Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas was a scene of mayhem yesterday after several of the nuclear weapons stored there exploded during Exercise Red Flag.
The most likely candidate is a tactical micro-nuke called the B61-11, an earth-penetrating nuclear device known as the “bunker buster.” The B61-11 was designed to destroy underground military facilities such as command bunkers, ballistic missile silos and facilities for producing and storing weapons.
The design directs the force of the B61-11’s explosive energy downward, destroying everything buried beneath it to a depth of several hundred meters, according to a story in the March 2, 1997 issue of Defense News.
It was developed and deployed secretly, according to a story from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The U.S. military sneaked it past test and development treaties, as well as public and congressional debate, by defining the B61-11 as an adaptation of a pre-treaty technology rather than a new development.
Depending on the yield of the bomb, the B61-11 can produce explosions ranging from 300 tons of TNT to more than 300,000 tons. This is significantly less than the B53, but still far larger than even the greatest conventional non-nuclear device in U.S. stockpiles. And it is several times more powerful than the atomic weapons dropped on Japan in 1945.
Studies by the Natural Resource Defense Council estimate that more than 150 B61-11s are currently in the U.S. arsenals, scattered among NATO aircraft carriers and planes on bases in Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Turkey, Belgium, Netherlands and Greece.
Many B61-11s were withdrawn from Europe during the ’90s and are now stored at Kirtland and Nellis Air Force bases in the United States.
According to a desk release from the U.S. Air Force’s Public Affairs office, tests of the earth-penetrating capabilities of the B61-11 were completed on March 17, 1998, in frozen tundra at the Stuart Creek Impact Area, 35 miles southeast of Fairbanks, Alaska.
Two unarmed B61-11s were dropped to test their ground-penetration capability. The tests were designed to measure the nuclear bomb casing’s penetration into frozen soil and the survivability of the weapon’s internal components.
A team excavated the two unexploded dummy bombs and took careful measurements of their angles and depth of penetration into the soil, which were 6 and 10 feet, according to the Air Force. The shells were sent back to Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico for full analysis of how the simulated internal components fared in the impact.
The B6-11’s casing didn’t rupture in any of the tests, including drops through concrete from 40,000 feet. All bomb casings were recovered 100 percent intact, according to the release.
Any debate inside the corridors of power about using tactical nukes will be heightened by the intelligence buzz surrounding bin Laden’s possible ownership of Russian nuclear “suitcase” bombs purchased from Chechen mafia.
Those weapons are said to be hidden in deep caves and fortified tunnels in remote regions of Afghanistan.
Following the Sept. 11 attacks, the discussion of ways to eradicate this potential nuclear threat -– while simultaneously destroying bin Laden and his teams -— may have led to talk about tactical weapons that can destroy even heavily fortified underground shelters.
Privately, economy gurus are telling their friends that we’re headed for a deep and long recession. Publicly they’re gushing optimistically about how strong the economy is and how it’s headed for a quick recovery.
The music industry and its hired muscle, the Recording Industry Ass. of America, plans to step up its war against MP3 file sharing and CD ripping with campaigns targeting legal, technological and Internet access fronts, The Register has learned.
Last week, the RIAA hosted a secret meeting in Washington DC with the heads of major record labels and technology companies, plus leaders of other trade bodies and even members of the US senate.
Present, we are told by sources close to the RIAA, were Intel’s Andy Grove; IBM’s Lou Gerstner; Disney’s Michael Eisner; Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Ass. of America; International Federation of the Phonographic Industry chief Jay Berman; Vivendi Universal’s Edgar Bronfman; AOL Time-Warner’s Gerald Levin; EMI’s Ken Berry; Sony’s Steve Heckler; and from Bertelsmann, Strauss Zelnick.
Also present were the CEOs of Matsushita and Toshiba, and senators Fritz Hollings and Ted Stevens.
The meeting’s keynote was made by RIAA head Hillary Rosen. The drop in CD sales can be directly attributed to “the new generation of file sapping services”, she said, and promised that her organisation would pursue the companies behind them vigorously.
What does that entail? According to Rosen, there are a number of tactics the RIAA will employ. First, she says, “we are working with sound card manufacturers to implement technology that will block the recording of watermarked content in both digital and analogue form”. That will nobble attempts to rip and distribute encoded material, but what about existing files and CDs? Step forward PC manufacturers, whose help the RIAA hopes to recruit to “find ways to block the spread of legacy content”.
Register readers will recall the RIAA’s attempts to prevent content distribution directly at the hard drive level through its Copyright Protection for Removable Media (CPRM) initiative, brought to light by The Register late last year. Such was the level of (entirely justifiable) anger at the prospect of the music industry saying what users can and can’t store on their own hard drives, that the plan was dropped, seemingly for good.
But not so. “The failure of the CPRM specification to be applied to computer hard drives was a giant step back for the publishing, music and entertainment industry,” said Rosen, and promised to “develop a new specification that accomplishes what CPRM would have done.”
In the meantime, the RIAA will be lobbying “our friends in Washington” for tougher laws that target “the hackers and file-sharers themselves”, so clearly if you thought the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was harsh enough already, think again. Indeed, the RIAA wants legislators to block any loophole in that law which can allow file-sharers to continue to distribute copyright material.
Second wave of bombs hits troops, terror camps
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Canada is sending 2,000 members of the Armed Forces to join the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism in a deployment that will include six warships, six aircraft and the country’s special anti-terrorism force. †Full†Story