The China Nuclear Horn Grows: Daniel 7

China’s nuclear arsenal grows in capability

ANI | Updated: Dec 15, 2020 07:48 IST

Hong Kong, December 15 (ANI): China’s nuclear forces, under the aegis of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF), are nowhere as large as those of the USA or Russia, but the inventory is significantly growing and modernizing.

New missiles such as DF-41 and DF-31AG intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) were paraded in Beijing in October 2019, demonstrating the forward strides that the PLARF is making.

An annual report from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, titled Chinese Nuclear Forces 2020 and authored by Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda, discussed the state of play in the PLARF. It claimed, “China is continuing the nuclear weapons modernization program that it initiated in the 1980s and increased in the 1990s and 2000s, fielding more types and greater numbers of nuclear weapons than ever before.”

It is impossible to say how many nuclear weapons China actually has, but Kristensen and Korda offer their best estimate in the report. They claimed, “We estimate that China has a produced a stockpile of approximately 350 nuclear warheads, of which roughly 272 are for delivery by more than 240 operational land-based ballistic missiles, 48 sea-based ballistic missiles and 20 nuclear gravity bombs assigned to bombers.” The report continued, “The remaining 78 warheads are intended to arm additional land- and sea-based missiles that are in the process of being fielded.”

This figure of 350 is up significantly from the estimated 290 listed in the 2019 edition of the report from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Significantly, these figures vary from those issued in the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) annual report on Chinese military power. The authors acknowledged: “This estimate is higher than the ‘low-200’ warheads reported by the Pentagon in its 2020 report to Congress; however, the Pentagon’s estimate only refers to ‘operational’ Chinese nuclear warheads, and therefore presumably excludes warheads that are attributed to newer weapons still in development. It is also possible that the Pentagon’s estimate does not include dormant bomber weapons. Taking those categories into account, the Pentagon’s estimate is roughly in line with our own.”

Some commentators over the past decade have warned that China has hundreds, some even thousands, of nuclear weapons. The Bulletin of the Atomic Sciences confirms that the more conservative estimates have invariably been correct, “while the higher estimates and projections for significant increases have been incorrect”.

Although US intelligence community projections have predicted greatly increased numbers of nuclear missiles for the PLA, these have generally proved inaccurate. For instance, a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) estimate from 1999 predicted China might have 460 nuclear weapons by 2020. This obviously did not eventuate.

That makes it more difficult to accept with any degree of certainty current estimates. The DIA’s 2019 report predicted, for example, “Over the next decade, China will at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile.”

The new report highlighted the fielding of the dual-capable DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), as well as the aforementioned DF-31AG and DF-41 ICBMs. All are mounted on enormous road-mobile transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) vehicles, which gives them greater survivability in the event of any conflict. The DF-41 is capable of carrying multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRV), much like the older liquid-fueled and silo-based DF-5B also in PLARF service.

The report included a table with all known nuclear weapons fielded by the PLARF. The land-based missiles are: the DF-4 ICBM (x6 launchers, and probably gradually retiring); DF-5A ICBM (x10 launchers); DF-5B ICBM (x10 launchers and with five warheads per missile); DF-21A/E medium-range ballistic missile (x40 launchers); DF-26 (100 launchers, of which 20 missiles have nuclear warheads); DF-31 ICBM (x6 launchers); DF-31A ICBM (x36 launchers); DF-31AG ICBM (x36 launchers); and DF-41 ICBM (x18 launchers with 54 warheads in total).

This gives a total of 244 land-based launchers and 204 warheads. Once those new missiles approaching introduction are added to the equation, the numbers increase to 280 launchers and 258 warheads from land-based assets.

The report listed the upgraded DF-5C ICBM too, which is supposed to be deployed in 2020. It is unclear what modifications it has over the DF-5B, for it has the same 13,000km range and carries MIRVs. Also listed as not yet becoming operational is the DF-17, where 18 launchers carrying missiles with hypersonic glide vehicles are to be formally fielded in 2021. It is not immediately clear who will operate the DF-17, but it could be 627 Brigade in Puning.

Two DF-41 brigades are thought to exist, one of which may be nearing operational capability. These are assumed to be 634 Brigade in Tongdao and 644 Brigade in Hanzhong. Furthermore, 662 Brigade in Luanchuan could be upgrading to the DF-41. Additional DF-41 TELs are in production, so we can expect more to be added. As it replaces the DF-5, the DF-41 could also be launched from silos and railcars. Indeed, several new silos have been constructed in the Jilintai training area in Inner Mongolia, and there is possibly silo construction for 662 Brigade in Henan Province.

The DF-26 is an interesting case. This years’ Pentagon report on China’s military listed 200 such weapons, but Kristensen and Korda take this to be a typographic error, as the US Indo-Pacific Command only estimates 100 DF-26s, plus this lower figure better corresponds to known base infrastructure. It is estimated that 20 of the 100 IRBMs possess a nuclear warhead, with the rest of them carrying conventional high-explosive payloads. The primacy of the older DF-21 family has been overtaken by the DF-26, and users, in order of conversion, are the PLARF’s 666 Brigade in Xinyang, 626 Brigade in Qingyuan, 625 Brigade in Jianshui, and 654 Brigade in Dengshahe.

China also has nuclear-tipped missiles assigned to its fleet of ballistic missile submarines (SSBN). The table in the report thus listed the 7,200km-range JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), with four submarines carrying 48 missiles (12 JL-2 missiles per boat), plus two more submarines and associated 24 missiles becoming operational next year.

In April this year, the PLA Navy (PLAN) actually debuted these two extra Type 094 SSBNs, and these give an added second-strike ability to China. These submarines are based at the Yulin base on Hainan Island on the periphery of the South China Sea.

Given that the Type 094 is a relatively noisy design, perhaps two orders of magnitude louder than the best American or Russian SSBNs, Beijing is now developing the Type 096 SSBN that will carry the newer JL-3 SLBM with potential 9,000km range. Production of the Type 094 will thus probably remain at six hulls, with the newer design to begin construction in the early 2020s. The PLAN could eventually have 8-10 SSBNs in service.

China has never confirmed that its SSBNs have conducted patrols with JL-2 SLBMs aboard, but potential adversaries must assume this is the case. A Reuters report last year revealed that the USA, Japan, Australia and the UK “are already attempting to track the movements of China’s missile submarines as if they are fully armed and on deterrence patrols”. Nonetheless, entrusting nuclear weapons to a submarine crew would represent a momentous step for the PLA.

Moving on to the PLA Air Force (PLAAF), the report mentioned, “China has recently reassigned a nuclear mission to its bombers and is developing an air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM) that might have nuclear capability.” The table lists 20 H-6N bomber aircraft, each of which can carry a single ALBM (called the CH-AS-X-13 by the USA).

The H-6N can be refueled in midair, and one of the first such operational units is thought to be the 106th Brigade at Neixiang Air Base in Henan Province. Once the ALBM is functional, it will complete China’s viable nuclear triad of delivery systems encompassing land, sea and air. China is currently developing the H-20 stealth bomber that will replace the H-6 family, and it will assuredly have a nuclear mission.

With the navy and air force inventory added to the aforementioned land-based missiles, China currently has312 launchers (soon to be 372) and 272 warheads (soon to be 350).

Obviously, the fielding of MIRVs will greatly enhance China’s nuclear stockpile. However, Kristensen and Korda believe that the number of MIRVed warheads per missile will be three to five only, rather than the ten that some analysts predict. Furthermore, some of their missile payload will be assigned to decoys and penetration aids. “This is because we believe that the purpose of the MIRV program is to ensure penetration of US missile defenses, rather than to maximize the warhead loading of the Chinese missile force.”

China’s use of hypersonic glide vehicles is another trend, as this will allow China to ensure the credibility of its retaliatory strike force as the US strengthens its missile defensive shield.

The US government thinks China could have 400-500 nuclear warheads by later this decade, apparently achieved “without new fissile material production”. The latter is an indication that China has not resumed production of fissile material for weapons.

Such predictions of nuclear weapon expansion also trigger speculation as to China’s intentions when it comes to nuclear posture. One wild claim from a Trump official was that “China no longer intends to field a minimal deterrent,” and is instead striving for “a form of nuclear parity with the United States and Russia”. Such exaggerations are more related to Trump’s efforts to include China in strategic nuclear arms control talks with Russia, than having any basis in reality.

China warned that it is “unrealistic to expect China to join the two countries in a negotiation aimed at nuclear arms reduction,” given that its inventory lags so far behind America’s and Russia’s.

China keeps most nuclear warheads at a central storage facility in the Qinling mountain range, but with others held at smaller regional centers. This is in keeping with its “low alert level” posture, enough to maintain a credible second-strike capability. Indeed, the Pentagon report states “China almost certainly keeps the majority of its nuclear force on a peacetime status – with separated launchers, missiles and warheads”.

Nonetheless, the PLARF “maintains a high degree of combat readiness,” according to the US military. Brigades regularly conduct combat readiness duties, assigning a battalion ready to launch and rotating to standby sites as often as every month.

A Chinese delegation explained last year, “In peacetime, the nuclear force is maintained at a moderate state of alert. In accordance with the principles of peacetime-wartime coordination, constant readiness and being prepared to fight at any time, China strengthens its combat readiness support to ensure effective response to war threats and emergencies. If the country faced a nuclear threat, the alert status would be raised and preparations for nuclear counterattack undertaken under the orders of the Central Military Commission to deter the enemy from using nuclear weapons against China. If the country were subjected to nuclear attack, it would mount a resolute counterattack against the enemy.”

The Pentagon warns that China may adopt a “launch-on-warning” posture in the future, whereby missiles already have nuclear warheads installed.

The PLARF is increasing its number of missile bases to accommodate the expansion in warheads/missiles. The number of brigades may have increased 35% in just the past three years. Indeed, the PLARF now probably has 40 brigades equipped with ballistic and cruise missiles, of which half could be nuclear-armed. (ANI)

The Threat of the Russian and Chinese Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

US aircraft carriers still rule the seas, but Russia and China both have plans to change that

Benjamin Brimelow

Jan 10, 2021, 4:45 PM

In August, China launched two ballistic missiles that, according to a Chinese military expert, hit a moving target ship in the South China Sea thousands of miles from their launch sites.

If true, the test — which came a month after the US deployed two carrier strike groups to the region and a day after a US U-2 spy plane observed a Chinese navy live-fire drill — is the first known demonstration of China’s long-range anti-ship ballistic missiles against a moving target.

“We are doing this because of their provocation,” Wang Xiangsui, a former Chinese colonel and professor at Beijing’s Beihang University, reportedly said in reference to the deployments, calling the test “a warning to the US.”

Not to be outdone, the Russian navy conducted its third test launch of the Zircon hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile in the White Sea in December. Launched from a frigate, the missile reached a speed of Mach 8 before hitting a “coastal target” more than 200 miles away.

The tests are just the latest indication that American aircraft carriers, long viewed as kings of the seas, may soon face a real threat to their existence.

High-priority targets

Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and other US Navy ships during a passing exercise with the Indian navy in 2012. US Navy Photo

America’s carriers have always been among the biggest targets for rivals. While the Soviets publicly lambasted carriers as “the oppressor of national liberation movements,” they recognized them as a dominant weapon platform.

This was especially the case after they realized US carrier air wings included aircraft carrying nuclear payloads.

Declassified CIA documents reveal that by the 1980s, the Soviets rarely criticized carriers in internal discussions and even praised them for providing “high combat stability.” One document from 1979 stated that carriers would be “the highest priority in anti-ship attacks” in potential war scenarios, with amphibious assault ships probably close behind.

Plans to deal with carriers were based almost entirely on anti-ship cruise missiles fired from submarines, bombers, and surface ships — ideally all at once. To that end, the Soviet navy emphasized cruise missile technology and missile-carrying capacity on all of its vessels — even on its own aircraft carriers.

Soviet navy Kiev-class aircraft carrier Minsk, February 9, 1983. US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Glenn Lindsey

Soviet navy Tu-16, Tu-95, and Tu-22 bombers were the primary aerial delivery systems. Cruisers of the Kynda, Kresta, Slava, and nuclear-powered Kirov classes were the primary surface delivery platforms.

A host of nuclear-powered and diesel-electric submarines, like the Oscar II- and Juliett-class, would fire those missiles from underwater and on the surface.

But even this may not have been enough. US carrier defenses and air wings were deemed so strong by the Soviets that as many as 100 bombers would be sent to attack one carrier, with losses expected to be as high as 50%. Soviet pilots weren’t even given detailed flight paths for their return.

It was also feared that the missiles could be shot down or intercepted, so the Soviets concluded that many had to be armed with nuclear warheads.

Waning carrier dominance

USS Nimitz departs Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, June 8, 2020. US Navy/MCS 2nd Class Natalie M. Byers

With the Cold War over and the Soviet Union gone, American carrier dominance seemed more than assured. Those carriers have played key roles in conflicts the US has been involved in since the 1990s.

But the post-Cold War order is slowly being challenged — mainly by China’s meteoric rise in military power, which has implications for the carrier’s dominance.

American carriers are among Beijing’s biggest concerns. Their presence helped deter an invasion of Taiwan in the 1950s, and in 1996 two carrier battlegroups embarrassed China by operating freely around Taiwan during a period of heightened tensions, forcing Beijing to recognize US military power.

Since then, China has invested heavily in anti-carrier capabilities. It first bought a slew of weapons from Russia, including Su-30MKK multirole fighters, 12 Kilo-class attack submarines, and four Sovremenny-class guided-missile destroyers.

DF-26 ballistic missiles pass Tiananmen Gate in Beijing during a military parade for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, September 3, 2015. Andy Wong/Pool via REUTERS

But missiles have been China’s main focus. It has amassed one of the world’s largest and most advanced missile arsenals, 95% of which falls outside the limits of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which prohibited the US and Russia from having missiles with ranges between 310 miles and 3,100 miles. The US recently withdrew from the treaty, and China was never party to it.

The two missiles tested in August were variants of the DF-21 and DF-26, which have ranges up to 1,300 and 2,400 miles respectively.

Flying higher, faster, and farther than Soviet cruise missiles, China’s anti-ship ballistic missiles could overwhelm the anti-missile defenses of a carrier and its escorts, and force the carrier to stay far enough away to render its air wing useless.

A US Defense Department report released this year stated that China’s missile development was one area in which Beijing has “achieved parity with — or even exceeded — the United States.”

New threats

A Zircon hypersonic cruise missile is launched from the Russian frigate Admiral Groshkov, in the White Sea north of Russia, October 7, 2020. Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

Hypersonic missiles are another serious threat.

Able to fly at speeds over Mach 5 (over 3,800 mph), hypersonic missiles are too fast for anti-missile defenses to respond effectively. They can also change direction mid-flight, making it virtually impossible to intercept them.

China has two hypersonic weapons in service: the DF-17, and the DF-100. Russia has a number of hypersonic weapons in development, with the Zircon the most promising. Russian officials have said they hope to be able to arm all new ships in the Russian navy with hypersonic weapons.

British officials have already voiced concern about the threat that Russian hypersonic weapons could pose to their carrier.

“Hypersonic missiles are virtually unstoppable,” a senior British naval source told The Daily Mirror. “With no method of protecting themselves against missiles like the Zircon the carrier would have to stay out of range, hundreds of miles out at sea.”

“Its planes would be useless and the whole basis of a carrier task force would be redundant,” the source said.

The true capabilities of Russia’s and China’s new anti-carrier weapons are still unknown, but recent tests prove that US Navy carriers may not enjoy unquestioned dominance for much longer.

China and Russia Prepare for Nuclear War: Revelation 16

Watch Russian and Chinese Bombers Fly a Rare Joint Mission Over the Pacific

In a statement on its website, the Ministry described the flight as 10 hours long and controlled both by controllers on the ground and from an A-50U aircraft, the Russian version of the E-3 Sentry AWACS plane. The Ministry of Defense also said:

In the course of fulfilling the missions, the aircraft of both countries acted strictly in accordance with the provisions of international law. The airspace of foreign states was not violated.

The Russian and Chinese bombers entered South Korea’s ADIZ, an imaginary line sketched out by most countries over neighboring airspace. Aircraft that enter an ADIZ are looked at a little more rigorously by a country’s air force and are required to file flight plans that give advance notice. Foreign military aircraft that enter ADIZs are routinely intercepted by fighter jets.

In this case, the Republic of Korea Air Force scrambled F-15K “Slam Eagle” and F-16 fighter jets as a precautionary measure. The Chosun Ilbo reports a total of 19 Russian and Chinese aircraft flew near South Korea that day. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff say the Chinese pilots told Korean fighter pilots they were undertaking “routine training,” but the Russian aircraft “entered (the ADIZ) without prior notice.”

The flight, the Korean Joint Chiefs noted, was probably a response to recent U.S. bomber flights near China.

Last month, two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flew into China’s ADIZ in the East China Sea, and B-1Bs also flew into the South China Sea in early December. The B-1B is a heavy bomber, but it’s incapable of carrying nuclear weapons. In no instance did any of the bombers from Russia, China, or the U.S. enter the actual airspace of any other country.

The Pakistani and Saudi Horns Divide: Daniel

The historic Saudi-Pakistan alliance comes to an end

Veteran Arab journalist Abdel Bari Atwan says Pakistan has taken a decisive shift away from Saudi Arabia and towards China, Turkey and Iran.

A small news item appeared on the business pages of Arab newspapers this week which shed light on a major strategic crisis that has been developing in the relationship between Saudi Arabia and long-time ally Pakistan.

It could mark a turning point in the close partnership that has lasted for more than seven decades (ever since Pakistan’s separation from India in the late 1940s) between the Kingdom that revels in its custodianship of Islam’s holiest shrines and the Islamic world’s only nuclear-armed power.

The news was that Pakistan repaid Saudi Arabia $1billion of a $3 billion loan it provided in late 2018. An earlier billion-dollar tranche was reimbursed in July, leaving a further billion which the Pakistani government intends to refund in January after securing alternative financing from China.

Different views were offered about why the Saudis demanded early repayment of the loan and simultaneously suspended a $3.2 billion credit facility for oil purchases by Pakistan.

Some attributed the move to Saudi Arabia’s financial difficulties: with its economy in recession due to the slump in oil sales it needs every dollar it can get, so it may have pressed Prime Minister Imran Khan – no great friend – to repay the money.

Others viewed it as politically-motivated, related to Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning strategic partnership with India and Pakistan’s growing rapprochement with Iran.

Deteriorating relations

Relations between the two countries have been worsening for some time.

The first big downturn came in 2015 when Pakistan refused to send troops to take part in the Saudi-led war on Yemen. This also signaled Pakistan’s rejection of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin-Salman’s idea of forming an “Islamic NATO” under Saudi leadership.

Tensions rose further over the ultra-sensitive issue of Kashmir. Islamabad was dismayed by Riyadh’s non-committal response to India’s decision to revoke the special autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir. This was viewed as de facto Saudi approval for India’s annexation of the disputed province.

Indian occupation forces in Kashmir

Saudi Arabia also blocked efforts to get the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (which it effectively controls) to take action on Kashmir. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi warned at the time that if Riyadh would not act on the issue, Islamabad would seek a meeting of Muslim-majority countries outside the OIC framework to provide it with backing.

This affront to Saudi Arabia’s Islamic leadership pretensions appears to have prompted its decision to recall the $3 billion loan.

The Pakistani army’s Chief of Staff, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, tried to use his good offices to ease the mounting tension between the two countries. He flew to Riyadh for talks, but was denied a meeting with the Crown Prince and returned empty handed. This snub deeply offended both the Pakistani government and the traditionally pro-Saudi military establishment.

Iran

Saudi Arabia, for its part, is wary of Pakistan’s improved relationship with Iran, fearing among other things that it could involve the transfer of Pakistani nuclear technology.

It balked at Imran Khan’s agreement to attend the “alternative’ Islamic summit convened by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad – in close coordination with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — in December 2019 to discuss problems facing the Islamic world.

The Kingdom put enormous pressure on the Pakistani Prime Minister not to attend. He eventually succumbed, fearing the Saudis would cut off financial support or retaliate against the millions of Pakistani expatriate workers in the Gulf states whose remittances are crucial to sustaining the Pakistani economy.

Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Saudi Arabia, for its part, feels it no longer needs Pakistan. It invested billions of dollars in supporting the country’s economy — and its nuclear program – over many years. In return, it acquired political allegiance, military personnel and expertise that were vital for its armed forces, and a proxy nuclear deterrent against any potential military threat, such as from Iran.

But times have changed. Pakistan and Iran are on good terms, and Saudi Arabia has spearheaded the process of normalisation between Gulf states and Israel – a far more potent nuclear power, which shares its enmity towards Iran.

So the historic strategic alliance between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and other Gulf is drawing to a close. Pakistan is looking elsewhere: to China, Turkey and Iran and their allies. These include forces deeply antagonistic to Saudi Arabia: Yemen’s Ansarullah (Houthi) movement, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iraq’s Hashd ash-Shaabi, and Qatar’s Al Jazeera TV channel, plus any other Muslim country or entity that might want to join.

A powerful Islamic coalition opposed to Saudi Arabia might take shape during the course of 2021. It could join forces with Russia and China in a bid to mount a global pushback against U.S. hegemony.

At a time of American retrenchment and deep domestic problems, some U.S. clients in the Middle East think Israel could serve as an alternative protector. That explains all their normalisation moves, but they will surely, eventually, be disappointed.

The Growing Australian Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

Australia, US to develop hypersonic missiles to counter China

Australia’s defence minister says ‘game-changing’ project with US will help deter aggression against its interests.

Australia and the United States will jointly develop hypersonic cruise missiles, the Australian defence minister announced on Tuesday, pledging to invest in “advanced capabilities” that will give the country’s military “more options to deter aggression” against its interests.

Both China and Russia are developing similar missiles.

The weapons are capable of travelling at more than five times the speed of sound and the combination of speed, manoeuvrability and altitude makes them difficult to track and intercept.

Linda Reynolds, the Australian defence minister, called the bilateral project with the US a “game-changing capability”, but did not reveal the cost of developing the missiles or when they would be operational.

“Investing in capabilities that deter actions against Australia also benefits our region, our allies and our security partners,” she said.

“We remain committed to peace and stability in the region and an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”

The United States’ Acting Under Secretary of Defense Michael Kratsios said the project, officially known as the Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment (SCIFiRE), builds on 15 years of collaboration between the US and Australian military.

“This initiative will be essential to the future of hypersonic research and development, ensuring the US and our allies lead the world in the advancement of this transformational warfighting capability,” he said in a statement.

 

Australia had set aside up to 9.3 billion Australian dollars ($6.8bn) this year for high-speed, long-range missile defence systems, including hypersonic research.

In July, Australia said it would boost defence spending by 40 percent over the next 10 years to acquire longer-range strike capabilities across air, sea and land as it broadens its military focus from the Pacific to the Indo-Pacific region.

 

Australia’s collaboration with the US on missile development, however, could inflame tensions with China.

The relationship between both countries has been tense after Australia discovered what it said were Chinese influence campaigns, and has deteriorated further this year after Canberra asked for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 pandemic.

Beijing has introduced a string of economic sanctions on Australian goods, and relations hit a new low on Monday after a senior Chinese official posted a fake image of an Australian soldier holding a blood-covered knife to the throat of an Afghan child.

China has deployed, or is close to deploying, hypersonic systems armed with conventional warheads, according to defence analysts.

Russia deployed its first hypersonic nuclear-capable missiles last year, while the Pentagon, which tested a similar hypersonic missile in 2017, has a goal of fielding hypersonic war-fighting capabilities in the early to mid-2020s.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper said on Tuesday that Australia hopes to begin testing prototypes of the air-launched, long-range missiles within months.

The hypersonic missiles will be designed to be carried by the Australian air force’s existing fleet of aircraft including Growlers, Super Hornets, Joint Strike Fighters as well as unmanned aircraft including drones, the newspaper reported.

Babylon the Great’s nukes are hacked

Harrer–Bloomberg/Getty Images

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Agency Hacked as Part of Massive Cyber-Attack

The U.S. nuclear weapons agency and at least three states were hacked as part of a suspected Russian cyber-attack that struck a number of federal government agencies, according to people with knowledge of the matter, indicating widening reach of one of the biggest cybersecurity breaches in recent memory.

Microsoft said that its systems were also exposed as part of the attack.

Hackers with ties to the Russian government are suspected to be behind a well coordinated attack that took advantage of weaknesses in the U.S. supply chain to penetrate several federal agencies, including departments of Homeland Security, Treasury, Commerce and State. While many details are still unclear, the hackers are believed to have gained access to networks by installing malicious code in a widely used software program from SolarWinds Corp., whose customers include government agencies and Fortune 500 companies, according to the company and cybersecurity experts.

“This is a patient, well-resourced, and focused adversary that has sustained long duration activity on victim networks,” the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said in a bulletin that signaled widening alarm over the the breach. The hackers posed a “grave risk” to federal, state and local governments, as well as critical infrastructure and the private sector, the bulletin said. The agency said the attackers demonstrated “sophistication and complex tradecraft.”

The Energy Department and its National Nuclear Security Administration, which maintains America’s nuclear stockpile, were targeted as part of the larger attack, according to a person familiar with the matter. An ongoing investigation has found the hack didn’t affect “mission-essential national security functions,” Shaylyn Hynes, a Department of Energy spokeswoman, said in a statement.

“At this point, the investigation has found that the malware has been isolated to business networks only,” Hynes said. The hack of the nuclear agency was reported earlier by Politico.

Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw said the company had found malicious code “in our environment, which we isolated and removed.”

“We have not found evidence of access to production services or customer data,” he said in a tweet. “Our investigations, which are ongoing, have found absolutely no indications that our systems were used to attack others.” Reuters had earlier reported that Microsoft was hacked and that its products were used to further the attacks.

In addition, two people familiar with the broader government investigation into the attack said three state governments were breached, though they wouldn’t identify the states. A third person familiar with the probe confirmed that state governments were hacked but didn’t provide a number.

Biden’s Pledge

While President Donald Trump has yet to publicly address the hack, President-elect Joe Biden issued a statement Thursday on “what appears to be a massive cybersecurity breach affecting potentially thousands of victims, including U.S. companies and federal government entities.”

“I want to be clear: My administration will make cybersecurity a top priority at every level of government — and we will make dealing with this breach a top priority from the moment we take office,” Biden said, pledging to impose “substantial costs on those responsible for such malicious attacks.”

Russia has denied any involvement in the attack.

Hynes, the Department of Energy spokeswoman, said that efforts were immediately taken to mitigate the risk from the hack, including disconnecting software “identified as being vulnerable to this attack.”

–With assistance from Ari Natter and Dina Bass.

Babylon the Great’s nukes are hacked by Russia

U.S. nuclear weapons agency hacked by suspected Russians

The Energy Department and its National Nuclear Security Administration, which maintains America’s nuclear stockpile, were targeted as part of a larger attack by suspected Russian hackers.

BY WILLIAM TURTON , MICHAEL RILEY , JENNIFER JACOBS , AND  BLOOMBERG

December 17, 2020 5:30 PM EST

The U.S. nuclear weapons agency and at least three states were hacked as part of a suspected Russian cyber-attack that struck several federal government agencies.

The Energy Department and its National Nuclear Security Administration, which maintains America’s nuclear stockpile, were targeted as part of a larger attack by suspected Russian hackers, according to a person familiar with the matter. The hack affected unclassified systems, the person added. The hack of the nuclear agency was first reported by Politico.

In addition, two people familiar with the ongoing investigation said three states were breached in the attack, though they wouldn’t identify the states. A third person familiar with the probe confirmed that states were hacked but didn’t provide a number.

In an advisory Thursday that signaled the widening alarm over the the breach, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said the hackers posed a “grave risk” to federal, state and local governments, as well as critical infrastructure and the private sector. The agency said the attackers demonstrated “sophistication and complex tradecraft.”

While President Donald Trump has yet to publicly address the hack, President-elect Joe Biden issued a statement Thursday on “what appears to be a massive cybersecurity breach affecting potentially thousands of victims, including U.S. companies and federal government entities.”

Biden statement

“I want to be clear: My administration will make cybersecurity a top priority at every level of government — and we will make dealing with this breach a top priority from the moment we take office,” Biden said, pledging to impose “substantial costs on those responsible for such malicious attacks.”

Russia has denied any involvement in the hack.

Although many details are still unclear, the hackers are believed to have gained access to networks by installing malicious code in a widely used software program from SolarWinds, whose customers include government agencies and Fortune 500 companies, according to the company and cybersecurity experts. The departments of Homeland Security, Treasury, Commerce and State were breached, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“This is a patient, well-resourced, and focused adversary that has sustained long duration activity on victim networks,” CISA said in its bulletin.

How Iran has brought the 10 horns of Daniel 7 together

How Iran Has Brought Israel and Arab States Together

Marc Champion

December 15, 2020, 10:01 PM MST

For more than half a century, conflict between Israel and the Arab nations that surround it has been a defining feature of the Middle East, producing periodic wars, lost opportunities for trade and uncountable hours of fruitless diplomacy. The rift is far from resolved. Yet there’s been a shift. Israel has made peace deals with four Arab countries late this year, underscoring that it’s now Iran — rather than Israel — that’s the common enemy uniting many Arab rulers.

1. Why were the new accords a big deal?

Egypt and Jordan normalized relations with Israel in 1979 and 1994, respectively, but other Arab nations said for years that they would withhold recognition of the Jewish state pending the formation of an independent country for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, two territories Israel conquered in a 1967 war. Some Arab states developed covert relationships with Israel, but it was still extraordinary when one of them, the United Arab Emirates, agreed to formalize ties in August. Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco followed, and Israeli officials predicted Oman and Saudi Arabia would be next. The agreements telegraphed that Arab relations with Israel are no longer tied to the Palestinian cause. And they clarified the growing focus of Arab leaders belonging to the Sunni branch of Islam on countering the rise of Persian Iran, whose people are mostly Shiite Muslims.

2. Why is Iran so mistrusted?

Iran’s influence in the Middle East has grown significantly since 2003, when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq removed its primary foe, the Sunni-dominated regime of President Saddam Hussein. Iranian leaders have since used their control of militias drawn from Iraq’s majority Shiite population to shape governments in Baghdad. In Syria, Iran called on the same Iraqi militias as well as Hezbollah, the militant Shiite Lebanese group, to help preserve its only state ally, President Bashar al-Assad, from defeat in a civil war that began as a popular uprising in 2011. In Yemen, Iran backed Shiite rebels in their fight against forces supported by Saudi Arabia and the UAE in a war that broke out in 2015. The International Institute for Strategic Studies calls Iran’s influence in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen today “a new normal,” a concept once unthinkable even for leaders in Tehran.

3. What’s the role of the U.S.?

Starting in 2016, the U.S. under President Donald Trump adopted a more aggressive approach to Iran, withdrawing from the nuclear deal world powers had struck with it in 2015. That agreement had released Iran from punishing economic sanctions in exchange for rolling back its nuclear program. Under Trump, the U.S. also dropped its stance of neutrality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem — claimed as a capital by both sides but controlled by Israel — and downplaying the goal of a two-state solution, under which Israel and the Palestinians were to end their conflict by delineating a new Palestinian state.

4. Do Iran and its foes fight directly?

Since Iran and Iraq battled each other to a standstill at devastating human and economic costs in the 1980s, Iran’s theocratic leaders have avoided direct conflict with the U.S. and its allies in the region, a contest in which they would be spectacularly outgunned. Instead, the Islamic regime has become expert at hybrid warfare. Over time that has included the use of terrorist tactics and proxy militias. The U.S. accused Iran of being behind recent attacks on vessels in the Persian Gulf, U.S. forces in Iraq and targets in Saudi Arabia, including a huge oil-processing facility. The U.S. struck back in January 2020, killing Qassem Soleimani, the general in charge of Iran’s foreign operations. Israel, for its part, has flown numerous bombing missions against Hezbollah and Iranian targets in Syria. In cases where Iran does not deny involvement, it says it is protecting fellow Shiites and allies from U.S., Israeli or Gulf state aggression.

Allied With Iran

Militant groups in the Middle East connected with Iran

5. Apart from Syria and Iraq, are all Arab governments united against Iran?

No. Oman and Kuwait remain friendly with Iran, as does Qatar, with which it shares a gas field. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport links to Qatar in 2017, in part because they said it was too close to Tehran.

6. Where does this leave Palestinians?

With diminished leverage and poor prospects. Palestinian leaders criticized the accords with Israel for giving the country the benefits of peace without requiring it to relinquish its grip over the lands it seized in 1967. The UAE says it helped the Palestinians as part of its agreement by securing Israel’s promise to freeze a plan to annex part of the West Bank, but for how long is unclear.

The Rising China Horn: Daniel 7

There’s an urgent need to re-evaluate China, CCP over human rights violations, says author

ANI |

Dec 15, 2020 18:55 IST

Beijing [China], December 15 (ANI): Numerous academics, journalists and politicians have been detained or arrested for “anti-patriotic activities” since China imposed a national security law in Hong Kong earlier this year, yet the matter has attracted little comment from the international community so far.

The democratically-minded international community has been too consumed with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic to express anything more than a “sputtering reprimand”. Instead of being an excuse, the pandemic should be another reason to re-evaluate the way China should be regarded, especially the China Communist Party (CCP), wrote Dr Robert S Spalding for Real Clear World (RCW).

The first step to curb the influence of the CCP would be to recognise and address the differences of the nation with its Western counterparts, as the world cannot afford to underestimate the CCP by championing false equivalencies.

“Until the day real stability–not oppression–is restored to Hong Kong, business with China should never be business as usual,” remarked Dr Spalding.

As the pandemic continues to rampage across the world, the fact that Beijing has emerged unscathed is a worrying sign that the influence of authoritarian regimes like the CCP is being accepted across the world.

This includes the activities of the regime to silence whistleblowing doctors and citizen journalists in Wuhan, which allowed the coronavirus to spread unhindered during the initial months.

Though the actions undertaken by the US government like banning Chinese apps, blacklisting companies and restricting Chinese media access have been termed as hypocritical, the criticism misunderstands, or purposely ignores, key fundamental differences such as the unaccountability of Chinese media, business and government, which do not comply with the rule of law essential to their Western counterparts.

RCW further wrote that the communist nation does not have a higher law or an enforceable social contract with the CCP. The party considers all mainland corporations and those operated by the Chinese abroad as extensions of the CCP.

“When Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, criticized Chinese regulatory law, President Xi Jinping personally halted the multibillion-dollar public listing of the Ant Group, an affiliate of the private financial giant,” wrote Dr Spalding.

Furthermore, Chinese media, which operates primarily for the CCP, are better classified as propaganda networks, while foreign media is banned in order to enforce CCP’s control to censor information and produce self-serving narratives.

The article argued that it would be a mistake to treat Chinese organisations as independent entities and an even bigger mistake to believe they can be held accountable to a system, which does not exist in the country.

According to RCW, the Chinese market provides a powerful incentive to normalise interactions with Chinese entities, which leads to other companies and governments being involved in grave human rights violations like the suppression of freedom in Hong Kong, and the mass genocide of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

This comes after a number of former pro-democracy lawmakers were arrested in the month of October over protests after the draconian national security law was imposed on the city by Beijing. The law criminalises secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces and carries with it strict prison terms, and came into effect from July 1.

Several countries have criticised China over the matter, with the European Council saying the move to disqualify opposition lawmakers constituted a “further severe blow” to freedom of opinion in the city and “significantly undermines Hong Kong’s autonomy.” (ANI)

The Stealth of the Chinese Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

New Chinese stealth bomber ‘can target US bases thousands of kilometres away’

By Richard Wood

A new Chinese stealth bomber will give the rising superpower a “truly intercontinental capability” including the ability to target US territory, according to a British think tank.

Capable of carrying nuclear weapons, the H-20 bomber marks a major advance from China’s status as only a regional power, the South China Morning Post reports.

China is still developing the aircraft but when completed the Pentagon believes it will be able to reach US overseas territories such as the island of Guam in the Pacific.

The report by the London-based Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies gave an overview of how Russia and China were modernising their air forces.

“Armed with nuclear and conventional stand-off missiles, the H-20 would represent a major break from previous People’s Liberation Army Air Force doctrine and equipment development practice,” said the report.

While China’s air force is organised around targeting a series of Pacific island targets including Japan and the Philippines, the H-20 – when operational – would significantly expand that range.

The aircraft’s subsonic speeds, range, armaments and radar-evading stealth technology could tilt the strategic balance in the Asia Pacific, some analysts said.

A report by the US Defence Department earlier this year, said the H-20 is expected to enter service by 2025. And with a payload of 45 tonnes, the H-20 is designed to carry four stealth or hypersonic cruise missiles.

It has an estimated range of about 8500km that would bring the island of Guam within range.

Chinese defence expert Adam Ni, from Sydney’s Macquarie University, told Nine.com.au last year the aircraft’s development is aimed to deter Western nations such as the US.

“China is making clear progress in acquiring an effective strategic bomber that would enhance its strategic deterrence against its competitors, such as the US,” he said at the time.