January 20, 2010New York City isn’t immune to earthquakes; a couple of small tremors measuring about 2.5 on the Richter scale even struck back in 2001 and 2002.But on August 10, 1884, a more powerful earthquake hit. Estimated from 4.9 to 5.5 in magnitude, the tremor made houses shake, chimneys fall, and residents wonder what the heck was going on, according to a New York Times article two days later.The quake was subsequently thought to have been centered off Far Rockaway or Coney Island.It wasn’t the first moderate quake, and it won’t be the last. In a 2008 Columbia University study, seismologists reported that the city is crisscrossed with several fault lines, one along 125th Street. With that in mind, New Yorkers should expect a 5.0 or higher earthquake centered here every 100 years, the seismologists say.Translation: We’re about 30 years overdue. Lucky for us the city adopted earthquake-resistant building codes in 1995.1884 A Forewarning Of The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)
30 Mar 2021
Special to McClatchy Washington Bureau | By Tara Copp
MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. — When hundreds of land-based nuclear armed ballistic missiles were first lowered into underground cement silos spread across the vast cornfields here in 1970, the weapons were only intended to last a decade before a newer system came in.
Fifty years later, these missiles — called the Minuteman III — are still on alert, manned by members of the U.S. Air Force in teams of two who spend 24 hours straight below ground in front of analog terminals from the 1980s, decoding messages and running tests on the missiles’ systems to check if they could still launch if needed.
But it’s not the age of weapons or the decades-old technology that troubles their operators. It’s that the original manufacturers who supplied the gears, tubes and other materials to fix those systems are long gone.
Several years ago, the motor on one of the industrial-sized caged elevators that slowly descends 100 feet below ground to the launch control center broke, an airman with the base’s 791st Maintenance Squadron told McClatchy. A fix was not available for months.
Instead, maintainers resorted to rigging a pulley to lower supplies down for the crews, the airman said, who spoke on the condition they not be named.
“We’re severely constrained with spares,” the airman said. “The technology does its job. The challenge is sustaining it.”
To make repairs, airmen are often forced to take parts from another machine. Two of the airmen at Minot told McClatchy the facility’s missile guidance system often needs parts or attention because of constant wear and tear.
“You can only do that so many times until the system fails,” said Lt. Col. Steve Bonin, commander of the 91st Operations Support Squadron at Minot.
Next month Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will seek billions to keep the 50-year-old land based missiles running while a debate begins on whether they should be replaced.
It’s a difficult ask: At the same time, the Pentagon is also in the middle of the most expensive nuclear modernization effort in its history.
All three legs of the nuclear triad — air, land and sea defenses launched from silos, overhead strategic bombers or nuclear submarines — are getting replaced with newer weapons systems, simultaneously.
The next-generation replacement bombers, missiles and submarines now under development have a price tag topping $400 billion and are expected to be a primary topic of questioning during hearings next month as lawmakers debate whether modernizing all three legs is necessary.
“In my humble opinion, we’re building more weapons than we need,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said during a Center for Strategic and International Studies discussion in December. “We need to look at ways to have a robust deterrent in a more cost-effective manner. And hat’s what we’re going to work towards.”
Due to the high cost of developing brand-new weapons, the default for the military has often been keeping the existing nuclear missiles running for a few additional years.
All of the repair and life extension work for nuclear missiles or bombs is handled at just a few offsite locations across the U.S. All of the non-nuclear parts of any of the warheads rely on just one place, the Department of Energy’s Kansas City National Security Campus.
“There are no backup places,” said Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the former head of the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, which is responsible for maintaining the nation’s nuclear stockpile. That means there isn’t a way to quickly obtain spares in an emergency, she added.
The non-nuclear parts of the weapons are tightly controlled in Kansas City because of the high cost if a counterfeit part slips through.
Even for a simple part like wiring, a counterfeit that is set to degrade faster could effectively disable a missile without aircrews realizing the damage, Gordon-Hagerty said.
The non-nuclear components that are produced at the Kansas City facility include items as basic as wiring or bolts, and as complex as the weapon’s firing system. They make up more than 80% of each weapon, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
As the missiles have aged, they’ve needed more work.
Last year, the GAO reported that the Kansas site would need to expand to meet the levels of repair now needed.
“The workload of the Kansas City site has increased and is currently at the highest level since the end of the Cold War,” the GAO said.
The agency cautioned that supply chain issues and a lack of floor space at the Kansas City site could hamper future plans to swap out parts and extend the life of the weapons.
Navy Adm. Charles Richard, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, wonders how many life extensions are left for the missiles.
“When I say heroics, I’m talking about where people are doing some very innovative things to reverse engineer and creatively replace parts and things like that,” Richards said.
He added that another service life extension is “certainly past the point of being cost-effective and approaching the point where you can’t do it at all.”
To prepare for upcoming congressional hearings on the defense budget, Milley went to Minot.
He climbed inside a B-52 Stratofortress that’s been flying since 1960 to talk to the crew and ask them what upgrades would help their missions. The UH-1N Huey that carried him to the missile silo has been in service since 1969. The wall deep underground at the launch control center that he signed as he departed was built around 1962.
“We’re moving into a period where the engineering lifespan of these systems is nearing its end,” Milley said. ”Nuclear deterrence, strategic deterrence, I think, has been effective in preventing great power war for seven decades, since the end of World War II. And until, unless we have something better come along, I think we need to update and modernize the one we have.”
As he departed the launch facility, Milley took a marker to write a message to the missileers. It’s a place near the exit where crews who have completed their tours and visiting defense leaders have also scribbled notes.
“Every day there is no nuke war you won,” Milley wrote.
This article is written by Tara Copp from Special to McClatchy Washington Bureau and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the Industry Divepublisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Ellen Nakashima and Gerry Shih
April 7, 2021 at 1:21 p.m. EDT
In a secretive military facility in southwest China, a supercomputer whirs away, simulating the heat and drag on hypersonic vehicles speeding through the atmosphere — missiles that could one day be aimed at a U.S. aircraft carrier or Taiwan, according to former U.S. officials and Western analysts.
The computer is powered by tiny chips designed by a Chinese firm called Phytium Technology using American software and built in the world’s most advanced chip factory in Taiwan, which hums with American precision machinery, say the analysts.
Phytium portrays itself as a commercial company aspiring to become a global chip giant like Intel. It does not publicize its connections to the research arms of the People’s Liberation Army.
The hypersonic test facility is located at the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Center (CARDC), which also obscures its military connections though it is run by a PLA major general, according to public documents, and the former officials and analysts, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.
The headquarters of the world’s largest semiconductor maker, TSMC in Hsinchu, Taiwan, is pictured on Jan. 29, 2021. (SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
Phytium’s partnership with CARDC offers a prime example of how China is quietly harnessing civilian technologies for strategic military purposes — with the help of American technology. The trade is not illegal but is a vital link in a global high-tech supply chain that is difficult to regulate because the same computer chips that could be used for a commercial data center can power a military supercomputer.
Hypersonics refers to a range of emerging technologies that can propel missiles at greater than five times the speed of sound and potentially evade current defenses.
The U.S. system created the world’s most advanced military. Can it maintain an edge?
The Trump administration was set to place Phytium and a handful of other Chinese companies on an export blacklist late last year, but ran out of time, according to former U.S. officials. Such a listing would block technology of American origin from flowing to those firms. And, experts say, it would slow the advance of China’s hypersonic weapons program, as well as other sophisticated weapons and more powerful surveillance capabilities.
The designation package now awaits Commerce Department action.
Phytium did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
American firms generally argue that export controls hurt their profits while encouraging China to send its business elsewhere and develop its own industries. But analysts note the United States’ policy is that American technology should not aid the Chinese military and that curtailing future progress by the PLA is worth the cost in lost business.
As tensions between China and the United States deepen, so too have questions over the proper limits for American and Taiwanese firms doing business with China.
Semiconductors are the brains of modern electronics, enabling advances in everything from clean energy to quantum computing. They are now China’s top import, valued at more than $300 billion a year, and a major priority in China’s latest Five-Year Plan for national development.
In January 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Tianjin, 70 miles from Beijing and home to Phytium, and touted the company’s importance to the country’s “indigenous innovation” effort. Today, Phytium boasts it is “a leading independent core chip provider in China.” The company markets microprocessors for servers and video games, but its shareholders and main clients are the Chinese state and military, according to government records.
Phytium was founded in August 2014, according to business registration records in a public government database. It was created as a joint venture of the state-owned conglomerate China Electronic Corp. (CEC), the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin, and the Tianjin municipal government, according to the records.
The national supercomputing center is a lab run by the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT), a premier military research institution whose current president and immediate past president were PLA generals.
In 2015, the Commerce Department placed both organizations on its trade blacklist list, for involvement in nuclear weapons activity, a designation that bars U.S. exports to the firms unless a waiver is obtained.
Phytium’s ownership has changed hands over the years, but its shareholders often have links to the PLA, records show.
“Phytium acts like an independent commercial company,” said Eric Lee, a research associate at the Project 2049 Institute, a Northern Virginia think tank focused on strategic Indo-Pacific issues. “Its executives wear civilian clothes, but they are mostly former military officers from NUDT.’’
In China’s rugged hinterland lies Mianyang, a city in southwest Sichuan province that is a center for research in nuclear weapons. It is also home to the country’s largest aerodynamics research complex: CARDC.
CARDC, which says it has 18 wind tunnels, is heavily involved in research on hypersonic weapons, according to former U.S. officials and U.S. and Australian researchers. Its director, Fan Zhaolin, is a major general, but he is pictured in civilian clothes on the center’s website.
The center has been on the U.S. trade blacklist — called the “entity list”— since 1999 for contributing to “the proliferation of missiles.” In 2016 Commerce further tightened restrictions on the facility.
CARDC, said Tai Ming Cheung, director of the University of California San Diego’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, is “a beating heart of Chinese hypersonic research and development.”
The research center and Fan did not respond to emails seeking comment.
China’s major investments in hypersonics is a major concern at the Pentagon.
“The only way to reliably see a hypersonic vehicle is from space, which makes it a challenge,” said Mark J. Lewis, until recently the Pentagon’s director of defense research and technology. If it is traveling at hypersonic speeds — going at least a mile per second — it gives a missile defense system very little time to figure out what it is and how to stop it, he said.
Hypersonics is a critical, emerging military technology, said Lewis, the executive director of the National Defense Industrial Association’s Emerging Technologies Institute. China could target Navy ships and air bases in the Pacific, he said, adding that a conventional cruise missile would take an hour or two to reach its target while a hypersonic missile could do so in minutes.
“It is a huge concern,” he said.
In 2014, the U.S. Air Force released an unclassified report on the technology of air warfare that included hypersonics. “Anyone could pick up this document,” Lewis said. “Then we basically took our foot off the gas. There was no sense of hurry, of alacrity.”
Meanwhile, the Chinese read the American research. Their scientists began showing up at U.S. conferences. They started investing. “They saw that hypersonics could give them a military advantage,” Lewis said. “And they acted.”
China, unlike the United States, has fielded a hypersonic weapon: a medium-range hypersonic glide vehicle.
Hundreds to thousands of different configurations of heat, vehicle lift and atmospheric drag need to be analyzed to make a hypersonic missile work, which would be too expensive and time-consuming through physical testing alone, said Iain Boyd, Director of the Center for National Security Initiatives at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “If you didn’t have supercomputers it could take a decade,’’ he said.
In May 2016, CARDC unveiled a “petascale” supercomputer that would aid the aerodynamic design of hypersonic missiles and other aircraft. A petascale computer can handle one trillion calculations per second.
In 2018 and 2019, CARDC scientists published papers showcasing their supercomputer and noting their calculations were done with Phytium’s 1500 and 2000 series chips, though the papers do not discuss research on hypersonic weapons.
CARDC, Phytium, the military university and the Tianjin supercomputing lab are currently developing an even faster computer — able to handle “exascale” speeds of a million trillion calculations per second. The supercomputer, dubbed Tianhe-3, is powered by Phytium’s 2000 series chips, according to Chinese state media.
To produce such chips, Phytium requires the newest design tools.
Although CARDC and other PLA entities are under U.S. sanctions, the Chinese military is still able to access U.S. semiconductor technology through companies like Phytium.
One Silicon Valley company that counts Phytium as a customer is Cadence Design Systems Inc., which gave an award to Phytium at a 2018 conference for presenting the “best paper” on how to use its software for high-performance chip applications. Another is Synopsys, headquartered eight miles from Cadence in San Jose, Calif.
“I have not in my decade in China met a chip design company that isn’t using either Synopsys or Cadence,” said Stewart Randall, a consultant in Shanghai who sells electronic design automation software to top Chinese chipmakers.
Synopsys declined to comment. Cadence did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Phytium’s microprocessors are produced at gleaming factories outside Taipei by the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, which now makes the world’s most advanced chips, having surpassed the United States.
TSMC, the largest of several Taiwanese chipmakers, is in the unusual position of manufacturing chips “that end up being used for military purposes by both the United States and China,” said Si-fu Ou, a fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, a think tank co-founded by Taiwan’s defense ministry.
The company, for instance, makes chips used in advanced American weapons, including Lockheed-Martin’s F-35 fighter jet. TSMC announced last year it would build a $12 billion factory in Arizona in response to Trump administration concerns about the security of the semiconductor supply chain.
“These private companies do business and don’t consider factors like national security,” Ou said, adding that Taiwan, as a small country, lacks the leverage and will to enact export bans. “The United States has a relatively complete set of export control measures and regulations, while Taiwan is relatively loose and has more loopholes,” Ou said.
TSMC said in an email to The Washington Post it obeys all laws and export controls.
TSMC has a “robust assessment and review process on shipments to specific entities that are subject to export control restrictions,” spokeswoman Nina Kao said. “We are not aware of a product manufactured by TSMC that was destined for military end-use as alleged in your email.”
The final stage of Phytium chip design is handled by another Taiwanese company, Alchip, which deals directly with TSMC’s factories on Phytium’s behalf.
Alchip chief financial officer Daniel Wang said Phytium signed an agreement stipulating its chips are not for military use. Phytium has told Alchip its clients are civilians, and that the 1500 and 2000 series chips are made specifically for commercial servers and personal computers, Wang said.
However, a 2018 Alchip news release notes the firm has worked with “China’s National Supercomputing Center,” which had been on Commerce’s blacklist for three years at that point for involvement in “nuclear explosive activities.”
Mark Li, an analyst at Sanford Bernstein, said unless Phytium is placed under sanctions, TSMC is in no position to cut it off. “It’s not TSMC’s job to be a policeman for the United States,” he said. “That’s for politicians to decide. China is the biggest semiconductor market. If you give that up when the business is legally allowed, you can’t explain that to shareholders.”
Shih reported from Taipei, Taiwan. Pei Lin Wu in Taipei contributed to this report.
Thomas Colson Apr 7, 2021, 8:54 AM
The spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization noted that “this equipment is fully domestically-produced”
Uranium enrichment plant Natanz
© EPA/KAZEM GHANE
TEHRAN, April 6. /TASS/. Iranian specialists commenced the trials of advance IR-9 uranium enrichment centrifuges, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi announced Tuesday.
“One of the progresses made in the field of [uranium] enrichment is the commencing of mechanical trials of IR-9 centrifuges with production capability of 50 SWUs (Separative Working Units of enriched uranium),” he told ISNA.
He added that “this equipment is fully domestically-produced, it was developed and it functions in compliance with the new standards.”
Iran has been working on development of new and upgrading existing uranium enrichment centrifuges. In response to the US’s withdrawal from the Nuclear Deal, Iran began using advanced centrifuges at its nuclear sites. On April 1, Iran commenced uranium enrichment in the Natanz underground facility via the fourth cascade of IR-2m class centrifuges.
Currently, Iran enriches uranium via IR-1, IR-2m and IR-4 centrifuges. Under the Nuclear Deal, Iran is only allowed to use IR-1 centrifuges.
Can the objective of a world free of nuclear weapons be approached through the instrument of nuclear doctrines, and in particular through the easily comprehensible concept of No First Use of nuclear weapons? The question, debated since the early days of the nuclear age, is topical today because in the coming months the Pentagon is expected to draft a nuclear posture review and President Biden could suggest that his Secretary of Defense address this delicate issue.
As Vice President, Biden closely followed the implications of nuclear doctrines. In 2017 he was quoted as saying that, given the US non-nuclear capabilities and the nature of today’s threats, “it is hard to envision a plausible scenario in which the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States would be necessary or make sense” and that “deterring, and, if necessary, retaliating against a nuclear attack should be the sole purpose of the US nuclear arsenal”. The Biden presidential campaign website reiterated the same doctrine on “sole purpose”. The concept of “sole purpose” is similar – though not equivalent – to that of the NFU.
The concept of non-first use was widely debated under the Obama presidency and eminent personalities including Senator Elizabeth Warren – who proposed a bill to Congress to endorse a no first use policy – and former Defense Secretary William Perry still strongly support its adoption. The Obama administration made notable progress in reducing the role of nuclear weapons in the US defense strategy, including the commitment in the 2010 nuclear posture review to refrain from using nuclear weapons if attacked with chemical, biological or conventional weapons. However, it did not in the end adopt the NFU concept. Since then, the 2018 nuclear posture review under the Trump administration reversed this commitment and stated that US could consider the use of nuclear weapons in “extreme circumstances” including “significant non-nuclear attacks” against the US, its allies and partners.
In 1995 the five NPT nuclear weapons states (China, France, Russia, the UK and the US) had already gone further than NFU by formally assuring non-nuclear countries that nuclear weapons would not be used against them at all. Of these five states, China, following its first nuclear test in 1964, declared that it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons against any state, including nuclear states. During the Cold War, when the Soviet Union believed it had conventional superiority in Europe, Moscow also proposed the adoption of the NFU concept. However, this position has subsequently been abandoned by the Russian Federation which now feels conventionally inferior to the West.
For their part, France and the United Kingdom have always been reluctant to adopt the NFU concept, although the sole purpose of their arsenals, given their limited capacity, can realistically only be that of deterrence. The UK has now said in its 2021 integrated defence review that it may in future review its commitment not to use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear state if the future threat of WMD or emerging technologies “with a comparable impact” “makes this necessary”.
Among the four de facto nuclear countries whose nuclear status is not recognized by the NPT (India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea), India has already joined China in adopting the NFU. In principle, at least, this would prevent a future conflict between these two Asian rivals from escalating into a nuclear war. Pakistan on the contrary feels unable to renounce the possibility of being the first to use nuclear weapons, given its conventional military inferiority vis a vis India.
The above precedents show that a wider adoption of the NFU concept by nuclear weapons states is not a mission impossible: some nuclear weapon countries are already on board. Supporters of NFU in the US believe that a no-first-use doctrine could be adopted unilaterally.
If the US were to include this doctrinal change in a fresh nuclear policy review, it would send a strong signal to other nuclear states that such a move is both possible and desirable. Carlo Trezza
It would help give new life to the upcoming NPT Review Conference, as a constructive step towards implementing the promises that all states including the five nuclear states have made under the NPT to negotiate in good faith on measures for nuclear disarmament. So far the recent lack of progress on nuclear disarmament has led many countries to question the credibility of the NPT and has given more momentum to the Treaty for the Prevention of all Nuclear Weapons.
This mission is worth pursuing: if all nuclear weapons states agreed not to be the first to use nuclear weapons, then in principle no nuclear war could break out.
The opinions articulated above represent the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network or any of its members. The ELN’s aim is to encourage debates that will help develop Europe’s capacity to address the pressing foreign, defence, and security policy challenges of our time.
6 Apr 2021
Shah Mahmood Qureshi the foreign minister of Pakistan has said that India and Pakistan cannot afford to engage in an all-out war, as both countries are powered by nuclear weapons.
Commenting about India-Pakistan relations, Qureshi said that it is Pakistan’s firm belief that “all issues could be resolved through dialogue”, adding that it is India’s responsibility to create a conducive environment.
“Pakistan has a clear stance on trade with India. It’s now India’s turn to make the environment conducive for dialogue,” he was quoted as saying by IANS.
Saying that Pakistan had “serious concerns” about the in situation Jammu and Kashmir, Qureshi said, “The people of Kashmir and different political parties had already rejected the Indian government’s decision of 5 August, 2019.”
Qureshi’s statement comes at a time when the Imran Khan-led government in Pakistan took a U-turn on its decision to open trade with India, summary of which was later rejected in the cabinet meeting, which reiterated that there can be no trade with India until it reverses its decision of 5 August 2019, which changed the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated it into two Union Territories, by abrogating Articles 370 and 35A.
While the Pakistan government maintains that its position on Kashmir cannot change, opposition benches have raised serious questions on the government’s intentions and competency in taking major decisions related to the country’s foreign policy.