Posts from July, 2007

New Information on Somali MANPADS

The latest report from the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia contains additional information about the shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles used by Islamic insurgents to shoot down a Belarusian cargo aircraft in March. Below is an excerpt from the UN report:

On 23 March 2007, at approximately 1700 hours, an IL-76 cargo plane
belonging to Transaviaexport, a Belarusian company, was shot down after a missile
fired by Shabaab fighters hit the left wing. The plane, with 11 crewmembers and
passengers, was hit at low altitude following take-off. It had earlier delivered
logistics and spare parts for another aircraft that had made an emergency landing at
Mogadishu International Airport. The missile used to shoot down the plane was an
SA-18 (MANPAD, Man Portable Air Defence System). The SA-18 was reported to
be part of a consignment of six SA-18s that had been delivered by Eritrea to
ICU/Shabaab. Two missiles were fired at the plane; one hit the target and the other
missed. The Monitoring Group showed the Committee a video of the actual firing of
the missile, during the midterm briefing on 27 April 2007.

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Licensing Exemptions, Round Two: The Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty

At a press briefing on Monday, Assistant Secretary of State John Rood elaborated on the Bush Administration’s latest attempt to secure license-free defense exports to the UK, a contentious issue that sparked a bruising battle between the administration and House Republicans three years ago. This time the exemptions are packaged in the form of a Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty (DTCT), the stated goal of which is to “improve transatlantic defence information sharing by reducing the barriers to exchanges of defence goods, services and information between the US and UK.” By pursuing a treaty, the administration avoids another confrontation with the House, but it remains to be seen whether the Democrat-controlled Senate will tolerate what appears to be an end-run around their colleagues, especially given the administration’s apparent failure to adequately consult either chamber before negotiating the treaty.
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New Jersey Woman finds “missile” in her front yard

Note: After this entry was posted, the Associated Press revealed that the item in question is actually a 20-year-old expended AT-4 anti-tank missile launcher that posed no threat.

This morning a woman from Jersey City discovered a “missile” lying in the grass on her front lawn. Niranjana Besai showed the missile to her neighbor, who told CBS 2 News that at first he thought the 6-foot-long item was just a pipe. Upon closer inspection, he concluded that it looked like the missile launchers he’d seen on TV. The New Jersey television station said that their “sources” told them that the “device is the type used ot shoot shoulder-fired rockets and is capable of taking down an aircraft.”

Little else is known about the item, but initial descriptions are consistent with the physical appearance of many man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), the launch tubes of which are approximately 5 to 6 feet long and look a bit like a pipe. Private ownership of MANPADS is ilegal in the United States, and the version used by the US military – the Stinger missile – is one of the most tighly guarded weapons in its arsenals. If the item is indeed a MANPADS, it would have profound national security and policy implications.
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Targeting Missile Defense Systems


By Hans M. Kristensen

The now month-long clash between Russia and the West over U.S. plans to build a missile defense system in Europe should warn us that – despite important progress in some areas – Cold War thinking is alive and well.

The missile defense system, Moscow says, is but the latest step in a gradual military encroachment on Russian borders by NATO, and could well be used to shoot down Russian ballistic missiles. The head of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces and President Putin have suggested that Russia might target the defenses with nuclear weapons. The United States has rejected the complaints insisting that Russia has nothing to fear and that the defenses will only be used against Iranian ballistic missiles. European allies have complained that the Russian threats are unacceptable and have no place in today’s Europe.

That may be true, but the reactions have revealed a frightening degree of naiveté about strategic war planning in the post-Cold War era, a widespread belief that such planning has somehow stopped. It has certainly changed, but all the major nuclear weapon states insist that they must hedge against an uncertain future and continue to adjust their strike plans against potential adversaries that have weapons of mass destruction. Russia continues to plan against the West and the West continues to plan against Russia. The plans are not the same that existed during the Cold War, but they are strike plans nonetheless.

The argument made by some officials that missile defense systems are merely defensive and don’t threaten anyone is disingenuous because it glosses over a fact that all planners know very well: Even limited missile defenses become priority targets if they can disturb other important strike plans. The West concluded that very early on in its military relationship with Russia.
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China Reorganizes Northern Nuclear Missile Launch Sites

A dozen trucks identified at possible missile launch sites near Delingha in the northern parts of central China resemble the DF-21 medium-range ballistic missile launcher. If correct, about a third of China’s DF-21 inventory is deployed within striking distance of Russian ICBM fields.

By Hans M. Kristensen

China has significantly reorganized facilities believed to be launch sites for nuclear ballistic missiles near Delingha in the northern parts of Central China, according to commercial satellite images analyzed by the Federation of American Scientists.

The images indicate that older liquid-fueled missiles previously thought to have been deployed in the area may have been replaced with newer solid-fueled missiles. From the sites, the missiles are within range of three Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) fields and a bomber base in the southern parts of central Russia.
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FAS Statement on Recent Testimony by Surgeon General Carmona

The Federation of American Scientists is profoundly disturbed by the testimony of former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona at the July 10th hearing of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. At the hearing, Surgeon General Carmona described a dismaying number of cases where he was forced to weaken or suppress reports providing public health information that should have been available to the public. He also reported that he was repeatedly instructed not to speak on a wide array of important health issues including stem cells, emergency contraception, and mental health.

While political pressure on government scientists is not new, the size and scope of the effort reported by Dr. Carmona are shocking. This is the first time an official of this rank has described in detail a persistent, long-term pattern of distorting science advice to the public. As America’s “chief health educator,” the Surgeon General’s office has a clear obligation to provide the public with timely, accurate, and accessible information about matters of health and medicine. The public needs this information to provide good care for themselves and their families and they need it to make informed decisions about health care policy. The public should never have to wonder whether statements made by high public officials can be trusted to be accurate and complete.

Dr. James Holsinger, nominated to be the next Surgeon General, will face Senate confirmation this week. FAS urges the Senators examining him to get assurances that he will always provide the public with the most complete, timely, and accurate health care information available to him. And we urge them to get assurances that he will bring important health care matters to public attention without regard to the effect these facts will have on partisan political debates.

Read Surgeon General Carmona’s testimony here.

United States Removes Nuclear Weapons From German Base, Documents Indicate

The United States appears to have quietly removed nuclear weapons from Ramstein Air Base. Here a B61 nuclear bomb is loaded unto a C-17 cargo aircraft.

By Hans M. Kristensen

The U.S. Air Force has removed its main base at Ramstein in Germany from a list of installations that receive periodic nuclear weapons inspections, indicating that nuclear weapons previously stored at the base may have been removed and withdrawn to the United States.

If correct, the withdrawal reduces the number of U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Europe to an estimated 350 B61 bombs, or roughly equivalent to the size of the entire French nuclear weapons inventory.
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New Chinese Ballistic Missile Submarine Spotted

By Hans M. Kristensen

A new satellite image appears to have captured China’s new ballistic missile submarine. Coordinates: 38°49’4.40″N, 121°29’39.82″E.

A commercial satellite image appears to have captured China’s new nuclear ballistic missile submarine. The new class, known as the Jin-class or Type 094, is expected to replace the unsuccessful Xia-class (Type 092) of a single boat built in the early 1980s.

The new submarine was photographed by the commercial Quickbird satellite in late 2006 and the image is freely available on the Google Earth web site.
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