The U.S. has been quietly amassing firepower in the Pacific during a lull in tensions with North Korea, but recent developments on an under-the-radar nuclear weapon suggest preparation for a potential tactical nuclear strike.
While the B-2 and B-52 are known as the air leg of the U.S.’s nuclear triad, as they carry nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missiles, a smaller nuclear weapon that has undergone some upgrades may lend itself to a strike on North Korea.
Not only will the B-61’s new modification make it ideal for destroying dug-in bunkers, the kind in which North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might hide during a conflict, but it has an adjustable nuclear yield that could limit harmful radioactive fallout after a nuclear attack.
Though the U.S. has plenty of nuclear weapons that can easily hit North Korea from land, air, or sea, they’re predominantly large ones meant to deter countries like Russia or China.
A 2017 paper in MIT’s International Security journal suggested that recent advances in guidance systems and nuclear weapons could allow the U.S. to destroy all of North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure while causing 100 or so deaths, versus 2 million to 3 million deaths on both sides of the 38th parallel without them.
But Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, suggested the paper was flawed.
Hanham told Business Insider that the paper’s supposition that only five sites would constitute the bulk or entirety of North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure stood without merit.
North Korea has gone to great lengths to deter nuclear or conventional strikes by spreading its nuclear infrastructure across the country. The sites are shrouded in secrecy, and the U.S. intelligence community, despite its best, concerted efforts, has been wrong about their locations before, a former State Department official told Business Insider.
Trump seems to like the idea of tactical nuke strikes and striking North Korea
Despite evidence that tactical nuclear weapons won’t solve the North Korean military quagmire, President Donald Trump’s administration has looked favorably on smaller nuclear weapons.
The B-61 bombs live in military bases spread across Europe and are much less visible than big bombers, whose movements are often publicized. For example, The Aviationist reported in October that a civilian with a handheld radio scanner intercepted B-2 and B-52 pilots over Kansas training to pull off a strike on North Korean VIP targets.
But experts and politicians have characterized the idea of a nuclear strike as destabilizing and frankly crazy. Rep. John Garamendi, a California Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, questioned the wisdom of it in an interview with Business Insider.
“Certainly, North Korea understands that the U.S. is pretty tough,” Garamendi said. “The U.S. is prepared and willing to respond to aggression by North Korea.”
He added: “But we must assume that if we were to do a bloody-nose attack, that North Korea would respond in some way. Then what?”
So many North Koreans have disappeared from fishing villages along the Hermit Kingdom’s east coast that the villages dotting the coastline are becoming known as “widow’s villages.”
Where do their husbands go?
They end up dead on boats adrift in the Sea of Japan. Their ships and bodies wash ashore on Japan or are picked up by the Japanese Coast Guard. Last year alone, 50 or more North Koreans were found on Japanese beaches.
For years, the phenomenon of these fishing boats full of dead men was a mystery. But now a few anonymous complaints to the United Nations may explain the “Ghost Boats” phenomenon. China has been poaching fish in North Korean waters, according to an investigation by the Irish Times.
In March 2020, two countries reported that 800 Chinese fishing vessels violated the sanctions placed on North Korean fishing waters. The sanctions were intended to prevent the North from selling the rights to fish in those waters. The area is a heavily-contested and poorly watched region of the ocean as it is but Chinese fleets compound the issue by switching off their location transponders.
Two countries provided the UN with satellite imagery that prove China is operating fishing fleets in the areas. External watchdogs estimate the Chinese have depleted the waters of stocks by up to 70 percent for some species.
The flotilla of Chinese fishing boats has also allegedly forced smaller, less well-equipped North Korean fishermen to pursue waters further from their villages, further from shore and further than their victualing can reasonably accommodate the crews of those ships. Once too far from shore, the North Korean peasants’ boats are susceptible to engine failures and storms – but don’t have the supplies to survive being adrift for very long periods.
Once the engines fail, the boats are likely caught up in the Tsushima current that runs up the west coast of the Japanese home islands. These flat-bottomed boats, filled only with fishing supplies and a few jugs of water, are usually found with tattered North Korean flags, and heavily decomposed bodies, if any remains are found at all.
The fishermen chase squid populations and end up with dead engines in the middle of the ocean, where they will probably spend the rest of their days, dying of thirst or exposure.
He wanted to sit in the cockpit as a pilot, but a failed depth perception test found him sitting underneath the plane as a ball turret gunner on the B-17 Flying Fortress.
But while his view of the ground may have changed, his view of the bomber never waivered.
“The B-17 was the best airplane ever built, ’cause it brought you home,'” he said. “We’ve come home on a wing and a prayer, sometimes you come in on two engines, sometimes two engines and a half of a wing, but you got home.”
Many never did, however, as between 1942 and 1945 flying bombing missions for the “Mighty 8th” proved to be the most dangerous occupation in the U.S. Army Air Forces. Airmen were asked to complete a 25-mission quota at a time when the life expectancy of a crew didn’t surpass six missions. Casualty rates for heavy bomber crews also reached as high as 89 percent.
During his time at RAF Ridgewell, England from 1943 – 1945 Perrone flew 32 missions with the 533rd Bomb Squadron at the height of the aerial campaigns against the Third Reich. He is credited with 3.5 kills from the ball turret.
“You’re by yourself and it’s an odd feeling (shooting someone down). It’s been so long ago, I can’t think of all the ins and outs. I prayed a lot, I can tell you that,” said Perrone. “War, it’s a young man’s game.”
“War, it’s a young man’s game.”
According to Perrone, the amount of bombers in the air during missions was mind-boggling. Most missions involved hundreds of B-17 and B-24 Liberator bombers targeting ball-bearing plants, rail yards, oil production facilities and aircraft manufacturing factories.
Nighttime area bombing attacks by the RAF complimented the daytime precision bombing raids by the U.S. Army Air Force. The bombers wreaked havoc on the German war machine, but allied casualties began to mount due to German 88mm anti-aircraft gun shells, commonly described as “flak,” and the vulnerability of the bombers to be attacked head-on by the Luftwaffe or German air force.
Bomber losses rapidly increased to a rate the Eighth could not withstand.
On Sept. 6, 1943, Perrone’s crew joined a raid on a German ball bearing production plant. Of the 400 Flying Fortresses launched for the mission, 60 were shot down and 600 Airmen were lost.
“The flak was so thick you could walk on it,” said Perrone. “During the ins and outs of the cities, through flak, was the only time I was scared. I always wanted to see those puffs of flak clouds below me, way below me.”
“When the Germans look up to see all our bombers, better them than us, believe me when I tell you, it had to be tough on them, and as the war went along, we became stronger and stronger and stronger,” said Perrone. “There were some towns and cities in Germany we leveled. We broke the Germans’ backs. The British softened them and then we really gave it to them.”
The strength was provided by the long-range escort of P-38 Lightning and P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft outfitted with extra fuel drop tanks. Eventually, the employment of the P-51 Mustang allowed fighter escorts to reach Berlin.
The bombers and fighters together destroyed the Luftwaffe and air supremacy was gained over western Germany.
“My favorite memory; my last mission. I knew I was done and everything was okay,” said Perrone. “I was more scared on my last mission than my first.”
Perrone considers himself lucky, only one in five aircrew members of the 8th AF made the quota to end their tour of duty.
At the end of the war in Europe USAAF shifted focus to Japan with the deployment of the most technologically advanced aircraft, and the last bomber of World War II, the B-29 Superfortress.
The B-29 was designed as a high-altitude strategic bomber, but it was primarily used as a low-altitude night bomber in the Pacific theater. It was equipped with a pressurized cabin and had a central fire system of remotely controlled gun turrets each armed with .50 caliber machine guns.
The Superfortress also became the first nuclear capable aircraft.
On Aug. 6, 1945, a B-29 named the “Enola Gay” deployed the world’s first atomic weapon on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later a second B-29, “Bockscar,” dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
Six days later Japan surrendered, the war was over and the era of nuclear deterrence began.
With the advent of the nuclear weapon, bombers became the first vehicle to deliver apocalyptic devastation. Today’s strategic bombers provide one of the three delivery components of the nuclear triad along with land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which make up our nation’s nuclear deterrence strategy.
“The capabilities of our nuclear deterrence are the bedrock of everything we do as a military,” said Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. “It’s the thing that keeps our adversaries from taking a step too far. Nuclear deterrence keeps the great power conflicts down and the horrible death and destruction, like what was seen during World War II, away from the world.”
In its infancy, the Air Force, then dubbed the Army Air Corps, lacked strategic bombing support while under Army control. The Army wasn’t convinced airplanes should be used for strategic bombing, but advocates like Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell argued bombers could replace traditional land and naval tactics as a dominant form by striking an enemy nation’s industrial complex and crippling its economic ability to fight. The Army’s prevailing view of the airplane, however, was as a reconnaissance and tactical bombing vehicle supporting ground troops on the front lines.
Despite the debate, the American bomber was born in 1934 and shepherded in a new era of aerial combat.
Alexander is a second-generation “bomber crew dog” of the Eighth Air Force. His grandfather, Bill Alexander was a co-pilot on a B-24 for the 489th Bombardment Group out of RAF Halesworth, England.
“I can’t imagine what he and his crew went through,” said Alexander of his grandfather. “You are basically in a flying unpressurized beer can with a couple engines strapped onto it, a few guns and about 8,000 pounds of bombs. There’s no GPS, no inertial navigation system, it’s charts and a protractor getting you across the English Channel through clouds of German flak. It’s noisy and freezing 20 degrees below zero. Oh, and there’s like a 0.06 percent chance of survival over the course of 25 missions.”
“They were truly our greatest generation”
Alexander said the basics of bombing doctrine were established in World War II, but with a myriad of sensors helping deploy munitions with absolute precision, landing within inches from the target, the B-52, B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit have certainly come a long way.
Alexander explained what happened in the skies of Europe was absolutely instrumental. The losses were catastrophic, but at the time the USAAF had to launch 70 aircraft to take out a facility in the hopes one got lucky to peer through the clouds and strike a target. Nowadays one B-52 can take out that same facility, but from 1,000 miles away.
“They laid down the absolute fundamentals of what air power brings to the picture in terms of complete destruction of enemy objectives,” said Alexander. “We provide the same thing today in a much more non-contested environment.”
Alexander said the 8th AF is in demand by combatant commanders around the world. The strategic importance of bombers is even more important today than ever in terms of our posturing, projecting power, nuclear deterrence and assuring our allies.
GRAPHIC BY CHRIS DESROCHER // ANIMATION BY MAUREEN STEWART
“Strategic bombers are also incredibly important to the nuclear triad. You have your intercontinental ballistic missiles and they stay in the ground all day. You have submarines, but it’s their job for you to not see them. The difference with the nuclear bomber is the visibility,” said Alexander. “If there’s a nuclear bomber in your yard, you know it’s there. It’s the most visible part of the triad.”
Alexander stated another importance of the bombers is their recall ability. The president has the ability to recall the aircraft before weapons are launched. It’s the flexibility the bomber brings to the triad.
“Strategic posturing sometimes is a greater deterrence,” said Alexander of what the nuclear bombers bring to the fight. “You can have the B-1s in Guam, but when the B-52 shows up it’s a different message … it’s the big stick. When that happens the tone does change. No one wants to go to war. Deterrence, that’s what we will be focusing on.”
Alexander said when he walks the halls of the Mighty 8th AF and sees the black and white photos of the bomber crews of World War II, he sees the pride and spirit of our crews today, a bond and dependence of each other knowing the guy or gal on the left or right of you would die for you to protect our freedoms.
“There is a great sense of camaraderie with bomber crews, because we have to work more as a team,” said Alexander. “Thanks to the Army Air Corps we have the most powerful and devastating Air Force the world has ever seen.”
Perrone isn’t too sure about all that. All he does know is he made his mission quota and did what he was asked to do.
Now he meets every Wednesday for lunch with a fellow World War II and Mighty 8th veteran Jack Goldstein. The two were stationed on the same base in England, but never met.
“I was only there for the last six months of the war, but I completed my missions and we all went home together in 1945,” said Goldstein.
It took 40 years for Goldstein to open up and talk about the war. He now shares these stories with fellow veterans, but his family is unaware.
The pictures and documents stuffed away for decades in the back of his closet are now proudly displayed in his home.
“I now feel proud now when people come and thank us for our service,” said Goldstein. “There’s not too many of us kids left.”
Each of them outlived their crews, and most World War II veterans are the last remaining of a dying breed … a breed that helped shape the importance of aerial warfare and set the stage for the bomber crews of today.
A healthy and strong military marriage is at the top of many people’s priority list, but accomplishing this takes effort.
Typically, tasks that aide this goal are not included on our to-do list. We do not think we need to add, “Daily say I love you”, but maybe we should. Reaching big goals, such as a successful relationship, is about taking little steps to get there. So, along with your task of weight-lifting Wednesdays for your hot bod, consider adding the following to-dos for your relationship.
1. Go for a walk.
There are numerous benefits to walking, but the point here is spending intentional time together away from the distractions of home. Walking is an extremely easy and effective way to get out of a communication rut. Change the scenery and see how the extra oxygen to your brain fuels creative conversations.
This is not another list of tasks, but a fun way to dream together. Think big and dream crazy dreams. Have fun imagining what you can accomplish/see/experience together. (Just keep your dates flexible!!)
3. Arm wrestle.
This was my husband’s response to things we could do to strengthen our relationship. Anyone who compared our size would know how ridiculous this is, but I’ve added it to my list. I’m not saying determining who has the most arm strength will improve your relationship, but adding something your significant other is interested in (or something just plain funny) is a good start! Find your version of arm wrestling!
There is a common misconception that going to marriage counseling is only for those in trouble. It is not. If you owned a business, you would evaluate its performance; if you want to stay healthy you do a yearly physical; if you want your car to run well, you have a maintenance check. Marriage is no different. Taking time to talk with a counselor, a mentor couple, or a real friend who will encourage and help you to grow together is an important part of keeping your relationship strong.
5. Build your calendar together.
It is extremely easy to get into a habit of living two completely separate lives. Even if you digitally share your calendar, take at least 15 minutes each week to do a rundown of what is happening each day. Verbally reviewing each other’s calendar allows you to be connected with each other’s events even when you are apart. It also provides background knowledge to ask questions more specific than, “How was your day?”
Words matter, and at some point in our military marriages, they are all we have to stay connected.Find ways to talk highly about your significant other when he/she is not around. Make a specific reminder to write encouraging notes, send messages listing their strengths or rent a billboard to highlight their accomplishments (to include choosing you). Your words count for something, make them count for your relationship’s good.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
William “Bill” Watts, Sr., earned numerous awards during his service, which included tours in Egypt and Korea and service as a Gulf War combat Veteran. But the reward he values most today is the one he receives as an advocate helping his fellow Gulf War Veterans with their individual challenges.
“I am in favor of Veterans helping Veterans. Quality of life begins with quality of health care,” said Watts. Watts’ work with Veterans has earned him the Congressional Veterans Commendation Award. His work includes volunteering with Veterans in his community and meeting with researchers and health professionals to make sure that the health concerns of Gulf War Veterans are recognized and addressed.
Watts (photo above) and others are now marking the 30th anniversary of their Gulf War service. Watts served in the U.S. Army from 1989 to 1996. He was in the 4/5 ADA 1st Cavalry Division, 2nd Infantry Division, 24th Infantry Division and 3rd Infantry Division.
Fishing the Everglades to reduce stress
One of Watts’ passions is helping Veterans manage their health problems by finding non-drug alternatives. As a resident of the South Florida city of Doral, he volunteers with the non-profit Fishing with America’s Finest and also serves as the group’s director of operations. Fishing with America’s Finest takes combat Veterans bass fishing in the Florida Everglades to help reduce the stress and anxiety from PTSD.
“We try to teach them to the point that they can go on fishing tournaments if they want to.” He is also a team member of Dive4Vets, a group that takes Veterans who suffer from physical and mental health issues scuba diving to help to heal. Watts is eligible for the Gulf War Registry and Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pits Registry and enrolled many years ago.
Researching the health of Gulf War Veterans
Watts understands that some Gulf War Veterans are older. They may not be comfortable with completing an online-only registry like the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. A local Environmental Health Coordinator can help with this process.
The Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald is traveling to Los Angeles to sign the draft master plan for the West LA VA campus on January 28 after months of advocacy by local veteran leaders to get their peers’ voices heard against a backdrop of wrangling between the city’s power brokers and politicians. The action comes nearly a year after the VA won a ruling to reassume control of the sprawling campus near Santa Monica that has suffered several decades worth of encroachment by non-VA organizations and inattention by the VA itself.
In 1888 John P. Jones and Arcadia B. de Baker signed a deed donating 300 Acres of West Los Angeles land to be used by the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (the precursor to the Department of Veterans Affairs) as their Pacific branch home. Over the next 127 years, the property lost it’s original focus and suffered at the hands of ineffectual government authorities who let the facility fall into disrepair and conniving interlopers from a host of organizations including a major university, an elite parochial school, and even other government agencies who wrangled large parcels for their own use (and nothing to do with veterans healthcare or well-being).
But in January 2015, VA Secretary Bob McDonald signed a settlement agreement in a class action lawsuit (Valentini v Shinseki) regarding encroachment on the campus of the facility. The agreement established a nonprofit, Vets Advocacy, to serve as a partner in the West LA VA master planning process. As the first step of that process, Vets Advocacy petitioned the veteran community for inputs on how they’d like to see VA services provided.
Vets Advocacy created a website, www.vatherightway.org, as the primary tool behind their mission. The site allows veterans to find out about the history of the West LA VA campus, see the schedule of local town hall events, watch video testimonials of other vets, and — most importantly — take the survey regarding how the campus should be modified to better serve patients and the veteran community at large. In the period leading up to the creation of the draft master plan, more than 1,300 surveys were completed.
“The vets stepped up to the plate,” said Mike Dowling, We Are The Mighty’s director of outreach and a major force behind organizing veteran inputs on the master plan.
“The master plan is wholly informed by vet input,” said Vets Advocacy’s Dr. Jon Sherin, who ran mental health services for the West Los Angeles VA hospital. “Now Secretary McDonald is signing into law the guideposts by which all decisions regarding that land will be made.”
“The plan is not just historic for the amount of comments, but for what this represents,” Army vet Michael Cummings writes on his blog. “This plan represents the possibility to change the VA from being a hospital or housing shelter into a community that brings veterans together. The veteran leaders I’m working with don’t just want to make the VA function better, we want to build a community of veterans and work with the VA to improve the lives of the people who fought and sacrificed for our country.
“Even better, we know that we are creating a model for the whole country. Our efforts in Los Angeles are providing a blueprint for other VA campuses around the country for how to to turn from being simply a hospital into a community.”
Although getting Secretary McDonald’s signature on the draft master plan is an important milestone, the work towards realizing the promise of the document is far from over, and veteran input remains fundamental to the effort.
“The core theme among vets taking the survey was the need for a vet-driven governance structure for the community being developed on that land,” Dr. Sherin said. “We have to keep the vets’ voices alive and clear.”
A notebook written in English that may have belonged to an ISIS fighter was reportedly found in a jail in Raqqa, according to the National, which exclusively obtained the notebook from an unnamed source.
The notebook reportedly details the inner workings of the militant group, including their future plans, military shortcomings, and issues foreign fighters faced within the group.
According to pictures of the purported notebook provided by the National, the pages appear to be written in English by one author who used American spelling of words and numbers. A second author wrote in French, and Arabic was used in some of the text as well.
The author details ISIS’s core strategies for maintaining control in the region.
On one page, the author describes how to prevent defectors from leaving ISIS territory: “We should push civilians who want to flee to our centers of gravity in Mosul and Raqqa.” The author added: “The enemy might try to break our control over an area and allow civilians to escape.”
The notebook describes a solution, written in large letters “THE BIG SOLUTION” which explains that ISIS should not use “conventional military power against a much stronger foe,” and suggests the group focus on “insurgency” until their “political situation allows for a more conventional approach.”
Another page compares several types of guns and their cost in dollars using hand drawn pictures.
The author also discusses expanding efforts to other countries, including Saudi Arabia. A page reportedly questions: “How to make Saudi like Syria? Can we get people to hate Their [sic] rulers?”
The author continues: “Mecca and Medina are a priority for the [caliphate] to actually influence world Muslims. But to get there we need to destabilize Al-Saud. Direct action against Al-Saud from Iraq will likely fail militarily and attract US ground troops so the best way to do this is internally, with the support for Yemen and Iraq.”
The writings also appear to show that ISIS fighters kept up with international news, and often monitored global political cycles.
The author offers suggestions on how to pull “the USA to another major war to exhaust its economy.” The writer also extensively followed the US presidential elections, and said key decisions would depend on US political action.
“The US decisions are very important, and they depend on the Presidential elections.”
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
“However, if democrats lose, a Republican administration would be more likely to bring US boots on the ground, and cooperation with Iran will likely stop,” the author reportedly wrote.
The journal also reportedly layed out a strategy for confronting the US on the battlefield: “Fighting the USA might be more dangerous militarily, but it will grant IS respect in muslim [sic] eyes.”
The notebook also reveals the innermost thoughts of what appears to have been a foreign ISIS fighter. At the bottom of a page detailing “important” military issues “to study,” the author asks himself: “Who am I? What should I do? Why am I here? How did I reach this place?”
According to the report, the author bemoans several limitations within the group, including lack of training time to militant fighters and notes there were “problems created by different languages.”
Associate Professor at the Naval War College Monterey, Dr. Craig Whiteside, told the National that there were notable similarities between the strategies laid out in the book and the strategies taught in western military training.
“The author has studied topics we study in a war college, such as the differences between policy and strategy.”
“If this is a foreign fighter, not studying their own country for military facilities but instead learning about Iraq and Syria, the goal is to encourage them to stay,” he added.
Figures from October 2017 show more than 40,000 fighters from more than 110 countries flocked to Syria and Iraq after its establishment in 2014. Reports indicate that roughly 129 US nationals joined the caliphate. Of those foreign fighters, at least 5,600 citizens or residents from 33 countries who have returned home.
The alert sowed confusion, fear, and, pandemonium — especially among tourists — in the 38 minutes before it was officially declared a false alarm. Some hotel guests peered through windows and doors to catch a glimpse of the incoming threat. Others scrambled to their rooms to stuff a bag and dash for the car (which you should never do in a nuclear attack).
One married couple in town from St. Louis rebuffed their hotel’s instructions to stay inside and instead stepped out onto nearby Waikiki Beach.
“We were afraid of being inside a building and getting crushed, like in 9/11,” the couple told Business Insider in an email. “We were afraid to follow all of the hotel employees calmly telling us to go into a ballroom.”
That is, until one of them googled “safety nuclear bomb how shelter” from the beach — and found a Business Insider article titled “If a nuclear bomb goes off, this is the most important thing you can do to survive.”
Our story advises going inside if there’s a nuclear explosion, which the couple said they then did.
It does not address how to act if there’s an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile launched by a nation like North Korea. As Hawaii’s false alarm suggests, the latter may come with a few minutes to a half-hour of warning.
“The good news is the ‘get inside, stay inside, stay tuned’ phrase works for both for the threat of a potential nuclear detonation as well as a nuclear detonation that has occurred,” Brooke Buddemeier, a health physicist and expert on radiation and emergency preparedness at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, told Business Insider.
But Buddemeier, who has worked for more than 15 years with federal, state, and local stakeholders on response plans to nuclear-disaster scenarios, says there are some important differences that can improve your chances of survival.
“Having a plan and knowing what to do can really help alleviate a lot of anxiety,” he said.
Here’s how to act and where to take shelter if you get an alert about an ICBM or other nuclear threat.
A flash, a burst, and a blast
Knowing what you’re trying to avoid can help keep you safe. All nuclear blasts are marked by a handful of important effects:
1. A flash of light.
2. A pulse of thermal (i.e., heat) energy.
3. A pulse of nuclear radiation.
4. A fireball.
5. An air blast.
6. Radioactive fallout.
The first three arrive almost instantaneously, as they travel at light-speed — though thermal radiation can last several seconds and inflict severe burns miles from a blast site.
The final two effects travel close together, but the air blast goes much farther. It causes the most damage in a nuclear explosion by tumbling vehicles, toppling weak buildings, and throwing debris. The majority of fallout arrives last, as it’s lofted high into the sky and sprinkles down.
There are two upshots: Going inside can greatly limit or even block these devastating effects, and a nuclear weapon’s power is not infinite but limited to the device’s explosive yield. That makes a single blast or even a limited nuclear exchange survivable for most people.
Arms-control experts suspect a nation like North Korea may have missile-ready warheads that would explode with 10 to 30 kilotons’ worth of TNT. That ranges from less than to roughly twice the yield of either nuclear bomb the US dropped on Japan in 1945.
The worst destruction, where the chances of survival are least likely, is confined to a “severe damage zone.” For a 10-kiloton blast — equivalent to two-thirds of the Hiroshima bomb blast, or 5,000 Oklahoma City truck bombings — that’s about a half-mile radius.
Vehicles offer almost no protection from radiation, including fallout, and a driver can experience dazzle — or flash blindness — for 15 seconds to a minute.
“The rods and cones of your eyes get overloaded and kind of have to reboot,” Buddemeier. “It’s just long enough to lose control of your car. If you happen to be driving at speed on the roadways, and you and all the other drivers around you are suddenly blind, I think that would probably result in crashes and injuries and road blockages.”
If there’s a missile alert, the best move is to get to the closest place where you can safely pull over, get out, and make your way into a building.
“When you go inside, go into the interior middle of the building, or a basement,” he said. “This would prevent injuries from flying glass from the blast, it would prevent dazzle from the blast, and it would prevent thermal burns.”
The deeper and lower in the building you can get, and the farther from windows (which can shatter), doors (which can fly open), and exterior walls (which can cave in), the better your odds.
“When I think of where I would go for protection from prompt effects, and from the blast wave in particular, I think of the same kinds of things that we do for tornadoes,” Buddemeier said. “If your house is going to be struck by a wall of air or a tornado or a hurricane, you want to be in a place that is structurally sound.”
Another tip: Steer clear of rooms with a lot of ceiling tiles, fixtures, or moveable objects.
“Be in an area where if there’s a dramatic jolt, things aren’t going to fall on you,” he said.
Buddemeier said that at his office building, he’d go to the stairwell.
“It’s actually in the core of the building, so it has concrete walls, and it doesn’t have a lot of junk in it,” he said. “So that would be an ideal place to go.”
At home, a three-story condo building, he’d head toward the first floor and move as much toward its center as possible.
“I do not have a basement, but if I did, that’s where I’d go,” Buddemeier said. “The storm cellar Auntie Em has in Kansas is great too.”
Staying inside can also limit how much invisible nuclear radiation produced by a blast will reach your body.
Too much exposure over a short time can damage the body enough to limit its ability to fix itself, fight infection, and perform other functions, leading to a dangerous condition called acute radiation sickness or syndrome.
Typically, about 750 millisieverts of exposure over several hours or less can make a person sick. This is roughly 100 times the amount of natural and medical radiation that an average American receives each year. A 10-kiloton blast can deliver this much exposure within a radius of about a mile, inside the “moderate damage zone.” (Several miles away, radiation dosage drops to tens of millisieverts or less.)
But Buddemeier says most exposure assumptions are based on test blasts in the desert.
“There’s no assumption that there’s some kind of blocking going on,” he said, which is all the more reason to put as much concrete, steel, and other radiation-absorbing building materials between you and a blast.
Buddemeier said a decent shelter could reduce your exposure by tenfold or more.
The shelter you find before a blast, however, may not be the best place to stay afterward.
How to avoid radioactive fallout after an explosion
The next danger to avoid is radioactive fallout, a mixture of fission products (or radioisotopes) that a nuclear explosion creates by splitting atoms.
Nuclear explosions loft this material high into the atmosphere as dust-, salt-, and sand-size particles, and it can take up to 15 minutes to fall to the ground. High-altitude winds can make it sprinkle over hundreds of square miles, though it’s most intense near the blast site.
The danger is from fission products that further split up or decay. During this process, many shoot gamma rays, an invisible yet highly energetic form of light that can deeply penetrate the body and inflict significant radiation damage.
But a nuclear attack would probably create more radioactive fallout than a missile-launched warhead. That’s because warheads are often designed to explode high above a target — not close to the ground, where their fireballs can suck up and irradiate thousands of tons of dirt and debris.
Regardless, Buddemeier says sheltering in place for at least 12 to 24 hours — about how long the worst of this radiation lasts — can help you survive the threat of fallout.
“If your ad hoc blast-protection shelter is not that robust and there’s a bigger robust building nearby or a building that has a basement, you may have time to move to that building for your fallout protection after the detonation has occurred,” Buddemeier said.
He added that, depending on your distance from the blast, you might get 10 to 15 minutes to move to a better shelter — ideally, a windowless basement, where soil and concrete can help block a lot of radiation.
Buddemeier said that at his basement-less condo, he’d move to the center of the middle floor after a blast “because the fallout is going to land on the ground around my house, and that first floor would have slightly higher exposure than the second floor.”
But it’s best to hunker down in your blast shelter if you’re unsure whether it’s safe to move, he said. Fires and obstructive debris, for example, are likely to be widespread.
“The most important thing in both cases is to be inside when the event occurs, either when the detonation occurs or when the fallout arrives,” Buddemeier said.
A 2014 study suggests that waiting an hour after fallout arrives to move to a better location that’s within 15 minutes can be a smart idea in limited situations.
Buddemeier is a fan of the phrase “go in, stay in, tune in”: Get to your fallout shelter, stay in for 12 to 24 hours, and tune in with a radio, phone, or other device for official instructions on when to evacuate and what route to take to avoid fallout.
“Fallout casualties are entirely preventable,” he previously told Business Insider. “In a large city … knowing what to do after an event like this can literally save hundreds of thousands of people from radiation illness or fatalities.”
Other tips for making it out of a nuclear disaster alive
There are many more strategies to increase your chances of survival.
Having basic emergency supplies in kits at home, at work, and in your car will help you prepare for and respond to any disaster, let alone a radiological one.
For preventing exposure to fallout after a blast, tape plastic over entryways or broken windows at your shelter and turn off any cooling or heating systems that draw in outside air. Drinking bottled water and prepackaged food is also a good idea.
And if you’ve been exposed to fallout, there’s a process to remove that radioactive contamination:
–Take off your outer layer of clothes, put them into a plastic bag, and remove the bag from your shelter.
–Shower if you can, thoroughly washing your hair and skin with soap or shampoo (no conditioner), or use a wet cloth.
–Blow your nose to remove any inhaled fallout.
–Flush your eyes, nose, and facial hair (including eyebrows and eyelashes) with water, or wipe them with a wet cloth.
–Put on uncontaminated clothes (for example, from a drawer or plastic bag).
Potassium iodide pills, while often billed as anti-radiation drugs, are anything but fallout cure-alls. Buddemeier estimates that radioiodine is just 0.2% of the overall exposure you may face outdoors and says the pills are more helpful for addressing longer-term concerns about food-supply contamination. (The government will provide them for free if they’re needed, according to the Food and Drug Administration.)
The single most important thing to remember if a nuclear bomb is supposed to explode, he says, is to shelter in place.
“There were survivors in Hiroshima within 300 meters of the epicenter,” Buddemeier said. “They weren’t in [buildings] to be protected. They just happened to be in there. And what major injuries they received were from flying glass.”
The National Football League rejected an advertisement for its official Super Bowl LII programs that urged players and people who attend the game to stand during the National Anthem, according to American Veterans, the organization that submitted the ad.
Omitted from the programs was a full-page ad picturing the American flag, saluting soldiers and the words “Please Stand,” referring to the movement of NFL players protesting racial inequality and injustice by kneeling during the performance of the National Anthem before the start of games.
Outcry over the protests surged last fall when President Donald Trump criticized the NFL for allowing it to continue. In October, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL owners decided the league wouldn’t penalize players for kneeling.
Joe Chenelly, the national director of American Veterans, known as AMVETS, said Monday that the group was “surprised and disappointed” when the NFL told him Friday the league had rejected the ad.
“The NFL said it does not want to take a position on that,” Chenelly said. “Really, by not letting us run an ad, we think they are taking a position.”
Super Bowl LII programs began printing Monday, following the NFC and AFC championship games Sunday night. The New England Patriots will compete against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl on Feb. 4.
NFL Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy said in a statement that official Super Bowl programs aren’t a place for political messaging.
“The Super Bowl game program is designed for fans to commemorate and celebrate the game, players, teams and the Super Bowl. It’s never been a place for advertising that could be considered by some as a political statement,” McCarthy said. “The NFL has long supported the military and veterans and will again salute our service members in the Super Bowl with memorable on-field moments that will be televised as part of the game.”
McCarthy said AMVETS was given a chance to amend their ad from “Please Stand” to other options, such as “Please Honor Our Veterans” or “Please Stand for Our Veterans.”
He noted an ad from Veterans of Foreign Wars was approved for the program. It reads, “We Stand For Veterans.”
Production on the programs was delayed while they awaited an answer from AMVETS, McCarthy said, and the NFL ultimately printed the programs without the ad in order to meet deadlines.
Chenelly disputes the NFL didn’t hear back from AMVETS in time for printing. He said the group responded to the league that changing the words on their ad would mean abandoning their message.
AMVETS, an organization comprising approximately 250,000 veterans and 1,400 posts nationwide, sent a letter to Goodell on Monday calling the decision to exclude their ad an affront to free speech.
“Freedom of speech works both ways. We respect the rights of those who choose to protest, as these rights are precisely what our members have fought — and in many cases died — for,” wrote National Commander Marion Polk. “But imposing corporate censorship to deny that same right to those veterans who have secured it for us all is reprehensible.”
AMVETS was prepared to pay $30,000 to a third-party publisher for the full-page ad, the price available to nonprofits. The group had hoped to use the advertisement as a fundraiser for its “Americanism” initiative, in which its members travel to schools nationwide to teach flag etiquette. The program also involves a poster and essay contest for K-12 students.
Chenelly said it wasn’t the group’s intention to criticize the NFL, though the group did write a letter to the NFL last year in opposition to players kneeling during the anthem.
“We never meant to be disrespectful,” he said.
The same advertisement was accepted by the National Hockey League and National Basketball Association for programs for their upcoming all-star games, Chenelly said.
Veterans, like other Americans, are divided on the issue of the NFL protests. In some cases, veterans and servicemembers have been used politically as a reason NFL players should stand during the anthem.
In September, the national commander of the American Legion issued a statement urging people to respect the National Anthem. As an organization, AMVETS never called for a boycott of the NFL, but some of their posts stopped showing the games, Chenelly said.
The US Army on Feb. 6, 2019, announced that it would buy an Israeli missile-defense system to protect its soldiers in a de facto admission that existing US missile defenses just don’t work.
“The U.S. Army has announced its intent to procure a limited number of Iron Dome weapon systems to fill its short-term need for an interim Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC),” a US Army statement sent to Business Insider read.
Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system, indigenously designed with a 9 million US investment backing it, represents the world’s only example of working missile defense.
While the US, Russia, and China work on high-end missile systems meant to shoot down stealth aircraft in ultra-high-tech wars with electronic and cyber warfare raging along the sidelines, none of these countries’ systems actually block many missiles, rockets, or mortars.
Iron Dome launches during operation Pillar of Defense, November 2012.
On the other hand, Israel’s Iron Dome has shot down more than 1,200 projectiles since going operational in 2011. Constant and sporadic attacks from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iranian-aligned forces in Syria have turned Israel into a hotbed of rocket and mortar activity, and the system just plain works.
Not only do the sensors and shooters track and hit targets reliably, the Iron Dome, unlike other systems, can tell if a projectile is going to miss a target and thereby save a 0,000 interceptor fire.
While the system does not run entirely without error, US and Israeli officials consistently rate the dome as having a 90% success rate on the Gaza border, one of the most active places in the world for ballistic projectiles.
But the US already has missile defenses for its forces.
The US, unlike Israel, which is surrounded by enemies bent on its ultimate destruction, doesn’t get many enemies firing ballistic missiles at its forces. Still, to protect its soldiers, the Army typically deploys Patriot defenses to its bases to protect against short-range missile attacks. In Iraq, the US Army also experimented with a Phalanx gun system that would rapid fire 20mm rounds at incoming rockets and mortars.
Overall, the US Army’s statement announcing the Iron Dome purchase made it clear that this would just be a short-term buy while the US assesses its options.
“The Iron Dome will be assessed and experimented as a system that is currently available to protect deployed U.S. military service members against a wide variety of indirect fire threats and aerial threats… it should be noted that the U.S. Army will assess a variety of options for” the long term, the statement continued.
But the Army is well aware of its own Patriot system and any planned or possible updates.
By buying an Israel system with a great track record and overlooking a US system with a checkered past, the US may have finally admitted its shortcomings in missile defense.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
An artist’s illustration of the Parker Solar Probe approaching the sun.
NASA’s record-breaking solar probe has discovered new, mysterious phenomena at the edge of the sun.
Since it launched in August 2018, the Parker Solar Probe has rocketed around the sun three times, getting closer than any spacecraft before it and traveling faster than any other human-made object in history.
The research revealed never-before-seen activity in the plasma and energy at the edges of the sun’s atmosphere, including reversals of the sun’s magnetic field and “bursts” in its stream of electrically charged particles, called solar wind.
A sunrise near the International Space Station on December 25, 2017.
‘Bursty’ solar wind bends the sun’s magnetic field
This wind surges into space and washes over Earth, so studying its source could help scientists figure out how to protect astronauts and Earth’s electric grid from unpredictable, violent solar explosions.
By sending the Parker probe to the sun, NASA is studying this dangerous wind in more detail than scientists could from Earth.
“Imagine that we live halfway down a waterfall, and the water is always flowing past us. It’s very turbulent, chaotic, unstructured, and we want to know what is the source of the waterfall up at the top,” Stuart Bale, a physicist who leads the team that investigates the probe’s solar-wind data, said in a press call. “It’s very hard to tell from halfway down.”
The Parker Solar Probe observed a slow solar wind flowing out from the small coronal hole — the long, thin black spot seen on the left side of the sun in this image captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory — on October 27, 2018.
NASA scientists are seeking answers to two major questions about the sun: What causes solar wind to accelerate as it shoots out into space? And why is the sun’s outer layer, called the corona, up to 500 times as hot as its inner layers?
The new data offers some initial clues. For the first time, Parker identified a clear source of a stream of slow, steady wind flowing out from the sun. It came from a hole in the corona — a spot where the gas is cooler and less dense.
Scientists knew that wind coming from the sun’s poles moves faster, but this was the first time they detected an origin point for the slow wind coming from its equator.
The Parker probe also detected rogue waves of magnetic energy rushing through the solar wind. As those magnetic waves washed over the spacecraft, the probe detected huge spikes in the speed of the solar wind — sometimes it jumped over 300,000 mph in seconds. Then just as quickly, the rapid winds were gone.
“We see that the solar wind is very bursty,” Bale said. “It’s bubbly. It’s unstable. And this is not how it is near Earth.”
The bursts could explain why the corona is so hot.
“We think it tells us, possibly, a path towards understanding how energy is getting from the sun into the atmosphere and heating it,” Justin Kasper, another physicist who studied Parker’s observations of solar wind, said in the call.
Scientists had never observed these bursts and bubbles before, but they seem to be common; the Parker spacecraft observed about 1,000 of them in 11 days.
The rogue spikes of energy also delivered an additional surprise: The bursts were so strong that they flipped the sun’s magnetic field.
The scientists call these events “switchbacks” because in the affected area the sun’s magnetic field whips backward so that it’s almost pointing directly at the sun.
The switchbacks seem to occur only close to the sun (within Mercury’s orbit), so scientists could never have observed them without the Parker probe.
“These are great clues, and now we can go look at the surface of the sun and figure out what’s causing those [bursts] and launching them up into space,” Kasper said.
An illustration of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe as it flies toward the sun.
Parker confirmed that there’s a dust-free zone around the sun
Scientists have long suspected that the sun is surrounded by an area without cosmic dust, the tiny crumbs of planets and asteroids that float through space and fall into stars’ orbits. That’s because the sun’s heat should vaporize any solid dust that gets too close.
For the first time, Parker flew close enough to the sun to provide evidence that such a dust-free zone exists. It observed that the dust did indeed get thinner closer to the sun.
Still, this zone wasn’t quite what scientists expected.
“What was a bit of a surprise is that the dust decrease is very smooth,” Russell Howard, another astrophysicist working with the probe, said in the call. “We don’t see any sudden decreases indicating that some material has evaporated.”
That will be another mystery to prod as the spacecraft gets closer to the sun.
6 more years and 21 more flybys
More knowledge about solar wind and the sun’s magnetic field could help scientists better protect astronauts and spacecraft from two types of violent space weather: energetic-particle storms and coronal mass ejections.
In energetic-particle storms, events on the sun send out floods of the ions and electrons that make up solar wind. These particles travel almost at the speed of light, which makes them nearly impossible to foresee. They can reach Earth in under half an hour and damage spacecraft electronics. This can be especially dangerous to astronauts traveling far from Earth.
In a coronal mass ejection, the sun sends billions of tons of coronal material hurtling into space. Such an explosion could massively damage Earth’s power grids and pipelines.
Over the next six years, Parker is set to approach the sun 21 more times, getting closer and closer. In its final pass, it should fly within 4 million miles of the sun’s surface.
During each flyby, the probe will gather more data that could answer physicists’ questions about the sun’s corona and solar wind.
“As we get closer, we’ll be right in the sources of the heat, the sources of the acceleration of particles, and of course those amazing eruptions,” Nicola Fox, NASA’s director of heliophysics, said in the call. “Even with what we have now, we already know that we will need to adjust the model used to understand the sun.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
September 2018’s “two-plus-two” meeting of defense and diplomatic leaders in New Delhi will seek to deepen cooperation between India and the United States and bolster programs and policies to maintain the free and independent Indo-Pacific region that has been in place since World War II, the assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs said on Aug. 29, 2018.
Randall G. Schriver spoke with Ashley J. Tellins at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace about the ground-breaking meeting scheduled Sept. 6 and 7, 2018, between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and their Indian counterparts, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
It is the first such meeting between the nations.
The outreach to India – the largest democracy in the world – is the outgrowth of more than 20 years of diplomacy reaching back to the Clinton administration, Schriver said. At its heart is ensuring conditions for a free and independent region.
“We believe countries should have complete sovereign control of their countries, to make decisions from capital free from coercion [and] free from undue pressure. We also mean free, open and reciprocal trade relationships,” he said. “By ‘open,’ we’re talking about open areas for commerce, for navigation, for broad participation in the life of the region commercially and economically.”
American and Indian airmen learn from each other on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, July 23, 2018. Defense and diplomatic leaders from both countries will meet in New Dehli in September 2018 to discuss opportunities for cooperation.
(Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Gerald R. Willis)
Schriver talked about “operationalizing” the areas of convergence between the two nations. Some of these areas will be in defense, some will be economic, and others will be political, he said, noting that the principals will discuss this at the meeting.
China is the elephant in the room. Though U.S. policy is not aimed at any specific nation, Schriver said, “China is demonstrating that they have a different aspiration for the Indo-Pacific region. This manifests in their economic strategy, the Belt and Road Initiative, their militarization of the South China Sea, a lot of the coercive approaches to the politics of others.” The Belt and Road Initiative is Chinese investment in infrastructure projects in countries that lie between China and Europe.
The United States would prefer China buy into the current rules-based international system, the assistant secretary said.
At the meeting, officials will examine how and where the United States and India can work together, Schriver said, adding that he sees both countries’ efforts complementing each other in some nations of the region and closer cooperation on the security side.
“We’ve seen exercises – not just bilateral India-U.S. exercises, but multilateral exercises,” he said. “Obviously, you exercise for a reason. You exercise to improve the readiness and training of your own forces, but you think about contingencies, you think about real-world possibilities.”
The substance of the meeting will be discussions about regional and global issues, but there will also be concrete outcomes, Shriver said.
“We’re working on a set of enabling agreements,” he said. “Collectively, what they will allow us to do is have secure communications, protect technology, protect information. Getting those agreements in place will allow security assistance cooperation to go forward, allow us to exercise and train in more meaningful ways. I think we are going to expand the scope of some of our exercises – increase the complexity and elements that will participate.”
Schriver said discussions also will look at the situations in Russia, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.
Featured image: Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis meets with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi on Sept. 26, 2017.