One of the sensible ideas the non-nuclear weapon states promoted at both the 2010 and 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conferences is the idea that the nuclear weapon states should take their missiles off high alert and eliminate the option to launch nuclear weapons on warning of an attack. This would reduce the risk of accidental, mistaken, and unauthorized launches while retaining deterrence by post-attack retaliation. Read More
June 5th, 2015
June 3rd, 2015
A recent government report revealed two problems with the U.S. Ground Based Midcourse (GMD) missile defense system. These flaws, like several problems revealed previously, affect the operation of the “kill vehicle”—the business end of the anti-missile interceptors. The kill vehicle is the part of the system designed to guide itself to collide with and destroy an enemy warhead in space, and is therefore one of the key parts of the whole system. Read More
May 20th, 2015
A recent Pentagon report on Chinese Military Power reported that for the first time China has apparently begun to put multiple warheads on some of its ballistic missiles. This would mean that China can use its existing missile force to launch more nuclear warheads. This change was also reported in a New York Times article over the weekend. Read More
May 18th, 2015
An overwhelming majority of NPT member states agree that keeping nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert presents an irresponsibly high risk of an accidental or mistaken launch. The final report of the last NPT review conference, held in 2010, included a requirement to lower alert levels. The United States is doing its best to make sure that requirement is stripped from the final language of the 2015 report, despite the wishes of many close U.S. allies. Read More
May 6th, 2015
The headlines from this year’s space symposium in Colorado Springs were full of doom and gloom. The U.S. assistant secretary of State for arms control warned, “The threat to outer space is real and growing.” He drew bright lines in the heavens between enemies and allies, dismissed international entreaties for negotiations in the United Nations Conference on Disarmament (UNCD), and called on U.S. allies to strengthen space deterrence.
U.S. Air Force Lt. General Jay Raymond told the packed house of space enthusiasts that China was enemy number one. He claimed a July 2014 Chinese missile defense test was actually an anti-satellite test and that it was successful, although he offered no new information in support of either claim. U.S. officials are using the recent Chinese test to justify greater U.S. reliance on space weaponry to protect U.S. satellites. Read More
April 8th, 2015
It’s not the easiest of times for national missile defense advocates. The normally friendly House Armed Services Committee hearings on missile defense hosted some tough talk centered around a recently released, critical memo from two of the Joint Chiefs. And this weekend the LA Times release a pair of damning articles drawing connections between Senators and Congress members who sheltered expensive but poorly conceived and eventually cancelled national missile defense programs and their districts’ financial benefits from these programs. Read More
April 1st, 2015
As we approach the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) the 178 nations that have honored their obligation not to develop nuclear weapons are wondering when the five nuclear weapons states who are party to the treaty will honor theirs. The NPT entered into force in 1970. They’ve been waiting a long time.
Article VI of the NPT requires Britain, France, Russia, the United States and China to “pursue negotiations in good faith” on “a treaty on general and complete disarmament.” But instead of negotiating, these five nuclear nations are investing heavily in modernizing their arsenals and making sure they can be kept in good working order for generations to come.
China’s nuclear modernization program receives more attention than the other four even though its several hundred nuclear weapons are technologically inferior to the many thousands of nuclear weapons held by the United States and Russia. It was the only program highlighted at this year’s iteration of the world’s largest non-governmental nuclear policy conference. An international panel of experts, including three technically trained specialists from China, discussed why China is modernizing its nuclear arsenal, despite its NPT obligations. Read More
March 26th, 2015
Some of the best sleuthing and analysis these days is being done by the group at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. So when Catherine Dill and Jeffrey Lewis emailed me to help fit a few pieces together I was happy to help.
They have been piecing together information about China’s Korla Missile Test Complex, which appears to be the base where China has launched interceptors for several recent missile defense tests. They are posting their analysis today at armscontrolwonk. Read More
December 4th, 2014
In mid-August, Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Director Vice Admiral Syring gave a keynote speech at the annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, AL. By most accounts it was a frank and interesting talk. However, conference security personnel limited journalists’ ability to photograph the slides or record the talk, which led to controversy and an eventually an apology by the conference organizers.
The few slides journalist Amy Butler was able to tweet looked interesting. Since they were marked “Approved for Public Release,” I asked the MDA office for them, but my request was declined. So I filed a Freedom of Information Act request, which met with success. Six weeks later, we received a copy of the slide deck and a transcript of the verbal remarks that accompanied it. Read More
November 24th, 2014
Last week The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) released yet another in a long line of annual reports with sensational claims about China’s military capabilities. Unfortunately, the USCC also continued to improperly source the information on which some of its claims are based. This year’s report generated alarming headlines about a rapid expansion of China’s nuclear forces. A quick look at a few of the sources behind those headlines suggests the USCC still needs to improve the quality of its work. Read More