Thursday, February 10, 2005

Your tax dollars at work

Via RawStory:

Bush seeks cash for bunker-busting nukes

"United States President George W Bush has included spending to promote research on new nuclear weapons, such as controversial bunker-busters, in his federal budget plan for the 2006 fiscal year.

The budget includes $US4 million to revive a study on bunker-buster nuclear arms, called the 'robust nuclear earth penetrator'.

Congress killed the study in the fiscal 2005 budget due to concerns that it would hinder international non-proliferation efforts.

The Bush administration began researching bunker-buster nuclear weapons in 2003.

They are aimed at attacking underground facilities such as terrorist hideouts and stashes of biological and chemical weapons.

Congressional sources say Mr Bush's budget plan for the Defence Department also includes $US4.5 million to conduct an inert-bomb test as part of the research."

Typical Bush: jack up the deficit and piss off the rest of the world by trying to develop a weapons system that can't possibly work. Benjamin Phelan, in December's Harpers, discusses at length how this scheme makes SDI look like sound science:

"In real-world conditions, though, it has been difficult to make the [bunker busters] perform as advertised. Dropped from moving airplanes, gravity bombs often strike the earth at a considerable angle, which increases the tendency of their trajectory, while underground, to bend back up toward the surface. If the angle of attack is particularly shallow, a penetrator will actually come back up out of the ground, skipping along the battlefield. And even when they do strike at a useful angle, they cannot be made to penetrate deeply enough to destroy any but the shallowest of bunkers. The Defense Department's Nuclear Posture Review for 2001 laments that the B61-11 'cannot survive penetration into many types of terrain in which hardened underground facilities are located.' This is a generous analysis: the 'terrain' referred to is the hard rock under which valuable targets are almost always buried. When dropped from a height of 40,000 feet, the B61-11 was able to penetrate three meters at most into the Alaskan tundra, and not at all into hard rock (that is, without self-destructing).

The inadequacy of the B61-11 is due not to a particularly poor construction but rather to the basic limitations of bomb-making steel. In the test drops performed in Alaska, the B61-11 reached roughly 300 meters per second at impact. In order to penetrate reinforced concrete, it would need to be traveling at approximately 500 meters per second. At around 900 meters per second, the shock wave generated by the missile's slamming into the ground will deform it severely; at 1,200 meters per second, the missile will in most cases break into pieces. To penetrate granite—ubiquitous in mountainous bunkers, and believed to be common above any truly valuable bunker—a penetrator would have to attain up-ward of 3,000 meters per second, at which speed it would certainly be crushed. Robert Nelson of Princeton University has demonstrated that because of the limitations imposed by the yield strength of the steel used in casings, no bunker buster can ever go fast enough to penetrate reinforced concrete deeper than five times its length without destroying itself in the process; and even this number is too high for any real-world scenario. What is more, the length of the bomb cannot be in-creased much, for two reasons: there are no aircraft capable of carrying a weapon much longer than the ones that are currently deployed; and as length increases, so does the tendency of the bomb to snap in two on impact.

Raymond Jeanloz, a member of the National Academy of Sciences committee advising Congress on earth penetrators, expresses frustration at the defense community's obliviousness to existing research. 'A lot of the information is already in house,' Jeanloz said in an interview. 'Why don't [they] come back to Congress with a really good plan that has a good chance of working, rather than asking for a bunch of money where it's not even clear [they've] reviewed the information [they] already have?' "

There's a good deal more to his piece, all worth reading.

How many textbooks would $8.5 mil buy? Or, if you prefer guns to butter, how many personnel carriers would it armor?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This all sounds far too reality-based for a meaningful dialog to take place. If Rummy sez it works, what more do you need to know?

These are "reality-buster" bombs.

5:37 PM  
Blogger Dr. Bloor said...

My bad. I should have paid more attention to the sticker in my college physics text that said "Caution: This text contains information about gravity, mass and molecular structure, all of which may be deemed null and void whenever the Father, Son or the Holy SecDef need to keep freedom on the march."

7:25 AM  

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