By Meteorologist Dominic Ramunni Nationwide PUBLISHED 7:13 PM ET Aug. 11, 2020 PUBLISHED 7:13 PM EDT Aug. 11, 2020
People across the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic were shaken, literally, on a Sunday morning as a magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck in North Carolina on August 9, 2020.
Centered in Sparta, NC, the tremor knocked groceries off shelves and left many wondering just when the next big one could strike.
Compared to the West Coast, there are far fewer fault lines in the East. This is why earthquakes in the East are relatively uncommon and weaker in magnitude.
That said, earthquakes still occur in the East.
According to Spectrum News Meteorologist Matthew East, “Earthquakes have occurred in every eastern U.S. state, and a majority of states have recorded damaging earthquakes. However, they are pretty rare. For instance, the Sparta earthquake Sunday was the strongest in North Carolina in over 100 years.”
For example, across the Tennesse River Valley lies the New Madrid Fault Line. While much smaller in size than those found farther west, the fault has managed to produce several earthquakes over magnitude 7.0 in the last couple hundred years.
In 1886, an estimated magnitude 7.0 struck Charleston, South Carolina along a previously unknown seismic zone. Nearly the entire town had to be rebuilt.
The eastern half of the U.S. has its own set of vulnerabilities from earthquakes.
These older rocks have had much more time to bond together with other rocks under the tremendous pressure of Earth’s crust. This allows seismic energy to transfer between rocks more efficiently during an earthquake, causing the shaking to be felt much further.
This is why, during the latest quake in North Carolina, impacts were felt not just across the state, but reports of shaking came as far as Atlanta, Georgia, nearly 300 miles away.
Reports of shaking from different earthquakes of similar magnitude.
Quakes in the East can also be more damaging to infrastructure than in the West. This is generally due to the older buildings found east. Architects in the early-to-mid 1900s simply were not accounting for earthquakes in their designs for cities along the East Coast.
When a magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck Virginia in 2011, not only were numerous historical monuments in Washington, D.C. damaged, shaking was reported up and down the East Coast with tremors even reported in Canada.
There is no way to accurately predict when or where an earthquake may strike.
Some quakes will have a smaller earthquake precede the primary one. This is called a foreshock.
The problem is though, it’s difficult to say whether the foreshock is in fact a foreshock and not the primary earthquake. Only time will tell the difference.
The United State Geological Survey (USGS) is experimenting with early warning detection systems in the West Coast.
While this system cannot predict earthquakes before they occur, they can provide warning up to tens of seconds in advance that shaking is imminent. This could provide just enough time to find a secure location before the tremors begin.
Much like hurricanes, tornadoes, or snowstorms, earthquakes are a natural occuring phenomenon that we can prepare for.
The USGS provides an abundance of resources on how to best stay safe when the earth starts to quake.
The new view of the bomb is seen in a video clip that is part of a larger montage that was recently uploaded on the Chinese social media website Weibo by the official account for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) component of the PLA’s Central Theater Command. The complete video was contained in a post marking the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the PLAAF on November 11, 1949.
The video does not include any specific details about the bomb or its nomenclature, but shows it falling from what appears to be the bomb bay of a Xian H-6-series bomber. Whether or not the video clip showing a munition hitting a training or test range that follows the footage of the weapon being released is in any way related is unknown.A screengrab from a clip showing a munition impacting a training or testing range, which appears to have been taken with an infrared sensor system. This immediately follows the clip of the large bomb being dropped in the recently released PLA Central Theater Command video montage. PLA capture
Externally, the weapon is unremarkable. Its overall shape and outward features do not offer any strong indications of what might be contained inside. There is what appears to be some kind of fuze in the nose and it has a tail assembly with what looks to be six fins connected together at the very rear by a ring. There are no indications that the weapon has a guidance package and the general design of the tail is something that is commonly seen on older Chinese unguided bombs, as well as Soviet-designed types that remain in service in Russiaand elsewhere.A screen grab from another clip in the recently released PLA video montage that shows unguided bombs falling from an H-6’s bomb bay. Note the tail assemblies with the fins joined together at the very rear by a ring. PLA capture
The existence of this bomb first emerged in 2019 in a promotional video montage, seen below, from the Chinese state-run defense conglomerate China North Industries Group Corporation Limited, or NORINCO.
“This is the first time the new bomb’s destructive powers have been shown in public, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Wednesday on its mobile application,” Global Times, a newspaper run by the Chinese Communist Party reported at that time, citing a story from a different state-run news agency, Xinhua. “Calling the several-ton-weapon a Chinese version of the ‘Mother of All Bombs,’ the [Xinhua] report said that it is China’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb, and that the H-6K bomber could only carry one at a time due to its size.”
The Global Times report has since been taken offline, though a copy remains available via the Internet Archive. It’s not immediately clear whether the original Xinhua piece, which may have been in Chinese only, is available online.
To date, neither NORINCO nor the PLA appears to have released any official information about this bomb.
“Judging from the video and the size of the H-6K’s bomb bay, this bomb is approximately five to six meters long,” Global Times reported in 2019, citing Wei Dongxu, an independent military analyst in Beijing.The more limited view of the bomb from the 2019 NORINCO video. NORINCO
“The massive blast can easily and completely wipe out fortified ground targets such as reinforced buildings, bastions, and defense shelters,” Wei reportedly also told the outlet. He added that it could “be used to clear a landing zone for troops on helicopters to rappel down, in case the area is covered by obstacles such as forests” and “spread fear among enemies.”
What Wei here is describing are the capabilities of large thermobaric weapons, in general. Weapons in this broad category, whether they be aerial bombs like the American GBU-43/B or some other type of thermobaric munition, like the 220mm rockets fired by Russia’s TOS-1A, are designed to engage targets through a combination of a massive high-pressure blast wave and very high heat.
This all, in turn, imposes its own operational limits on these weapons, especially if they have to be delivered onto the target by non-stealthy aircraft, such as the H-6K. For instance, while the U.S. Air Force has demonstrated the B-52 can drop the MOP, the weapon is only currently approved for operational use on the stealthy B-2. As it stands now, the C-130-dropped GBU-43/B is largely intended for use in more permissive environments. It has only ever been used once, to date, in Afghanistan in 2017, where American forces enjoyed total air superiority.
The PLAAF could also plan to use stealthy and otherwise advanced crewed and uncrewed combat aircraft, along with other capabilities, such as electronic warfare systems, to help clear routes to key targets for H-6s carrying these bombs, although that is an increasingly unrealistic proposition against a peer competitor.
This is, of course, all based on the limited information available now. It is possible that the PLAAF has other plans for these bombs, which could turn out to be not thermobaric in nature at all. What is clear is that the service still has an interest in the bomb, whatever its internal design might be, if it hasn’t already been fielded at least on some limited level.
Whether or not the bomb’s inclusion in the recently released PLA Central Theater Command video means that more information about the weapon may now emerge remains to be seen.
This weapon, paired with the B-2’s ability to sneak deep into enemy territory, give the United States the ability to destroy the most fortified and high-value bunkers on earth. This is the weapon that will be put to work on the very first moments of a U.S. air campaign in North Korea or Iran. It is a highly unique capability that no other air arm of on earth possesses.
In the past, we have seen some lower quality video of a B-2 dropping a MOP for testing, but now the USAF has posted a very high-quality video of a recent test showing two of the giant weapons being employed near-simultaneously. And it is something to behold:
One has to be suspicious of the timing of the release of this video,—which came with no detailed description—as tensions are ratcheting up between the U.S. and both Iran and North Korea.
The MOP is precision guided primarily using GPS, similar to the Joint Direct Attack Munition(JDAM). Yet even the bunker buster variants in that series of weapons are incomparable to the mighty MOP. This precision guidance is thought to allow the MOP to not only hit deeply-buried installations at their weakest points, but it offers the potential to ‘layer-in’ multiple MOPs on a single pinpoint location—in effect ‘digging’ down to where the soil, rock, and concrete end and the vital infrastructure begins.
The Air Force is fully aware of how important this weapon is, even against a peer state like China that has gone as far as constructing a massive submarine base inside a mountain, and the service is ordering new and improved versions of the MOP that you can and should read all about in this past highly-detailed article of ours.
The crystal-clear video of not one, but two MOPs being employed against a ground target certainly sends the clear message to America’s potential foes that it has the ability to reach out and touch even the most hardened, well defended, and far-flung of facilities without going nuclear. If the video got our attention, it surely got the adversary’s as well.
Think of it as a friendly reminder of just what’s at stake when it comes to going to war with the United States military. Above all else, it pretty much underlines the fact that a decapitation strike is possible even if the top regime members being targeted are hiding out in places meant to be immune from enemy bombardment.
The controversial Shia cleric and militia leader has long been at the heart of Iraq’s political intrigue.
In a nutshell
The enigmatic Iraqi cleric has long been at the center of Iraqi politics
His private militias shaped years of conflict in the country
The American withdrawal set the stage for confrontation with Iran
Nearly a year after Iraq’s last parliamentary election, the country’s political system remains frozen in crisis. The man who seemed to emerge as kingmaker after last October’s vote – Muqtada al-Sadr – proved unable to secure a coalition government, while thousands of his followers took to the streets, storming the halls of government.
This failure of the Shia cleric, who announced his retirement from politics for at least the fourth time, is casting a shadow on his chances of shaping events to come.
Muqtada al-Sadr was born in Najaf, Iraq, on August 4, 1974, to a prominent Shia clerical family with roots in Lebanon’s Jabal Amil region. The fourth and youngest son of Ayatollah Muhammad Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, he was considered the least intellectual of his brothers, but he was a good organizer and his father trusted him with the daily management of some of his madrassas.
In April 1980, Saddam Hussein executed his father’s cousins, Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and his sister, a scholar. The death of the former – the most senior cleric yet killed by the regime – shocked the extended al-Sadr family and the Shia community.
Muqtada al-Sadr’s father, Muhammad Sadiq, a religious scholar of rising influence, decided to keep a low profile. In the late 1980s, he even began to collaborate with the regime of Saddam Hussein, though quietly enough to avoid controversy in Shia society. The Iraqi dictator allowed him to establish some institutions and preach Islam to the Shia tribes and in Saddam City – the sprawling shantytown in northeast Baghdad, which in 2003 was renamed in his memory.
His father was a proud Arab and Iraqi, leading to competition with Shia Iran.
In 1998, Saddam allowed the elder al-Sadr to begin holding communal Friday prayers, a practice not seen in Shia areas for some time. He did this at his Friday mosque services in Kufa, near Najaf, sermons that attracted tens of thousands of young Shia eager to hear some anti-Baath preaching. Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr carefully straddled the line between obeying and criticizing the regime – never explicitly crossing it, but attacking all the other Iraqi ayatollahs for their passivity and fear of Saddam. This generated a bitter rivalry with their leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Critically, in the fall of 1999, he declared himself Wali Amr al-Muslimin, the one responsible for all the world’s Muslims. This implied that the true leader of the Iranians and the Shia world was not Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but the elder al-Sadr.
Mr. Khamenei was incensed – as this was a title reserved in Iran only for him and his predecessor, Ayatollah Khomeini – and closed all the offices in Iran belonging to Muqtada’s father. In December 1999, Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr was gunned down in his car on the outskirts of Najaf. Muqtada’s two elder brothers, both highly respected religious scholars, died in the same hail of bullets.
A ready martyr
Most blamed the assassination on Saddam, but it would have been a serious mistake on his part to murder the senior al-Sadr. The religious leader had served the regime’s purposes well by preventing mass clashes with Shia Iraqis. He had also offended other Najaf clerics whom Saddam reviled and, most helpfully, humiliated and drew the ire of Saddam’s archenemy, Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei. The latter, on the other hand, had very good reason to eliminate such a formidable competitor – a fact that cannot have escaped Muqtada’s attention.
The death of his father and brothers represented the first turning point in Muqtada’s adult life. Thereafter, he frequently appeared wearing white shrouds and declared himself ready to become a martyr. His father’s slain cousin, Baqir al-Sadr, also acted similarly before his arrest and execution. But Muqtada al-Sadr is far from genuinely seeking martyrdom; he has taken risks, but has always left himself a way out.
From his father, he inherited a few central political principles to which he still adheres. One is enmity toward the United Kingdom, the United States and Israel, which his father called “the ill-fated trinity.” These days, Mr. Sadr’s intense ire is reserved exclusively for Israel.
Another central pillar is his father’s attachment to Shia history and eschatology (like the expected Return of the Mahdi) and to Islamic law, though without embracing fanatical bigotry. Therefore, while Muqtada has found it easy to allow the killing of Sunnis for no other reason than their being Sunnis, he can also easily befriend Sunni Arabs and Kurds when necessary.
Finally, his father was a proud Arab and Iraqi, leading to competition with Shia Iran. When politically expedient, Muqtada collaborated with the Iranian Quds Force, and even stayed in Iran; now he is confronting the regime.
Facts & figures
Muqtada al-Sadr’s Iraq
From his father’s death until 2003, Mr. Sadr kept a very low profile. He accepted Saddam’s financial support because turning it down would have gotten him killed. Still, if he actually served Saddam, he did so very quietly. He kept supporting his father’s flock, the poorest Shia, with social help and religious guidance through a network of low-level clerics.
Muqtada al-Sadr is not charismatic in the usual sense; he derives his charisma from the people’s admiration for his father, an admiration that he has nurtured. For his ardent supporters, who risk their lives for him, the son of a martyred saint is also a saint. To great effect, he continues to remind them that he, too, may soon become a martyr. But while they admire him, Mr. Sadr treats his followers like a capricious nanny, threatening to disown them if they do not immediately abide by his orders.
The American enemy
The U.S. occupation of Iraq was Muqtada al-Sadr’s second turning point. Soon afterward, he sprang from his quiet activities into a political and military frenzy.
Why? First, fighting U.S. forces was a fulfillment of his father’s legacy. Second, it portrayed him as a heroic Iraqi and Muslim patriot, increasing his popularity. Finally, he understood that the Americans are not the British of old, and certainly not Saddam. They might have the ability to kill him, but, thanks to their political values, they would not.
Mr. Sadr established his private army, Jaysh al-Mahdi, named after the Shia Redeemer, the Vanished Twelfth Imam, who is expected to rise and lead the faithful to a final battle at the end of times. (In 2014, he changed the group’s name to Saraya al-Salam, the “Peace Companies.”) His fighters came from the same elements his father nurtured, and he ordered them to kill American soldiers – often providing them with Captagonpills, a potent psychostimulant to send them into battle in a frenzy.
The American occupation of Iraq was Muqtada al-Sadr’s second turning point.
Iran was very helpful in providing weapons and improvised explosive devices. This led to myriad confrontations between his Mahdi militia and American soldiers, with many casualties on both sides. Mr. Sadr’s forces also fought against supporters of his late father’s enemies, the four grand ayatollahs of Najaf, led by Ayatollah al-Sistani.
Soon after the Americans occupied Najaf, his militia murdered the pro-American Ayatollah Abdul-Majid al-Khoei, son of the late chief ayatollah. When the holy Shia Al-Askari Shrine in Samarra was blown up in 2006, Mr. Sadr likely saw it as a personal attack against him, as his militia’s namesake imam vanished in Samarra in the ninth century. His Mahdi Army became the cutting edge of fighting the Sunnis.
In August 2004, Muqtada al-Sadr occupied the Holy Shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf, among the most sacred Shia sites. He was besieged by the U.S. Marines, but his life was saved by his late father’s nemesis, Ayatollah al-Sistani. They met at the latter’s home, and Mr. Sadr agreed to order his fighters to lay down their weapons and leave Najaf.
The meeting changed him – the third turning point in his life, after his father’s violent death and the U.S. invasion. Mr. Sadr seems to have been in quest for a spiritual father, and found him in Ayatollah al-Sistani.
While his official religious “source of emulation” (muqallad) was Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Kadhim Husayni al-Haeri, Mr. Sistani became his true guide. Because this clashed with his father’s legacy, and because he needed to provide his wild supporters with a target, he still disobeyed Mr. Sistani’s call not to fight the Americans. Yet he has never again attacked the ayatollah or his supporters and, after the U.S. evacuation from Iraq in 2011, never antagonized him politically. Often, he has even acted as if they were perfectly in sync.
In 2007, feeling the heat from the U.S. “surge,” Mr. Sadr escaped to Iran, where he studied for four years in Qom. The following year, with the Mahdi Army growing dominant in the Iraq city of Basra, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sent in troops to subdue them, with massive American and British assistance.
It was a humiliation that Muqtada al-Sadr could never forgive, although he decided to serve his revenge cold. While he criticized Mr. Maliki for failing to demand an immediate exit of U.S. forces, he still supported him for the premiership after the elections of 2010.
The withdrawal of U.S. forces in December 2011 was the next turning point. With no Americans left to fight, Mr. Sadr returned to Iraq and launched his long-term campaign against Mr. Maliki – and, less conspicuously, against Iran.
In 2012, he would split the parliamentary Shia camp for the first time, joining forces with Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party. And by 2014, he would help replace Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister with Haidar al-Abadi.
Within a few more years, Muqtada al-Sadr’s campaign against Tehran would break out into the open, setting the stage for political crisis.
Come back tomorrow for Part 2, on Muqtada al-Sadr’s confrontation with Iran.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill
As Washington and the commentariat wring their hands about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear sword rattling, the United States and the European Union (EU) continue to shovel hundreds of millions of dollars to Rosatom — a Russian nuclear firm that maintains Moscow’s nuclear weapons complex and just filched a $60-billion Ukrainian nuclear plant.
Why would Washington and Brussels back such a nuclear villain? Do we really want to support Russian organizations that are critical to Putin building the nuclear bombs he is now threatening us with? No one will say yes, but the nuclear industry in Europe and the United States insist we can’t afford not to.
Besides being in charge of all of Russia’s nuclear weapons production and development, Rosatom supplies nuclear fuel to nuclear plants in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Hungary. Any European Union (EU) decision to cut off fuel to these plants would immediately harm these states economically. So, when Poland, Ireland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Germany recently recommended that the EU ban Russian nuclear imports to avoid funding Russia’s military efforts, the Hungarians and French howled and Brussels blinked.
Thankfully, not all Russian nuclear-importing EU states are quite so cynical. Finland operates two large Russian VVER reactors, yet it just cancelledplans to build another and is open to embargoing all Rosatom imports (albeit gradually). Meanwhile, Sweden’s giant energy firm, Vattenfall, cut off Russian uranium imports, substituting them with Canadian and Australian ore. Yet, besides these proud actors (and those that have called for an EU nuclear embargo), Europe has played a weak hand.
The EU, of course, must act by consensus. But what of the United States? There are no Russian-designed reactors in America. Nor is the United States without alternative uranium suppliers in Canada, Australia and Kazakhstan or practical, near-term uranium enrichment options. Yet, Washington pretty much followed the EU’s play book.
You’d think that this last point would be politically fatal to further imports. Think again. Only days after Russia seized the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the Nuclear Energy Institute and Duke power lobbied President Biden to keep Russian uranium imports coming. Failing to do so, they claimed, would risk increasing the cost of “zero-carbon” nuclear-supplied electricity. Worse, they insisted, it would jeopardize the future of advanced small modular reactors, most of which favor using special enriched uranium. Soon after they made this plea, the White House concurred: Biden announced a U.S. embargo on all forms of Russian energy – oil, natural gas, and coal – but not on uranium.
It was a bad call. Fears of short-term uranium supply disruptions certainly are unwarranted: 75 percent of the fuel nuclear U.S. electric utilities buy is on long-term contracts, which have already been secured. As for a ban on Russian uranium driving up the cost of nuclear electricity, that too is a stretch. The cheapest part of nuclear power operation is its fueling: Even assuming an abrupt cut off of Russian uranium imports, experts estimate that nuclear power costs would be no more than 2 percent, i.e., a fraction of the current inflation rate. They also note that the United States has several practical, Russian-free options to secure affordable ore and enriched uranium.
But the nuclear industry isn’t interested. It’s gunning not just for continued cheap Russian uranium imports but for congressional appropriations and subsidies to build new uranium enrichment plants and small “advanced” reactors that would burn the fuel these plants would produce. Their demand gives greediness a bad name. On one hand, industry is demanding that U.S. taxpayers foot the bill to ensure their nuclear fuel independence. On the other hand, they are pleading that our government continue to buy cheap Russian uranium even though it funds a criminal Russian nuclear enterprise.
Fortunately, some of the Hill’s most prominent nuclear power proponents, who wholeheartedly back the nuclear commercialization projects that industry champions, understand this. Unlike industry and the White House, they’re opposed to relying on Rosatom, even in the short-term.
In March, Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) proposed legislationthat would immediately ban all Russian uranium imports. Buying Russia’s uranium funds Putin’s war machine, which, they argue, makes no sense. They’ve got a point. The only question now is why the White House hasn’t yet preempted them.
Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, served as deputy for nonproliferation in the Defense Department and is author of “Underestimated: Our Not So Peaceful Nuclear Future” (2019).
(CNN) — Iranian security forces have killed at least 326 people since nationwide protests erupted two months ago, the Norway-based Iran Human Rights NGO (IHRNGO) group has claimed.
That figure includes 43 children and 25 women, the group said in an update to its death toll on Saturday — saying that its published number represented an “absolute minimum.”
CNN cannot independently verify the figure as non-state media, the internet, and protest movements in Iran have all been suppressed. Death tolls vary by opposition groups, international rights organizations, and journalists tracking the ongoing protests.
Public anger over her death has combined with a range of grievances against the Islamic Republic’s oppressive regime to fuel the demonstrations, which continue despite law makers urging the country’s judiciary to “show no leniency” to protesters.
IHRNGO has urged the international community to take “firm and timely action” over the rising death toll and reiterated the need to establish a mechanism to “hold the Islamic Republic authorities accountable for their gross violation of human rights.”
“Establishing an international investigation and accountability mechanism by the UN will both facilitate the process of holding the perpetrators accountable in the future and increase the cost of the continuous repression by the Islamic Republic,” IHRNGO director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said.
Since the start of the protests, deaths have been recorded across 22 provinces, according to the IHRNGO. Most were reported in Sistan and Baluchistan, Tehran, Mazandaran, Kurdistan, and Gilan provinces.
The rights group said that dozens of protesters face “security-related charges” and are at risk of being executed.
On Friday, United Nations experts urged Iranian authorities “to stop indicting people with charges punishable by death for participation, or alleged participation, in peaceful demonstrations” and “to stop using the death penalty as a tool to squash protests.”
War threat leads to upgrade of military ties between Canberra, Washington
MELBOURNE — A small airfield in northern Australia is slated to permanently host a fleet of U.S. B-52 bombers as part of an agreement between Washington and Canberra to prepare for the possibility of war over Taiwan.
The deal will see a deployment of up to six nuclear-capable aircraft, putting them within striking distance of a Pacific theater should war with China break out. A $1 billion upgrade of the Royal Australian Air Force’s Tindal base south of Darwin is already underway.
The imminent arrival of the aircraft was revealed in an investigation aired on Australian state TV before either government could formally announce it.
“The ability to deploy U. S. Air Force bombers to Australia sends a strong message to adversaries about our ability to project lethal air power,” a U.S. military spokesperson told Four Corners.
Most analysts agree the immediate “adversary” is China and the most likely flashpoint is Taiwan.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in an August speech that the country faced “the most complex strategic environment we have encountered as a nation in over 70 years.” The remark came as Australia kicked off its first strategic review of its defense forces in a decade.
The unannounced positioning of the bombers on Australian soil may be a means of discreetly influencing the upcoming review, which may explain why it has not been publicized by either government.
The deal signals an uptick in military relations as the deployment is intended as a permanent operational mission rather than a training or rotational facility.
But White is critical of the initiative, arguing it comes “without thinking about what the costs and consequences might be and without assessing how likely America is to succeed.”
Each aircraft can carry up to 20 JASSM-ER cruise missiles with a striking distance of more than 900 kilometers.
Australia is a signatory to international treaties that prohibit the hosting of nuclear weapons. The country also has a long-standing commitment to nuclear nonproliferation and stability in the Pacific.
The strength of these agreements may be tested with this latest development, especially given that the B-52s are designed for nuclear capability.
Some analysts, however, argue that the deployment is less significant than it appears. B-52s have been used in training exercises in Australia before, and permanent U.S. military facilities in Australia — such as a rotating force of U.S. Marines in Darwin — have been part of bilateral arrangements for some years.
She told Nikkei Asia that it is “only part of a broader upgrade of defense infrastructure in Northern Australia.”
The majority of China’s naval fleet is situated on Hainan Island, with other possible targets further north. The distance of such facilities from the Tindal facility would be beyond the functional range of the aircraft.
Sam Roggeveen, international security analyst at the Lowy Institute, an Australian foreign affairs think tank, said the arrival of the bombers is more about posturing than actual operational value.
He argues that the challenge China presents is different from any other the U.S. has had to face before.
“To fight China, the United States needs a good reason, a truly existential reason,” he wrote in a publication for the institute in the wake of the expose. “And there just isn’t one. That’s why the U.S. resorts to relatively cheap and easily reversible signals such as this positioning.”
White of Australian National University said, “I doubt China will do more than issue the kinds of routine criticisms we have seen already,” but the Northern Institute’s Booth stressed that “careful diplomacy will be required for Australia to manage its relations with the region.”
“For the region, it will be important for the Australian government to clarify its intentions in hosting the B-52s and to stipulate under what circumstances, if any, a nuclear capacity would be present and what this would entail,” Booth said.
The destructive weapon could also knock out communication towers and other electronic assets that could severely impact on Ukraine’s ability to defend itself in battle.
EMPs are frequently attached to horrifying hypersonic nuclear missiles and fired more than 100 miles into space, potentially destroying electronic devices across an area the size of the US. But the non-nuclear version is understood to be able to wipe out enemy assets within a six-mile range.
Russia has suffered numerous devastating battlefield losses in southern and eastern Ukraine over recent weeks and has frequently resorted to attacking critical civilian infrastructure.
But now numerous experts are warning there is a chance Russia could launch an EMP to plunge millions of innocent Ukrainians into darkness.
Defence analyst Francis Tusa warned Russia “has already been attempting to make Ukraine as uninhabitable as possible ahead of winter”, adding in aninterview with The Times: “So I don’t rule out the possibility of an EMP strike as part of what seems to be a ‘scorched earth’ policy.”
Council on Geostrategy director James Rogers also warned it is appearing “increasingly” likely Putin will resort to an EMP strike to “provide that break that would turn the tide for him”.
He said: “We know that there is pressure on him with all the chatter within Russia about the failure of their generals. An EMP strike could provide that break that would turn the tide for him. But I don’t think that he is yet in a position.
Weapons expert Justin Brook claimed Russia has an arsenal of MPs ready to go and said some Spetznaz units in Ukraine already carry them.
He said: “EMP strikes leave very little visible trace so it’s difficult to know whether one has already been used without being there on the ground to investigate.”
If Putin was to make such a drastic move, it would escalate the already tense war by knocking out the infrastructure in neighbouring NATO countries.
But electronics warfare boffin Thomas Withington warned Russia of retaliation from the defence alliance and said: “I think that the big danger for the Russian government is that once it performs an EMP nuclear detonation.