Friday, 19 January, 2018

Cyber attacks on nuclear systems could lead to 'inadvertent' missile launches

The new plan would modify a small number of ballistic missiles carried by Trident submarines such as the USS Nebraska seen above off Seattle to fit them with smaller-yield nuclear warheads Trump administration set for more hawkish position on nuclear weapons
Steve Townsend | 14 January, 2018, 00:25

The Obama administration's 2010 nuclear strategy asserted that the "fundamental purpose" of the USA nuclear arsenal is to deter or respond to a nuclear attack and the United States will only consider the use of nuclear weapons in "extreme circumstances".

The overriding rationale for the development of the new "usable" Trident submarine-based cruise missiles is reportedly the Pentagon's contention that should the increasingly tense situation created by NATO's buildup of military forces on Russia's western border boil over into an armed conflict, Moscow would use low-yield tactical nuclear weapons with the expectation that the U.S. would not respond with an all-out thermonuclear attack. Proponents believe new, "more usable" nuclear warheads, possibly for deployment on ballistic missiles and sea-based cruise missiles, are necessary to provide the president with "more credible" nuclear war-fighting options to counter potential Russian aggression against North Atlantic Treaty Organisation partners.

As Wolfsthal anticipated, the draft review proposes a radical shift in USA attitudes to nuclear weapons development from President Barack Obama's 2010 posture review, which rejected the development of new nuclear warheads as well as the pursuit of new military missions or capabilities for the warheads.

The draft, first published by the HuffPost, states that the smaller nuclear weapons are necessary due to the "deterioration of the strategic environment", a nod toward existing tensions with Russian Federation, in particular.

The Pentagon believes in strengthening the nuclear triad as a mean to deter conflict in what is described as "a critical moment in our nation's history", and a "more complex and demanding" worldwide security environment than any since the end of the Cold War.

"Where they go overboard, is where they say that in order to make that credible the United States needs to develop two new types of nuclear weapons", he added.

Iridium sticks up for SpaceX, blames Northrop in satellite loss
However, SpaceX made a decision to delay the launch to deal with some issues regarding the payload fairing (nose cone). Musk has said BFR could be used for missions ranging from taking satellites to low-Earth orbit to colonizing Mars .


Worse still, the new NPR is expected to overturn long-standing USA policy barring the development of new nuclear warheads. Kimball is also concerned about the review allowing for the possibility of nuclear testing and expanding the scope of use of nuclear weapon to respond to non-nuclear threat.

That is unsafe, Cold War thinking. The effect of the use of even a small number of such weapons would be catastrophic and, in all likelihood, would unleash a global nuclear conflagration.

The Pentagon is expected to release the nuclear review after Trump's State of the Union on Address on January 30, though it is not clear if the timeline has been altered by the draft's leakage. "As a former steward of the nuclear launch keys, I've learned about the stability, competence and temperament it takes to hold such a responsibility, and Donald Trump has shown us all he possesses none of those qualities", he said. The new plan dramatically shortens the timeline for a "simple [nuclear] test" to six to 10 months from the previous 24- to 36-month requirement. The Pentagon's plan would allow Washington to initiate a so-called "limited" nuclear war in pursuits of its "national interests". Instead, the goal is to make nuclear conflict less likely by ensuring that "potential adversaries" see no possible advantage in escalating a conventional conflict to the nuclear level. The president warned European allies that they must agree to overhaul the deal in 120 days, or he would withdraw the United States from it. In reality, there is no new "missile gap".

The proposal is spelled out in a policy document, known officially as a "nuclear posture review", that puts the U.S.in a generally more aggressive nuclear stance.

IDN is the flagship of International Press Syndicate.

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