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former IAEA Director-General

News Briefs

China Develops, Deploys New Missiles

China Develops, Deploys New Missiles


China is advancing its missile capabilities, with the official deployment of an intermediate-range ballistic missile and the reported development of a nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile. Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian told reporters on April 26 that China had deployed its first intermediate-range ballistic missile, the DF-26. The missile has a range of 4,000 kilometers and was first unveiled in September 2015. (See ACT, June 2016.) The U.S. Defense Department said that China had deployed the missile in a 2017 report on Chinese military developments. (See ACT, July/August 2017.)

Military vehicles carrying China’s DF-26 ballistic missiles are displayed at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on September 3, 2015 during a military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of victory over Japan and the end of World War II. (Photo: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)China tested the air-launched ballistic missile, designated as CH-AS-X-13 by the United States, five times between 2016 and January 2018, according to an April report in The Diplomat. The U.S. intelligence community assesses that the missile will be ready for deployment by 2025, according to a source who spoke to The Diplomat. No other country has deployed this missile type, although others have developed it. In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin introduced the Kinzhal missile, which some analysts have characterized as an air-launched hypersonic cruise missile.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Posted: June 1, 2018

Trump Weighs Creating a ‘Space Force’

Trump Weighs Creating a ‘Space Force’


President Donald Trump said he is weighing the creation of a sixth branch of the military, a space force, “because we’re getting very big in space, both militarily and for other reasons.” Trump made the comment May 1, while speaking to the U.S. Military Academy’s Black Knights football team at the White House. Trump previously floated the idea in March, when he told troops at the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station near San Diego that “my new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea.” Currently, the Air Force’s Space Command is responsible for elements of military activities related to space and cyberspace.

Military activities are constrained by the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which bans the stationing of weapons of mass destruction in outer space, prohibits military activities on celestial bodies, and details legally binding rules governing the peaceful exploration and use of space. The UN General Assembly has passed a resolution annually urging all states to refrain from actions contrary to the peaceful use of outer space and calling for negotiation in the Conference on Disarmament on a multilateral agreement to prevent an arms race in outer space.—TERRY ATLAS

Posted: June 1, 2018

Ex-Spy Survives Nerve Agent Poisoning

Ex-Spy Survives Nerve Agent Poisoning


Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal was diYulia Skripal, who was poisoned along with her father, Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal, speaks to news media representatives in London on May 23. (Photo: Dylan Martinez/AFP/Getty Images)scharged from a UK hospital, two months after being poisoned with a nerve agent on March 4. His daughter Yulia, also poisoned, was discharged in early April and moved to a secure location. Although Russia has denied responsibility, UK officials have blamed Moscow for the use of a toxin known as Novichok against the Skripals. At a May 18 news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin disputed UK allegations, saying that “if, as our British colleagues have insisted, a military-grade poison had been used, the man would have died right away.” Noting his hospital discharge, Putin wished Skripal “good health.”—TERRY ATLAS

 

Posted: June 1, 2018

Pakistan Advances Sea Leg of Triad

Pakistan Advances Sea Leg of Triad


Pakistan’s conducted its second test of the Babur-3 nuclear-capable, sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM) in late March, more than a year after its first test, in January 2017. The continuing Pakistani development of the sea-based nuclear deterrent is a response to India’s triad of land-, sea-, and air-launched nuclear weapons. A Pakistani military statement, without citing India by name, states that the Babur-3 will provide a “credible second-strike capability, augmenting existing deterrence” especially in light of “provocative nuclear strategies and posture being pursued in the neighborhood through induction of nuclear submarines and ship-borne nuclear missiles.”

As with the 2017 test, the Babur-3 was reported by the Pakistani military to have an estimated range of 450 kilometers and to have “successfully” hit its target with “precise accuracy.” (See ACT, March 2017.) Slight differences include the military reporting that the missile launched from a “dynamic” underwater platform, rather than a “mobile” one, and video released by the military seems to confirm the missile ejecting horizontally, which could eventually lead to deployment through submarine torpedo tubes rather than a vertical launch system. The Babur-3 SLCM is widely expected to be carried on Pakistan’s diesel-powered Agosta 90B submarine.—SHERVIN TAHERAN

Posted: June 1, 2018

Putin Says New ICBM Set for 2020

Putin Says New ICBM Set for 2020


Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia’s new, heavy, long-range missile, capable of carrying up to 15 independently targetable nuclear warheads, will be operational in 2020, the Russian state news agency Tass reported May 18. The RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) has been under development since the 2000s to replace the R-36M2 Voevoda ICBM operational since 1988, Tass said. The missile system is one of the weapons Russia is advancing to reduce the impact of U.S. missile defenses on Russia’s nuclear deterrent. Putin told the same meeting of military and defense sector officials that Russia will deploy the Avangard hypersonic-glider warhead beginning in 2019, according to Russia’s RT news service. RT described the Avangard as able to carry a nuclear warhead through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds, making it virtually impossible to intercept.—TERRY ATLAS

Posted: June 1, 2018

Missile Security Airmen Used LSD

Missile Security Airmen Used LSD

U.S. Air Force personnel bought, distributed, and used the hallucinogen LSD and other mind-altering illegal drugs as part of a ring that operated undetected for months on a highly secure missile base in Wyoming, according to Air Force records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by The Associated Press.

A member of the U.S. Air Force 90th Security Forces Squadron patrols the fence in the weapons storage area at F.E Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., on January 26. The Associated Press reported on a drug ring that operated on the base in 2016. (Photo: Breanna Carter/U.S. Air Force)In a news report May 24, AP said their actions were uncovered only after a “slipup on social media by one airman” enabled investigators to crack the drug ring at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in March 2016. Fourteen airmen were disciplined. Six of them were convicted in courts-martial of LSD use, distribution, or both.

The drug use, which reportedly occurred during off-duty hours, was by service members from the 90th Missile Wing, which operates one-third of the 400 Minuteman III missiles on alert in underground silos scattered across the northern Great Plains. “There are multiple checks to ensure airmen who report for duty are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and are able to execute the mission safely, securely and effectively,” an Air Force spokesman, Lt. Col. Uriah L. Orland, told the news service.

Most of the airmen cited were members of two related security units at F.E. Warren: the 790th Missile Security Forces Squadron and the 90th Security Forces Squadron. Together, they are responsible for the security and defense of the nuclear weapons there, as well as the missile complex.—TERRY ATLAS

Posted: June 1, 2018

OPCW Confirms Novichok Use

OPCW Confirms Novichok Use


The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in an April 12 report confirmed UK conclusions about the chemical agent used in a March Members of the UK military work April 24 in Salisbury, England near the spot where Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia became critically ill several weeks earlier due to exposure to a Russian nerve agent.   (Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)4 attack that left former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in critical condition. The United Kingdom accused Russia of poisoning the Skripals using a rare Russian-developed nerve agent, Novichok. (See ACT, April 2018.)

Russia denied responsibility for the attack and possessing Novichok-class agents, with a foreign ministry spokeswoman characterizing the OPCW report as “a continuation of a crude provocation against the Russian Federation on the part of the UK special services.” UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, in an April 12 statement, extolled the independence and rigor of the OPCW analysis, which was conducted at four separate laboratories. “There can be no doubt of what was used, and there remains no alternative explanation about who was responsible,” he said. “Only Russia has the means, motive, and record.”—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Posted: May 1, 2018

UN Disarmament Conference Delayed

UN Disarmament Conference Delayed


A UN high-level conference on nuclear disarmament, originally scheduled for May 14-16, was indefinitely postponed following an April 26 UN General Assembly vote. The postponement reportedly is due to the failure to select a representative to preside over the meetings.

The 2017 UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for a high-level conference in 2018 to review progress on negotiations on effective nuclear disarmament measures. All nuclear-weapon states except China voted against the resolution in the General Assembly’s First Committee. Although the United States considers the meeting to be “redundant” and a “waste of resources,” it is still continuing to evaluate whether it will attend the meeting, a State Department official told Arms Control Today in an April 17 email. The conference follows a similar 2013 meeting. That meeting was divided between those, including nuclear-weapon states, that advocated for an incremental approach to disarmament and other countries, including those in the Non-Aligned Movement, which pushed for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Posted: May 1, 2018

North Korea Urged to Sign CTBT

North Korea Urged to Sign CTBT


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s statement announcing the closing of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site has led to calls for Pyongyang to sign and ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, noted in a statement that Kim’s announcement was a positive “long-sought-after” step toward several disarmament commitments and the ratification of the CTBT. Lassina Zerbo, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) executive secretary, called for North Korea to consider signing and ratifying the CTBT, noting that a legally binding treaty is the only way to “solidify the moratorium on nuclear testing.” The CTBTO “stands ready to assist,” he said in an statement April 21, and some experts have proposed having the body engage in confidence-building site visits to Punggye-ri. —SHERVIN TAHERAN

Posted: May 1, 2018

Funds Released for UK Nuclear Subs

Funds Released for UK Nuclear Subs


UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced in Parliament on March 28 an unexpected boost for defense spending: an extra £600 million ($850 million) for the new Dreadnought class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). The funds, allocated for fiscal year 2019, will be withdrawn from the £10 billion ($14.2 billion) contingency fund set aside for the Dreadnought program in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review. The use of the contingency funds follows a supplemental £200 million Defence Ministry budget increase announced in February.

UK protesters rallied July 18, 2016, against spending on a new generation of nuclear-armed submarines.  (Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)The Dreadnought program will comprise four new submarines designed to replace the United Kingdom’s existing Vanguard-class SSBNs, which are responsible for the country’s nuclear deterrence. Construction on the first submarine began in September 2016. The mainstay of the submarine will be the Common Missile Compartment (CMC), which is designed to support not-yet-developed ballistic missiles that will succeed the Trident D5 nuclear-armed ballistic missile. The CMC will contain 12 missile launch tubes and will house Trident D5s until their replacement in the early 2040s. The first Vanguard-class SSBN will reach the end of its extended service life in 2028, and the first Dreadnought submarine is expected to enter service in the early 2030s. The total cost of the Dreadnought program is estimated at £31 billion ($43.9 billion), and the submarines will have service lives of 30 years.—RYAN FEDASIUK

Posted: May 1, 2018

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