing in Soviet nuclear forces and doctrine (1985-1995).
It was our opportunity to interview Dr. Pry several times and to be able to display his words of wisdom here. He’ll be missed by many.
Dr. Pry's Official Service Positions
- Intelligence Officer with the Central Intelligence Agency
- Chief of Staff of Congressional Electromagnetic Pulse
- Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security
- Congressional Advisory Board dedicated to achieving protection of the United States from (EMP), Cyber Warfare, mass destruction terrorism and other threats
- Director of the United States Nuclear Strategy Forum, an advisory board to Congress on to counter Weapons of Mass Destruction
- Served on the staffs of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States Commission on the New Strategic Posture of the United States
- Served as Professional Staff on the House Armed Services Committee of the U.S. Congress
- Chief advisor to the Vice Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Vice Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and to the Chairman of the Terrorism Panel
- Dr. Pry has authored numerous books on national security issues
Dr. Pry's Books & Publications
We will keep Dr. Pry’s timely updates on subjects such as the threats of:
EMP attacks | WMDs | Cyberwarfare | Nuclear attacks | Terrorism
The following important articles are available courtesy of Dr. Pry. Open each section (+) to read the articles as titled. Newest article is at the top.
Dr. Pry’s archives are HERE.
SLCM-N: Needed for Deterrence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control
Congress, the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, deserve the gratitude of all Americans for their bipartisan rebuke of the Biden Administration for trying to cancel the Sea-Launched-Cruise-Missile-Nuclear (SLCM-N)—needed to prevent, or prosecute, tactical nuclear war.
Congress has restored funding for SLCM-N. But President Biden’s still classified Nuclear Posture Review reportedly calls for cancelling the missile, so the Biden Administration may yet try again to kill SLCM-N in the future.
President Biden defunded development of the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile-Nuclear (SLCM-N), overruling his top generals and military advisors in the Pentagon who warn, correctly, that SLCM-N is vitally necessary for nuclear deterrence.
SLCM-N if developed and deployed would be a long-range (2,500 kilometers) cruise missile, stealthy because it can fly under radar, highly accurate, armed with a warhead of variable yield (5-150 kilotons), and launchable from U.S. Navy tactical platforms, submarines and surface ships, including SSNs, guided missile cruisers, and destroyers.
SLCM-N is the best hope to mitigate Russia’s enormous advantage in tactical nuclear weapons. Currently, the U.S. is credited with 100-200 tactical nuclear weapons, mostly aged gravity bombs bunkered in European NATO, versus an estimated 2,000-8,000 Russian tactical nuclear weapons—giving Moscow an at least ten-to-one decided advantage that Russia may exploit waging nonstrategic nuclear warfare in land, sea, and air battles.
SLCM-N defunding evidences the Biden Administration appears to genuinely believe their mantra that “Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” so U.S. gross inferiority in tactical nuclear weapons matters not—Minimum Deterrence will suffice.
Yet President Biden is perhaps unaware that canceling SLCM-N throws away the best opportunity to advance his administration’s highest priority foreign policy objectives—nuclear nonproliferation and arms control with Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran.
Most U.S. tactical nuclear weapons are bunkered in European NATO (Germany, Italy, the BeNeLux countries) and Turkey (at Incirlik). These are aged, arguably obsolete, gravity bombs that would have to be delivered through increasingly formidable Russian air defenses. Nor can the U.S. unilaterally employ these weapons. The U.S. must consult with other NATO governments and have the approval of at least the host government—which would deliver the bombs on behalf of NATO.
Would Germany, Italy, or Turkey really be willing to start a nuclear war with Russia, or to widen a tactical nuclear war started by Russia to include themselves as targets, on behalf of Latvia, Poland, or Ukraine? Moreover, generating NATO’s tactical nuclear weapons for employment would be a “noisy” process that might well provoke a Russian preemptive nuclear strike.
The U.S. has a very small number of tactical nuclear warheads aboard the SSBN Tennessee, a ballistic missile submarine armed with mostly high-yield strategic warheads. Some of the Tennessee’s Trident SLBMs are armed with the W76-2, a low-yield (5 kilotons) tactical warhead.
Critics warn that Trident lacks the necessary accuracy to usefully deliver 5 kilotons to a battlefield; that delivering a tactical nuclear strike from a strategic platform risks escalating a limited nuclear war into an all-out nuclear war; and that as soon as the submarine fires one or a few missiles, the boat exposes its location and could be destroyed, along with all its strategic warheads needed to deter attacks on U.S. cities.
Chief of U.S. Strategic Command, Admiral Charles Richard, who also sits on the Nuclear Weapons Council in addition to commanding all U.S. nuclear forces, wants SLCM-N because, in addition to its accuracy and stealth, if widely deployed SLCM-N would not have to be generated: “I support reestablishing SLCM-N as necessary to enhance deterrence and assurance [because] a low-yield, non-ballistic capability that can be made available without visible generation” is needed.
STRATCOM Commander Richard warns that the disparity in U.S. and adversary nuclear capabilities increases the risk of limited nuclear war: “We are facing a crisis deterrence dynamic right now that we have seen only a few times in our nation’s history…The war in Ukraine and China’s nuclear trajectory—their strategic breakout—demonstrates that we have a deterrence and assurance gap based on the threat of limited nuclear employment.”
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Robert Peters, Chief of the Strategic Trends and Effects Department, concurs: “China and Russia are incentivized to escalate the level of violence above the conventional threshold, but below a general nuclear exchange—and should that happen, those states are postured to defeat us.”
Peters assesses that limited nuclear use by Russia or China could strain U.S. alliance relationships beyond the breaking point—and Moscow and Beijing know this:
“The political effect of responding either with conventional weapons or with high-yield nuclear weapons would create serious alliance cohesion issues within any U.S.-led coalition…Some allies might demand a nuclear response (even one that was high-yield) to a low-yield nuclear attack, while others would almost certainly blanche at the prospect of a limited nuclear war…The political crisis would be severe, immediate, and perhaps devastating to coalition cohesion.”
“This is a prospect our enemies count on and is part of the reason why a low-yield nuclear strike would nonetheless have strategic political impacts…And they are not problems which would confront China or Russia, non-democracies who do not have to worry about offending allies…”
SLCM-N could close the enormous gap between U.S. and adversary capabilities to wage tactical nuclear warfare, plugging one of the biggest holes in the eroding nuclear deterrence dike. But President Biden is ignoring pleas for SLCM-N from his own top military experts.
The Biden Administration seems unaware that cancellation of SLCM-N also cancels one of their most effective tools for shoring-up U.S. extended nuclear deterrence—that has for decades been more effective than any treaty in stopping nuclear proliferation.
According to recent polls, 71% of South Koreans support developing nuclear weapons, so Seoul would have a nuclear deterrent independent of the United States, because they lack confidence that the U.S. would risk nuclear war with North Korea to protect South Korea.
Some in Japan, perhaps the most anti-nuclear nation in the world because of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II, are calling for developing a nuclear deterrent independent of the United States. Japan’s nuclear power industry and sophisticated space industry, that routinely orbits satellites, would enable Japan to arm itself with nuclear missiles quickly—perhaps in only a year or two after Tokyo’s political decision to launch a Japanese Manhattan Project.
Some U.S. analysts have so little confidence in U.S. extended nuclear deterrence that they recommend giving nuclear weapons to Taiwan. Taiwan once had a clandestine nuclear weapons program, stopped by the U.S. in exchange for security guarantees.
Iran’s development of its “Islamic Bomb” threatens to spur wider proliferation in the Middle East—if not spark an immediate nuclear war with Israel. Saudi Arabia reportedly will go nuclear “the next day” if Iran gets nuclear weapons. Egypt, Turkey, and Syria are likely to seek nuclear weapons to protect themselves from nuclear blackmail, or worse, from Iran’s fanatical terrorist Islamic Revolutionary Guard.
Tattering credibility of the U.S. so-called “nuclear umbrella” (extended nuclear deterrence to protect U.S. allies) is due to many factors, including:
–Failure of multiple U.S. administrations for nearly 30 years, since 1995, to deliver on promises that North Korea will not be allowed to become a nuclear weapons state, even while North Korea has become an increasingly powerful and sophisticated de facto nuclear weapons state.
–North Korean nuclear threats against the U.S. and allies, including launching ICBMs over Japan, MRBMs into Japan’s defense zones and territorial waters, even orbiting satellites over the U.S. Why should allies believe the U.S. will protect them, when the U.S. will not even protect itself against North Korean nuclear provocations?
–In 1995-1996, China inflicted a “missile blockade” on Taiwan, firing M-9 SRBMs into Taiwan’s territorial waters, while China’s General Xiong Guan Kai threatened the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense “Americans care more about Los Angeles than they do about Taipei.” China’s General Zhu Chengu threatened: “Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese” in a nuclear war over Taiwan: a blow at U.S. extended nuclear deterrence that ever since has increasingly worried U.S. allies.
–In 2022, China is conducting unprecedentedly large and aggressive air force exercises against Taiwan, and unprecedentedly large and aggressive joint China-Russia air, naval, and strategic forces exercises against Japan and Hawaii.
The Ukraine War may have delivered a death blow to U.S. extended nuclear deterrence—enforced by noncredible/nonexistent U.S. tactical nuclear capabilities. The Ukraine War casts its shadow over European, Pacific, and Middle East allies who see Russian nuclear threats deterring the U.S. and NATO Europe from intervening even with a “No Fly Zone” even when the Russian Army appears to be losing.
Will the U.S. policy of “fighting to the death of the last brave Ukrainian” also apply to future aggression by Russia against Central Asian states or European NATO; by China against Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Australia, and others; by North Korea against South Korea and Japan; by a nuclear-armed Iran against Israel and moderate Arab U.S. allies?
Trying to enforce U.S. extended nuclear deterrence with high-yield strategic nuclear forces is inherently less credible than SLCM-N.
SLCM-N is more credibly useable than strategic nuclear forces. SLCM-N with high-accuracy, variable-yield, and the ability to fly under radar makes possible surgical, selective strikes against the best protected targets. SLCM-N can be maintained always on station deployed on SSNs and surface ships, maintained quietly without the need for provocative force generation, employed stealthily without the escalatory possibilities inherent in delivery by ballistic missiles or bombers.
SLCM-N could repair the tattered “nuclear umbrella” and reassure allies by its presence in their theater. SLCM-N could be the “cop on the beat” in the dangerous neighborhoods of the Pacific, Middle East, and Europe.
Extended nuclear deterrence is best implemented quietly, without heated rhetoric and dangerous demonstrations of military prowess, but with assured military capabilities known to friend and foe alike, that could best be provided by SLCM-N. During the Cold War the U.S. successfully enforced extended deterrence, and won the Cold War peacefully, in part because the U.S. fielded capabilities very like SLCM-N, then called the Tomahawk.
In June 2022, North Korea challenged U.S. extended nuclear deterrence yet again, by an unprecedented coordinated launch of 8 ballistic missiles. The U.S. and South Korea responded with an air force exercise and by launching 8 ballistic missiles—nuclear missile age “tit-for-tats” reminiscent of the military mobilizations of 1914 that caused World War I. What could possibly go wrong?
Surely, the SLCM-N is a safer, saner, solution for making extended deterrence credible again, for reassuring allies, for arresting nuclear proliferation, and preventing war.
Nonetheless, the Biden Administration would make arms control central to U.S. national security policy, despite the long record of arms control violations by adversaries and failure to make the U.S. safer. Yet the Biden Administration apparently has not considered that by defunding SLCM-N, they are throwing away their best hope to achieve nuclear arms control with Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran.
During the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan understood that in arms control: “you cannot get something for nothing.” Accordingly, Reagan countered Moscow’s unprecedented rapid and massive build-up of SS-20 Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs) to threaten European NATO, by U.S. deployment of IRBMs, Pershing-2s and GLCMs (Ground-Launched Cruise Missiles), to NATO Europe.
President Reagan’s strategy was to trade elimination of U.S. IRBMs for elimination of Russian IRBMs, which was accomplished in the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty). At the time, the INF Treaty was considered the most successful arms control treaty in history, because it completely eliminated an entire class of nuclear missiles, and for the first time began the process of reducing the size of nuclear arsenals on both sides.
The Biden Administration wants through arms control to limit Russia’s vast advantage in tactical nuclear weapons—but the White House cannot realistically expect to “get something for nothing.” Deployment of SLCM-N is the most realistic prospect for incentivizing Russia to limit or trade away their advantage in tactical nuclear weapons, or eliminate such weapons entirely.
China and North Korea refuse to engage in nuclear arms control negotiations because they will not give up something for nothing.
SLCM-N would pose a stealthy surgical threat to China’s 350-400 silo-based ICBMs now building. SLCM-N could be the U.S. functional equivalent to hypersonic warheads being developed by China that threaten a surprise attack on U.S. strategic forces. SLCM-N could become the means to begin nuclear arms control negotiations with Beijing, perhaps trading the U.S. SLCM-N threat for limiting or eliminating China’s significant advantage in hypersonic weapons technology.
SLCM-N would also pose a more credible and immediate threat than U.S. strategic forces to the political and military leaders of China and North Korea, SLCM-N lurking off their shores. Totalitarian states value most highly their leaders. Beijing and Pyongyang may calculate that, despite their rapidly expanding nuclear capabilities, the threat to leaders posed by SLCM-N poses on balance a net reduction in their national security. They might be willing to negotiate nuclear limits to avoid SLCM-N.
SLCM-N patrolling the Persian Gulf would be wake-up call to Iran to denuclearize through negotiations, or risk a disarming nuclear strike from SLCM-N. If necessary, the U.S. should do so.
SLCM-N could restore credibility to U.S. extended nuclear deterrence worldwide, incentivize Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran to refrain from aggression and return to the negotiating table.
The Biden Administration should immediately reverse its decision to defund SLCM-N and join the bipartisan congressional support of the vitally important missile. Instead, commensurate with multiple international nuclear crises with Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran—there should be a crash program to deploy SLCM-Ns as soon as possible.
The U.S. should deploy at least 2,000 SLCM-Ns, to match the lowest estimated number of tactical nuclear weapons in Russia.
Some platforms carrying SLCM-Ns—attack submarines and surface ships—should be publicized and should make port calls to allied nations to provide reassurance.
SLCM-N, although its capabilities are adequate for the missions described above, should be given enhanced capabilities with new generation nuclear warheads with a wider range of yields (including ultra-low-yields, 1 kiloton or less), lower fission content (to reduce radioactive fallout), and earth-penetrating capabilities to better hold at risk hardened underground targets.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, served as Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, Chief of Staff of the Congressional EMP Commission, and on the staffs of the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of the books Will America Be Protected?, Blackout Warfare, and The Power And The Light.
 “Biden Administration Kills Trump-era Nuclear Cruise Missile” BreakingDefense.com (28 March 2022) https://breakingdefense.com/2022/03/biden-administration-kills-trump-era-nuclear-cruise-missile-program/. “U.S. Nuclear Commander Backs Sea-Launched Cruise Missile Biden Would Cancel” DefenseNews.com (7 June 2022) https://www.defensenews.com/2022/06/07/us-nuclear-commander-backs-sea-launched-cruise-missile-biden-would-cancel/.
 “Report to Congress on Sea-Launched Nuclear Cruise Missile” USNI (27 April 2022) https://news.usni.org/2022/04/27/report-to-congress-on-sea-launched-nuclear-cruise-missile. Congressional Research Service, “Nuclear-Armed Sea-Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM-N)” (25 April 2022). SLCM-N as successor to the Tomahawk SLCM will probably use the same nuclear warhead, the W80, having variable yield 5-150 kilotons, see: “The W80 Warhead” nuclearweaponsarchive.org (29 August 2007) https://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Usa/Weapons/W80.html.
 Dr. Mark Schneider, “Russian Tactical Nuclear Weapons Are Real” USNI (April 2018) https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2018/april/russian-tactical-nukes-are-real. Mark Episkopos, “Russia’s Tactical Nuclear Weapon Stockpile Is Jaw-Droppingly Large” National Interest (2 December 2021) https://nationalinterest.org/blog/reboot/russia%E2%80%99s-tactical-nuclear-weapon-stockpile-jaw-droppingly-large-197310. Peter Huessy and Mark Schneider, “Future Russian Strategic Challenges” Gatestone (20 May 2013).
 Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, Nuclear War Can Be Won—And Lost (EMP Task Force: May 2022) https://emptaskforce.us/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/ARTnuclearVICTORY22.pdf.
 “Fact Sheet: United States Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons” ArmsControlCenter.org (March 2022) https://armscontrolcenter.org/u-s-nonstrategic-nuclear-weapons/.
 “United States Nuclear Weapons In Europe” cnduk.org https://cnduk.org/resources/united-states-nuclear-weapons-europe/ “Both host country and the U.S. would then need to approve the use of these weapons, which would be launched on the former’s airplanes.” Zachary Keck, “Why A Nuclear-Armed Eurofighter Might Spell Big Trouble for the F-35” National Interest (26 June 2018) https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/why-nuclear-armed-eurofighter-might-spell-big-trouble-the-f-26420.
 “Fact Sheet: United States Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons” ArmsControlCenter.org (March 2022): “While the tactical nuclear arsenal could once be deployed on NATO-designated aircraft within minutes, today the readiness level is measured in months.”
 “W76-2 Low-Yield Warhead Deployed On U.S. Navy SSBN Submarines” NavalNews.com (7 February 2020) https://www.navalnews.com/naval-news/2020/02/w76-2-low-yield-warhead-deployed-on-us-navy-ssbn-submarines/.
 “Are U.S. Submarines Vulnerable?” Real Clear Defense (30 May 2019). https://centerforsecuritypolicy.org/are-u-s-navy-ballistic-missile-submarines-in-big-trouble/.
 Sean Elliot, “U.S. Nuclear Commander Backs Sea-Launched Cruise Missile Biden Would Cancel” Yahoo News (7 June 2022) https://news.yahoo.com/us-nuclear-commander-backs-sea-201252156.html.
 “U.S. Nuclear Commander Warns Of Deterrence ‘Crisis’ Against Russia And China” Defense News (4 May 2022) https://www.defensenews.com/pentagon/2022/05/04/us-nuclear-commander-warns-of-deterrence-crisis-against-russia-and-china/.
 Robert Peters “The Red Zone: Understanding an Escalatory Pathway” Air University Press (9 May 2022) https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/Wild-Blue-Yonder/Article-Display/Article/3021286/the-red-zone-understanding-an-escalatory-pathway-that-the-adversaries-are-explo/.
 Office of the Secretary of Defense, Nuclear Posture Review (February 2018): “Ensuring our nuclear deterrent remains strong will provide the best opportunity for convincing other nuclear powers to engage in meaningful arms control initiatives…U.S. nuclear weapons not only defend our allies against conventional and nuclear threats, they also help them avoid the need to develop their own nuclear arsenals.” Susan Kuch, “Extended Deterrence and the Future of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty” Comparative Strategy (Volume 39, 20 April 2020).
 South Koreans Overwhelmingly Want Nuclear Weapons To Confront China and North Korea” Washington Post (21 February 2022). “7 in 10 South Koreans Want Nuclear Weapons” news.yahoo.com (23 February 2022).
 James Lindsay and Ray Takeyh, “After Iran Gets the Bomb” Foreign Affairs (March/April 2010). John Bolton, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran” New York Times (26 March 2015). Ephraim Kam, “What If Iran Gets the Bomb?” jcpa.org (29 September 2005).
 Jeremy Bender, “That Time China’s State Media Ran An Article About Nuclear Strikes Against Los Angeles” BusinessInsider.com (7 June 2016). “Chinese General Threatens Use of A-bombs If U.S. Intrudes” New York Times (15 July 2005). “Chinese General Warns of Nuclear Risk to U.S.” theguardian.com (16 July 2005).
 “Chinese Military Jets Menace Taiwan” Washington Post (6 October 2021). “Taiwan Reports Largest Incursion Yet By Chinese Air Force” Reuters (12 April 2021). “Russia, China Fly Nuclear-Capable Bombers In Joint Military Drill During Biden Trip To Japan” Foxnews.com (24 May 2022). “Japan Warns U.S. a ‘Pearl Harbor’ Style Attack From China and Russia Could Happen” AmericaMilitaryNews.com (2 July 2021).
 “U.S. Officials: Iran is ‘Weeks’ Away From Nuclear Breakout” cbnnews.com (27 April 2022). Majid Rafizadeh, “Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Weeks Away” Gatestone (9 September 2021). “Iran Probably Already Has The Bomb” National Review (19 March 2021). Iran: EMP Threat (emptaskforce.us: 30 April 2022).
 Zack Beauchamp, “Why the U.S. Won’t Send Troops to Ukraine” vox.com (25 February 2022). Malcolm Davis, “Yes, A NATO-Russia Nuclear War Over Ukraine Could Happen” 1945 (18 March 2022). “Russia’s Nuclear Threats in the War Against Ukraine” swp-berlin.org (German Institute for International Security Affairs: 2022). On The Nuclear Brink In Ukraine (emptaskforce.us: May 2022).
 “North Korea Launches 8 Short-Range Ballistic Missiles” cnn.com (5 June 2022). “North Korea Launches 8 Ballistic Missiles” The Diplomat (6 June 2022). “South Korea, U.S. Launch 8 Missiles In Response To North Korea’s Missile Firings” cnbc.com (5 June 2022).
 Bill Gertz, “Exclusive: China Building Third Missile Field For Hundreds Of ICBMs” Washington Times (12 August 2021). Brian Wang, “China Building Over 400 New Ultra-hard Nuclear Silos” www.thenextbigfuture.com (30 August 2021).
 Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, We Are Far Beyond A “Sputnik Moment” Center for Security Policy (16 November 2021). Sakshi Tiwari, “A ‘Decade Ahead’ Of USA! China Says Its New Hypersonic Missiles Can Hit Fast Moving Targets With Deadly Precision” Eurasian Times (18 May 2022). “U.S. Far Behind China, Russia In Hypersonics Weapons Race” americanmilitarynews.com (23 November 2021).
"NONE DARE CALL IT TREASON: Biden Bans Nuclear Weapons Critical To U.S. National Security" 4-17-22
NONE DARE CALL IT TREASON:
Biden Bans Nuclear Weapons Critical To U.S. National Security
“Treason doth never prosper.
What’s the reason?
Why, when treason doth prosper,
None dare call it treason.”
–Sir John Harington (1561-1612)
The Sea-Launched Cruise Missile-Nuclear (SLCM-N)
President Biden’s defense budget “zeros out” funding for the U.S. Navy’s SLCM-N, ignoring protests from the Pentagon, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the new cruise missile is necessary for nuclear deterrence.
President Obama eliminated all the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-armed SLCMs, called the Tomahawk, which was decades old and far beyond its design life, but also as a step toward President Obama’s goal of “a world without nuclear weapons.”
President Trump authorized the Navy to design and develop the new SLCM-N to replace the Tomahawk, now canceled.
The SLCM-N would restore tactical nuclear capabilities to U.S. Navy attack submarines and surface ships, helping offset the vast imbalance of firepower that now exists with the Russian Navy, that is heavily armed for winning a nuclear war at sea.
SLCM-N would also help deter tactical nuclear use by Russia’s land and air forces, and help offset Russia’s enormous preponderance in tactical nuclear weapons overall. Today, the U.S. has about 180 tactical nuclear gravity bombs bunkered in NATO Europe versus an estimated 2,000-8,000 Russian tactical nuclear weapons—an at least 10-to-1 advantage favoring Moscow.
SLCM-N would also help deter China, North Korea, and Iran by providing tactical nuclear firepower in theater when necessary to deter aggression, without having to permanently base nuclear warheads on allied territory.
President Biden’s cancellation of SLCM-N is rationalized in his new, still classified, Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), that is heavily influenced by anti-nuclear activists in the White House “kitchen cabinet” and in the Democrat Party.
Ideological reasons for canceling SLCM-N are claims by anti-nuclear activists that the SLCM-N would be “destabilizing” as it would “lower the threshold” for U.S. nuclear use and could tempt the U.S. into “nuclear warfighting.”
Yet the original SLCM-N, the Tomahawk, helped deter the USSR from starting World War III, and contributed to winning the Cold War—peacefully. Far more “destabilizing” than SLCM-N are Russia’s enormous advantages in tactical nuclear firepower that may well tempt Moscow into “nuclear warfighting.”
The now canceled SLCM-N would have been armed with the Tomahawk’s retired nuclear warhead, the W80. The W80 had selectable yield for tactical or strategic use, either 5 kilotons or 150 kilotons.
Like all warheads in the U.S. nuclear stockpile, the W80 is an antique, designed in 1976, deployed in 1981, decades beyond its original design life. But supposedly the W80 could be patched-up and given life-extension by the national labs stockpile stewardship program.
However, another reason President Biden’s NPR recommended against SLCM-N may not be ideological, but technological. Maybe the Biden Administration does not want to admit that the stockpile stewardship program is failing, that after 30 years of no nuclear testing, the safety and reliability of all U.S. nuclear weapons is increasingly doubtful.
The B83 Nuclear “Bunker Buster”
According to recent press reports, a classified version of the Biden Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, provided to Congress, plans to eliminate the B83 nuclear bomb—the most powerful weapon in the U.S. nuclear deterrent.
Biden Administration plans to eliminate the B83 overrules STRATCOM Commander, Admiral Charles Richard, the top officer in charge of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, who specifically requested retention of the B83.
The B83 is a thermonuclear “dial-a-yield” gravity bomb that can be set to produce an explosion of 80 kilotons (and perhaps lower) or as high as 1.2 megatons (equivalent to 1.2 million tons of TNT).
The B-2 Stealth Bomber would deliver the B83, which is designed with a lifting parachute to permit delivery at low-altitudes and supersonic speeds, necessary to penetrate increasingly formidable air defenses.
The B83 is the only U.S. nuclear weapon, when detonated at highest yield 1.2 megatons, capable of generating a sufficiently powerful shockwave to have any realistic chance of threatening deep underground military command posts, bunkers for political-military elites, missile tunnels, and other deep underground targets in Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran.
The B83 is also symbolically important to the credibility of U.S. deterrence, to friends and foes alike, as the only remaining U.S. nuclear weapon that is megaton-class.
Powerful as is the B83, it is something like America’s only “David” deterring Russia’s “Goliath” nuclear superweapons, like Moscow’s Poseidon autonomous warhead, a drone submarine or intercontinental torpedo, having a reported yield (probably variable depending on target) of 2-200 megatons. (See POSEIDON: Russia’s New Doomsday Machine 2018.)
The B83 may also be planet Earth’s best defense against a catastrophic asteroid impact. NASA planned an anti-asteroid role for the B83 using 6 bombs delivered by a special spacecraft to blast any threatening asteroid. (See “NASA Plans ‘Armageddon’ Spacecraft To Blast Asteroids” Flightglobal.com 8 March 2007.)
Rep. Doug Lamborn, Ranking Member of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, other members of Congress and strategic experts are protesting the Biden Administration’s planned termination of the B83. Rep. Lamborn said Republicans will try to reverse the decision and save the B83 in the National Defense Authorization Act.
However, saving the B83 may not be possible, for technological reasons.
The B83 may be symptomatic of technological obsolescence eroding the safety and reliability of all U.S. nuclear weapons as a consequence of uncorrectable aging of all U.S. warheads—none of which have been tested in 30 years.
“Science-Based” Nuclear Stockpile Stewardship
The Biden Administration’s rationale for eliminating the B83, according to an anonymous senior Defense Department official, is that the bomb “is costly to maintain and of increasingly limited value.”
Translation: Even the “whiz kids” at the national labs cannot patch-up the B83 one more time so it can continue as a safe reliable weapon. But we in the Biden Administration and Defense Department don’t want to say so explicitly, as it would discredit the stockpile stewardship program, cast doubt on the safety and reliability of all U.S. nuclear weapons, and damage the credibility of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.
The U.S. has not tested a nuclear weapon since 1992 or designed and developed any new nuclear weapons in unilateral compliance with the unratified Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
The CTBT was the bright idea of President Bill Clinton and anti-nuclear ideologues, now dominant in a radicalized Democrat Party, that would have the U.S. lead the way toward a “world without nuclear weapons.” Unfortunately, Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran are not following.
Instead of underground nuclear testing, the CTBT requires the U.S. to use computer models, inspections, and engineering judgment to endlessly repair its aging nuclear weapons. The work is being done by scientists who have never designed or tested a nuclear weapon. The generation that designed, tested, and deployed America’s existing inventory of nuclear weapons is dead or long retired.
Since so-called “science-based” stockpile stewardship supposedly eliminates the need for building new nuclear weapons, the U.S. scientific and defense industrial base for making new nuclear weapons has withered away. The U.S. can no longer make new essential components for nuclear weapons, like plutonium pits that “trigger” thermonuclear explosions.
Consequently, the national labs have jerry-rigged and made makeshift repairs to all U.S. nuclear weapons, using parts and materials that were never in the original design. Because U.S. unilateral compliance with the CTBT forbids underground testing, life-extended warheads are “certified” by national lab scientists—who are inexperienced in nuclear warhead design and testing.
The process is akin to having scientists who understand the theory of aircraft design continually inspecting and repairing a fleet of Boeing 747 airliners for 30 years, without ever firing the engines, hoping everything will work and the fleet will fly in an emergency.
“Science-based” stockpile stewardship is an oxymoron, since real science requires empirical facts that can only be established by testing.
Twenty-six years ago, the late great Rep. Floyd Spence, then Chairman of the House National Security Committee (HNSC), warned cessation of nuclear testing would eventually result in U.S. unilateral nuclear disarmament—and that this was the intent of anti-nuclear activists in the Clinton Administration. (See The Clinton Administration and Nuclear Stockpile Stewardship: Erosion By Design HNSC 30 October 1996.)
Time has proven Chairman Spence was right.
“Science-Based” Nuclear Stockpile Stewardship Failing
The Clinton Administration essentially bribed the national labs with increased budgets to go along with the dangerous farce that is “science-based” nuclear stockpile stewardship. Now addicted to budgetary largess and politically “woke” the national labs are content to pretend all is well with U.S. nuclear weapons, so they can refocus scientific attention on combatting real threats like “climate change.”
Senior scientists leading the stockpile stewardship program, once retired from the “politically correct” environment of the national labs, warn that the program is failing, and that there is no substitute for nuclear testing.
For example, Drs. John Hopkins and David Sharp, former senior scientists in the Los Alamos National Laboratory stockpile stewardship program, call for resumption of nuclear testing in “The Scientific Foundation for Assessing the Performance of Nuclear 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.”
Dr. 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 14 August 2019).
Warning From Former Director U.S. Defense Nuclear Agency
The U.S. Defense Nuclear Agency (DNA) was the Defense Department’s chief steward for overseeing the national labs to ensure U.S. nuclear weapons were safe, reliable, and effective for their military missions. The Clinton Administration abolished the Defense Nuclear Agency.
Abolition of the DNA combined with the CTBT and inauguration of “science-based” stockpile stewardship began the long spiral downward of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, toward where it may no longer be credible to adversaries like Russia, China, and North Korea—who are all nuclear testing advanced nuclear weapons.
Former Director of the U.S. Defense Nuclear Agency, Vice Admiral Robert Monroe, has written extensively and warned for years that U.S. failure to test and develop new nuclear weapons is an existential threat. For example, in “It’s Time For America To Resume Nuclear Testing” (The Hill 15 November 2017) VADM Monroe is worth quoting at length:
–“America must resume underground nuclear testing, and we must do it immediately. Our lives depend upon it. The very existence of the United States may well depend upon it.”
–“During the half-century of Cold War we tested nuclear weapons as needed. We won that war because the testing enabled us to gain and hold a supremacy in nuclear technology and weapons that the Soviet Union could not match.”
–“But in 1992, our president unwisely declared–voluntarily and unilaterally–a U.S. moratorium on nuclear testing. Today…we are risking everything by mindlessly continuing to observe this moratorium. We don’t question it. We don’t debate it. We don’t think about it.”
–“Here’s how we stand today. No U.S. nuke has been tested…we cannot be sure they will work. Every weapon is years beyond the end of its design life. Designed for massive destruction, our arsenal is unable to deter most of today’s nuclear threats. We have no capability to produce plutonium pits (the heart of nuclear weapons); recovery will take a decade.”
–“We’ve done no research whatsoever in advanced nuclear technologies; our adversaries are decades ahead of us. Our scientists, designers, engineers, and production managers have no experience in their professions. Our testing facilities, and knowledge, are virtually non-existent; recovery will take years.”
–“All of these capabilities must be recovered in full–as rapidly as possible–and the key to everything is nuclear testing. We must resume underground nuclear testing as soon as possible.”
–“For the Energy Department, the highest priority (existential) need is testing the principal deployed warheads of our strategic deterrent (W76, W78, B61 and so on) to ensure their reliability. Almost as urgent is the need to conduct exploratory testing of advanced, low-yield (10-100 ton) warheads. Russia is decades ahead. Exploratory work maximizing fusion rather than fission output is vital, possibly leading to pure fusion warheads Other exploratory testing is essential if we are to avoid technological surprise.”
Russia and China Testing Advanced Technology Nuclear Weapons
In 2020, the State Department finally acknowledged Russia and China have been violating the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The U.S. has faithfully observed the unratified CTBT unilaterally, conducting no nuclear tests since 1992. (See U.S. State Department, Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments 2020.)
Moscow and Beijing have been conducting low-yield underground nuclear testing, while the U.S. has observed a moratorium on nuclear tests, for 30 years. By cheating on arms control, Russia and China have achieved a great leap forward in the design and sophistication of their nuclear weapons, while the U.S. lags far behind.
Russia’s nuclear arsenal includes a wide array of “Third Generation” advanced technology nuclear weapons: Ultra-low-yield (less than 1 kiloton) for tactical use by land, sea, and air forces; weapons that produce little or no radioactive fallout; warheads for specialized effects like neutrons, x-rays, and Super-EMP weapons that can blackout a continent. Even China and North Korea have Super-EMP warheads, while the U.S. deterrent has none of these advanced nuclear weapon technologies.
While Russia and China have modernized their nuclear forces, U.S. nuclear weapons and delivery systems are aging toward obsolescence. Indeed, U.S. nuclear weapons, life-extended and untested for decades, could prove to be duds.
Then Defense Intelligence Agency Director, Lt. General 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.”
The Arms Control Association, Federation of American Scientists, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Rebecca Hersman, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction under President Obama, criticize the State Department report and defend Russia and China.
They believe the U.S. should continue no nuclear testing unilaterally.
Washington prevailed in the Cold War by never allowing Moscow any militarily significant numerical or technological advantage in nuclear arms. U.S. nuclear strength permitted indulging our arms control delusion, concluding treaties of dubious verifiability with a dishonest adversary.
We can no longer afford arms control that fails to deliver “strategic stability” while shifting the balance of power against the United States.
President Biden’s cancellation of SLCM-N and B83 weakens the U.S. nuclear deterrent at both ends of the deterrence spectrum (tactical low-yield weapons and strategic high-yield weapons) at the worst possible moment:
–Russia is probably weighing its nuclear options to win the Ukraine War;
–China is contemplating conquest of Taiwan;
–North Korea is poised to resume ICBM and nuclear testing;
–Iran is 8 weeks away, or already has, its “Islamic Bomb”;
–All, including U.S. allies, are questioning Washington’s nuclear fortitude.
Cancellation of SLCM-N and the B83, combined with delays in testing U.S. ICBMs and other strategic systems to avoid escalating the Ukraine War, looks like appeasement and surrender to Russian nuclear blackmail.
The U.S. should resume at least low-yield nuclear testing, like Russia and China, as part of a crash program to certify existing U.S. nuclear weapons and develop advanced technology nuclear weapons.
However, as President Biden’s administration is the most anti-nuclear in U.S. history, resumption of testing and development of new nuclear weapons must await a future Republican administration or future reversal of the anti-nuclear views of the Democrat Party.
Bipartisan support for protecting U.S. electric grids and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures from nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and Cyber Warfare already exists, and should mobilize to make national EMP/Cyber preparedness a crash emergency program. If the world is closer to nuclear conflict, an EMP/Cyber World War is even more proximate.
Perhaps Democrats could be persuaded to support emergency revival of the Strategic Defense Initiative (the much mocked “Star Wars”), since it is the only realistic technological pathway to render nuclear missiles obsolete and possibly achieve “a world without nuclear weapons.” The SDI project Brilliant Pebbles could be resurrected, and 1,000 space-based anti-missiles deployed in 5 years for $20 billion.
Unfortunately, substantial bipartisan progress on most of the above solutions is unlikely.
More likely, anti-nuclear activist theories about the efficacy of Minimum Deterrence and their mantra— “Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”— may soon be put to the test.
IMPORTANT READ - How To Win The New Cold War In Ukraine 4/4/22
The Present Nuclear Crisis
President Biden is on the verge of single-handedly losing the New Cold War and escalating the Ukraine conflict into a nuclear World War III.
On February 27, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin declared a “special combat alert” for nuclear forces and disappeared with his general staff into one of hundreds of deep underground command posts that are impervious to nuclear attack.
Reportedly, midnight flights are flying Russian elites and their families to the Urals. There are located some of Russia’s best protected deep underground facilities, some of enormous scale, literally small cities shielded beneath hundreds of meters of solid granite.
For example, the new General Staff Command Post beneath Kosvinsky Mountain can accommodate an estimated 30,000 people. The recently completed underground city beneath Yamantau Mountain is much larger, and of unknown purpose.
Russian Nuclear Superiority
Russia is much better prepared than the U.S. for nuclear war:
–Russia has thousands of nuclear command posts, bunkers, and shelters for political-military elites and civilians, including nuclear blast doors on subways to protect urban populations.
–Russia has a very serious nuclear civil defense program that just a few years ago exercised sheltering 20 million people.
–Russia has some 10,000 ABM/SAMs dual capable for nuclear or conventional use for intercepting incoming ballistic missile warheads, cruise missiles, or bombers.
–Russia has by far the world’s biggest and most modern offensive nuclear arsenal, with a 10-to-1 advantage over the U.S. in tactical nuclear weapons, and perhaps a 2-to-1 advantage in strategic nuclear warheads (if Moscow is cheating on New START, which is likely).
In contrast, the United States has:
–No deep underground command posts for political-military leaders that would survive a nuclear strike. (Even NORAD’s famous command post inside Cheyenne Mountain, designed to survive the A-bomb, would probably not survive thermonuclear strike by H-bomb.)
–No significant nuclear civil defense program or system of shelters to protect the civilian population.
–No anti-missile defenses capable of stopping Russian (or Chinese) warheads, only 64 National Missile Defense Ground-Based Interceptors planned for less sophisticated missile threats from North Korea or Iran.
–No modern ICBMs, SLBMs, ballistic missile submarines, or strategic bombers, all of which are at least 30 years old and many nearing obsolescence.
–No modern nuclear warheads, all of which have been patched-up and repaired over the decades, none tested for 30 years.
–Almost no tactical nuclear weapons (about 100 gravity bombs bunkered in NATO Europe).
Russian Surprise Attack Possible
Now Russia is postured to make a surprise nuclear attack that could destroy all or most U.S. retaliatory capabilities. Unlike U.S. nuclear deterrent forces, Russian long-range nuclear weapons are mostly on intercontinental ballistic missiles, armed with multiple warheads, capable of launching most of Russia’s nuclear warheads within a few minutes, with little or no strategic warning. (For more details see my report The Nuclear 9/11 In Our Future published in the Washington Examiner 15 March 2022).
Right now, America’s 400 Minuteman III ICBMs, ever-ready to launch 24/7, are the chief deterrent to a Russian surprise nuclear attack. (Ironically, President Biden’s “kitchen cabinet” of anti-nuclear activists are still agitating to use the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review to unilaterally ban or phase-out U.S. ICBMs.)
Not wanting to admit that President Biden’s Ukraine policies have blundered into a possible nuclear war with Russia, the Biden Administration pretends there is no increased nuclear threat to justify mobilizing U.S. nuclear forces to a more survivable posture. They remain at DEFCON 5, the lowest readiness level—making especially bombers and submarines more vulnerable to surprise attack.
Yet, while there supposedly is no increased nuclear threat, the Biden Administration is warning Russia not to use nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction. Even Biden’s media allies are deeply concerned that the Ukraine War could become a nuclear Apocalypse.
Significantly, DOD has deployed to the UK’s Mildenhall Royal AFB a WC-135 intelligence aircraft specialized for collecting data on nuclear explosions.
Fog of War: Nuclear Escalation by Miscalculation
Western leaders and media are blinded by war fever, thinking they can turn Ukraine into Russia’s graveyard.
But if Russia really is bogged down or losing in Ukraine, if consequently Putin’s regime could fall—then Ukraine could become the world’s nuclear graveyard. Moscow believes nuclear war can be won, is postured to do so, and will roll the nuclear dice in extremis.
President Biden’s recent gaffes threatening U.S. military intervention in Ukraine and regime change in Russia upticks possible nuclear war through design or miscalculation.
Western belief that Russia is “on the ropes” in Ukraine, informed by Ukrainian propaganda and wishful thinking, may prove as false as Washington’s hope that Afghanistan would become a feminist-secular democracy.
Russia unleashed but a small fraction of its conventional forces on Ukraine, and General Mud helped Ukraine immensely, impeding Russia’s armored operations. Summer is here and the ground will dry.
Putin and Russia’s General Staff are ignoring phone calls from Washington—not behavior of a loser desperately seeking exit from the Ukraine War? Or behavior of a regime so desperate it contemplates nuclear aggression?
What Is To Be Done?
Paramount U.S. interests are to avoid nuclear war with Russia, end the Ukraine War and its escalatory possibilities, and negotiate a peace with Russia that secures their neutrality, or even strategic partnership, in the New Cold War with China.
The now existing Sino-Russian alliance is the most formidable combination of military and economic power that has ever confronted the Free World—and foreshadows a Third World War.
President Biden should mobilize U.S. nuclear deterrent forces to a more survivable posture, at least DEFCON 3. Failure to do so looks like fear and weakness and may tempt Moscow to play their nuclear cards.
President Kennedy during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis mobilized the U.S. nuclear deterrent to DEFCON 2, just short of nuclear war, which show of strength helped resolve the confrontation peacefully. In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President Bush mobilized to DEFCON 3, a show of strength to warn off other potential aggressors.
Washington should demarche Moscow, immediately informing the Kremlin by all channels that the U.S. wants to avoid nuclear war, is mobilizing to DEFCON 3 only of necessity, because of Russia’s “special combat alert” for nuclear forces.
Washington should propose an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, propose returning nuclear forces to normal posture, and negotiate peace on the basis of the treaty proposed by Moscow before their invasion. Some provisions of Moscow’s offered treaty—like promising not to expand NATO further eastward—are even more in the U.S. interest than they are in Russia’s.
Moderation toward and negotiation with Russia will be condemned as “appeasement” by those who would recklessly stoke the Ukraine War, heedless of its escalatory possibilities. A draconian peace is not possible to achieve, short of victory in World War III, and would be as unwise as the Versailles Treaty that set the stage for World War II.
Statesmanship in this perilous hour requires the West to understand that China is the greater long-term threat than Russia. Russian neutrality, or even strategic partnership, would isolate China and deprive Beijing of Moscow’s formidable nuclear strength, that has tempted both nations to bellicosity and aggression.
Statesmanship should be mindful that the U.S. and NATO are not clearly “winning” on the heavily fogged battlefields of the Ukraine War. However, U.S. national security interests clearly are suffering major reversals elsewhere, while the West is fixated on Ukraine:
–North Korea has successfully tested the world’s largest mobile ICBM, probably designed to carry multiple warheads, a far greater threat to the U.S. homeland than an invasion of South Korea. Timing of this test is probably no coincidence, since North Korea is a client of Russia and China.
–Iran is 8 weeks from atomic weapons, if it does not have them already, and is being offered billions by the Biden Administration, delisting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, and abandonment of Israel and moderate Arab allies, a genuine act of appeasement. Iran too is a client of Russia and China.
–China continues illegal militarization of the South China Sea, closing its stranglehold on this vital international artery, and positioning itself to project power everywhere in the Pacific. Xi patiently watches the West fight to the death of the last brave Ukrainian, and contemplates his next move on the global chess board.
And what if Moscow refuses Washington’s call to negotiate peace on the terms of their own treaty?
Then we will know Putin and Xi are Stalin and Hitler in 1939, and Ukraine is Poland, all over again.
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WASHINGTON TIMES: U.S. risking cybergeddon with Russia
“Fools rush in where even angels fear to tread.”
— Alexander Pope (1711)
“Be afraid and expect the worst” is Russia’s cyber-warning to Ukraine, flashed to Ukrainian government websites on Thursday, Jan. 13, just hours after U.S. and NATO meetings with Russian officials failed to resolve an escalating international crisis that could become World War III.
Russia is postured to invade Ukraine and could overrun NATO’s frontline states in eastern Europe in 72 hours. Simultaneously, China is postured to annex Taiwan and the South China Sea. On Jan. 9, with China’s approval and support, Russian troops poured into mineral-rich Kazakhstan, like Ukraine, formerly part of the Soviet Union, in an alleged “peacekeeping mission.”
Foolishly, the Biden administration has been publicly threatening to retaliate for aggression against Ukraine by Cyber Warfare. Foolishly, on Friday, Jan. 14, in what should have been a covert operation, the Biden administration and NATO instead publicly announced they are sending cyber warriors to assist Ukraine.
Washington and the West still do not understand that Cyber Warfare is an existential threat that could explode the world powder keg, with catastrophic consequences.
In April 2021, Russia massed troops on Ukraine’s border, threatening invasion, raising alarms in the U.S. and NATO. Ventriloquizing for the Kremlin, Putin intimate and director of Russia’s state-run international media giants, RT and Sputnik, Margarita Simonyan, declared on TV: “Russia will invade Ukraine, sparking a conflict with the U.S. that will force entire cities into blackout. … All-out cyber warfare, nationwide forced blackouts.”
“War is inevitable,” according to Russia’s Ms. Simonyan, “I do not believe that this will be a large-scale hot war, like World War II, and I do not believe there will be a long Cold War. It will be a war of the third type: the Cyber War.”
Russia’s Ms. Simonyan: “In conventional war, we could defeat Ukraine in two days. But it will be another kind of war. We’ll do it, and then [the U.S.] will respond by turning off power to [a major Russian city like] Voronezh.”
She also stated: “Russia needs to be ready for this war, which is unavoidable, and of course, it will start in Ukraine.” Continuing, “Russia is “invincible where conventional war is concerned, but forget about conventional war … it will be a war of infrastructures.”
Adding: “I’ve been agitating and even demanding that we take Donbas [eastern Ukraine]. We need to patch up our vulnerabilities as fast as we can, and then we can do whatever we want.”
“We only lose if we do nothing,” agreed Russian TV interviewer Vladimir Soloviev. He argued that “by absorbing parts of Ukraine — or the entire country — Russia would be able to remove the zone of American influence further from its borders.”
Cyber warfare expert Dr. Edward M. Roche, in “Cyber-Attacking Electric Power Grids: A New Strategic Weapon” (“Blackout Warfare: Attacking the U.S. Electric Power Grid A Revolution in Military Affairs,” 2021), warns that America is far more vulnerable and less prepared than Russia and China:
- “Russiais capable of launching a major attack that would shut down in one coordinated attack at least 80% of America’s electrical grid”;
- “Russiahas likely experimented with placement of cyber logic-bombs in portions of America’s electrical grid”;
- “Russiais more capable than other countries in placement of assets (human agents) into critical parts of the management structure of the American electrical grid”;
- “During an extreme international crisis, a massive Russian cyber-attack against the entire U.S. electric grid prior to the outbreak of conventional or nuclear war is likely, to deter or defeat the U.S. with ‘gray-zone aggression’ instead of or prior to outbreak of a ‘real shooting war’ consistent with Russian military doctrine that Cyber Warfare is an unprecedented and decisive Revolution in Military Affairs”;
- “Russia’s response to a major cyber-attack made by the United States is likely to be at least proportional but more likely disproportional and massive, possibly even resulting in Russian nuclear retaliation as threatened in their military doctrine.”
Dr. Roche also warns that “In cyber, China Is A Mortal Threat To The United States … China has the capability to disable all or at least very large parts of the electrical grid (Eastern, Western, Texas Grid Interconnects) as well as target specific areas, such as power in a single metropolitan area.”
“For U.S. relations with both nations, Russia and China, the emergence of viable paths to cyber-attacks against critical infrastructure as a new strategic weapon has lowered the barriers to conflict and presents a heightened danger with the potential to disrupt the long-standing balancing calculus dependent upon nuclear deterrence.”
Proving Dr. Roche prophetic, a member of the Russian Duma, equivalent to the U.S. Congress, proposes launching a hypersonic nuclear warhead to detonate in the Nevada desert nuclear test area, to demonstrate Ukraine entering NATO would start a nuclear war.
The U.S. is fast running out of time to harden its electric grid against cyber warfare and EMP.
When will President Biden learn that “climate change” and Trump voters are not the greatest threats to America?
- 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, as director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum and on the staffs of the House Armed Services Committee and the CIA. He is author of “Blackout Warfare” (2021) and “The Power And The Light” (2020).
China will probably have 4,000 nuclear warheads by 2030
Two of the most untrustworthy sources of information on planet Earth are Communist China and the politicized Biden intelligence community.
Recently, the intelligence community raised its estimate of the number of nuclear warheads that China will have by 2030 from 400 to 1,000—in effect acknowledging that their original estimate was too low by 150%.
And the new estimate is still way too low, probably by 400%, because China will probably have 4,000 nuclear warheads by 2030.
For years, the intelligence community and academics, the latter mostly China-friendly “scholars” and anti-nuclear activists, have low-balled China’s nuclear arsenal as comprising about 300 warheads.
Early last year, Biden’s intelligence community lowered their estimate of the number of China’s nuclear warheads to 200, which was criticized as too low even by the leftwing anti-nuclear Union of Concerned Scientists.
However, over the summer, the intelligence community was taken by surprise by the discovery that China is rapidly building 350 new ICBM silos. Global Times, a media mouthpiece for Beijing, opined that China should rapidly deploy large numbers of their newest and best ICBM, the DF-41, in case there is a future challenge from the U.S. over Taiwan’s independence or China’s ownership of the South China Sea.
China’s DF-41 ICBM carries 10 warheads. China already has about 50 DF-41 ICBMs deployed on mobile launchers, capable of delivering 500 nuclear warheads.
If China deploys another 350 DF-41s in silos, they will have the capability to deliver an additional 3,500 warheads, for 4,000 warheads deliverable altogether by the DF-41 alone.
China is also modernizing and increasing its number of Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) and strategic bombers. Counting these, Beijing could conceivably have capability to deliver more than 4,000 nuclear warheads against the U.S. by 2030.
So how do President Biden’s intelligence community and anti-nuclear academics manage to ignore China’s current and impending nuclear delivery capabilities, and conclude China will have only 1,000 warheads by 2030, far fewer than Beijing will be able to deliver by ICBMs, SLBMs, and bombers?
One favorite theory, much repeated in the press, is that China may leave most of the new ICBM silos empty, filling only a few with ICBMs, to increase their survivability by a “shell game” strategy.
Never mind that there is no evidence to support the “shell game” theory and that mobile DF-41s are far more survivable and less expensive than the imagined “shell game”—hope springs eternal among those who would low-ball the nuclear threat.
The main argument for only 1,000 warheads by 2030 is based on the premise that China’s future number of nuclear warheads can be calculated accurately from China’s estimated capability to manufacture plutonium and enriched uranium for nuclear weapon pits, used to trigger a thermonuclear explosion. However:
- Estimating China’s ability to produce weapons grade plutonium and uranium from known plants is not precise. Dramatically different estimates can be made by tweaking a few variables.
- We do not know China’s real capability to produce plutonium and uranium. China is probably hiding some or even most of these vitally important facilities, like Russia’s underground Krasnoyarsk-26 and North Korea’s recently discovered Kangson uranium enrichment facility. Recently, the intelligence community was surprised to discover China is almost finished building two new breeder reactors, that by 2023 will be making large amounts of weapons-grade plutonium.
- The estimated amount of plutonium or uranium used to make a pit can make a huge difference in the estimated capability to make nuclear weapons. Union of Concerned Scientists estimates China needs 5-8 kilograms of plutonium or uranium for a pit. But a good designer can make a pit with only 1 kilogram, increasing the possible number of nuclear weapons by 5-8 times greater than UCS estimates.
Ignoring China’s known growing missile firepower and their known actual raw capability to deliver nuclear weapons and focusing instead on China’s much fuzzier potential capability to make plutonium and uranium, is the safer refuge for those who would deny the reality of China’s dramatically escalating nuclear threat.
Historically, better analysts than those in Union of Concerned Scientists and the Biden intelligence community have assessed that China has many more than 300 nuclear warheads, a guesstimate that has been treated as gospel by the press for over a decade.
In 2012, former defense department analyst and Georgetown University professor, Phillip Karber, assessed that China could be hiding 3,000 nuclear weapons. Karber’s perfectly reasonable analysis provoked the wrath of UCS and the arms control community, who insisted that China could not possibly make more than about 300 nuclear weapons.
In 2012, Russian General Viktor Yesin assessed that China had enough fissile material to make 3,600 nuclear weapons, but probably deployed 1,600-1,800. Another Russian assessment, by General Vladimir Dvorkin, estimates China had 1,600 nuclear weapons in 2012 (nine years ago).
These Russian estimates are largely ignored in the West.
Assessments of China’s nuclear capabilities and doctrine in U.S. academic, arms control and intelligence communities have been driven by wishful thinking and a political agenda:
- Globalists and the China lobby (pervasive in U.S. government, academia, and business) want to believe that decades-long pro-China policies are resulting in “convergence” beneficial to the U.S., including by the absence of a growing existential nuclear threat from China.
- Anti-nuclear activists and arms control zealots have for years used China as a “good example” that the U.S. should emulate, by reducing U.S. nuclear weapons to a few hundred for Minimum Deterrence, and by pledging nuclear “No First Use.” This fantasy view of China is dissolving fast as Beijing rapidly builds toward nuclear superiority and threatens nuclear strikes against Japan, Australia, and the United States.
- Guesstimating China’s nuclear arsenal at 1,000 warheads by 2030 enables the pro-China lobby and the press to claim that the U.S. still has more nuclear weapons than China, and to blame the U.S. for not doing enough to stop the arms race. 1,000 warheads just happens to be the number that the arms control community wants the U.S. to adopt, in their hoped for next phase of further reducing U.S. nuclear weapons.
The jig is up for the pro-China lobby, anti-nuclear activists, and arms control zealots, if Washington accepts the reality that China will have 4,000 nuclear weapons by 2030. This is ten times the number of nuclear weapons on U.S. ICBMs, and nearly three times the number of U.S. nuclear weapons operationally deployed on the entire U.S. nuclear Triad, including all ICBMs, SLBMs, and bombers.
China is building the capability to deliver 4,000 nuclear weapons because it will have 4,000 nuclear warheads by 2030. China’s trajectory toward 4,000 nuclear weapons is aimed at global domination.
Unfortunately, too many in Washington are falling for the Biden intelligence community estimate without thinking. Why in the world would China build the capability to deliver 4,000 nuclear weapons, when it supposedly can manufacture only 1,000 warheads by 2030?
From such intelligence miscalculations, Afghanistans, 9/11s, Vietnams, Korean Wars, and Pearl Harbors are made.
We are far beyond a “Sputnik moment”
In 1957, I was only three years old, but distinctly remember standing in the front yard of my grandmother’s house, with my parents, brothers, and cousins, all of us gazing at the night sky, fascinated and terrified as the world’s first satellite passed overhead among the stars, the USSR’s Sputnik.
Today it is still controversial whether Sputnik could be seen with the naked eye. Some argue what was seen was the large booster that orbited both the little satellite and itself, following Sputnik across the sky.
Sputnik is unimpressive by today’s standards, just a small polished metal sphere, 23 inches in diameter, carrying batteries for radio transmissions from four projecting antennae. It orbited four months before burning-up on re-entry.
Nonetheless, in those much wiser days, the Eisenhower administration and congressional Democrats and Republicans alike correctly interpreted Sputnik as a national security emergency. U.S. political and military leaders, most of whom had witnessed or survived the technological “wonder weapons” of World War II, immediately understood that Sputnik foreshadowed a military revolution of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could deliver against the United States a nuclear Pearl Harbor.
The entire nation united behind crash programs to catch-up with the Russians in space and missile technology, including massive investment in education and expansion of colleges and universities to produce scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, while families were encouraged to build nuclear bomb shelters, and children, including me, practiced “duck and cover” exercises in school.
John F. Kennedy ran for president promising to close the “missile gap” with Russia, for which he would be mocked by future liberal historians and anti-nuclear activists, as the USSR had only 4 ICBMs in 1961. But Kennedy was right that Nikita Khrushchev was, in the Soviet dictator’s words “churning out missiles like sausages”—700 IRBMs and MRBMs to target NATO Europe, a vast superiority over the U.S. in that theater, where Moscow thought a nuclear World War III would be fought.
But President Kennedy built a vast superiority over the USSR in ICBMs (170) by the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis, which decisive advantage in nuclear firepower, along with superiority in strategic bombers and missile submarines, enabled him to prevail peacefully, averting a global thermonuclear holocaust.
Fast forward to today.
In August 2021, China tested a space superweapon, demonstrating a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) that orbited around the Earth a Hypersonic Glide Vehicle (HGV), that de-orbited to simulate an attack on a terrestrial target. It is the first time any nation has combined these technologies, which have revolutionary implications, enabling EMP, nuclear, or possibly even conventional attacks, against any target on Earth, in 45 minutes or less, with little or no warning.
U.S. intelligence and defense officials were, again, taken by surprise. “We had no idea China could do this,” according to a senior intelligence officer, reflecting the views of a shocked intelligence and defense community in the U.S. and worldwide, as reported by Financial Times that broke the story on 16 October 2021, coincidentally during the 59th anniversary of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
Defense and intelligence community professionals almost universally acknowledge China’s test of the FOBS/HGV combination is a major threat, potentially a “game changer” with even JCS Chairman Mark Milley likening the test to Sputnik. Yet Sputnik merely foreshadowed a new era in military technology, whereas the FOBS/HGV is an actual revolutionary space weapon.
As former senior defense official, Dr. Mark Schneider warns: “Another important aspect of such a weapon is its potential to launch a surprise nuclear EMP attack. Such an attack would be devastating. This is now a demonstrated capability that does not require the use of an ICBM, an SLBM, or any other type of ballistic missile. This has critical implications for attack warning.” (“China Tests an Orbital Hypersonic Nuclear-Capable Missile” RealClearDefense 30 October 2021).
As I warned in an earlier article: “A FOBS warhead could make a surprise nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack, paralyzing U.S. electric grids, communications, and potentially military command-control-communications-intelligence (C3I) and U.S. nuclear retaliatory forces—thereby winning a nuclear war with a single blow.” (“China’s New Superweapon Exploits U.S. Blind Spot” Center for Security Policy 20 October 2021).
China’s space superweapon is the latest in a long series of technological surprises that have profound implications for U.S. and global security. For example:
—Hypersonic Glide Vehicles (HGVs): Russia and China are far ahead of the U.S. in development and deployment of Hypersonic Glide Vehicles that can fly below radar at supersonic speeds (Mach 5-25), can outmaneuver missile defenses, potentially have pinpoint accuracy, and are ideally suited for surprise attack. Russia is developing nuclear-armed HGVs for deliver by a wide variety of means, including ICBMs, aircraft, ships, submarines, and by FOBS. China has conducted “hundreds” of HGV tests versus only 9 tests by the U.S., according to JCS Vice Chairman, General John Hyten. (“Senior U.S. General Warns China’s Military Progress Is ‘Stunning’” CNN 28 October 2021).
—Super-EMP: Russia, China, and probably North Korea have developed Super-EMP weapons deliverable by satellite, missile, or HGV, that can generate extraordinarily powerful EMP fields, 100 kilovolts/meter or more, greatly exceeding the U.S. military EMP hardening standard (50 kilovolts/meter). China is developing a non-nuclear EMP weapon for delivery by HGVs. Warns the blue-ribbon Congressional EMP Commission: “Foreign adversaries may aptly consider nuclear EMP attack a weapon that can gravely damage the U.S. by striking at its technological Achilles Heel, without having to confront the U.S. military.” (Assessing the Threat from Electromagnetic Pulse 2017. All the unclassified EMP Commission reports are at www.firstempcommission.org.)
—First-Strike ICBMs: Although MIRVed ICBMs, carrying multiple warheads capable of destroying multiple targets, are not new technologically, the U.S. decision to de-MIRV its ICBMs while reducing to 400 ICBM silos under New START has created an unprecedented opportunity for a successful first strike by Russia or China. China’s deployment of its DF-41 ICBMs in large numbers is a technological and strategic surprise. The DF-41 has yield-accuracy combination to achieve over 90% Single-Shot-Kill-Probability against U.S. ICBM silos, each DF-41 having 10 warheads, each capable of 90% SSPK against a U.S. silo. So one DF-41 could destroy 10 U.S. Minuteman III ICBMs. China’s surprise rapid expansion of its ICBM force to perhaps 400 DF-41s in a few years would give China 4,000 warheads on the DF-41 alone, a 10-to-1 advantage in ICBM warheads and nearly 3-to-1 advantage over all U.S. strategic nuclear weapons on all ICBMs, SLBMs, and bombers. Russia’s equally ambitious strategic nuclear programs, combined with likely cheating on New START, will give Moscow an even greater advantage and capabilities to realize the Russian General Staff’s nuclear war-winning strategy.
—Artificial Intelligence (AI): Russia reportedly is incorporating AI to improve the capabilities of both defensive anti-missile/anti-air systems and offensive nuclear systems. Russia’s Poseidon is an Artificially Intelligent nuclear-powered “torpedo” or fully-autonomous submarine, armed with the world’s most powerful nuclear warhead (100 megatons). If used to hunt and kill U.S. missile submarines on patrol, Poseidon alone would be a “game changer” by threatening the most survivable U.S. nuclear deterrent, and would make any U.S. plans to reduce the Triad to a Monad of missile submarines suicidal. China and Russia will both probably harness AI to make the oceans “transparent” so U.S. missile submarines can be located and destroyed by multiple means. China also reportedly is using AI to further improve the accuracy of Hypersonic Glide Vehicles. AI could also be the key to a revolutionary new way of warfare focused on cyber-attacking electric grids and critical infrastructures (see Blackout Warfare 2021) that would make traditional warfare obsolete. The Defense Department’s first software chief, Nicolas Chaillon, recently quit because allegedly the U.S. has already lost the AI war with China: “We have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years. Right now, it is already a done deal; it is already over.” (“U.S. Has Already Lost AI Fight To China, Say Ex-Pentagon Software Chief” Financial Times 10 October 2021).
So the U.S. is facing multiple revolutionary technological existential threats that could overturn the balance of strategic power, defeat nuclear deterrence, and tempt China or Russia or both to launch World War III. We are far beyond a “Sputnik moment”—yet Washington is divided on how, and even on whether, to respond.
The Antinuclear-Media Complex
Washington is not reacting intelligently and prudently to the current crisis by mobilizing to dominate the technological future, as it did in 1957. Today, Washington is deeply divided and polarized between:
–The defense and intelligence communities, independent analysts, and their usually conservative political supporters, often derided by opponents as the “Military-Industrial Complex” versus;
–The antinuclear and arms control communities, academics, usually leftist politicians, and biased mass media, what might be called the “Antinuclear-Media Complex.”
Unfortunately, the latter is in the driver’s seat in Washington, in the Biden administration, in Congress, in the Democratic Party, being over-represented out of all proportion to their numbers in the general population because of a sympathetic media megaphone.
Members of the “Antinuclear-Media Complex” typically lack experience working in the defense or intelligence communities, are often ignorant of the issues on which they opine, make many errors of fact and analysis, propound Russian and Chinese propaganda, and not infrequently belong to organizations originally founded as fronts for disinformation by Soviet intelligence agencies—yet their opinions dominate the press. The “Antinuclear-Media Complex” is always quick with their non-expert opinions to dismiss, low-ball, or belittle every new nuclear threat from China, Russia, and North Korea, and to oppose every U.S. nuclear modernization program.
For example, STRATCOM Commander, Admiral Charles Richard, gets far less ink than the Middlebury Institute’s Jeffrey Lewis, a fact which may prove fatal to the nation. Lewis, who knows nothing about EMP, once laughingly mocked former DCI R. James Woolsey for correctly warning National Public Radio listeners that North Korea could make an EMP attack on the U.S. NPR, responding to complaints about Lewis’ unprofessionalism and erroneous dismissal of Woolsey, launched a fake investigation that ignored the EMP Commission and the evidence proving Woolsey right, NPR in effect lying to its listeners about the North Korean EMP threat.
–Kyle Mizukami, not an expert on EMP or FOBS, gets to misinform the public about both in the pages of Popular Science, writing on October 20: “If China does deploy a FOBS system, it changes little for the security of the United States…Nuclear deterrence still means any state foolish enough to launch a surprise attack on the U.S. would commit national suicide.” Yet the whole point of the FOBS is to defeat U.S. nuclear deterrence, including by a surprise EMP attack that could paralyze U.S. retaliatory forces.
–David Sanger in the New York Times suggests Beijing’s FOBS/HGV space superweapon is propaganda from the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex that wants a New Cold War instead of cooperation with Communist China on Covid-19 and Climate Change: “Governments that plunge into a Cold War mindset can exaggerate every conflict, convinced that they are part of a larger struggle. They can miss opportunities for cooperation, as the United States and China did in battling Covid-19, and may yet on the climate.”
–Daniel Drezner in the Washington Post (October 25) suspects China’s FOBS/HGV space superweapon is a conspiracy by the Pentagon and “GOP congressional staffers” who “sound pretty hawkish” to derail President Biden’s plans to cut modernization of the U.S. nuclear deterrent: “Cold wars can also incentivize hawks to use well-timed leaks to undercut dovish members of a foreign policy team.”
–CNN’s Natasha Bertrand likewise thinks “the enemy is us” recently reporting: “China’s test of a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile has given new fuel to critics of President Joe Biden’s ambitious agenda to scale back America’s nuclear arsenal…news of the launch is coming to light publicly as the administration nears the end of its Nuclear Posture Review. Biden’s national security team has been working toward a policy of increased restraint and more limited spending on nuclear modernization and production.”
An Appeal To Reason
The threat to the United States is not from the Pentagon or GOP congressional staffers, but from China and Russia’s new nuclear superweapons.
Worth quoting at length is a prominent defense expert who insists on anonymity lest his career be jeopardized for publicly voicing “politically incorrect” views:
“The PLA has been thinking long and hard, and doing what the West did so well during the Cold War – playing technological strategy and getting lots of smart people with PhDs to crunch lots and lots of numbers. Holmes Liao’s literature survey on hypersonics published by Jamestown is well worth a read and shows that what Pry is arguing is neither extrapolation nor speculation, but actually hard fact. The PLA is indeed looking at arming HGVs with EMP or HPM warheads, and appreciates the virtues of low apogee strategic weapons implicitly – unlike many in the West who insist on framing all facts into an ideological narrative, in which the West is always at fault…”
“Muscovy’s narrative for the Avangard HGV is that it defeats ABM / BMD systems. Western media have bought into this narrative with great zeal..”.
“Accurate midcourse tracking for intercepts is the biggest challenge in defeating FOBS and HGVs, or hybrids like the recently flown PLARF prototype. And the reason for this is simply because of the curvature of the earth. A FOBS in a 150 km low orbit, or a HGV skating across the upper atmosphere at 100 km is hidden below the radar horizon of a ground or sea based BMD radar no differently than a cruise missile at 100 ft AGL is hidden from a SAM site, until they are close enough for radar line of sight. This was always one of the unstated advantages of FOBS and the rationale for depressed ICBM/IRBM/SLBM trajectories. The result of these low elevation trajectories is that unlike ICBMs that hit their apogees at altitudes of 1,000 km or more, and can be accurately tracked for ABM shots from thousands of kilometers away, FOBS, HGVs and DT ICBM/IRBM/SLBM are not detected and tracked by a land/sea based ABM radar until quite close to their targets, significantly cutting warning times for retaliatory ICBM launches, or engagement by ABMs.”
“This is the real agenda behind the RVSN’s Avangard, and the PLARF FOBS/HGV hybrid and this demonstrably makes them destabilizing first strike weapons, something Western narrative driven media and arms control zealots usually fail to mention, since the West is always at fault, not Russia or China.”
On the theory that “a picture is worth a thousand words” something of the revolutionary severity of the FOBS/HGV threat is depicted in the three figures below:
–The “Ballistic minimum energy trajectory” is the ICBM/SLBM threat during the Cold War and today, which is what U.S. Ballistic Missile Early Warning Systems are designed to detect to support deterrence and, if necessary, U.S. nuclear retaliation.
–The “Ballistic depressed trajectory” is a “worst case” theoretical threat that greatly worried U.S. military planners during the Cold War as a means of surprise attack, which was never addressed.
–The “Hypersonic glide” trajectory is the threat of surprise attack posed today by Hypersonic Glide Vehicles.
–The two other figures below depict HGV trajectories during boost-phase and atmospheric re-entry, which also significantly complicate problems of detection, interception, and defense.
Hypersonic Glide Vehicle (HGV) trajectories versus Depressed Trajectory (DT) SLBM/ICBM and ballistic trajectories (Tracy and Wright, 2020):
The illustration above (from Wikipedia) compares and contrasts the threat from an ICBM launched on a normal ballistic trajectory versus a FOBS, which reduces radar early-warning time to almost nothing. The FOBS, if launched on a south polar trajectory, provides no early warning at all.
The introduction by China, Russia, and even North Korea of FOBS and HGVs threatens to destroy the foundations of nuclear deterrence. This is indeed another “Sputnik moment” that should mobilize an emergency national response, as the original Sputnik did in 1957.
What Is To Be Done?
Unfortunately, the Biden administration appears cowed by or a co-conspirator with the Antinuclear-Media Complex, that is determined to use the Nuclear Posture Review to (in CNN’s words) “scale back America’s nuclear arsenal” perhaps to a Monad of six missile submarines and a posture of Minimum Deterrence. The Antinuclear-Media Complex thinks none of the revolutionary nuclear threats discussed here matter, nor do any of the complex technologies or strategic calculations matter, because, as President Biden pledged in Geneva: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
Just as British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain thought World War II was impossible because “the bomber will always get through,” so too the Antinuclear-Media Complex has blind faith in the efficacy of Minimum Deterrence.
At best, the new Nuclear Posture Review will permit present U.S. nuclear modernization programs to continue. These programs, inherited from the Obama administration, will prove as inadequate to the future technological challenge as the B-29 bomber was to Sputnik.
Since the Biden administration has continued President Trump’s “Executive Order on Coordinating National Resilience to Electromagnetic Pulses”—perhaps the Biden administration can be persuaded to launch a crash program hardening U.S. strategic forces, C3I, electric grids and other civilian critical infrastructures against EMP. This would address one of the worst threats posed by FOBS/HGVs. Passive defense of U.S. critical infrastructures against EMP and Cyber Warfare should not be philosophically or politically objectionable to the Antinuclear-Media Complex.
Perhaps the last best hope is space-based missile defense, which can render nuclear missiles obsolete, defeat FOBS/HGVs, and protect America from being attacked with EMP in the first place. Ambassador Henry Cooper, former Director of the Strategic Defense Initiative, estimates the Brilliant Pebbles space-based defense can be resurrected and deployed in 5 years for $20 billion—quick and inexpensive by today’s standards.
Alas, “Star Wars” is vehemently opposed by Russia, China, North Korea, and the Antinuclear-Media Complex. But as the consequences of U.S. strategic inferiority and vulnerability become increasingly clear, likely leading to adversary aggression and unraveling of U.S. alliances, even the Biden administration and the Antinuclear-Media Complex may awaken to reality.
Maybe someday soon even CNN will realize that “Star Wars” is the best possible anti-nuclear strategy. And to become President “Star Wars” Biden would be the best possible legacy, to succeed where President Reagan failed, by slaying the nuclear dragon and stilling the ghosts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Blacking Out Civilization With Robotic Terrorism
My new book “Blackout Warfare” warns that drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be used to black out national power grids.
Now, according to an FBI and DHS memo recently reported in the press, in July 2020 a drone made a failed attack on the Pennsylvania electric power grid. The drone, trailing electrical conductors intended to short out high-voltage powerlines at a transformer substation, crashed on a roof before reaching its target.
The perpetrator has not yet been identified.
A similar attack using a small manned airplane blacked out Canada’s Hydro-Québec electric grid in 2014. According to The Washington Post:
“Hydro-Quebec, Canada’s largest electric utility, was hit with a crippling blackout at the start of the winter. Traffic lights went dark, and more than 188,000 customers lost power, including Montreal’s McGill University Health Center. … Power exports to the Northeast United States were cut. Industrial users were asked to slash production … ” (See “The Power And The Light,” 2020.)
Military drones and armed unmanned aerial vehicles are in the process of revolutionizing warfare.
In 2020, for the first time in history, an Air Force of UAVs defeated a traditional army of tanks, soldiers, and manned jets, giving Azerbaijan decisive victory over Armenia in the long inconclusive Nagorno-Karabakh war, waged on and off for over 30 years.
An ongoing technological revolution in non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse (NNEMP) weapons is making these more powerful, more miniaturized and lighter weight, and deliverable by drones or UAVs. The marriage of NNEMP warheads to UAVs, 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.
A nonexplosive high-power microwave warhead, for example, can emit repeated bursts of electromagnetic energy to upset and damage electronic targets. Such a warhead, attached to a programmable drone or UAV, could follow the powerlines to attack numerous transformer and control substations, until its energy is exhausted.
Relatively small numbers of NNEMP drones or UAVs — perhaps only one capable of protracted flight — could inflict a long nationwide blackout. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, 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.
Thus, NNEMP unmanned aerial vehicles might be able to achieve results similar to a nuclear EMP attack in blacking out power grids, though the NNEMP attack would probably take hours instead of seconds.
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.
A German version of the “EMP Suitcase” weighs only 62 pounds, easily deliverable by drone or UAV.
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.”
Most NNEMP generators have limited range, less than 10 kilometers. 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 may 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.
Iran has demonstrated sophisticated UAVs and drones, using over 20 to make highly precise and coordinated attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil processing facilities on September 14, 2019. Such delivery vehicles could easily be armed with NNEMP warheads to make a less sophisticated version of CHAMP.
Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of international terrorism, and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard is the world’s most powerful and sophisticated terrorist organization. The advent of Blackout Terrorism by UAV is inevitable.
The technological revolution in NNEMP weapons and UAVs threatens to become an electromagnetic Pearl Harbor for nations, like the United States, that fail to fully comprehend the threat and have not protected civilian critical infrastructures and military systems.
President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill spending trillions to “build back better” the nation’s critical infrastructures proposes spending millions for more EMP protection studies. Someday, perhaps soon, the infrastructure bill will prove to be a tragic missed opportunity.
What is needed is not more studies, but a crash program to protect the U.S. electric grid, and 320 million Americans, from the looming existential threat that is Blackout Warfare.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security.
The Taiwan nuclear powder keg: A new Cuban Missile Crisis?
–“As Somebody who is cognizant of the evidence at all classification levels, cognizant of what’s going on in our exercises…I believe the light is blinking red.” Lt. Gen. S. Clinton Hinote
—“Now the international situation has changed dramatically…In order to protect the peaceful rise of our country, it is necessary to make limited adjustments to our nuclear policy.” Unofficial People’s Liberation Army Website
As the 59th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis approaches on October 16th, it may be useful to reflect and consider some strategic similarities, and dissimilarities, between the U.S.-USSR nuclear confrontation over Cuba in 1962, and the present China-U.S. confrontation over Taiwan, that many fear could escalate into a nuclear World War III.
Cuba and Taiwan: Superpower Confrontation
Ideologically, the takeover of Cuba by communist revolutionary Fidel Castro in 1959 was perceived in Washington to be a serious blow to the credibility of the U.S. and the Free World in their Cold War struggle against Soviet communism. Cuba, a free enterprise “wild west” for U.S. corporations, and in America’s own backyard, had thrown off “the shackles of capitalism” to go communist.
Today, Taiwan is literally and figuratively an island of political and economic freedom, a prosperous rebuke to communist totalitarianism, in China’s own backyard.
Far worse from Beijing’s perspective, the government of Taiwan is descended from anti-communists who lost the civil war to control mainland China in 1949. Taiwan’s government calls itself the “Republic of China” because they still consider themselves the legitimate rulers of the mainland, in exile.
The “People’s Republic of China,” as communist China calls itself, regards Taiwan’s “Republic of China” as illegitimate, an unconquered pocket of rebellion, in illegal occupation of communist China’s island territory of Taiwan.
Worst of all from Beijing’s perspective, Taiwan’s government poses an existential threat to communist China. Taiwan could foment revolution or someday return from exile with the backing of the U.S. and allies to take over control of the mainland, or so a paranoid Beijing fears.
Consequently, China’s ideological and political interests in conquering Taiwan are far greater than U.S. interests were or are in ousting communism from Cuba.
Yet the U.S. did covertly invade Cuba, in the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs operation, run by the CIA using an army of Cuban exiles, unsupported by the U.S. military, so Washington could avoid looking like an “imperialist” power.
Communist China has no qualms about breaking international law or making overt military threats to conquer Taiwan. China has been constrained from doing so for decades only because of its insufficient military capabilities and fear of U.S. intervention.
Cuba and Taiwan: Nuclear Flashpoints
Geostrategically, Cuba and Taiwan are in analogous situations, island nations next door to military superpowers, indefensible without a superpower friend.
In 1962, Cuba’s superpower friend was the USSR. But even the USSR could not project enough naval strength across the Atlantic to defend Cuba from the United States.
So Moscow protected Cuba with extended nuclear deterrence, including by basing nuclear missiles in Cuba—which also greatly increased the USSR’s capability to launch a surprise nuclear attack against the U.S.
So began the Cuban missile crisis (16 October – 20 November 1962), resolved by the USSR’s humiliating withdrawal of nuclear missiles from Cuba—compelled by the U.S. having a 5-to-1 advantage in ICBMs and vast superiority in strategic nuclear bombers.
President Kennedy also secretly agreed to withdraw U.S. obsolete Jupiter missiles from Turkey. That the Soviets accepted international humiliation and kept this part of the deal secret testifies to the bargaining leverage afforded by superior U.S. nuclear firepower in 1962.
Consequences of U.S. Military and Nuclear Decline
Today, if China attempts to conquer Taiwan, it will be the U.S., like the USSR in 1962, that will be militarily disadvantaged.
The Pentagon’s own wargames show the U.S. losing to China in a conflict over Taiwan.
The Defense Department’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategy, Integration, and Requirements, Lt. General Sam Hinote, warned recently: “As Somebody who is cognizant of the evidence at all classification levels, cognizant of what’s going on in our exercises…I believe the light is blinking red…Why? Because it used to be that when we did future war games, we were having trouble when we set the war game 5, 10, 15 years out into the future…But what has changed since the last time we sat in this building two years ago, is that it’s not a future problem…It is a current problem…We are out of time.”
Like the U.S. in 1962, China may soon, if not already, dominate the nuclear balance.
U.S. STRATCOM Commander, Admiral Charles Richard, as reported by Bill Gertz in the Washington Times (12 August 2021), warns China is building silos for “350-400 new long-range missiles” like the DF-41 ICBM, which carries 10 warheads. Consequently: “If 10 warheads are deployed on the DF-41s, China’s warhead level will increase to 4,000 warheads on the DF-41 alone.”
4,000 DF-41 ICBM warheads alone would give China a 10-to-1 advantage over the United States’ 400 ICBM warheads, and nearly a 3-to-1 advantage over the 1,400 operationally deployed U.S. strategic nuclear weapons on all ICBMs, SLBMs, and bombers.
China already has a nuclear first-strike capability against the U.S. 400 ICBM silos, 3 bomber bases, 2 SSBN ports, and C3I targets comprising the U.S. nuclear deterrent. China’s existing DF-41 ICBMs have enough warheads with yield/accuracy combinations capable of achieving 90% single-shot-kill probability against the hardest U.S. targets.
Dr. Mark Schneider, a former senior Defense Department official and prominent nuclear strategist, in his excellent article “The Chinese Nuclear Breakout and the Biden Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review” (Real Clear Defense 28 August 2021), makes a compelling case that U.S. ICBMs and SLBMs lack yield/accuracy sufficient to destroy China’s hardest targets, including ICBM silos that may be hardened to 30,000 psi (U.S. ICBM silos are hardened to 2,000 psi).
Moreover, U.S. retaliatory capabilities against counterforce targets in China—including ICBM silos, missile tunnels, mobile missiles, bomber and SSBN bases, C3I bunkers, and the 5,000 kilometers long “Underground Great Wall”—are grossly inadequate.
China, Russia, North Korea: Nuclear Triad
China’s race toward nuclear domination of the U.S. probably accounts for why Beijing appears to have retracted its nuclear “No First Use” pledge.
Recently, China threatened a nuclear first strike against Australia for buying U.S. nuclear-powered (not nuclear-armed) submarines.
In July, an “unofficial” website (Xigua Video) affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army threatened:
—“Now the international situation has changed dramatically…In order to protect the peaceful rise of our country, it is necessary to make limited adjustments to our nuclear policy.”
–“When we liberate Taiwan, if Japan dares to intervene by force, even if it deploys only one soldier, one plane, and one ship..we will use nuclear bombs first. We will use nuclear bombs continuously until Japan declares unconditional surrender for the second time.”
—“We’ll join force with Russia and North Korea [to] shoot together to hit the Japanese mainland thoroughly and in full depth.”
—“After defeating Japan, we must take more severe measures than in World War II to partition Japan…by dividing the four Japanese islands into four independent states…China and Russia should each formulate its own Peace Constitution, and each of the four countries should be placed under the administration of China and Russia, with China and Russia stationing troops.”
Victorious in a nuclear war over Taiwan, would China be more merciful to its chief opponent, the United States, than to Japan? In the above, substitute “Japan” with the “United States” for the “unofficial” PLA vision of the post-war.
Russia and North Korea have made no official denial that they would join with China in a nuclear war against the United States. Indeed, China, Russia, and North Korea are strategic partners. China and Russia have conducted major military exercises together, including at least one strategic forces exercise postulating a nuclear war with the U.S. over Taiwan.
In 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy did not face a coalition of three nuclear powers.
China’s most compelling reason for conquering Taiwan is for ownership of the future—and this probably makes war inevitable. China needs Taiwan as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” to defend itself and to dominate the South China Sea and the Pacific. No empire aspiring to world dominance will tolerate a rival in its own backyard.
What Is To Be Done?
Given rapidly growing nuclear threats from China, Russia, North Korea and the proximity of nuclear confrontation over Taiwan, the Biden Administration’s failure to publicly spurn Democrats calling for unilaterally banning U.S. ICBMs, banning SLCMs, deep reductions in nuclear weapons, Minimum Deterrence, a U.S. “No First Use Pledge” etc., is suicidal.
Not only are these anti-nuclear policies irrational, but their vociferous proposal risks “sending the wrong message” to China, Russia, and North Korea at a perilous time. Their message of weakness, combined with the Afghanistan debacle, is far worse than Secretary of State Dean Acheson’s “wrong message” in 1950 that helped start the Korean War.
What is needed is another President John F. Kennedy or President Ronald Reagan, who invested in “Peace Through Strength” by building a nuclear deterrent “second to none,” and who understood weakness is an invitation to World War III. President Biden has an opportunity to follow their good example in the Nuclear Posture Review and by greatly accelerating and expanding U.S. nuclear deterrent modernization.
Nuclear strength enabled President Kennedy to win the Cuban missile crisis without war. Nuclear strength enabled President Reagan to win the Cold War peacefully.
U.S. nuclear inferiority will be tantamount to surrender in the New Cold War.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, served as Chief of Staff of the Congressional EMP Commission, Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, on the staffs of the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is the author of Blackout Warfare (2021) and The Power And The Light (2020).
Losing America’s future to the new nuclear superpowers
“China’s explosive growth and modernization of its nuclear and conventional forces can only be what I describe as breathtaking.” U.S. Strategic Commander, Admiral Charles Richard
“Russia is the primary military threat to the homeland today. It is not China—it is Russia.” NORAD Commander, General Glen VanHerck
China’s First-Strike Capability
“Whether intended or not, China is acquiring a first-strike capability,” warns U.S. Air Force Secretary, Frank Kendall, delivering the keynote address at the recent Air, Space, and Cyber Conference of the Air Force Association.
China probably already has a nuclear first-strike capability against the U.S. nuclear deterrent.
U.S. counterforce targets comprise 440 ICBM silos and Launch Control Facilities, 3 strategic bomber bases, 2 ballistic missile submarine ports, and a relatively small number of Command-Control-Communications-Intelligence (C3I) centers, like NORAD HQ at Peterson AFB and the Alternate HQ inside Cheyenne Mountain.
Altogether, about 500 targets. All 500 of these U.S. targets, which are the muscle and brain of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, can be destroyed in a surprise first strike by China today.
Just 50 of China’s DF-41 ICBMs can deliver 500 nuclear warheads having yield/accuracy combinations that could achieve Single-Shot-Kill-Probability (SSPK) of over 90% against each target, destroying U.S. ICBMs in their silos, bombers on their bases, and the two-thirds of U.S. ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) normally in port.
So today, not 10 years from now, China can already achieve a nuclear Pearl Harbor.
Washington: Minimum Deterrence and an SSBN Monad?
However, Washington assumes the small number of U.S. SSBNs normally on patrol at sea, usually, about 4 submarines, are “invulnerable” and sufficient to deter any nuclear threat. Obviously, China, Russia, and North Korea don’t think so, or they would not be mass-producing nuclear missiles.
Some in Washington even want to unilaterally eliminate both U.S. ICBMs and nuclear bombers, and rely only on an SSBN fleet reduced to 6 submarines–that could normally sustain on patrol at sea just 2 boats. They think, despite the ongoing massive nuclear buildup by Beijing, Moscow, and Pyongyang, all the U.S. needs is a small number of missile submarines, called an SSBN Monad, for Minimum Deterrence.
Advocates of an SSBN Monad and Minimum Deterrence are indifferent to the fact that submarines are largely not useable in a counterforce exchange with Russia, China, or even North Korea.
SSBNs are supposed to be held in reserve to deter nuclear attacks on U.S. cities.
After a nuclear Pearl Harbor that destroys U.S. ICBMs, bombers, and submarines in port; if the few SSBNs at sea are expended in futile attacks on the enemy’s vacant bomber bases, empty ICBM silos, hidden mobile ICBMs, and deep underground command posts that are virtually invulnerable—what then happens to American cities, naked and defenseless to enemy nuclear blackmail, or nuclear annihilation?
China, Russia, and maybe even North Korea do not think U.S. submarines are “invulnerable.” EMP and cyber-attacks can potentially destroy or disrupt C3I connectivity to submarines on patrol, neutralizing them. SSBNs cannot remain “invulnerable” at sea forever. After 6 months on patrol, they have to be resupplied and return to port.
China and Russia are investing heavily in hunter-killer submarines dedicated to destroying “invulnerable” U.S. SSBNs. Russia will soon deploy a nuclear-powered “torpedo” armed with a 100-megaton warhead, designed with Artificial Intelligence, so it could tail U.S. SSBNs on patrol, and destroy them on command.
China: Global Domination
If China already has a nuclear first-strike capability, why has there been no nuclear Pearl Harbor?
Maybe nuclear deterrence is working, so far. Or maybe China has bigger plans.
The Pentagon didn’t really start worrying about the nuclear threat from China until this year, when satellites discovered China quickly building new ICBM silos in the desert, first 150, then 250, then 350, now 400 missile silos, probably for their DF-41 ICBM armed with 10 warheads.
U.S. Strategic Commander, Admiral Charles Richard warns: “China’s explosive growth and modernization of its nuclear and conventional forces can only be what I describe as breathtaking.”
In a few years, China could have over 4,000 strategic nuclear weapons, over twice as many as the U.S.—enough for a nuclear first strike on the whole world.
China appears to be emulating the former Soviet Union, whose vaulting nuclear ambitions encompassed not only a nuclear Pearl Harbor against the United States but against every nation on Earth. So aggressive were the Soviets that they even planned nuclear strikes against remote Pacific islands with long-abandoned U.S. airfields from World War II.
That is why U.S.-USSR nuclear arms-racing during the Cold War reached levels of nuclear weapons that were, to the U.S. arms control community, incomprehensibly high. Incomprehensible to the U.S., because we weren’t planning for a nuclear war against the entire planet.
Russia: Global Domination
Russia never stopped being the USSR in its nuclear ambitions. That is why Russia is cheating on nuclear treaties to achieve:
–An at least 10-to-1 advantage over the U.S. in tactical nuclear weapons, having perhaps as many as 8,000 tactical nuclear weapons, versus 200 for the U.S., by Russia cheating on the Presidential Nuclear Initiative.
–A monopoly on intermediate-range nuclear missiles, where the U.S. has none, by Russia cheating on the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
–Probably a 2-to-1 advantage over the U.S. in strategic nuclear weapons, by Russia cheating on the New START Treaty.
–Technological advantages over the U.S. in modern nuclear weapons of advanced design, by Russia cheating on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty for 30 years.
Warns NORAD Commander, General Glen VanHerck: “Russia is the primary military threat to the homeland today. It is not China—it is Russia.”
Speaking on September 21, General VanHerck said of Russia and China: “They have to both be feared…If your only option to prevent an attack on the homeland is to nuke them, you’re not in a good place.”
Is The New Cold War Already Lost?
Are China and Russia secretly nuclear arms-racing against each other, leaving the U.S. in the dust, Washington already regarded by Beijing and Moscow as “on the ash heap of history”? Perhaps, in the longer term.
However, for the present, China and Russia are strategic partners, cooperating diplomatically, militarily, and technologically—the U.S. in their nuclear crosshairs.
President Biden’s response? He is waiting for a new Nuclear Posture Review to tell him what to do.
There is zero chance President Biden will follow the example of Presidents Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy and close the growing “window of vulnerability” by matching the explosive growth of nuclear threats from China and Russia to deter them.
The Pentagon is hoping the Biden White House will ignore anti-nuclear activists within the Biden Administration, and among Democrat leaders in the Senate and House, who would unilaterally disarm to an SSBN Monad for Minimum Deterrence.
The best that can be hoped for from the Biden White House is that present U.S. nuclear modernization plans will continue slowly plodding forward, mostly to be completed after 2030, greatly overmatched by China and Russia.
Washington has forgotten that President Kennedy was glad to have a 5-to-1 superiority in ICBMs over the USSR, which enabled the U.S. during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis to prevail peacefully—without nuclear war.
Washington has forgotten that President Reagan’s military build-up to nuclear parity with the USSR, and his Strategic Defense Initiative, empowered the U.S. to win the Cold War peacefully—without nuclear war.
Washington has forgotten that the strategic nuclear balance will decide winners and losers, and shape future world order—maybe without nuclear war. But U.S. weakness will invite totalitarian aggression and maybe nuclear World War III.
Maybe the New Cold War is already lost, and Washington’s decision to yield nuclear superiority to China and Russia is our surrender.
For sure, Washington today is what losing the future looks like.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, served as Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, as Chief of Staff of the Congressional EMP Commission, and on the staffs of the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is the author of the books Blackout Warfare (2021) and The Power And The Light (2020).
"BLACKOUT WARFARE: WEAPONIZING WEATHER TO ATTACK THE U.S. ELECTRIC POWER GRID"
An attack on the U.S. electric power grid, with the objective of causing a regional or nationwide protracted blackout, is likely to exploit severe weather as a weapon. Hurricanes, heat waves, ice storms, tornadoes, summer temperature highs and winter lows, and other weather extremes, can stress electric grids and tax emergency resources, facilitating attacks by cyber, sabotage, and EMP to orchestrate a protracted blackout.
Exploiting severe weather to wage a “blackout war” offers numerous strategic, tactical, and operational advantages supporting a combined-arms cyber, sabotage, and EMP attack.
Storm-induced blackouts of the electric power grid are suggestive of the possible consequences of a “blackout war” such as could be waged against the United States by Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and/or international terrorists.
Electric power grid failure caused by storms cascade through other critical infrastructures—such as communications, transportation, emergency medical services, food and water supply systems. Storm-induced blackouts provide an objective basis for extrapolating judgments about the threat posed by “blackout warfare” to the civilian infrastructures that sustain economic, political, and social life.
“Blackout warfare” is likely to damage or disrupt electronics over a much wider geographic area than storm-induced blackouts—potentially over most of North America. Nor do storm-induced blackouts replicate the damage from a nuclear EMP attack that may occur in small-scale electronic systems such as computers, aircraft, and automobiles. Storms are merely suggestive of, and provide some basis for extrapolating, the greater destructive effects on critical infrastructures and social order by a “blackout war” employing cyber-attack, sabotage, and EMP.
Unlike “blackout warfare” hurricanes and other storms are familiar to the public and understood to be acts of nature, not the destructive agents of a foreign enemy. Public perceptions of and reactions to mass destruction differ markedly when the agent of destruction is a familiar natural event or accident, versus destruction by unfamiliar means inflicted by malignant actors.
“Blackout warfare” against U.S. electric grids and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures would attack not only the U.S. technological Achilles heel, but by sowing protracted chaos in the homeland, attacks America’s psychological Achilles heel.
The history of storm-induced electric power blackouts that collapse other critical infrastructures and sow societal chaos, and the long record of inadequate preparation and response by Federal and State governments and electric utilities, is for potential adversaries planning EMP and Cyber Warfare an intelligence treasure trove.
If the largest electric utilities in the United States cannot be trusted competently to perform such basic and simple public safety precautions as vegetation management and powerline protection from high-winds and ice storms—as in California (2019) and Texas (2021)—clearly they are incompetent to protect the grid from more complex and much bigger threats, like EMP and Cyber Warfare, that could kill millions.
The next 9/11: Nuclear Terrorism? - Sep11, 2021
Twenty years after 9/11, the Biden Administration’s unrequited love affair with the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) is helping Iran nuclearize.
Twenty years ago, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, that killed some 3,000 Americans, was a psychological shock comparable to Imperial Japan’s surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, that bludgeoned the United States into World War II.
Both 9/11 and Pearl Harbor resulted, to put it kindly, from profound failures in military intelligence and strategic imagination. To put it less kindly, 9/11 and Pearl Harbor happened because of arrogance, complacency, and willful blindness in Washington.
Pearl Harbor surprised Washington elites and experts. Imperial Japan was supposed to be deterred by a U.S. oil embargo, by forward deploying the Pacific Fleet from San Diego to Hawaii, and Japanese aircraft carriers were not supposed to sink U.S. battleships—it had never been done before.
9/11 surprised Washington elites and experts. Terrorists were supposed to be deterred from attacking the U.S. homeland, and airliners were not supposed to be hijacked and flown into buildings—it had never been done before.
After Pearl Harbor and 9/11, Washington elites and experts were shocked into “out of the box thinking” about unprecedented threats. Pearl Harbor spurred the invention of the A-bomb. 9/11 raised legitimate fears about “WMD terrorism”—the use of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons of mass destruction in the U.S. homeland.
Twenty years after 9/11, arrogance, complacency, and willful blindness have returned to Washington, setting up the U.S. and its allies for a wide range of possible unpleasant surprises—including WMD terrorism.
Twenty years after 9/11, the Afghanistan debacle displays a scale of incompetence in the White House and Pentagon that—in the context of similarly bungled U.S. superpower responsibilities in Europe, Asia, or the Middle East—could kill millions.
Twenty years after 9/11, the Taliban control Afghanistan where they, al Qaeda, ISIS-K, and other terrorists will again have a national base for worldwide operations, as they did twenty years ago, except now armed with two more decades of resentment against the U.S., and stockpiles of sophisticated U.S. arms.
Twenty years after 9/11, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, established after 9/11 to prevent WMD terrorism, now oversees an unprotected U.S. border and transports thousands of unvetted illegal aliens to resettle in the U.S. homeland.
Twenty years after 9/11, the possibility of nuclear terrorism is greater. Now North Korea has nuclear weapons and will sell virtually anything to anybody. Now that the Taliban are triumphant, radical Islamists will be inspired everywhere, including in nuclear-armed Pakistan.
But the biggest worry is Iran, the world’s leading sponsor of international terrorism, that is now a threshold, or actual, nuclear power.
Twenty years after 9/11, the Biden Administration’s unrequited love affair with the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) is helping Iran nuclearize, which is the same thing as advancing nuclear terrorism.
“Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Weeks Away” headlines an article by scholar Majid Rafizadeh, president of the International American Council on the Middle East: “Once again it seems that the mullahs of Iran are masterfully playing the Biden administration and the EU by stalling nuclear talks, buying time to get more concessions, and accelerating their enrichment of uranium and nuclear program to reach a weapons-grade nuclear breakout.” (Gatestone Institute 9 September 2021).
According to Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, briefing at Israel’s Foreign Ministry on August 4: “Iran has violated all of the guidelines set in the JCPOA and is only around 10 weeks away from acquiring weapons-grade materials necessary for a nuclear weapon…Now is the time for deeds—words are not enough. It is time for diplomatic, economic, and even military deeds…”
However, several senior U.S. national security officials have been warning for years that, as our most recent article is entitled: “Iran Probably Already Has The Bomb” (National Review 19 March 2021). Co-authored by former CIA Director, James Woolsey; former White House Science Advisor and NASA Director, William Graham; former Director of the Strategic Defense Initiative, Henry Cooper; former Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, Fritz Ermarth; we assess:
–Prior to 2003, Iran was enriching uranium, did implosion testing, was manufacturing neutron initiators and bridge-wire detonators, designing a nuclear warhead for the Shahab-III missile, reaching a technological stage comparable to the U.S. World War II Manhattan Project, when the U.S. was only months away from inventing the first A-bombs.
–Iran can build sophisticated nuclear weapons by relying on component testing, without nuclear testing.
–IAEA inspections are limited to civilian sites, restricted from military bases, including several highly suspicious underground facilities.
–Most estimates assume Iran needs 5-10 kilograms of highly enriched (over 90%) uranium or plutonium for an A-bomb, but a good design requires only 1-2 kilograms. Crude A-bombs can be designed with uranium-235 or plutonium-239 enriched to only 50%.
Iran is building toward a large, deployable, survivable, warfighting missile force—to which nuclear weapons can be swiftly added.
Moreover, Iran wants to preserve the fiction of its non-nuclear status. Iran has derived far more economic and strategic benefits from threats to “go nuclear” than has North Korea from “going nuclear” overtly.
Ominously, Iran may be forgoing the deterrence benefits of an overt nuclear posture because it is building toward surprise future employment to advance the global theological agenda of the ayatollahs and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, the world’s largest and most sophisticated terrorist organization.
Twenty years after 9/11, Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran all have motives to support an act of nuclear terrorism that might drive a demoralized U.S. into isolationism and create a New World Order dominated by themselves.
Dr. Peter V. Pry is Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, served in the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA.
How to start an accidental nuclear war - Sep 2021
Suppose a hostile, confrontational neighbor, angry with you for years over seemingly everything, ranging from borrowed money to property boundaries, called you in the middle of the night to say: “Don’t worry. I don’t plan to kill you. If I do come to murder you, I will warn you first.”
What would you do?:
a) Go back to sleep.
b) Call the police.
c) Prepare to defend yourself.
If you are a normal person, you would probably: (b) Call the police and (c) Prepare to defend yourself.
If you are Communist China and you received such a call from the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, you would probably: (b) alert Chairman Xi Jinping and other political-military leaders of the PRC and (c) mobilize nuclear and conventional forces to defend yourself.
If you are Communist China, depending upon how seriously you regard General Milley, you might also at least consider (d) launching a preemptive nuclear strike to kill General Milley and the United States, before they kill you.
According to the new book “Peril” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, something like the above actually happened, but in their telling President Trump is supposed to be the bad guy, and General Milley the hero.
Reportedly, “Peril” co-author Robert Costa said: “General Milley became so concerned about Mr. Trump’s mental state that he assembled senior military leaders and advised them not to carry out a presidential order to launch a nuclear strike unless he was there.”
Allegedly, on October 30, General Miley called his counterpart in China, General Li Zuocheng, supposedly to reassure China’s top general, commander of the People’s Liberation Army, that the U.S. had no immediate plans to make a surprise nuclear strike or other attacks on China: “General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”
Allegedly, on January 8, two days after protestors occupied the U.S. Capitol, General Milley called General Li supposedly to again reassure him that the U.S. was not heading toward anarchy that could result in a nuclear surprise attack on China: “Things may look unsteady. But that’s the nature of democracy, General Li. We are 100 percent steady.”
“Peril” authors Woodward and Costa are no fans of President Trump, have a history of propagandizing, and their story clearly fits the leftwing media’s unending campaign to discredit Trump and convince Trump voters they made a mistake.
However, General Milley and his spokesman Colonel David Butler issued a classic Washington “nondenial denial” that appears to confirm the JCS Chairman called General Li to tell him a U.S. surprise nuclear attack was not imminent: “His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability.”
But there is no evidence China needed reassuring or that strategic stability was imperiled. Nuclear strategic instability with China resulting from the contentious U.S. elections was all in General Milley’s head.
What else is in General Milley’s head?
JCS Chairman Milley is a believer in “white rage” and Marxist “critical race theory” that condemns Western Civilization as evil and deserving destruction.
General Milley also shares the radical Left’s paranoid aversion to President Trump and conservative and libertarian voters. These Milley’s Defense Department categorizes as potential “domestic violent extremists” to be rooted out of the military.
Nor is it the job of the JCS Chairman, who is the President’s military advisor, to usurp the President’s role or act on such an important matter—involving nuclear war with China—without the President’s knowledge and consent.
Such a head as General Milley’s does not deserve to be on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, let alone JCS Chairman, as proven yet again by his hysterical phone calls to General Li—that might have provoked a nuclear war.
China’s General Li almost certainly had no concerns about a U.S. surprise nuclear attack resulting from the elections, until after receiving “reassurances” from JCS Chairman Milley.
Congressional hearings on this matter—and there ought at minimum to be hearings, if not an emergency congressional commission—should investigate the alert status of China’s nuclear and conventional forces. Is there any evidence of China mobilizing ICBMs or the PLA Air Force or Navy in response to General Milley’s “reassurances”?
“If the allegations are true, General Milley should go down in history as a traitor to the American people,” tweeted Rep. Andy Biggs. Biggs’visceral reaction shows much sounder judgment than the considered opinions of President Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
President Biden and Defense Secretary Austin have nothing but praise for General Milley. They and Democrat media allies are “circling the wagons” to defend the embattled JCS Chairman and fellow Trump-hater.
Democrats and their anti-nuclear political base often argue against the modernization of the U.S. nuclear deterrent because, supposedly, they fear accidental nuclear war:
–They want to ban U.S. ICBMs unilaterally to avoid accidental nuclear war.
–They oppose a new U.S. sea-launched cruise missile to avoid accidental nuclear war.
–They oppose the W76-2 tactical nuclear warhead on SLBMs to avoid accidental nuclear war.
–Some oppose virtually any modernization of the U.S. nuclear Triad to avoid “arms racing” that could lead to accidental nuclear war.
But they think not at all about how nuclear “strategic stability” must look to Russia, China, and North Korea when Democrats lie:
–that there is a big problem with “insurrectionists” and “white supremacists” in the military. Including in ICBM Launch Control Facilities and aboard missile submarines?
–that the January 6 protests were an “insurrection” to overthrow the U.S. government. Could insurrectionists get the launch codes?
–that President Trump was a mentally unstable monster deserving multiple impeachments. Will equally insane Trump loyalists still within the military launch a surprise nuclear attack?
–that neither President Trump or President Biden should be entrusted with the authority to launch nuclear missiles without a vote from Congress. Are U.S. Presidents now so demented that even their own people don’t trust them with nuclear weapons?
How to start an accidental nuclear war? Keep talking crap like the above. And keep heads like General Milley’s on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry served as Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, Chief of Staff of the Congressional EMP Commission, and on the staffs of the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is the author of the books Blackout Warfare (2021) and The Power And The Light (2020).
Chinese nuclear scientists urge readiness for electromagnetic pulse attack
- US enhancing its capability and by 2032 will be able to protect vital infrastructure, tipping balance in its favour, the researchers say
- Exploding nuclear weapons at high altitude can produce electromagnetic waves that can cripple power and communication without killing humans.
Stephen Chen in Beijing Published: 10:01pm, 12 Jul, 2021
An EMP attack could target power and communication infrastructure.
Photo: Xinhua China should bolster its defences so that critical infrastructure could withstand potential future electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks that can wipe out power grids and communication, according to a Chinese military nuclear research institute.
The United States is vulnerable to damage caused by extremely powerful electromagnetic pulses, but by 2032 it will have built up the capability to protect its vital infrastructure from such an attack, according to the Chinese researchers’ assessment, based on their analysis of recent US government and military documents.
That could tip the strategic balance among world powers, requiring China and Russia to step up their defences to guard against a potential US attack, they said. “The US military has realised that the tactics it used on countries such as Iraq and Yugoslavia are not suitable for competition against major powers, especially China and Russia,” said Feng Hanliang and colleagues from the Northwest Institute of Nuclear Technology in a paper published in domestic journal Modern Defence Technology last month.
“The US military believes that EMP attacks can be combined with other types of attacks such as cyber warfare and physical attacks to become a revolutionary new combat method. It has implemented the idea in its military theories, plans and exercises.”
The explosion of a nuclear weapon at high altitude can produce strong electromagnetic waves. Although power lines and communication towers have shields against common disturbances such as lightning, there is a known limit to their tolerance.
An EMP bomb can breach the protection in civilian facilities and cause massive blackouts. It could be a particularly effective weapon if used against China, according to Feng and colleagues.
Such a bomb could sidestep some of the controversy attached to nuclear weapons because the electromagnetic pulses would do little harm to the body.
“They do not directly kill humans. They cause only minor collateral damage,” they said in the paper. “But they can threaten the security and stability of an entire region or country.”
China has the world’s largest power grid. In 2019, it produced almost as much electricity as the US, India, Russia and Japan combined. It also had the world’s largest network of 4G and 5G towers. Most Chinese people use smartphones as wallets, while the Chinese government’s operations depend increasingly on information technology such as artificial intelligence and big data.
“We should enhance our awareness of danger, be prepared for danger in times of peace, conduct in-depth research on the threat of EMP attacks, and take the implementation of EMP defences for critical infrastructure seriously,” the researchers said.
Their little-known Institute, working under the People’s Liberation Army’s general equipment department, engages in nuclear weapons research, according to openly available information. The assessment of US capability was formed through analysis of US government reports, military documents and laws passed in the US Congress since 2017.
“The US government currently does not have sufficient capacity to evaluate and control EMP threats, and major government departments have basically ignored EMP protection for the country’s critical infrastructure,” they said.
“But some recent documents, policies and measures indicate that the United States has incorporated defence against EMP threats into its national security strategy.”
In 2019, former US President Donald Trump signed an executive order to coordinate national efforts on EMP defence. A few months later, Congress passed a law to increase the budget for it.
One challenge is that the operation of the US power grid and communication networks can vary from one state to another, with most entities owned by private companies.
A researcher with the state-owned China Power Grid said that fortifying existing infrastructure against EMP attacks would cost an enormous amount of money, but “won’t break the bank”. State ownership may also allow the government to upgrade nationally at speed.
“If a blackout happens, we will be able to rebuild our networks faster than our competitors in the US,” said the researcher, who requested not to be named because he was not authorised to speak to media. “The winner is not who attacks first, but who recovers first.”
REPORT "BLACKOUT WARFARE CYBER-ATTACKING ELECTRIC POWER GRIDS: A NEW STRATEGIC WEAPON"
Cyber-Attacking Electric Power Grids:
A New Strategic Weapon
Contrary to the recent study on “Cyber Power” by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), much-ballyhooed in recent press, the U.S. is NOT the world’s sole “cyber superpower.” Indeed, the attached new report by Dr. Edward Roche warns that Russia and China are mortal cyber threats to the U.S. and could, by blacking out America’s national electric grid, win a Cyber World War (see attached and linked below).
Read the full, very detailed report here:
"HOW TO START, AND LOSE, A NUCLEAR WAR" - 15 June 2021
By Dr. Peter Vincent Pry Tuesday, 15 June 2021 12:18
Losing a nuclear war is surely not intended by the Biden administration and congressional allies, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., Chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee. But their call for unilaterally abolishing U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) would surely lose a nuclear World War III.
The U.S. won the Cold War without the USSR launching a thermonuclear holocaust, thanks to the U.S. Triad of ICBMs, bombers, and ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs).
Each Triad leg plays a special role in making a well-rounded nuclear deterrent for the broadest range of scenarios:
—Strategic bombers are the most flexible deterrent, can carry nuclear or conventional weapons, and can be recalled;
—SSBNs, when generated so all boats are at sea, are the most survivable deterrent, a secure strategic reserve to hold at risk the most valuable adversary targets, thereby deterring an attack on the most valuable U.S. targets, especially cities;
—ICBMs are the most responsive deterrent, over 95% of the force always standing on alert ready to launch in a few minutes, rapidly retargetable, linked by multiple secure redundant means to the National Command Authority for near-instant execution of Emergency Action Messages (EAMs).
Today, anti-nuclear radicals in the Union of Concerned Scientists, Federation of American Scientists, and Nuclear Threat Initiative are an important part of the Democrat Party’s political and intellectual base — and are calling for unilateral abolition of U.S. ICBMs.
These same groups and their pseudointellectual sophistry, masquerading as deep strategic thinking, would have lost the Cold War.
Now they are being welcomed into the Biden Administration.
Anti-ICBM politicians and activists see the greatest virtue of ICBMs — over 95% always on high alert, every day, for years, serving as sentinels against surprise attack — as the very reason to abolish ICBMs, that they falsely allege are on a “hair trigger” for accidental nuclear war.
Elsewhere, I and others have made the case at length why ICBMs are indispensable to the U.S. nuclear deterrent, and that the alleged risks from their high-alert rates causing an accidental nuclear war are minimal.
For example, see my report “Surprise Attack: ICBMs and the Real Nuclear Threat”(Oct. 31, 2020) or Matthew Costlow’s report “Safety in Diversity: The Strategic Value of ICBMs and GBSD in the Nuclear Triad” (National Institute for Public Policy: May 2021) or, last but not least, recent testimony about the desperate need for U.S. ICBM modernization by Admiral Charles Richard, Commander of STRATCOM.
Eliminating U.S. ICBMs would make much easier adversary nuclear surprise attacks, as they would no longer have to destroy 400 hardened ICBM silos, just 3 strategic bomber bases, and 2 SSBN ports.
U.S. strategic bombers are no longer maintained on alert or nuclear-armed and would be completely destroyed by a surprise attack. A surprise attack would destroy most of the 14 U.S. SSBNs that are normally at port, while only 3-4 are on patrol at sea.
If the U.S. bans ICBMs, thereby reducing U.S. strategic targets from over 400 to just 5, even if there is thereby a tiny reduction in the possibility of accidental nuclear war, there would be an enormous increased temptation to Russia, China, even North Korea, and Iran, to make a surprise attack.
If U.S. ICBMs are eliminated, Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran do not even need nuclear weapons to destroy U.S. bombers on their bases or SSBNs in port. Cruise and anti-ship missiles with high-explosive warheads could do the job.
Iran has Russia’s Club-K missile, which has a launcher disguised as a shipping container, so any freighter can be converted into a guided-missile cruiser.
If U.S. ICBMs are abolished, and so too the biggest impediment to adversary surprise attack, during a crisis or conflict it would become far more urgent to mobilize U.S. bombers and SSBNs to a more survivable posture.
Bombers would have to be put on strip-alert and nuclear weapons uploaded. Submarines would prepare to put to sea.
Mobilization of U.S. bombers and SSBNs would be highly visible to the adversary—and highly provocative.
Absent ICBMs to deter surprise attack, would the U.S. dare mobilizing bombers and SSBNs—ever? Would the adversary allow the U.S. to mobilize bombers and SSBNs, or strike first?
Banning ICBMs would:
—Greatly increase adversary incentives to strike U.S. bombers and submarines while they are sitting ducks;
—Greatly increase the range of scenarios when the U.S. must mobilize bombers and SSBNs to survivable posture, thereby also greatly increasing risk of triggering “action-reaction” escalation resulting in an accidental nuclear war;
—Introduce a real “use them or lose them” dilemma with U.S. bombers and SSBNs where no such dilemma now exists because of the ICBM deterrent;
—Create a real “hair trigger” posture for U.S. SSBNs on patrol, and probably for bombers that will of necessity have to return to airborne or strip-alert, because of greatly increased vulnerability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent without ICBMs;
—Thus, banning ICBMs would undermine and destabilize the foundations of nuclear deterrence in ways more likely to realize the worst fears of anti-ICBM activists.
If you want to start, and lose, a nuclear war — abolish U.S. ICBMs.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, was Chief of Staff of the Congressional EMP Commission, Director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, and served on the staffs of the House Armed Services Committee and the CIA. He is the author of The Power And The Light: The Congressional EMP Commission’s War To Save America.
REPORT: "NORTH KOREA: EMP THREAT"
The West consistently and unwittingly cooperates with North Korea by underestimating the advancement, sophistication, and strategic implications of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs. Thus, under the nose of the U.S. Intelligence Community, North Korea surprised the world by demonstrating ICBMs that could target any city in the United States and a hydrogen bomb in the summer of 2017.
North Korea’s KMS-3 and KMS-4 satellites orbit over the U.S. daily. Their trajectory is similar to that planned for a Soviet-era secret weapon called the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) deployed by the USSR to make a surprise High-altitude EMP (HEMP) attack on the United States. Trajectories of North Korea’s KMS-3 and KMS-4 satellites are near-optimal for a HEMP attack on the U.S. if they are nuclear-armed.
HEMP attack does not require much accuracy or a reentry vehicle capable of penetrating the atmosphere and is well within North Korea’s technological capabilities.
Multiple credible foreign sources including from South Korea, China, and Russia—including two of Russia’s foremost EMP weapons experts—allege the design for Russia’s Super-EMP nuclear weapon leaked or was transferred to North Korea and that North Korea has developed Super-EMP weapons.
Super-EMP weapons are typically small, lightweight, and low-yield (designed to emit enhanced gamma rays not make a big explosion) and could fit within North Korea’s KMS-3 and KMS-4 satellites; or be delivered against the U.S. by North Korean ICBMs; or be delivered against Japan, Guam, or the Philippines by North Korean IRBMs or MRBMs like the Nodong; or against South Korea by a wide array of North Korean SRBMs.
Super-EMP weapons generate extraordinarily powerful EMP fields, potentially 100 kilovolts/meter or higher, greatly exceeding the U.S. military HEMP hardening standard 50 kilovolts/meter. U.S. civilian critical infrastructures like the national electric power grid, which are indispensable to U.S. military power projection capabilities, are unprotected against HEMP.
According to North Korea state media, their September 2017 H-bomb is also a Super-EMP weapon: “The H-bomb, the explosive power of which is adjustable from tens of kilotons to hundreds of kilotons, is a multifunctional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP according to strategic goals.”
Immediately following their September 2017 H-bomb test, North Korea published a technical report “The EMP Might of Nuclear Weapons” accurately describing a Super-EMP nuclear weapon.
North Korea has non-nuclear EMP weapons including an “EMP Cannon” used to impose an “electromagnetic blockade” on air traffic to Seoul, South Korea’s capitol, making repeated attacks that also disrupted communications and the operation of automobiles in several South Korean cities in December 2010; March 9, 2011; and April-May 2012.
REPORT: "CYBER AND EMP PREPAREDNESS"
CYBER AND EMP PREPAREDNESS
An Open Letter To
The Honorable Anne Neuberger
Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry
EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security
May 21, 2021
Dear Deputy National Security Advisor Neuberger:
Congratulations on your appointment as the President’s White House “Cybersecurity Czar.”
Condolences that your appointment coincides with a looming existential threat to our nation from Cyber Warfare. Russia’s cyber-attack on the Colonial Pipeline, that provides 45% of petroleum needed by the eastern U.S. for civilian and military use, was preceded by Russia’s unprecedented SolarWinds cyber-attack on hundreds of federal departments and agencies, and thousands of industries and utilities, highlights U.S. vulnerability.
Just a few weeks ago, amidst concerns that Russia might invade Ukraine, Russia’s state-owned media warned that a Russia-U.S. Cyber War targeting critical infrastructures is “inevitable.” Russia threatens it can win a Cyber War decisively by attacking the U.S. electric grid. Russian TV described cyber-attack options ranging from small-scale to existential threats, including: blacking out part of New York City (Harlem was mentioned), or blacking out the state of Florida, or blacking out the entire continental United States.
Now Colonial Pipeline has been hacked, shut down temporarily. Cyber-attacks can destroy pipelines, causing them to explode. Colonial Pipeline is crucial to fueling U.S. military power projection capabilities from the east coast to protect NATO, or to help Ukraine, during a Russian invasion. That is why the Colonial Pipeline was really targeted, not for the millions paid in ransom, but as a demonstration of Russia’s cyber-power.
The Colonial Pipeline cyber-attack proves Russia is not bluffing.
For 20 years or more, at least since President George W. Bush established the Department of Homeland Security, protecting U.S. electric grids and other critical infrastructures has been a high priority of the federal government. Yet little has been accomplished. When the Texas electric grid fails catastrophically in an ice storm, when the California grid causes wildfires and rolling blackouts because it cannot cope with high winds, citizens and adversaries alike can see that U.S. utilities, negligent of simple precautions, cannot be trusted to prepare for sophisticated threats like Cyber Warfare and EMP. Not even the Colonial Pipeline is safe.
Our grand strategy for protecting critical infrastructures through “public-private partnerships” has failed because the U.S. Government has been content to be the junior partner. The private sector business culture is not a national security culture, nor do they have the technical competence, nor do they want responsibility for national security. National security is the constitutional, practical, and ultimate responsibility of the U.S. Government
The Colonial Pipeline and SolarWinds cyber-attacks are an opportunity for the White House to adopt a new grand strategy where the U.S. Government assumes its natural dominant role, now of necessity much more muscular and assertive, in protecting critical infrastructures vital to national security.
White House Leadership Needed on Cyber and EMP
The Congressional EMP Commission in 2017 recommended a White House “EMP Czar” to lead the functional equivalent of a Manhattan Project to quickly protect the nation from existential threats posed by solar and manmade electromagnetic pulse (EMP). The new White House “Cybersecurity Czar” should also serve as an “EMP Czar” since EMP attack is part of adversary planning for Cyber Warfare:
“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 its 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.”–EMP Commission
Protecting from Cyber-attack and EMP the national electric power grid must have the highest priority. Electric power is the keystone critical infrastructure that energizes operations of communications, transportation, industry, finance, food, water, and all other life-sustaining critical infrastructures. Threats to the national electric grid from EMP and Cyber Warfare are more imminent than climate change and imperil the existence of modern electronic civilization:
“A long-term outage owing to EMP could disable most critical supply chains, leaving the U.S. population living in conditions similar to centuries past, prior to the advent of electric power. In the 1800s, the U.S. population was less than 60 million, and those people had many skills and assets necessary for survival without today’s infrastructure. An extended blackout today could result in the death of a large fraction of the American people through the effects of societal collapse, disease, and starvation.”—EMP Commission
Natural EMP from a solar superstorm, like a recurrence of the 1859 Carrington Event, is inevitable and could collapse electric grids and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures worldwide, putting at risk the lives of billions. NASA estimates the likelihood of another Carrington Event is 12% per decade.
Fortunately, the existential threats from Cyber Warfare and EMP both have some common solutions that can be part of an “all-hazards” strategy for protecting electric grids and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures.
The White House should immediately undertake the steps and strategies outlined below, some of which can advance national Cyber and EMP preparedness at virtually no cost to the U.S. Government, and all at relatively low cost relative to the magnitude of the threats:
–The EMP Commission made over 100 recommendations to protect electric power grids and other critical infrastructures, including: telecommunications, transportation, petroleum and natural gas, emergency services, space systems, banking and finance, food and water infrastructures. Virtually all of these recommendations would improve resilience not only against EMP, but against all hazards, including against the worst cyber-attacks. The White House should send copies of the EMP Commission report Critical National Infrastructures to all relevant Senate and House committees, asking them to launch legislative initiatives implementing the EMP Commission recommendations for the sectors over which the committees have jurisdiction.
–The EMP Commission warned that the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) are deeply dysfunctional, hence the need for a White House “Czar” to lead national EMP and Cyber preparedness. U.S. FERC should be reformed by replacing existing commissioners with persons whose highest priority is not the fiduciary interests of electric utilities, but national security: especially protecting national power grids from Cyber and EMP.
–Protecting the over 100 CONUS military bases and their supporting civilian electric grids would create “islands of survivability” that could facilitate a quick national recovery. Electric grid transformers, SCADAs, and other equipment hardened against EMP will also survive worst-case cyber-attacks that manipulate SCADAs to cause system-generated over-voltages (SGOVs). Cyber-induced SGOVs, like EMP, can overload and destroy critical equipment, cause cascading systemic collapse, resulting in protracted regional or nationwide blackout.
–Add a provision to the National Defense Authorization Act authorizing the Secretary of Defense to reprogram monies to help utilities protect from Cyber and EMP local and regional electric grids that support CONUS military bases. For example:
“Energy Security For Military Bases And Critical Defense Industries. Whereas 99 percent of the electricity used by CONUS military bases is supplied by the national electric grid; whereas the Department of Defense (DOD) has testified to Congress that DOD cannot project power overseas or perform its homeland security mission without electric power from the national grid; whereas the Congressional EMP Commission warned that up to 9 of 10 Americans could die from starvation and societal collapse from a nationwide blackout lasting one year; therefore the Secretary of Defense is directed to urge governors, state legislators, public utility commissions of the 50 states, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and the utilities that supply electricity to CONUS military bases and critical defense industries, to protect the electric grid from Cyber Warfare, including a high-altitude nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack, from natural EMP generated by a solar super-storm and from other Cyber-EMP threats including radiofrequency weapons, and to help the States, NERC, public utilities commissions, and electric utilities by providing DOD expertise and other such support and resources as may be necessary to protect the national electric grid. The Secretary of Defense is authorized to spend up to $4 billion in FY2022 and every year thereafter to help protect the national electric grid.”
–$2 trillion is planned for infrastructure modernization, including $100 billion for electric power. The EMP Commission estimates $2-4 billion could protect the electric bulk power system which, with smart planning, would enable rapid recovery from a nationwide blackout, saving the lives of millions. $20 billion could very significantly advance protection of all critical infrastructures, making recovery from Cyber Warfare and EMP more assured and faster.
Send a letter from the President and Secretary of Homeland Security to the 50 State Governors and 100 biggest electric utilities spotlighting Cyber/EMP as highest-priority threats. The letter should urge action to protect electric grids, and alone might even be sufficient to motivate States and utilities to protect their electric grids without Federal intervention. For the U.S. Government this could be the easiest and most cost-effective strategy:
–Appended to the letter should be supplementary materials providing in depth education on Cyber/EMP threats and technical guidance on how to protect electric grids, including: the EMP Commission Reports, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) EMP Protection and Resilience Guidelines for Critical Infrastructures and Equipment, the Department of Energy (DOE) approved HEMP waveform, and the CenterPoint Energy briefing on protecting electric power substations.
–The letter should include a list of defense contractors experienced in EMP protection. A chief impediment to national Cyber/EMP preparedness is that policymakers and utilities do not know how to protect against the threat. Let proven experts protect the civilian critical infrastructures.
–The letter should encourage electric utilities to share the Cyber/EMP educational materials with their employees, to have an educational program to raise situational awareness, to conduct exercises responding to Cyber/EMP events, and to solicit from employees “grassroots” ideas for preparing for a catastrophic Cyber/EMP event. The best ideas do not always come from Washington.
–The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should sponsor an aggressive public service messaging campaign encouraging electric utilities to protect themselves from Cyber/EMP, praising utilities like American Electric Power, CenterPoint Energy, and Duke Energy that are already taking action voluntarily.
Cyber/EMP National Manufacturing Standards
National manufacturing standards for equipment critical to electric grids, like transformers and SCADAs, should require such equipment to be designed and manufactured hardened against EMP and Cyber:
–Defense Department experience over 50 years manufacturing missiles, bombers, communications and other equipment that must survive EMP indicates that incorporating protection into the original design adds only 1-6% to system manufacturing costs.
–Lightning protection (equivalent to nuclear E2 EMP protection) is already routinely built-into most critical electric equipment as part of national manufacturing standards and best practices. So we as a society have, through manufacturing standards and best practices, already proven we can protect ourselves—at relatively low-cost and through a process that is so politically painless as to be unnoticeable—against the natural EMP threat from lightning. The same process can be used to protect against the threat from the “super-lighting” that is Cyber Warfare and EMP.
–The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) could propose Cyber/EMP standards to electric utilities and manufacturers of transformers and SCADAs.
–NIST and DHS could sponsor a design competition. Offer an award and purchase of patents to those who invent the most cost-effective design for transformers, SCADAs and other equipment, incorporating Cyber/EMP protection in original designs, as well as for retroactive protection.
–The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) oversees the National Electrical Safety Code for equipment in the electrical bulk power system, including transformers and SCADAs. Send the letter proposed above from the President to IEEE.
–The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) oversees the National Electric Code for electricity consumers, including industries and homes, which is codified into law by the States.
Send the letter proposed above from the President to NFPA.
Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (CIPA)
CIPA requires the Department of Homeland Security to partner with utilities and the States in pilot projects demonstrating that electric grids and other critical infrastructures can be protected cost-effectively:
–Developing a plan to protect the electric grid of an entire State can be achieved very inexpensively, depending on the contractor, or even at no cost if the State Public Utilities Commission invites bids for developing Cyber/EMP protection of the State electric grid.
–The Louisiana Public Service Commission began a project to protect the Louisiana electric grid, received several free proposals, including a bid to develop a state-wide plan for $250,000. Unfortunately, the Louisiana EMP project terminated prematurely for political reasons. Perhaps the Louisiana EMP Project could be revived if encouraged by DHS.
–Several States have passed legislative initiatives or tried to move utilities to protect electric grids from EMP, including Arizona, California, Florida, Maine, Texas, Utah, and others, but been stymied by electric power industry lobbyists. Federal political and material support could be the decisive factor reviving these efforts to achieve Cyber/EMP protection.
–Once a State has an Cyber/EMP protection plan describing necessary technical work and costs, especially when costs are found to be affordable, practical and political incentives to implement the plan will increase greatly.
–Once DHS has a pilot EMP protection plan for any State, it can serve as a blueprint for other States. The political and technical process of achieving national Cyber/EMP preparedness would be greatly simplified for States and utilities merely by invoking CIPA to get help from DHS.
Cyber/EMP Protected Nuclear Power Reactors
If the nation’s 100 nuclear power reactors are protected from Cyber/EMP, it would eliminate the threat that they might “go Fukushima” and they would become instead “islands of survivability” for quickly recovering the national grid:
–Duke Energy’s Lake Wylie Project is a pilot program for protecting a nuclear reactor so that it can survive and continue operating through an EMP. This local “grassroots” project is receiving no help from Washington. Federal funding and technical support from the Nuclear Regular Commission and Department of Energy (DOE) should be provided to accelerate the Lake Wylie Project.
–Nuclear reactors are inherently robust against Cyber/EMP, except their current standard operating procedure in an emergency would be to power down and rely on vulnerable emergency power to cool the reactor while it is “turned off.” The goal is to change operational procedures so nuclear reactors would continue to generate power through any emergency, so they do not become part of the “Black Start” problem but a big part of the solution.
–Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are under development or ready for manufacture that are designed with EMP protection. SMRs on 100 CONUS military bases would prevent blackout of U.S. military capabilities, and could become “islands of survivability” for recovering the nation from Cyber Warfare and EMP.
–New generation SMRs are “green” as they produce no nuclear waste and have virtually no “carbon footprint” and so are also a potential solution to climate change.
Toward An Electrical Revolution
In the long-term, the United States needs a revolution in the way electricity is generated and distributed, moving toward greatly increased generating power and more decentralized distribution, to meet the energy demands of an increasingly electrified civilization, while better protecting that civilization from a solar or manmade “blackout apocalypse.”
The “big grid” that provides electric power to the United States is inherently vulnerable to Cyber/EMP because of its size and antiquity. Constructed haphazardly over the course of more than a century, the national power grid was never designed with national security in mind. Nor has electrical power generation kept pace with increasing demand, so the grid always operates on the verge of failure, another major factor in its vulnerability.
New technologies for generating electrical power and decentralizing distribution can supplement, and perhaps someday replace, the “big grid” to meet a future where nearly everything, including automobiles, may be electrically powered. Solar and wind generation are the focus of most political and financial support for a “green energy revolution” despite their significant technological limitations, costly inefficiency, and unreliability. Examples of some better alternatives include:
–Small Modular Reactors, as noted earlier, are a technological “great leap forward” from existing large nuclear reactors. SMRs are “greener” than wind and solar generation, while offering a much wider range of applications, being able to service a major city, a military base, or a small town. For example, the MicroNuclear “battery” is essentially a micro-nuclear reactor that can fit inside a large room, power a military base or town with 10 megawatts, and is designed protected against EMP. Perhaps someday every city and town can have its own SMR, manage its own electrical power, making FERC and NERC and their often lethal regulatory mismanagement extinct.
–Hydro-electricity is an underexploited resource, environmentally “green” and inherently one of the sources of electricity least vulnerable to Cyber/EMP, especially if distribution is decentralized into microgrids. 91,457 dams exist in the U.S. but only 3% (2,744) are harnessed for electricity. New technology micro-hydropower turbines could harness some 80,000 dams, thousands of rivers and streams, previously unusable for electric power, making microgrids possible almost everywhere. But DOE seems uninterested in helping small companies and inventors who, as in the past, are the source of most, and often the most revolutionary, technological innovations.
–Battery technology is a revolution awaiting invention. Battery-power would be the ultimate in decentralizing distribution of electricity, and would maximize civilizational resilience to Cyber/EMP threats. At least one small inventor has a prototype design that theoretically could power cars and individual households, making the “big grid” extinct. Again, DOE is uninterested.
The Biden Administration can make practical a “green energy revolution” through Small Modular Reactors and other innovations, and thereby kill with one stone three existential threats: Cyber Warfare, EMP, and Climate Change.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, was Chief of Staff of the Congressional EMP Commission, and served on the staffs of the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of the books Will America Be Protected? and The Power And The Light (Amazon.com).
 “Russia: ‘War Is Inevitable…Cyberwar’” Newsmax (April 19, 2021). “The Coming Electronic Apocalypse” Morning Nuke (May 15, 2021). “These Three Seemingly Unrelated Stories Prove ‘Someone’ Is Preparing For World War III” ANP (May 14, 2021).
 “When Will America Protect Itself Against EMP, Cyber and Ransomware Attacks?” The Hill (May 21, 2021).
 EMP Commission, Assessing the Threat from EMP Attack (July 2017) p. 5. See also: General Vladimir Slipchenko, Non-Contact Wars (Moscow: 2000); Shen Weiguang, World War, the Third World War—Total Information Warfare; Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Passive Defense: Approach to the Threat Center (Tehran: Martyr Lt. General Sayad Shirazi Center for Education and Research, 2010).
 Ibid, p. 4.
 Dr. Tony Phillips, “Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012” Science@NASA (July 23, 2014).
 EMP Commission, Critical National Infrastructures (2008).
 EMP Commission, Chairman’s Report (July 2017) pp. 39-42.
 EMP Commission, Critical National Infrastructures (2008) pp. 60-61.
 All the unclassified EMP Commission reports are located at www.firstempcommission.org. DHS and CISA, Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Protection and Resilience Guidelines for Critical Infrastructure Equipment (National Cybersecurity Integration Center: February 5, 2019) www.cisa.gov. Department of Energy, “Physical Characteristics of HEMP Waveform Benchmarks for Use in Assessing Susceptibilities of the Power Grid, Electrical Infrastructures, and Other Critical Infrastructure to HEMP Insults” (January 11, 2021) see also Dr. Peter Vincent Pry Will America Be Protected? Volumes I and II (EMP Task Force: March 2021) pp. 153-161. Eric Easton, “EMP Mitigation for Electric Substations” Briefing (CenterPoint Energy: November 11, 2020) see also Will America Be Protected? pp. 171-225.
 For scenarios see EMP Commission, Nuclear EMP Attack Scenarios and Combined-Arms Cyber Warfare (July 2017).
 The Royal Academy of Science, in the 18th century, offered an award for a clock that could operate accurately at sea to determine longitude, resulting in the invention of the chronometer.
 Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, Blackout Wars: State Initiatives to Achieve Preparedness Against an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Catastrophe (EMP Task Force: 2012).
 Ambassador Henry Cooper, “Lake Wylie Pilot Study: Marking Time!” High Frontier (October 5, 2020); “Lake Wylie Pilot Study Video” High Frontier (December 8, 2020); “Lake Wylie Study Status” (June 19, 2020).
 See my books Will America Be Protected? (2021), The Power And The Light (2020), EMP Manhattan Project (2018), Apocalypse Unknown (2013), and Blackout Wars (2012) available from Amazon.com.
 MicroNuclear LLC “Nuclear Reactor Testing Device Opens Doors To Safe Energy In Idaho, Nation” https://www.uidaho.edu/news/news-articles/news-releases/2020-fall/111920-msnb.
 EMP Commission, Chairman’s Report (July 2017) pp. 39-42. NERC is the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, essentially a lobby for the electric power industry and major impediment to national EMP/Cyber preparedness.
 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “National Inventory of Dams” (2018) https://nid.sec.usace.army.mil/ords/f?p=105:113:3839158335878::NO::: Department of Energy, “Types of Hydropower Plants” www.energy.gov.
Will America protected itself against EMP, cyber and ransomware attacks?
“A long-term outage owing to EMP could disable most critical supply chains, leaving the U.S. population living in conditions similar to centuries past, prior to the advent of electric power. In the 1800s, the U.S. population was less than 60 million, and those people had many skills and assets necessary for survival without today’s infrastructure. An extended blackout today could result in the death of a large fraction of the American people through the effects of societal collapse, disease, and starvation. While national planning and preparation for such events could help mitigate the damage, few such actions are currently underway or even being contemplated.” — Congressional EMP Commission (2017)
The people of Rangely, Colo., are not waiting for Washington to protect them from a Great American Blackout caused by a solar superstorm or cyber warfare or electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. Like several other Western municipalities, Rangely, a town of 2,300 in northwest Colorado, home to a community college, has rolled up its sleeves and, in the best traditions of Western pioneering spirit, independence and self-sufficiency, is building redundant microgrids so they can survive anything.
Texas state Sen. Bob Hall and his colleagues aren’t waiting for Washington to “provide for the common defense,” either. Hall’s bill to protect the Texas electric grid from all hazards — including EMP, cyber warfare and sabotage — recently passed the state Senate.
Texans had a small taste of “electronic apocalypse” in February when an ice storm caused statewide rolling blackouts, resulting in property damage totaling billions of dollars, fuel shortages including a reduction in the national fuel supply, industrial accidents, including a major explosion and fire in a chemical plant, and 100 deaths. Experts have cautioned the same could happen during hot, summer weather.
Sen. Hall, a former Air Force officer and an EMP expert, has been warning Texas for years that electric grid vulnerability to EMP and cyber attack could have catastrophic consequences. The Electric Reliability Council Of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the state’s electricity infrastructure, proved in February that they and the utilities are not even prepared to cope with a severe ice storm, let alone existential threats from EMP and cyber warfare.
In South Carolina, Ambassador Henry Cooper, a former Air Force officer, EMP expert and engineer, is working with Duke Energy on the Lake Wylie project to protect a nuclear reactor from EMP — a pilot project that could result in converting 100 U.S. nuclear reactors into “islands of survivability” to help the nation recover in the event of an EMP or cyber attack, or both. The Lake Wylie project began, and continues, as a local grassroots initiative receiving no financial or technical support from the Department of Energy, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or other agencies of the federal government.
Ambassador Cooper says he has lost faith that Washington will ever act to protect the national electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures from EMP and cyber warfare. According to Cooper, if America is to be protected, it won’t be done by an incompetent federal government but by the people and the states, working “from the bottom up.”
Now the recent Colonial Pipeline cyber attack appears to prove the ambassador is right. The official story is that Russian hackers made a ransomware attack on the business side of Colonial Pipeline’s information technology network, moving the owners, Koch Industries, to shut down the pipeline to exercise “an abundance of caution.” So supposedly, turning off the 5,500-mile artery that supplies 45 percent of petroleum to the eastern U.S. for civilian and military use — causing gas shortages and panic-buying — was self-inflicted.
Or maybe not.
The U.S. government and Koch Industries might not want to admit that Russian hackers turned off Colonial Pipeline — which they could do by manipulating the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system that controls the pipeline valves. A cyber attack could destroy the pipeline by manipulating valves to cause excessive pressure, resulting in an explosion. At minimum, the decision to turn off Colonial Pipeline proves that the ransomware threat was sufficiently credible that the government and Koch did not want to take any chances.
So why is Colonial Pipeline vulnerable to Russian hackers, and the Texas electric grid vulnerable to ice storms, and all the nation’s life-sustaining critical infrastructure vulnerable to EMP and cyber attacks?
Since President George W. Bush’s administration established the Department of Homeland Security, protection of the nation’s critical infrastructure supposedly has been high priority. But in truth, little has been done.
Much to their credit, Congress passed the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act in 2015, the White House issued an executive order to protect critical infrastructure from EMP in 2019, and Congress in 2020 incorporated the essentials of the order into the National Defense Authorization Act, giving it the force of law. This month, President Biden issued an executive order to improve cybersecurity. The White House and Congress have given the federal government all the direction and legal authority necessary to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure from existential threats — yet, again, little has been done.
The problem may be that there are too many lawyers and non-expert bureaucrats in charge of national preparedness for EMP and cyber warfare who lack deep technical expertise. The problem may be that lawyers are not forged in a national security culture that gives highest priority to winning a World War III. Lawyers are taught negotiation, compromise, achieving consensus among all stakeholders — which means critical infrastructure never will be protected.
Once upon a time, nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer (not a lawyer) led the Manhattan Project to invent the atomic bomb in just three years. Adm. Hyman Rickover, an engineer and not a lawyer, built the U.S. “nuclear navy.” And rocket scientist Werner von Braun, not a lawyer, ran NASA and sent Americans to the moon.
Today what is urgently needed are EMP and cyber warfare experts to run another “Manhattan Project” to quickly protect America’s critical infrastructure. Their maxim should be: “Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way!”
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security. He served as chief of staff to the EMP Commission, on the staff of the House Armed Services Committee, and was an intelligence officer with the CIA. He is author of “The Power And The Light: The Congressional EMP Commission’s War to Save America.”
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.
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We wanted a site that was totally open without any privacy issues, no data mining, no subscriptions, no ads. We wanted people to have easy access to current news from reliable sources (as reliable we can find), as well as various conservative talk shows and our own original articles and interviews; interviews with top people we feel have valid and important information and ideas. We’re not an investigative journalistic effort digging into today’s latest scandals and frauds (unless it’s part of an interview), but insight from experienced people, like Dr. Pry.
Mission & Values
Latest Articles, Interviews & Updates from Ron
“America First” is the answer to restore our national, economic and immigration security. We need to recognize the political prospering and businesses’ profiteering off illegal aliens for what it is – – a drain on America, a diluting of our freedoms and security, a diminishing destruction of our future.
The most important point to be made is that the current administration must recognize and prepare for the dangerous enemies at hand. We don’t live in a fantasy world where ideological opinions matter – only reality will protect and keep us a free country.
Dr. Pry went on to say, “there is no mutually assured deterrence” when one side is not afraid to kill all and win at all costs – America isn’t on board with that, instead thinking they can deter instead of fight.
RIP Dr. Peter Vincent Pry
A true patriot to America for many years, in many capacities.