Current U.S. Nuclear Weapons Issues Updates — November 15, 2021

The current Continuing Resolution keeping the government running expires 12/3. Another Continuing Resolution is likely.

The Pentagon has released a major threat assessment of China at

Under “Nuclear Capabilities” it concludes:

► Over the next decade, the PRC [People’s Republic of China] aims to modernize, diversify, and expand its nuclear forces.
► The PRC is investing in, and expanding, the number of its land-, sea-, and air-based nuclear delivery platforms and constructing the infrastructure necessary to support this major expansion of its nuclear forces.
► The PRC is also supporting this expansion by increasing its capacity to produce and separate plutonium by constructing fast breeder reactors and reprocessing facilities.
► The accelerating pace of the PRC’s nuclear expansion may enable the PRC to have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027. The PRC likely intends to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030, exceeding the pace and size the DoD projected in 2020.
► The PRC has possibly already established a nascent “nuclear triad” with the development of a nuclear capable air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM) and improvement of its ground and sea-based nuclear capabilities.
► New developments in 2020 further suggest that the PRC intends to increase the peacetime readiness of its nuclear forces by moving to a launch-on-warning (LOW) posture with an expanded silo-based force.

This is bound to have a major influence on Biden’s Nuclear Posture Review, to be released in early 2022. China’s expansion of its nuclear weapons capabilities, along with U.S. and Russian “modernization” programs, may also be big issues at the January 2022 NonProliferation Treaty Review Conference.

Politico national security daily 11/5/21

  • CONGRESS CONSIDERING WAR AUTH TO DEFEND TAIWAN: New Mexico’s own ANDREW DESIDERIO has picked up on one of the most consequential trends in Congress: the growing bipartisan movement to preemptively authorize Biden to send troops to defend Taiwan.
  • Biden’s decades long ambition to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in America’s military posture is facing growing resistance from inside the five-sided building, especially as information about China and Russia’s growing arsenals keeps coming to light.

A quiet revolution is going on in the U.S.’ nuclear weapons stockpile. All it takes is a new electronic component, the arming, fuzing and firing set, designed and developed at Sandia and produced at the Kansas City Plant, to change the strategic balance. The American public may not know it but Russian and Chinese military planners surely do:

Sensors add to accuracy and power of U.S. nuclear weapons but may create new security perils

A sophisticated electronic sensor buried in hardened metal shells at the tip of a growing number of America’s ballistic missiles reflects a significant achievement in weapons engineering that experts say could help pave the way for reductions in the size of the country’s nuclear arsenal but also might create new security perils.

The wires, sensors, batteries and computing gear now being installed on hundreds of the most powerful U.S. warheads give them an enhanced ability to detonate with what the military considers exquisite timing over some of the world’s most challenging targets, substantially increasing the probability that in the event of a major conflict, those targets would be destroyed in a radioactive rain of fire, heat and unearthly explosive pressures.

The new components — which determine and set the best height for a nuclear blast — are now being paired with other engineering enhancements that collectively increase what military planners refer to as the individual nuclear warheads’ “hard-target kill capability.” This gives them an improved ability to destroy Russian and Chinese nuclear-tipped missiles and command posts in hardened silos or mountain sanctuaries, or to obliterate military command and storage bunkers in North Korea, also considered a potential U.S. nuclear target.

Climate Change Poses a Widening Threat to National Security

Intelligence and defense agencies issued reports warning that the warming planet will increase strife between countries and spur migration… The document made three key judgments. Global tensions will rise as countries argue about how to accelerate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change will exacerbate cross-border flash points and amplify strategic competition in the Arctic. And the effects of climate change will be felt most acutely in developing countries that are least equipped to adapt.

Accelerating nuclear arms race:


China: [Joint Chiefs chairman] Milley reiterated his concerns about Beijing’s reported test of a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August, saying: “I won’t go into anything classified as to what our specific capabilities are — or what theirs are, for that matter — but I would just say that that test that occurred was a very significant test. In my view,” Milley added, “we’re witnessing one of the largest shifts in global geostrategic power that the world has witnessed. And it only happens once in a while. We are entering into a tripolar world, with the United States, Russia and China being all great powers.”

What Will Drive China to War? A cold war is already under way. The question is whether Washington can deter Beijing from initiating a hot one By Michael Beckley and Hal Brands

President Xi Jinping declared in July that those who get in the way of China’s ascent will have their “heads bashed bloody against a Great Wall of steel.” The People’s Liberation Army Navy is churning out ships at a rate not seen since World War II, as Beijing issues threats against Taiwan and other neighbors. Top Pentagon officials have warned that China could start a military conflict in the Taiwan Strait or other geopolitical hot spots sometime this decade.

Analysts and officials in Washington are fretting over worsening tensions between the United States and China and the risks to the world of two superpowers once again clashing rather than cooperating. President Joe Biden has said that America “is not seeking a new cold war.” But that is the wrong way to look at U.S.-China relations. A cold war with Beijing is already under way. The right question, instead, is whether America can deter China from initiating a hot one.

Senior US general warns China’s military progress is ‘stunning’ as US is hampered by ‘brutal’ bureaucracy

China’s test of a hypersonic missile, the second most senior US general said Thursday that the pace at which China’s military is developing capabilities is “stunning” while US development suffers from “brutal” bureaucracy.

The outgoing Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Hyten, echoed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s characterization of China as a “pacing threat” while calling Russia the most imminent threat.

“Calling China a pacing threat is a useful term because the pace at which China is moving is stunning,” Hyten told reporters at a Defense Writers Group roundtable Thursday morning. “The pace they’re moving and the trajectory they’re on will surpass Russia and the United States if we don’t do something to change it. It will happen. So I think we have to do something.”

Opinion: It’s not a ‘Sputnik moment’ and we should not feed Cold War paranoia

By Fareed Zakaria

There is now a bipartisan consensus in Washington: We are coming dangerously close to a new Cold War. For the Pentagon, it’s an opportunity: Raising fears about a huge and tech-savvy enemy is a surefire way to guarantee vast new budgets that can be spent countering the enemy’s every move, real or imagined. If China Wants to Waste Its Money on Missiles, We Should Let It Its latest launch was not a “Sputnik moment.” By Fred Kaplan Oct 28, 20213:14 PM

Objective analysis isn’t what usually fuels an arms race. A trillion-dollar arms program requires above all massive political support, which is stoked by smoky atmosphere, fiery rhetoric, funhouse mirrors—whatever works. Glum expressions of grave concern about a seemingly dramatic new Chinese weapon, with parallels drawn to the nation’s most perilous Cold War moment, just might do the trick…  But Sputnik also supplied the rationale for the most expensive, unnecessary, and potentially destructive arms race in human history. This is what Milley’s version of the new Sputnik moment is about. It should be yanked to a halt before it tears out of control.

Military Affairs: U.S.’s Pentagon rattled by Chinese military push on multiple fronts

China’s growing military muscle and its drive to end America predominance in the Asia-Pacific is rattling the U.S. defense establishment. American officials see trouble quickly accumulating on multiple fronts — Beijing’s expanding nuclear arsenal, its advances in space, cyber and missile technologies, and threats to Taiwan. “The pace at which China is moving is stunning,” says Gen. John Hyten, the No. 2-ranking U.S. military officer, who previously commanded U.S. nuclear forces and oversaw Air Force space operations. At stake is a potential shift in the global balance of power that has favored the United States for decades. (Associated Press)

China’s Orbital Bombardment System Is Big, Bad News—but Not a Breakthrough

The Financial Times reported that in August, China tested a new hypersonic weapons system that circled the globe. While the word “hypersonic” has gotten all the attention, what is more interesting is that the weapon entered orbit. This is no mere hypersonic system but what Cold Warriors called an “orbital bombardment system.” People are freaking out, with some calling it a “Sputnik moment.” But just what is this thing, and how bad is it? Well, it’s an FOBS—a fractional orbital bombardment system. It’s not new. The Soviet Union deployed a similar system during the Cold War. But China’s test of such a system is unwelcome news, not because it’s some fantastic futuristic technology but because it is yet another step in a pointless, costly, and dangerous arms race. Starting in the 1960s, the United States began working on a missile defense system, which eventually came to be called Safeguard. This system ultimately consisted of a number of missiles armed with nuclear weapons intended to vaporize incoming Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs. That’s not an acceptable situation from the standpoint of a relationship based on nuclear deterrence. The whole idea of nuclear deterrence is that if one party starts a nuclear war, everybody dies. (Jeffrey Lewis for Foreign Policy)

India Successfully Test-Fires Its First Nuclear-Capable Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Agni 5

With the successful user trial of the solid-fuelled missile, which can carry a payload of 1.5 tonnes, India has become the eighth country to have an intercontinental ballistic missile facility, following in the footsteps of the US, UK, Russia, China, France, Israel, and North Korea.

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