FAS Roundup: April 28, 2014

B61 nuclear bomb family, DNI bans employees from talking to journalists, China SSBNs and more.

The B61 Nuclear Bomb Family

Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris take a look at the B61 nuclear bomb family, and the half a dozen different types of B61 nuclear weapons that were derived from the original design in a new article published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The Obama administration is about to give birth to the newest member of the B61 family: the B61-12; this golden baby is estimated to cost about $10 billion.

The new B61-12 will be capable of holding at risk the same targets as current gravity bombs in the US stockpile (apparently even those currently covered by the B61-11 nuclear earth-penetrator that the Air Force no longer needs), but it will able to do so more effectively and with less yield (thus less collateral damage and radioactive fallout) that the existing bombs.

In Europe, the effect of the B61-12 will be even more profound because its increased accuracy essentially will add high-yield targeting capability to NATO’s non-strategic arsenal. When mated with the stealthy F-35A fighter-bomber planned for Europe in the mid-2020s, the B61-12 will represent a considerable enhancement of NATO’s nuclear posture in Europe.

Blog post here.

Full article here. 

Who’s Minding the Nukes?

In the wake of recent problems related to Air Force officer morale and test cheating, 60 Minutes examined the U.S. land-based nuclear missile program, one part of the nuclear triad which includes submarines and bombers. Reporter Lesley Stahl visited an underground control room at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming and spoke to the young officers who watch over these weapons which are on high alert. The control centers were built in the 1960s and due to aging infrastructure, officers who oversee the world’s deadliest weapons are working with computers so old they use floppy disks and outdated, faulty phones.

Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project, worked with the production team of this piece to provide factual information on the status of the U.S. ICBM force. In 2013, FAS and the Natural Resources Defense Council examined the status of U.S. and Russian nuclear alert forces and provided recommendations to reduce the alert levels of nuclear forces; the report is available here.

From the Blogs

Intelligence Directive Bans Unauthorized Contacts with News Media: The Director of National Intelligence has forbidden most intelligence community employees from discussing “intelligence-related information” with a reporter unless they have specific authorization to do so, according to an Intelligence Community Directive that was issued last month and obtained by Secrecy News. “IC employees… must obtain authorization for contacts with the media” on intelligence-related matters, and “must also report… unplanned or unintentional contact with the media on covered matters,” the Directive stated. Significantly, however, the new prohibition does not distinguish between classified and unclassified intelligence information.

China SSBN Fleet Getting Ready- But For What?: China’s emerging fleet of 3-4 new Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines is getting ready to deploy on deterrent patrols, “probably before the end of 2014,” according to U.S. Pacific Command. Apart from how many Jin SSBNs China will build, the big question is whether the Chinese government will choose to operate them the way Western nuclear-armed states have operated their SSBNs for decades, or continue their long-held policy of not deploying nuclear weapons outside Chinese territory but keeping them in central storage in case of crisis.

Iran-North Korea-Syria Cooperation and More from CRS: Secrecy News has obtained recently released CRS reports on topics such as NATO response to the crisis in Ukraine, the number of unclassified reports to Congress concerning proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and chemical facility security.

Short Course on CBRN Weapons, Science and Policy

FAS and George Mason University will host a short course from July 7-9, 2014 as part of GMU’s 2014 summer program in International Security. This three day, non-credit short course is designed to introduce participants to the science, security, and policy dimensions of the threats of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons as well as ballistic and cruise missile.

This course is aimed at professionals in energy policy, nuclear policy, nuclear industry, public health, life sciences, law enforcement, emergency management and national security who have responsibilities for preventing, preparing for, or responding to acts by states, criminals, or terrorists using chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons. Early bird registration is $1,300 until May 15 and 2.1 Continuing Ed Units will be awarded upon completion of course.

Click here for course information and registration. 

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