ON THE MAP; Exploring the Fault Where the Next Big One May Be WaitingBy MARGO NASHPublished: March 25, 2001Alexander Gates, a geology professor at Rutgers-Newark, is co-author of ”The Encyclopedia of Earthquakes and Volcanoes,” which will be published by Facts on File in July. He has been leading a four-year effort to remap an area known as the Sloatsburg Quadrangle, a 5-by-7-mile tract near Mahwah that crosses into New York State. The Ramapo Fault, which runs through it, was responsible for a big earthquake in 1884, and Dr. Gates warns that a recurrence is overdue. He recently talked about his findings.Q. What have you found?A. We’re basically looking at a lot more rock, and we’re looking at the fracturing and jointing in the bedrock and putting it on the maps. Any break in the rock is a fracture. If it has movement, then it’s a fault. There are a lot of faults that are offshoots of the Ramapo. Basically when there are faults, it means you had an earthquake that made it. So there was a lot of earthquake activity to produce these features. We are basically not in a period of earthquake activity along the Ramapo Fault now, but we can see that about six or seven times in history, about 250 million years ago, it had major earthquake activity. And because it’s such a fundamental zone of weakness, anytime anything happens, the Ramapo Fault goes.Q. Where is the Ramapo Fault? A. The fault line is in western New Jersey and goes through a good chunk of the state, all the way down to Flemington. It goes right along where they put in the new 287. It continues northeast across the Hudson River right under the Indian Point power plant up into Westchester County. There are a lot of earthquakes rumbling around it every year, but not a big one for a while.Q. Did you find anything that surprised you?A. I found a lot of faults, splays that offshoot from the Ramapo that go 5 to 10 miles away from the fault. I have looked at the Ramapo Fault in other places too. I have seen splays 5 to 10 miles up into the Hudson Highlands. And you can see them right along the roadsides on 287. There’s been a lot of damage to those rocks, and obviously it was produced by fault activities. All of these faults have earthquake potential.Q. Describe the 1884 earthquake.A. It was in the northern part of the state near the Sloatsburg area. They didn’t have precise ways of describing the location then. There was lots of damage. Chimneys toppled over. But in 1884, it was a farming community, and there were not many people to be injured. Nobody appears to have written an account of the numbers who were injured.Q. What lessons we can learn from previous earthquakes?A. In 1960, the city of Agadir in Morocco had a 6.2 earthquake that killed 12,000 people, a third of the population, and injured a third more. I think it was because the city was unprepared.There had been an earthquake in the area 200 years before. But people discounted the possibility of a recurrence. Here in New Jersey, we should not make the same mistake. We should not forget that we had a 5.4 earthquake 117 years ago. The recurrence interval for an earthquake of that magnitude is every 50 years, and we are overdue. The Agadir was a 6.2, and a 5.4 to a 6.2 isn’t that big a jump.Q. What are the dangers of a quake that size?A. When you’re in a flat area in a wooden house it’s obviously not as dangerous, although it could cut off a gas line that could explode. There’s a real problem with infrastructure that is crumbling, like the bridges with crumbling cement.There’s a real danger we could wind up with our water supplies and electricity cut off if a sizable earthquake goes off. The best thing is to have regular upkeep and keep up new building codes. The new buildings will be O.K. But there is a sense of complacency.MARGO NASH
Amber Afreen AbidDecember 30, 2021
The nuclear capability of Pakistan is purely security based and depends upon the changing technological developments in the region. Pakistan maintains a posture of credible minimum deterrence and ensures strategic stability in the region. However, India continually pushes Pakistan towards arms race, by the development and induction of new aggressive technology, and incorporation of offensive doctrines.
The proliferation of supersonic and hypersonic weapons is echoing in south Asia which could be disastrous for the regional peace and stability. Ever since the mass nuclear power has been invented, the deterrence stability in the region is maintained by keeping the mutual vulnerability intact, which India tries its best to sabotage. The introduction of supersonic and hypersonic weapons could be devastating as it travels with immensely high speed, and the enemy can’t be certain whether it is carrying conventional or non-conventional weapon, hence the chances and risks of nuclear war manifolds.
India recently test fired the air version of Brahmos supersonic missile. The supersonic missile is a joint venture of the Indian DRDO and the Russian NPOM. It is basically an offensive missile, and India intends to develop a series of supersonic missiles. India is most likely to supplement it with the nuclear missile as well, which would intensify the already volatile scenario in south Asia. Moreover, India has also tested the Supersonic missile assisted torpedo (SMART), which indicates the continuous modernization of its technology. Recently Indian Defence Minister said that India wants to go for hypersonic missile in line with credible minimum deterrence. Owing to the volatile situation in south Asia, with the absence of any conflict resolution treaties and agreements, the innovation in technology in South Asia leads to the change in the nuclear doctrines a swell. Pakistan maintains a policy of minimum credible deterrence, but that minimum is directly proportional to the advancements made by the adversary in offensive technology and ultimately in the nuclear doctrine.
The Indian posture of NFU is also questionable, as the statements from the defence minister of India comes otherwise. The recent development indicates India’s move towards a counterforce targeting, which is a highly destabilizing factor for south Asia. The Indian military modernization is far exceeding the ‘minimum’ in minimum credible deterrence, and there is no reasonable justification of credible and minimum in the recent developments. Such doctrines only exist when a country prepares for the offensive first strike targeting and pre-emption strikes, hence leading to a full scale war.
India doesn’t have any security concern for which it is going for the acquisition of hypersonic weapons or change in doctrine. It doesn’t have any potent threat from the neighboring countries to go for such ventures; hence, the drive is totally out of the prestige factor, as India wants to come at par with US, Russia and China in leading world technologies, without realizing the effect of such technologies on the regional stability. India needs to withdraw its hegemonic ambitions if the stability and regional peace is required or if the arms race needs to be withheld. As a responsible nuclear weapon state, Pakistan always maintains a modest nuclear posture, and any military development is the part of strategic chain in the south Asia, and or because of its allies.
Sadr’s movement won more than a fifth of the seats, 73 out of the assembly’s total of 329
NAJAF: The winner of Iraq’s October parliamentary election, Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, met on Wednesday with rivals from the pro-Iran Hashd Al-Shaabi former paramilitary alliance ahead of the opening of parliament.
The Oct. 10 vote was rejected by the Fatah Alliance, the political arm of the pro-Tehran Hashd, but Iraq’s top court on Monday dismissed their allegations of voter fraud and ratified the results.
It paves the way for parliament to meet and elect a president — who will then name a prime minister tasked with forming a new government.
In multi-confessional and multi-ethnic Iraq, the formation of governments has involved complex negotiations ever since the 2003 US-led invasion toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
On Wednesday, leaders including Fatah Alliance chief Hadi Al-Ameri, senior Hashd official Faleh Al-Fayyad and Qais Al-Khazali, head of the Asaib Ahl Al-Haq force — a key component of the Hashd — were hosted by Sadr at his home in the Iraqi shrine city of Najaf, according to state news agency INA.
The leaders discussed “the political situation” and the “formation of the next government,” INA reported.
Sadr, a political maverick and former anti-US militia leader who opposes all foreign interference, had already met leaders from pro-Iran parties earlier this month.
Iraq is trying to recover from years of war and jihadist violence but remains hobbled by political divisions, corruption and poverty.
Parties from Iraq’s Shiite majority have previously struck compromise deals to work together, but Sadr is insistent he wants to forge a coalition capable of forming a parliamentary majority.
Sadr’s movement won more than a fifth of the seats, 73 out of the assembly’s total of 329. The Fatah Alliance took 17 seats, sharply down from its 48 seats in the past assembly, and Hashed leaders rejected the result.
Sadr, a self-styled defender against all forms of corruption, has repeatedly said that the next prime minister will be chosen by his movement.
The scion of an influential clerical family who led a militia against the US-led occupation of Iraq, Sadr has distinguished himself from other Shiite factions by seeking to distance himself from both Iranian and US influences.
China’s missile technology may be a key enabler to Saudi Arabia’s nuclear weapons program
by Gabriel Honrada December 29, 2021
Last week CNN reported that US intelligence had assessed that Saudi Arabia was building its own ballistic missiles – with China’s assistance.
Saudi Arabia is known to have purchased ballistic missiles from China in the past, but has never been able to build any until now.
Satellite images of the Al Watah missile base show Saudi Arabia has expanded the base to include rocket engine production and test facilities, although it is unclear if any missiles are under production at this point.
The Saudi government had sought assistancefrom the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, China’s armed forces branch responsible for its land-based nuclear arsenal. Saudi advisers and an official familiar with US intelligence said talks between Saudi Arabia and China had moved to the stage of the former acquiring critical hardware necessary to produce its own ballistic missiles.
Ballistic missiles follow a ballistic trajectory, or arc, to deliver conventional or nuclear warheads on targets. They have a powered flight phase which takes them into the upper layers of the atmosphere, an unpowered free flight phase, and a re-entry phase.
In addition, last year China also assisted Saudi Arabia in building its own yellowcake uranium enrichment plant near Al Ula. This move seems to have enjoyed the tacit approval of the Trump administration, as it attempted to bypass US laws safeguarding against the US transfer of such sensitive technology to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is also in the process of negotiating a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the US, but is reluctant to agree on restrictions regarding fuel enrichment and international oversight.
Yellowcake enrichment is a critical step in manufacturing nuclear weapons. It is an important precursor for making highly-enriched uranium, a key element for nuclear warheads.
Saudi Arabia first acquired ballistic missilesfrom China in 1988, with the purchase of the DF-3A that year. However, the DF-3A was outdated as it first entered service in 1971, is highly inaccurate and is restricted to launch pads.
Saudi Arabia followed up this purchase by acquiring the DF-21 in 2007. The DF-21 entered service in 1991 and is a newer road-mobile design, making missile launches much harder to detect and stop.
While both the DF-3A and DF-21 are nuclear-capable, it appears the versions China sold to Saudi Arabia were modified to carry conventional warheads only. It was for this reason that perhaps the US tacitly approved the sale of these weapons to its Saudi ally. China’s DF-31 ballistic missile, a more recent version than the DF-21. Photo: WikiCommons
However, Saudi Arabia could later modify these missiles to fit a nuclear warhead.
These developments have raised concerns of nuclear proliferation, resulting in bleak prospects for negotiations on Iran’s nuclear and missile programs and a further escalation in Saudi-Iranian tensions.
That may make it hard to persuade Iran to scale down its nuclear program, missile development and support for its regional proxies in the Middle East if it sees that arch-rival Saudi Arabia has its own nuclear program with tacit, albeit reluctant, US approval.
It should be noted that Iran was the first state to carry out an attack against a nuclear facilityduring the Iran-Iraq War. However, a direct attack by Iran at this time would be implausible, considering the outdated state of its air force and the threat of retaliation by the US and its Gulf allies.
Considering such constraints, Iran could stage an attack against Saudi Arabia’s missile base at Al Watah and the yellowcake facility at Al Ula using rockets, missiles or drone swarms operated by its proxies in Gaza and Yemen.
Also, the US has been pushing the Abraham Accords which aim to normalize relations between Arab countries and Israel. However, this move may be interpreted as a US effort to form a de facto regional alliance against Iran.
With the Abraham Accords, the US has effectively outsourced its security role to regional military powers such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, as it refocuses its efforts to counter China in the Pacific.
That said, Saudi Arabia and Israel’s nuclear programs may substitute for the strategic deterrence formerly provided by the US against Iran.
Ulyanov’s brutal honesty reveals why checkmating Iran is daunting.
Every now and then diplomats slip, say what they really think, and reveal to the whole world some inconvenient truths that most would rather ignore.Late Tuesday, Russia’s Permanent Representative to Vienna-based International Organizations Mikhail Ulyanov did just that in an interview with the publication Foreign Policy.
He remarked that now is not the time to threaten Iran with greater pressure because “even if they produce a significant amount of nuclear material, so what. It cannot be used without a warhead, and the Iranians do not have warheads.”
Rejecting the setting up of some deadlines at the Vienna talks, he added: “This sense of urgency is a little bit exaggerated. Yes, it’s urgent, but let’s be prudent; let’s [not] set up artificial deadlines.”
“So what” if Iran produces a significant amount of nuclear material – really?IRANIAN PRESIDENT Ebrahim Raisi visits the Bushehr nuclear power plant earlier this month. (credit: OFFICIAL PRESIDENTIAL WEBSITE / REUTERS)
So no one in the world should worry if next week or next month the Islamic Republic jumps to the 90% weaponized level because it has not yet solved the problem of how to deliver a nuclear weapon on a missile?
True, pretty much all nuclear experts acknowledge that Tehran has work to do in the areas of detonation and missile delivery. But the estimates for how long that would take – from six months to two years – are all guesses on the hopeful assumption that the regime has not advanced much in those areas clandestinely while the IAEA has been monitoring its declared facilities since 2015.
NORTH KOREA shocked the world in recent years, “suddenly” mastering a variety of nuclear skills that experts believed would take it several more years to nail down.
Now Pyongyang does not just have one nuclear bomb, but a nuclear arsenal estimated to include up to dozens of bombs.
Also, the whole reason the world has focused so much energy on monitoring uranium enrichment is that of the major nuclear weapons’ processes, enrichment is the easiest to monitor because it requires large facilities with thousands of centrifuges.
Working on the detonation and delivery issues is easier to hide, certainly until a nuclear test – and once a test has been performed, a country is considered to have crossed the nuclear threshold.
What is crucial about what Ulyanov said is that even if Russia opposes Iran getting a nuclear weapon, it is not as disturbed to the same degree as the US, let alone Israel.
It is willing to risk seeing the ayatollahs getting closer to a bomb than they are now without putting real pressure on them to cut a deal.
Why are the US and the EU pushing for the Islamic Republic to cut a deal “within weeks, not months”?
Because Iran is up to 60% nuclear uranium enrichment and could jump to 90% weaponized enrichment in a month or a bit less.
It is not that all nuclear issues must be resolved within weeks. Rather, it is that Tehran’s forward nuclear progress must be halted within that period to avoid a new level of risk from the regime.
RUSSIA is not the most problematic country concerning Iran – that would be China.
Moscow at least helped pressure Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei into returning to the nuclear talks in the October-November period, publicly saying it was “high time” that talks be renewed after a several-month hiatus.
Beijing almost entirely blames US sanctions against Iran for the current nuclear standoff because it is angry at both the Trump and Biden administrations over sanctions, and wants to fight American sanctions in every arena.
All of this blows open the argument that the only thing the US needs to do is hold the line with its sanctions against Iran.
Ulyanov’s “so what” moment makes it clear that will not be enough.
As long as Russia and China are ready to tolerate Iran at its current advanced nuclear levels and even beyond, American pressure, even with the EU on board, will be insufficient to get an improved JCPOA nuclear deal.A mix of US sanction pressure along with a viable US or Israeli military, covert or cyber threat against Iran that Beijing, Moscow and Khamenei all find believable, is likely the only way to fix the deal’s holes.
Since such a threat is likely not forthcoming, the more likely scenarios are a straight return to the JCPOA, a return to a slightly worse version of it, or some kind of interim deal that at least stops Iran’s forward progress.
But critics of US policy on Iran – and there is much to criticize in the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations – need to admit that without Russian and Chinese backing, even if Washington tries to hold the line diplomatically and with sanctions, a magically better JCPOA will not suddenly materialize.
In many ways at this stage, the road to Tehran is through Moscow and Beijing as much as through Washington.
Military says man was working on maintenance of recently completed border barrier; 3 Palestinians said wounded in retaliatory strike
By TOI staffToday, 1:48 pm
An Israeli civilian was injured from gunfire Wednesday near the border with Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces said, drawing retaliatory strikes in the Strip.
Several Hebrew media outlets reported that the Israeli was injured by sniper fire originating in Gaza.
The man was taken to Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon with light injuries to his leg, the military said.
According to the hospital, the 33-year-old was struck by shrapnel as he worked on an ATV near Kibbutz Nahal Oz.
He is a worker for a civilian firm hired by the Defense Ministry for maintenance of the recently completed security barrier separating Israel and the Palestinian enclave, it added.
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The army ordered farmers to stay away from land near the Gaza border.
Palestinian media subsequently reported that Israeli tanks were targeting several Hamas outposts in northern Gaza. The IDF confirmed the shellings.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said three Palestinians have been wounded. Their identity was not immediately clear.Advertisement
The incident comes during a relatively quiet time and amid intense efforts to reach a stable, long-term ceasefire following a major escalation of violence in May.
It also comes a day after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met Defense Minister Benny Gantz in the latter’s home in Rosh Ha’ayin for his first talks with a senior Israeli official inside Israel in over a decade.
Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza and openly seeks Israel’s destruction, lambasted Abbas over the meeting and called it a “stab in the back.”
JERUSALEM, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) — Israel’s army said on Wednesday that its tanks struck Hamas’ military targets in the Gaza Strip after gunfire from the Palestinian enclave injured a worker at the security fence.
Tanks struck “multiple military posts” belonging to Hamas, an Islamist Palestinian group that runs Gaza, the army said in a statement.
The attack was a “response” to the fire opened earlier from Gaza, which injured an Israeli civilian employee of the defense ministry. He was carrying out “maintenance work” at the fence between Israel and Gaza when the fire began, according to a statement issued by the defense ministry.
Israel’s state-owned Kan TV news reported that at least three Palestinians were injured by the Israeli tank fire.
The abrupt escalation came a day after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas travelled to Israel to meet Defense Minister Benny Gantz at his home, in a move condemned by Hamas. Enditem
New Evidence Shows Power of East Coast Earthquakes
Virginia Earthquake Triggered Landslides at Great DistancesReleased: 11/6/2012 8:30:00 AM USGS.govEarthquake shaking in the eastern United States can travel much farther and cause damage over larger areas than previously thought.U.S. Geological Survey scientists found that last year’s magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Virginia triggered landslides at distances four times farther—and over an area 20 times larger—than previous research has shown.“We used landslides as an example and direct physical evidence to see how far-reaching shaking from east coast earthquakes could be,” said Randall Jibson, USGS scientist and lead author of this study. “Not every earthquake will trigger landslides, but we can use landslide distributions to estimate characteristics of earthquake energy and how far regional ground shaking could occur.”“Scientists are confirming with empirical data what more than 50 million people in the eastern U.S. experienced firsthand: this was one powerful earthquake,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “Calibrating the distance over which landslides occur may also help us reach back into the geologic record to look for evidence of past history of major earthquakes from the Virginia seismic zone.”This study will help inform earthquake hazard and risk assessments as well as emergency preparedness, whether for landslides or other earthquake effects.This study also supports existing research showing that although earthquakes are less frequent in the East, their damaging effects can extend over a much larger area as compared to the western United States.The research is being presented today at the Geological Society of America conference, and will be published in the December 2012 issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.The USGS found that the farthest landslide from the 2011 Virginia earthquake was 245 km (150 miles) from the epicenter. This is by far the greatest landslide distance recorded from any other earthquake of similar magnitude. Previous studies of worldwide earthquakes indicated that landslides occurred no farther than 60 km (36 miles) from the epicenter of a magnitude 5.8 earthquake.“What makes this new study so unique is that it provides direct observational evidence from the largest earthquake to occur in more than 100 years in the eastern U.S,” said Jibson. “Now that we know more about the power of East Coast earthquakes, equations that predict ground shaking might need to be revised.”It is estimated that approximately one-third of the U.S. population could have felt last year’s earthquake in Virginia, more than any earthquake in U.S. history. About 148,000 people reported their ground-shaking experiences caused by the earthquake on the USGS “Did You Feel It?” website. Shaking reports came from southeastern Canada to Florida and as far west as Texas.In addition to the great landslide distances recorded, the landslides from the 2011 Virginia earthquake occurred in an area 20 times larger than expected from studies of worldwide earthquakes. Scientists plotted the landslide locations that were farthest out and then calculated the area enclosed by those landslides. The observed landslides from last year’s Virginia earthquake enclose an area of about 33,400 km2, while previous studies indicated an expected area of about 1,500 km2from an earthquake of similar magnitude.“The landslide distances from last year’s Virginia earthquake are remarkable compared to historical landslides across the world and represent the largest distance limit ever recorded,” said Edwin Harp, USGS scientist and co-author of this study. “There are limitations to our research, but the bottom line is that we now have a better understanding of the power of East Coast earthquakes and potential damage scenarios.”The difference between seismic shaking in the East versus the West is due in part to the geologic structure and rock properties that allow seismic waves to travel farther without weakening.Learn more about the 2011 central Virginia earthquake.
OPINION: As a dreadful year draws to an end and the Omicron variant turns out to be less lethal than its predecessors, premature outbreaks of cheerfulness have been spotted in many quarters.
As I am under a contractual obligation to keep the readers worried, I was at my wit’s end – but then I interviewed Professor Alan Robock of Rutgers University.
He’s a renowned climate scientist, but recently he led a team of researchers who re-examined the phenomenon of ‘nuclear winter’.
That’s not really a climate phenomenon. It would be the by-product of a superpower nuclear war, in which the smoke from a thousand burning cities blocks out the sun and leaves the world freezing in the dark for years.
A different team of researchers discovered nuclear winter almost 40 years ago, and it helped to convince the great powers they must never fight a nuclear war.
The reason we don’t worry much about nuclear winter now is that we think they have finally learned that lesson.
True, there are now other countries with nuclear weapons that don’t seem immune to outbreaks of major war, like India and Pakistan. However, everybody assumed the damage would be confined to their own region.
If we don’t let it escalate into a superpower clash, the rest of the world should be all right.
The Indian and Pakistani nuclear arsenals each amount to about 150 warheads now. That’s a modest number compared to the thousands held by the superpowers, but it turns out to be quite enough to cause…let’s call it a nuclear twilight.
What makes this so worrisome is that India and Pakistan have already fought three full-scale wars and half a dozen major skirmishes since they got their independence.
Another is entirely possible, and the risk of escalation to nuclear weapons would be very high, for two reasons.
First, most of their nuclear-capable aircraft and missiles are vulnerable to being destroyed on the ground in a surprise attack.
Secondly, the two countries are so close together that only a very brief warning time is available. In these circumstances, a policy of ‘launch on warning’, with all the risk of mistakes that entails, is the only rational option for both sides.
The first victims of such a war would be Pakistani and Indian civilians, because cities will be on the target lists: that’s where the major ports, airfields and critical infrastructure are.
Robock’s team calculated that those burning cities would loft enough ‘black carbon’ into the stratosphere to create a shroud of soot over the whole world within a few weeks.
It wouldn’t be the full-dress nuclear winter of superpower war, with ‘darkness at noon’. However, 300 nuclear explosions in the Indian subcontinent, most of them airbursts over cities, would dim the sun enough to drop temperatures and severely damage crop yields in the main food-producing regions of the planet.
The main effects would be a severe drop in the average global temperature and a comparable decline in global food production – with the worst-hit areas being in the Northern Hemisphere, north of latitude 30°N. (Almost all of India and Pakistan are south of that.)
It’s counter-intuitive, but that’s the way the climate system works.
The most important ‘breadbaskets’ of the planet – grain-growing areas that produce a big crop surplus for export – are the United States, Canada and Europe (including European Russia) – and they are all just north of 30.
The dimming effects of an Indo-Pak nuclear war in 2025, say, would drop the average global temperature by 5 °C over all the continents, but in the key regions of North America and Europe it could reach 10 °C colder.
That maximum cooling would be reached in the fourth year after the war, and would gradually return to ‘normal’ by around year 15.
Australia, Brazil and Argentina, the Southern Hemisphere’s bread-baskets, might still be able to export some grain, but they would not be remotely capable of compensating for the huge shortfalls of food in the Northern Hemisphere.
Tens, maybe hundreds of millions would starve in the poorer parts of the north, and scrabbling for food in the cold and the dark would certainly take our minds off our longer-term problem: global heating.
But when the effects of the local nuclear war in the Indian subcontinent finally faded, it would be right back to that bigger climate crisis.
And it would be bigger, for carbon dioxide would not have stopped accumulating during the hungry years. Indeed, the world might find that it was returning not to the average global temperature of +1.3 °C that prevailed when the Indo-Pak war started, but to a climate that was now hovering on the brink of +2.0 °C.
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Russia has deployed a new Star Wars-likemissile system that has the capability to strike satellites and shoot down nuclear-armed rockets, state media reports.
The S-550 defense system has successfully completed trials and “entered combat duty,” Tass reported Tuesday, citing a source inside the Russian defense ministry.
The official called the defense system “absolutely new and unrivaled” and capable of “hitting spacecraft, ballistic missile reentry vehicles and hypersonic targets at altitudes of tens of thousands of kilometers.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said last month at defense industry meetings in Sochi that President Vladimir Putin had emphasized the need to deliver the S-550 system to Russian troops, the report said.
The S-550 becomes part of Russia’s strategic air defense structure, along with the long-range S-350, S-400 and S-500 systems.
The announcement of the new weapon comes amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington over Russia’s buildup of military equipment and thousands of troops along its border with Ukraine.
Putin has demanded that the US and its European allies provide security guaranteesthat they will not allow Ukraine to become a member of NATO and will not deploy forces or missiles in the former Soviet republic.
Talks between American and Russian officials have been set for Jan. 10 in Geneva.
Russia last month test-fired a missile that destroyed one of its satellites, creating a debris field that endangered astronauts on the International Space Station.
It’s unclear whether the missile fired was a S-550.
A military expert told Tass that the new Russian missile system uses the kinetic energy interceptor principle to avoid a nuclear detonation when hitting a nuclear warhead.
Dmitry Litovkin told the outlet that the interceptor allows the missile to “physically destroy the warhead and prevent nuclear blasts.”
“In the case that a warhead is destroyed, its fragments will create a radioactive background, albeit to a lesser degree compared to a shell explosion,” he said.
Kinetic interceptors are designed to hit a target at high velocity in order to destroy it and do not contain an explosive warhead.