The nuclear weapons, arms control, disarmament and nonproliferation podcast. Companion to the popular Arms Control Wonk blog (www.armscontrolwonk.com). Hosted by Jeffrey Lewis & Aaron Stein.
A Fractional Orbital Bombardment System with a Hypersonic Glide Vehicle??
49:28This is a complicated one. According to Demetri Sevastopulo at the Financial Times, China tested something that sounds a whole lot like FOBS with an HGV. Something that orbited the globe and dropped a hypersonic glide vehicle against a target. Jeffrey, Aaron, and Scott try to figure out what actually was tested (HGV-FOBS? An intercontinental glider? A super-lofted ballistic missile??), talk about what it means to be a "fractional orbital bombardment system" versus a regular ballistic missile, and why the pursuit of perfect missile defenses may make us all less secure. Support us over at Patreon.com/acwpodcast!
Glide or Die
32:41Glide or die, baby. The North Koreans, on a real cavalcade of missile debuts reminiscent of 2017, have tested what they claim to be a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV). Which means they are just checking off their list of goals, leaving a nuclear powered submarine, a MIRV, and a solid propellant ICBM as the main untested-but-announced capabilities.... While it isn't 100% clear that they actually tested an HGV, the team dissects what it might have been, if a DPRK HGV is realistic, and why HGVs and other missile-defense-defeating technologies fit the DPRK's national strategy perfectly. Oh, and FOBS makes an appearance, almost entirely to give Scott nightmares. Support us over at Patreon.com/acwpodcast!
All Aboard the Missile Train
38:51Put another pot of coffee on because it is launch week again. North Korean launched two missiles off of the back of a train this week, right as the president of South Korea watched their own tests of a submarine launched ballistic missile, stealthy air launched cruise missile, ballistic missile test, supersonic anti ship cruise missile test, large diameter solid motor test, and good lord it is a hard week to keep up. Oh right and North Korea is expanding its uranium enrichment facilities. One day we'll catch up to AUKUS. Jeffrey and Scott try to keep up and parse through everything that is happening, from why trains are a strategically sensical choice for North Korean missile basing to why the South Korean conventional SLBM makes us very, very nervous. Recent Episodes of Note: North Korea's recent long-range strategic land-attack cruise missile test: https://armscontrolwonk.libsyn.com/not-lackin-lacms North Korea's plutonium reprocessing campaign: https://armscontrolwonk.libsyn.com/boiling-fish-at-yongbyon Support us over at Patreon.com/acwpodcast!
Not Lackin' LACMs
33:26The DPRK tested a cruise missile, but this time it was a big one. Like "INF Treaty" big, if that term still meant anything. The DPRK announced that it launched a 1500 km range cruise missile, after months of hints that a strategic nuclear-capable cruise missile was in the works. While it technically does not fall under the United Nations Security Council resolutions sanctioning DPRK ballistic missile and space tests, it is a huge concern, especially since it is probably meant to carry a nuclear payload one day. Jeffrey and Aaron talk about the tech, cruise missile proliferation, how the DPRK has been signaling this capability for a while, and why this is a very serious capability that needs to be addressed. And, of course, they make fun of the JLENS. Support us over at Patreon.com/acwpodcast!
Boiling Fish at Yongbyon
32:45Looks like Yongbyon is running a little hot. The IAEA has announced that it believes the DPRK is conducting a plutonium reprocessing campaign at Yongbyon. Jeffrey and Aaron discuss why the DPRK would want to do this. What could the mystery be? Why would the DPRK reprocess plutonium? For nukes. It's for nukes. Basically like the DPRK has been saying. Support us over at Patreon.com/acwpodcast!
It's Always Cloudy in Novaya Zemlya
25:35Jeffrey and his team fear no cloud. Working with Capella Space to acquire cloud-piercing synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data, the MIIS team has been monitoring eternally-cloudy Novaya Zemlya, Russia, for evidence of Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile tests. Evidence pointed to the Burevestnik test site being revived after the previous failures, and the team started utilizing radar returns to obviate the satellite-imagery-frustrating weather that plagues Russia's northern nuclear test ranges. Jeffrey and Aaron discuss remote sensing technical education, and the value of teaching practical imagery interpretation, technical processing skills, and how to evaluate imagery at a non-technical level. Previous Episodes: Discussing the tragic accident during the previous Burevestnik test. Links of Note: Zachary Cohen's CNN article on monitoring the Burevestnik. Support us over at Patreon.com/acwpodcast!
Wasted Opportunities with the JCPOA
26:35Bad news abounds for Iranian and US returns to JCPOA compliance. Aaron and Jeffrey talk through the frustration around breakout time requirements, the timidity of the Biden administration, and the shortfalls of the wait-and-see approach. Links of Note: The Economist article on OSINT, including Arms Control Wonk and the Slack channel, which is filled with only the most brilliant and beautiful of people, whom all listeners should aspire to emulate: https://www.economist.com/briefing/2021/08/07/open-source-intelligence-challenges-state-monopolies-on-information Support us over at Patreon.com/acwpodcast!
A SECOND SILO FIELD
41:15Matt Korda and Hans Kristensen with the Federation of American Scientists have tracked down what appears to be a second field of missile silos near Hami, Xinjiang. Aaron, Jeffrey, and Scott gather up to discuss the rapidly increasing number of missile silos, what this means for the shell game theory, how many missiles and warheads could be in the PLARF's ICBM arsenal, and how China strategically responds to U.S. ballistic missile defenses. Links of Note: Our first episode on the first field of silos: https://armscontrolwonk.libsyn.com/nuclear-silos-in-the-chinese-desert Support us over at Patreon.com/acwpodcast!
I Sing of Arms and the Man
30:47American weapons systems need better names. Tom Karako, Director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, joins Jeffrey to talk about just what it is that inspires soldiers: Legendary, heroic, and historical names, not descriptive acronyms and jargon. What, are ALCM and JASSM not as sexy as Hades or Pluton? Tom explains his philosophical and classical background, and the inspiration for his article in War on the Rocks about giving U.S. weapons systems respectable names more befitting of their purpose. Support us over at Patreon.com/acwpodcast!
Nuclear Silos in the Chinese Desert
34:21Decker Eveleth and Jeffrey Lewis's team at CNS have found 119 silos for ICBMs out in the deserts of China. That's the largest expansion of PRC silos in history, by far, but it isn't totally clear what is going on, and whether each of these Bouncy Castles of Death represents a new missile or if there are some decoys in the mix... Aaron and Jeffrey discuss how Decker found these silos out in the middle of the desert, whether each silo has its own missile or if this is a Shell Game with empty silos and decoys, and how this is going to impact arms control incentives in the very near future. Further Reading: Jeffrey's op-ed in Foreign Policy: https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/06/30/china-nuclear-weapons-silos-arms-control/ Catherine Dill's article on new test silos at Wuzhai: https://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/1205826/open-silos/ Decker Eveleth and Scott LaFoy's article on possible silos at Sundian: https://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/1208828/possible-icbm-modernization-underway-at-sundian/ Hans Kristensen's articles on DF-41 training silos at Jilantai, which constituted the foundational discovery of DF-41 silos in open source research: https://fas.org/blogs/security/2019/09/china-silo-df41/ https://fas.org/blogs/security/2021/02/plarf-jilantai-expansion/ Support us over at Patreon.com/acwpodcast!