• Nuclear weaponsU.S. Nuclear Weapons at Incirlik Air Base, in effect, “Erdogan’s hostages”: U.S. Official

    Trump announced his hasty decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria in a series of Tweets on Sunday, following a phone call with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – despite months of warnings from the Pentagon, the NSC, the U.S. intelligence community, and the Department of State. As a result, no plans were made to deal with the fifty or so tactical nuclear weapons kept under U.S. control at the Incirlik Air Base in south-central Turkey, which the United States shares with Turkey. One official told the New York Times that the nuclear bombs at the base were now effectively Erdogan’s hostages.

  • PerspectiveTearing Down the Nuclear Firewall

    In the U.S. nuclear community, you’ll often hear a strangely contradictory statement about nuclear weapons. It goes something like this: “We have nuclear weapons so that nuclear weapons will never be used.” U.S. nuclear deterrence, however, hinges on the assumption that adversaries believe that the United States has a functioning stockpile of nuclear weapons that can and will be used. The national security enterprise and the general public thus need to understand the U.S. military’s concept of nuclear weapons use and its associated theory of victory.

  • Integrated circuitsNational Security Chip Plant Gets an Upgrade

    Sandia National Laboratories has completed phase one of an anticipated three-year upgrade at its plant responsible for making integrated circuits. The upgrade will align Sandia with industry, but the Lab notes that the decision to upgrade was driven by the Lab’s national security mission. Six years of planning ensured the conversion would not affect production of components needed for national defense. Chips produced at Sandia can be found in the nation’s nuclear stockpile.

  • PerspectiveThe Big and Urgent Task of Revitalizing Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications

    A few weeks ago, Adam Lowther co-authored an article proposing the use of artificial intelligence in nuclear weapons launch decisions. The article was met with pointed criticism. “Our sole concern is achieving the desired end-state — strategic stability and American supremacy, which are not mutually exclusive. We believe that trends in technological development will ensure artificial intelligence plays a central role, but the exact shape of the future is yet to be determined,” Lowther writes. “I would ask those who are serious about ensuring the survivability of the American nuclear deterrent to join us in thinking about new approaches to guaranteeing that its adversaries never, even for a moment, doubt that the United States can command and control its nuclear forces under any set of conditions. Whether it is through an artificial intelligence-based NC3 system or some other means will be decided over the coming decade — and only after several technologies reach maturation.”

  • Nuclear warIndia-Pakistan Nuclear War Could Kill Millions, Lead to Global Starvation

    A nuclear war between India and Pakistan could, over the span of less than a week, kill 50-125 million people—more than the death toll during all six years of World War II, according to new research. The researchers calculated that an India-Pakistan war could inject as much as 80 billion pounds of thick, black smoke into Earth’s atmosphere. That smoke would block sunlight from reaching the ground, driving temperatures around the world down by an average of between 3.5-9 degrees Fahrenheit for several years. Worldwide food shortages would likely come soon after. Today, India and Pakistan each have about 150 nuclear warheads at their disposal, and that number is expected to climb to more than 200 by 2025.

  • Nuclear securityNorth American Seismic Networks Can Contribute to Nuclear Security

    The International Monitoring System is the top global seismic network for monitoring nuclear weapon tests around the world. To expand the system’s detection capabilities, however, international monitors should seek out the data, methods and expertise of smaller regional seismic networks.

  • Nuclear weaponsHow to Dismantle a Nuclear Bomb: Team Successfully Tests New Method for Verification of Weapons Reduction

    By Peter Dizikes

    How do weapons inspectors verify that a nuclear bomb has been dismantled? An unsettling answer is: They don’t, for the most part. When countries sign arms reduction pacts, they do not typically grant inspectors complete access to their nuclear technologies, for fear of giving away military secrets. Now MIT researchers have successfully tested a new high-tech method that could help inspectors verify the destruction of nuclear weapons. The method uses neutron beams to establish certain facts about the warheads in question — and, crucially, uses an isotopic filter that physically encrypts the information in the measured data.

  • North KoreaNorth Korea Using Companies Registered in Britain to Bypass Nuclear Sanctions

    North Korean efforts to evade international sanctions have been aided by companies registered in Britain, according to an investigation by the London-based Royal United Services Institute. The report explains how Britain-registered companies are being used to operate cargo ships smuggling coal out of North Korea, which is the country’s biggest export. Income from the trade provides crucial funds for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile program, according to the United Nations Security Council.

  • Perspective: Iran’s nukesNew Estimates of Iran’s Breakout Capabilities at Declared Sites Using a New, Simple-to-Use Breakout Calculator

    A new report from the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) presents and applies a breakout calculator to several theoretical cases in which Iran increases its stocks of low enriched uranium (LEU) above the limits allowed in the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). “During the next many months, breakout times at Natanz and Fordow appear long enough to make an Iranian decision to break out risky,” and, therefore, unlikely, the Institute says. “However, even in the case in which Iran takes no action other than to increase its stocks of up to 3.67 and 4. 5 percent enriched uranium, breakout times could shrink precipitously during the next two years. The potential for relatively rapid decreases in breakout times argues for relatively quick action against Iran’s noncompliance with the JCPOA limits.”

  • Iran’s nukesIAEA: Iran Expands Enrichment in New Breach of Nuclear Deal

    Iran has started using advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium, the UN’s nuclear watchdog says, in a further breach of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Advanced centrifuges “were accumulating, or had been prepared to accumulate, enriched uranium,” the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in the report to member states cited by Western news agencies on September 26.

  • PerspectiveHow Artificial Intelligence Could Make Nuclear War More Likely

    If you are a millennial, computers have been trying to get you killed since the days you were born. On 26 September 1983, the satellites and computers of the Soviet Air Defense Forces, tasked with using data to determine if the United States was launching a nuclear attack, told the humans in charge exactly that was happening—five U.S. ballistic missiles were incoming and the time for the USSR to prepare to launch a retaliatory attack was now. The reason why you are alive today to read this item is that the human involved, then-Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, believed that the computer was wrong. Over the next year, the Pentagon will spend $1 billion to develop artificial intelligence (AI) technology that will “compete, deter and, if necessary, fight and win the wars of the future“—including, presumably, an apocalyptic scenario of the kind Petrov, a human, averted. Among the jobs that could be outsourced to decision-making computers are the jobs of modern-day Petrovs and other humans tasked with deciding if it’s time to end humanity with a nuclear strike.

  • Perspective: Nuclear testsBlast from the Past

    Shortly before sunrise on 22 September 1979, a U.S. surveillance satellite known as Vela 6911 recorded an unusual double flash as it orbited the earth above the South Atlantic. At Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, where it was still nighttime on 21 September, the staff in charge of monitoring the satellite’s transmissions saw the unmistakable pattern produced by a nuclear explosion—something U.S. satellites had detected on dozens of previous occasions in the wake of nuclear tests. The possibility that Israel or South Africa, which had deep clandestine defense ties at the time, had tested a nuclear weapon threatened to tarnish what President Jimmy Carter regarded as his administration foreign policy achievements ahead of the 1980 election. And the fact that South Africa’s own nuclear weapons program, which the Carter administration was seeking to stop, was not yet sufficiently advanced to test such a weapon left just one prime suspect: Israel. Leading figures within the administration were therefore keen to bury the story and put forward alternative explanations. On the 40th anniversary of the Vela event, Foreign Policy has assembled a team of experts to revisit the 22 September 1979 mysterious event.

  • PerspectiveWill Artificial Intelligence Imperil Nuclear Deterrence?

    Nuclear weapons and artificial intelligence are two technologies that have scared the living daylights out of people for a long time. These fears have been most vividly expressed through imaginative novels, films, and television shows. while strategists have generally offered more sober explorations of the future relationship between AI and nuclear weapons, some of the most widely received musings on the issue, including a recent call for an AI-enabled “dead hand” to update America’s aging nuclear command, control, and communications infrastructure, tend to obscure more than they illuminate due to an insufficient understanding of the technologies involved.

  • Perspective: ApocalypseA Terrifying New Animation Shows How 1 “Tactical” Nuclear Weapon Could Trigger a U.S.-Russia War that Kills 34 Million People in 5 Hours

    More than 91 million people in Russia, the U.S., and NATO-allied countries might be killed or injured within three hours following a single “nuclear warning shot,” according to a terrifying new simulation developed by Princeton University researchers. The initial tactical phase of the simulation shows about 2.6 million casualties over three hours. The simulation shows that the exchanges in the tactical phase would soon escalate to the strategic level, in which both Russia and NATO would launch warheads toward each other’s 30 most populous cities in the final stage of the scenario, using five to 10 warheads for each city depending on its size. This phase would cause 85.3 million casualties — both deaths and injuries. But the total casualty count from the entire battle (of less than 5 hours) would be 34.1 million deaths and 57.4 million injuries, or a combined 91.3 million casualties overall.

  • Perspective: Nuclear weaponsTweet May Have Inadvertently Revealed India’s Next-Gen Nuclear Weapons Platform with Global Reach

    Politicians’ tweets can sometimes reveal new intelligence about their own country’s military capabilities and programs. On August 28 the official Twitter account of the Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, tweeted photos of his visit to the country’s Naval Science & Technological Laboratory. Among the missiles and unmanned vehicles is a sub-scale model of a submarine. And it appears to be not just any submarine – the model may offer the first visual clues to India’s next-generation ballistic missile submarine, the S-5 Class.