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U.S Senate revives mini-nuke program

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posted on Jul, 2 2005 @ 01:36 AM

US Senate votes to revive US nuclear weapon program

WASHINGTON (AFP) Jul 02, 2005

The US Senate has moved to revive a controversial weapons research program aimed at enabling the US military to conduct precision nuclear strikes against hardened underground facilities, including those suspected of storing weapons of mass destruction.

By a vote of 53-43, senators defeated Friday an amendment sponsored by California Democrat Dianne Feinstein that would have prohibited use of government funds to study the feasibility of the so-called Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, also known as the "bunker-buster" bomb.

The failure of the measure means leading US nuclear research laboratories will in all likelihood receive in fiscal 2006 four million dollars for continued work on the bomb that was interrupted last year under intense international and domestic criticism.

I'm just curious, why only build bunker-busting mini nukes and not surface ones?

[edit on 2-7-2005 by NWguy83]


posted on Jul, 2 2005 @ 02:08 AM
Whats with america's revival of all these nuclear programs? do they even need them?

posted on Jul, 2 2005 @ 03:10 AM

Originally posted by M6D
Whats with america's revival of all these nuclear programs? do they even need them?

Many of America's nukes are old and may not work properly. So they want to start replacing some while reducing the total number.

posted on Jul, 2 2005 @ 03:19 AM
Yah, they could have just developed the neatron weapon but at least with the 'mini nuke' it can be delivered simply and kill only the tens of thousands intended and not the whole country and it's neighbors..


posted on Jul, 2 2005 @ 07:23 AM
No one seems to get it regarding these devices.

They are not intended to be massive population killers but are intended to have one specific purpose and that is to penetrate deep into the ground before exploding with a small yield nuke designed to further penetrate into any deep reinforced bunkers - what sort of target?
think the Iranian nuclear research facility that they reinforced with concrete and buried.

Its only through continued research that these weapons can be made less of a threat to the general population - Im not advocating the weapon, but if it's to be used it would make sense to do the most research possible to make it less of a civilian killer.

[edit on 7/2/2005 by bios]

posted on Jul, 2 2005 @ 09:01 AM
mini nukes? thats easy Command and Control bunkers along with this 2-mile Dam that a confessed enemy of the US is building.

posted on Jul, 2 2005 @ 09:10 AM
Yes, these nukes would have a yield of only 5-10kt and are meant to penetrate a distance into the ground before detonating. It will not be deep enough so that no fallout is experienced but the fallout would be limited and small due to the small yield of the bomb. It is meant for military installations that are deep under ground or in mountains it not meant for cities and villages.

posted on Jul, 2 2005 @ 09:43 AM
Nuclear earth-penetrating bunker busters do not penetrate the earth very far and are not even very good at busting bunkers. A good analysis can be read at:

It seems that just like Reagan with Star Wars, Bush is pursueing unrealistic pipe dreams and wasting billions of dollars. He seems very good at wasting tax dollars on insane defense projects or military enterprises like Iraq by the way.


posted on Jul, 2 2005 @ 01:06 PM
Why develop it though? its illegal for petes sake! to even use them in war would be illegal, just a basic nuke is a good enough deterant!

posted on Jul, 2 2005 @ 01:58 PM

Nuclear earth-penetrating bunker busters do not penetrate the earth very far and are not even very good at busting bunkers.

They do not work by penetrating very deep, they work by creating an immense shockwave that travels down the medium to the instillation and cause structure damage or destroys it.

And it not illegal to use in a war, but under US law its against the rules to develop nuclear munitions with a yield less than 15kt. Those rules might soon be changed if they have not been already.


posted on Jul, 2 2005 @ 03:14 PM
Its not just that, building nukes for special purposes gives everyone the impression that your a war monger, which isnt the best impression to give people ever.

posted on Jul, 2 2005 @ 04:23 PM
Well unfortunately nothing lasts forever so we have to modernize our nuclear arsenal and build new nuclear missiles to replace the ageing cold war inventory. And those impression would always be there regardless so it makes no difference, you cant base a decision as import as this one on public perception.

posted on Jul, 3 2005 @ 05:37 AM

Originally posted by WestPoint23
They do not work by penetrating very deep, they work by creating an immense shockwave that travels down the medium to the instillation and cause structure damage or destroys it.

And as said, they do so poorly because they do not penetrate very deep.

posted on Jul, 3 2005 @ 02:44 PM

And as said, they do so poorly because they do not penetrate very deep.

They do not need to penetrate that deep to destroy the target, but if we wanted to eliminate all of the fallout then they would need to penetrate deeper.

posted on Jul, 5 2005 @ 06:45 AM
You do need to penetrate to a certain depth if you want a sufficient portion of the energy of the nuke transfered into seismic shockwaves that are far more powerful than a surface burst would deliver into the ground. I never claimed that the goal of the penetration was to prevent fall out.

[edit on 5-7-2005 by Simon666]

posted on Jul, 5 2005 @ 08:34 AM
As i have said before , no penerator will ever get deep enough to contain fallout - several deep shots have breached the surface in underground testing - and we`re talking about hundreds of meters underground.

IF these ever get used , then IMO the gloves will come off for anyone with WMD`s to use them to `solve problems`

posted on Jul, 10 2005 @ 02:29 AM

I'm just curious, why only build bunker-busting mini nukes and not surface ones?

Given that you are looking at multiple millions of dollars for each precision machined round, I imagine that it can indeed do both. The options for radar, GPS or even time delay fuzing are just too easy, especially for a missile which may already be using some form of RADAC for target offset correlation.

However EP's do require you to put the aperture on the back end of a weapon which is shaped like a pencil with a very hard alloy nose cap instead of the normal frangible version designed to limit 'skip' in lolo release.

I would also argue that the folks at FAS are not entirely correct in their belief that we don't need smaller nukes.

While dial a yield can reduce the effective explosive output, it doesn't necessarily remove the persistent radiologics of a medium (270-300KT) or heavy (1-2MT) weapon like the B61 and 83 represent.

Nor is it easier to maintain such weapons based on annual 'refreshment' of the nuclear material.

In theory, a small disk the size of a tea saucer and a spheroid the size of a grapefruit or softball could produce trigger yields of .1->1KT. And these will _definitely_ have smaller total hard rad and persistent isotope secondary effects than any of the current strategic weapons, even full-hot 'clean' mode.

There is also a fallacy inherent to the belief that the conventional option is always going to be there, either for penetration reasons off a conventional strike aircraft. Or because politics requires an immediate rather than delayed response.

Particularly where you are looking at a target set that has limited acquisition times and portalling guarantors (you don't have to open a covert exit for anything but wartime immediate release of WMD or occupancy); the notion that a B-2 is going to come in, drop 16 JDAM and 'get everything' is not necessarily true. Most especially if it is a 'eggs in one basket and guarded well' high value installation.

In the .1 to .3 kiloton range (literally 100-300 tons of TNT availabe on the B61-7 and 11,_not_ the 320,000 ton full-dial yield quoted in the FAS article above) you are in fact roughly equivalent to 4 Mk.84 with IHE filler detonating simultaneously.

The sheer nature of physics and thermodynamics in terms of energy in/out will ensure that the ejecta from a penetrating weapon will be at a lower energy state upon burnthrough than an airburst and thus that most of the will fall out locally. Like shaking up a can of soda and then /just/ popping the lid so that the fizzle runs out the sides rather than a 'full pop' in which it geisers. The heat and energy necessary to convert dirt and stone to vapor is just so much greater that it's kinetic uplift upon surface broach is less.

In comparison with say a 'city killer' airburst yield, the double shock refraction theory and sheer AREA of burnable fuel:air mass you are exposing on the surface is so much greater that you do indeed vacuum up the burning (light), radiologically saturated, material and cast it downwind for many, many hundreds of miles.

Strategically, in terms of the inevitable proliferation of capabiltiy, it poses the potential problem of introducing technology and particularly shock lensing effects which allows a small warhead to defeat very large/deep targets indeed. But this only applies to (say) the No Dong/Taepo Dong approach where you have a cobbled together IRBM trying to reach Guam.

Tactically, thanks to a cumulative 9,000 mile water barrier you can't reach the U.S. 'in a hurry', period. Civillian transport can allow you to preposition a weapon but this mode doesn't necessarily favor small nukes and in any case, the 'Missing Russian Suitcase Devices' has already catbagged that particular threat. Coastal America will always be vulnerable but the IA's are pretty much radiologically sensored out.

OTOH, many threat nations can and will pose a threat to our APOD/SPOD and Allied logistics prepositioning in places like Korea and potentially a Taiwanese or PakIndi blowup. And the only way to keep that eventuality of political will being 'tested' after a first strike (we lose a division, will we send another?) is thru the certainty that we WILL respond, tit for exact tat.

For the reality is that you want to save the FIRST WMD CASUALTY from happening and whether that be against dirty weapons, chemicals or biologic weaponry, we have chose to only have a nuclear response.

Better a small-casualty, minimal long term effects, from a 'clean' small-stick option than full strategic overkill. Especially where the latter option means a further dealy while US depot-X translocation of a gravity weapon occurs.

.1-.5KT devices, packed into an aeroballistic weapon like ARRMD or FRSW, give you a Mach 8 to 800nm in 10 minutes, 'short horizon', option which scares the crap out of would be nuclear posturists (a tyrant by any other name) and largely takes away the incentive for first deployment because of the huge number of platforms (ships and subs, far less visible and with far fewer homeporting problems to host nations) which can deliver the weapon from such standoff and at such velocity as to be largely uninterceptable.

As a side benefit, a 2-3km/sec weapon (which is the limit of curret case steel technology to withstand impact stress) also -greatly- exceeds the roughly 20-30ft of rock or 100ft of soft earth which an aerial bomb can defeat in getting maximum shock coupling to the local strata necessary to carry sheer force down to a reasonable target depth.

In the end, the reality is, and will remain for the foreseeable future, that nuclear weapons will /never/ vanish back into the Genie's bottle and so, as the capstone to a war containment strategic posture based on fear, it does not behoove U.S. to limit the yield or the delivery method which our current SOA says 'is too dirty' to be useful.

In the case of micro nukes and nuclear penetrators in particular, the relevance is that of spanking the world view that we WON'T use nukes. Should a terrorist organization separate from or at least 'publically disavowed by' any nation state, employ nukes on U.S.

The ultimate horror being an Al Quaeda equipped with Iranian, Syrian, Pak or Libyan weapons infiltrating them to detonate within key areas (Wallstreet etc.) of 5-10 U.S. cities.

Should that happen, our response would _have to be_ a relatively greater strike on all Arab or Islamic 'targets of interest' at a level 10 times that of U.S. civillian losses. Just to make a point to the ROW.

We could do that, easily, with 300KT to 1MT class weapons. But we would poison the land around for hundreds of miles. Including valuable strategic resources and navigation access as well as several key allies.

Whereas a similar deployment of micronukes would let us vaporize a 'top ten' playlist of Tehran, Tripoli, Damascus, Medina, Mecca, Riyadh, Sanaa and Islamabad and 'two secondary targets of matching population index'.

Virtually annihilating the Islamic religions geographic focal points and halving the Arab population in suspect countries. Giving Al Quaeda a bloody nose the likes of which would make them leper-hated by even their own barbaric backers.

All without effecting local access or habitability for more than a few years. Or increasing the surrounding regional downwind radiologic contamination for more than a hundred or so miles.

The world is a very cruel place where the strong survive by pretending to no limits of _option_ in situational ethics of response. We MUST therefore be willing to continue to hostage the innocent to the guilt of their keepers (in not reigning in terrorism through direct shelterment, blind-eye lack of legal pursuit and covert banking if nothing else).

And yet we cannot afford to piss off those who are NOT immediately a threat. But whose proximity is shared with both the fallout and the resources (if not own nukes) which we need to be able to continue to exploit without undue commercial or military escalation penalty.

For the above reasons alone, to fail to institute a system of systems whereby we make plain our willingness to 'turn up the themostat' of a nuclear option to _any_ level that _any organization as much as nation_ deserves as a response to a 'random attack' upon U.S.. Is to fail to realize the psychologic effect of nukes themselves upon the world in securing our collective future.

We've all seen how largely toothless and lacking in results the GWOT has been. Amazingly ineffective in comparison with the atomic limiter which has kept a hard peace for 60 years now.

The question then you must ask yourselves is, 'do you think' that an Al Quaeda equipped with small nukes would have hesitated to use them on 9/11 if our self-restriction from use of strategic weapons on Arab countries had secured their homelands.

And do you 'further believe' that having our own controlled, gradiated, response to their /future/ ownership of these weapons (and it will happen if we do not destroy them utterly) will prevent them from using them on the basis that their homelands are no longer rendered untouchable by will of mercy or strategic necessity.


posted on Jul, 10 2005 @ 02:41 AM

Originally posted by M6D
Why develop it though? its illegal for petes sake! to even use them in war would be illegal, just a basic nuke is a good enough deterant!

Okay, its illegal. Whos going to stop us? The UN? France, Germany, China? I think not. As crazy as Bush is, if the UN said anything while he was in office, I wouldnt doubt him cutting all funding from the UN to make a point.

Calling him a war criminial is good too. Whos going to arrest him? Again nobody.

I do feel that nukes are pretty much useless and have no purpose beyond a deterent. However, Im not wearing any stars on my shoulder, and my pay grade doesnt provide any insight to the motives.

posted on Jul, 10 2005 @ 07:40 AM
a 900kt device requires an accuracy of

posted on Jul, 11 2005 @ 02:15 AM
A 900kt device requires an accuracy of >

A RADAC seeker on a Pershing II is good to better than that. In some profiles, the old SRAM was -vastly- better than that, on pure inertial.

EDGE based GPS is good to within 34" (the best we've done has in fact been 9.8"). Even accounting for a 3-4 order of magnitude increase in error due to the massive differences in kinetic energy trajectory modification effort required between an air delivered and ballistic option; there is no doubt in my mind that we could place a digger warhead within about 100ft of any silo door we chose.

Also, you have to consider the notion that a buried silo is like a pimple, all hard and white on top, soft and gooey underneath. Why would you /want/ to surface burst crack the concrete when you could apply lateral _sheer_ forces on the surrounding silo walls?

Yes, they are reinforced too but they have the disadvantage of having to bear their own weight as well. I kick a 6ft poured concrete wall 10" sideways with a digger and everything inside is going to feel that impetus as both an inertial and quite possibly an airborne shock through the sealed air volume. There are no 'latteral dampening coils' on that missile and if I throw it or the door mechanisms out of kilter, that's that.

Therefore much smaller ones need to hit `in the pickle barrel` to eliminate it, and you must also consider as to whether a micro warhead might not even eliminate a deep and hardened target even with the enhancement that the shock wave passing through rock gives.

Here's something about a 1MT class yield you might want to consider as the 'logical alternative' in an airburst-

Temperature on the orders of tens of million degrees, virtually causing materials making up the weapon to be vaporized, and gasses expand rapidly resulting in a pressure wave or 'shock' wave. Just how fast is this wave moving? Within 10 seconds the shockfront is 3 miles from ground zero. Within 50 seconds, the blast has traveled 12 miles and is moving at approximately 1150 ft/second. This shockwave results in tremendous overpressures, i.e., pressure in excess of the normal atmospheric pressure (14.7 psi). These overpressures cause a tremendous amount of damage. At 4.5 seconds after the detonation of a 1 megaton (MT) weapon, the blast front has moved out from ground zero approximately 1.3 miles. The overpressure at the blast front is roughly 20 pounds per square inch (psi). Some results of overpressures and associated wind velocity:

Pressure (psi) Effect Associated wind velocity (mph)
1 Shatter windows
5 Rupture eardrums, 12" concrete walls shattered 163
10 294
15 Lung damage
20 500
50 LD/50 (Lethal dose to 50% of population)
100 14150

People as well as structures quickly have a problem dealing with the overpressures. In regards to the associated wind velocity, people have a problem being accelerated rapidly also, with the LD/50 for us being approximately 55mph. So again, I'm led to the first thing I mentioned, that if one were far enough away from the event, water could be protective, but if one were in close, things could be worse. The shock front exerts even more pressure on water than against air. Where a 100 kT weapon exerts roughly 10 psi in air, it exerts over 2500 psi in water.

By comparing the relative density improvements of localized overpressure as a sheer effect with the _simple_ (immediate) thermal/blast/rad effects of a surface or airburst 'for range' (in miles) required for direct attack; it becomes immediately clear that the direct threat of MT class weapons to human lives is a function of lethality in the actual event release of energy.

While the _continuing_ threat of sub-KT class weapons is more a function of making a base area uninhabitable (say 10 miles around the site) and getting enough ejecta up high enough to increase cancer rates in a further surrounding downwind zone of some 50-200nm.

Gee, thanks, but I _will take_ the option of moving elsewhere over the likelihood of being roasted alive, immediately. Not least because the MT class weapon is going to have significant radiologic uplift itself (if it is surface burst with the intent of making a 1,000ft wide crater within a 300m wide CEP).

The dangers of SKINC level (Sub Kiloton Insertable Nuclear Components) in a warhead are as follows:

1. Non optimized yields increase the likelihood of heavy isotope remainders in the fallout. And there will be a lot of the latter because the weapon is effectively a massive badger in use.

2. THERE IS NO CONTAINMENT POSSIBLE, based on simple penetration to depth. Because the case strenghts vs. inertial energy required to dig meet at a crossing point of some 2.5-3km/sec and about 20-50ft through rock and 100-150ft through dirt.

With the above two notions, the danger lies in assuming that small nuclear penetrators are 'freebies' of atomic demolition. This is most assuredly WRONG because even a .1KT blast requires about 230-270ft of deep penetration to fully contain the blast void and immediate radiation scatter.

However; if the need is immediate (the Norks just detonated a 1MT yield weapon over Guam to kill a B-2 force making conventional stealth attacks. Or perhaps detonated an HMP 500KT weapon at 100,000ft over the peninsula to shut down all our regional access to ranged comms and GPS) then you may find that /waiting/ for the time needed to sortie another jet from the U.S., mate it up with a B61-11 and fly it out to whatever commmand or ballistic silo threat is out there is too little too late. While the alternative of a unitary, heavy, penetrator from an SSBN may either not exist or only come with such a high yield penalty that cannot be employed without 'waking up the neighbors' in China and Russia.

In this case, the small atomic weapon, on an ARRMD/Fast Hawk or even ATACMS class system is something which the North Koreans cannot afford to believe _is not_ in the theater. On a ship or in a hidden igloo. And because it can be deployed at optimum penetration velocities _without_ the vulnerability (airbase as well as SEAD) of a conventional air delivered munition; it gives them pause in thinking they can achieve a first use advantage that is worth the _direct_ risk of their own remaining forces or command elements.

In the former case, it should be noted that the GBU-28 cannot be carried by anything other than the F-15E. A non stealth asset. And the GBU-37, while it can be carried by a B-2 and can penetrate (in numbers if nothing else) a silo door or 'seal' a storage facility; cannot -assure airframe penetration- because it effectively requires the Batwing to make a direct delivery more akin to a B-17 than a standoff platform.

In the latter case (C2 Bunker) I disagree highly with the assumption made by the FAS scientists that nobody will be in the bunker. This may be true _so long as_ the confrontation is non-nuclear but when the canned sunlight threshold is exceeded, tactics like those employed by Saddam Hussein only ensures that you die in the guest bedroom of whatever stranger you are imposing upon. Along with half a million of his neighbors.

Even conventionally, there is some question as to the likelihood of in-plain-sight shell games as most threat nations lack the depth of country and richness of culture to make an MTI caravan not itself a noteworthy (and reachable) signature.

In this instances, the likelihood remains high that the NCA will go to ground and use the same tunnel boring technology to push out fibre optic lines to either landline or remote microwave emitters some 10-50 even 100 miles away.

While the fact remains that if you put a nuke in a hole and make a spherical void 250-500ft across with it, you can do it again to 'expand the balloon some more' And this will, sooner or later, get even the deepest boring slug targets. If you are willing to pay the reattack penalty of continuing uplift/ejecta necessary to reach a stratacoupled depth where you collapse his bunker around him.

I myself see nukes as being quite useful weapons because they do not require live expenditure to maintain an _appearance of competency_ in your enemies' eyes. And indeed, this very lack of real world sampled exposure inhibits the development of effective countermeasures to the delivery vehicle as much as weapon. I -do not- foresee a first use policy short of other-WMD (chem/bio) equalling nuclear threshold in casualties.

But the fact remains that smaller weapons are more useful to LARGE countries than they are to small ones. This is due to what I call a 'disproportionate value vs. force utility' theory. In that atomic release on frontal forces could win the North Koreans a way through any Pusan Perimeter (even if said Perimeter was at Seoul). And the resulting overrun would happen so fast that any 'strategic' (time as much as yield) response would be that of "Well, we own it all, now what?" razed earth refusal to let /anyone/ own it. In this scenario, you might very well /have to/ kill the entire North Korean populace to stop their leadership from having any continuing livelihood reason to pursue a nuclear strategy aimed at eliminating ROK and U.S. forces.

OTOH, small weapons don't buy you much in an equivalent attack on a large CONUS value-based civillian target infrastructure.

a. Because we can take more damage than most nations can dish out.

b. Because the suitcase nuke technology baseline for NON AGGRESSIVELY KINETIC DELIVERY is already there.

c. Because if you make such an attack, during a conventional war or as a function of being captured on ingress. Or even 'found out' after (U.S. is busy nursing terrible wounds, DPRK attacks, assumptions are made). We will eliminate you as a nation if not cultural subgroup. Without question.

What small nuclear devices bring to the table, however you 'penetrating or not' justify the repackaging of the base technology; is politeness to the survivors. In the nation we still want to be neutral/friendly with, next door.

Again, RNEP is NOT a 'perfect solution' as the ejecta will still be severe, locally, and the contamination of local water tables probably permanent. But the uplift from a surface or (worse) airburst in the 300KT-1MT class is going to have equal or better chance of putting radiologics into the upper air mass where it will most certainly fallout over continental downrange distances.


LINK to another interesting hypothetical-

[edit on 11-7-2005 by ch1466]

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