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US reconsiders nuclear defence shield
12:10 12 April 02

Jeff Hecht


American military officials are reconsidering nuclear interceptors for missile defence, an idea the US abandoned 30 years ago.

A Pentagon spokeswoman said Defense Secretary Rumsfeld asked the Defense Sciences Board to consider nuclear weapons in upcoming study "which includes looking at everything that is technically viable." No decision has been made to develop them.

The power of nuclear explosives means such a weapon would not need to score a direct hit to destroy incoming enemy warheads. But the effects of the blast could also knock out civilian satellites and electric power networks - as well as arms-control treaties.

The US deployed its Safeguard missile defence in the mid 1970s, equipped with nuclear warheads. But it was never tested in space or against live targets. It was officially declared operational on 1 October 1975 and deactivated just four months later.


Sterilising bioweapons

The present-day US missile-defense system has destroyed dummy warheads in four of six tests by hitting them with high-speed, non-explosive projectiles above the atmosphere. However, critics warn that inexpensive decoys launched with the warhead could fool the interceptor.

A nuclear interceptor would destroy everything as long as it detonated close enough to the target. A nuclear explosion also could sterilise warheads carrying anthrax or other biological weapons.

But Fred Kelly, president of the Federation of American Scientists, says the plan to reconsider nuclear interceptors could signal Pentagon concern that the current system will not work. "It shows how much trouble they're having with the fundamental problem of telling decoys from the nuclear weapons," he told New Scientist.

Bioweapons would be tough targets. "It would take considerably more than a megaton" to kill most anthrax spores, says Richard Garwin, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.


Intense pulse

High-altitude nuclear blasts also produce intense pulses of electromagnetic radiation, which can induce power surges and damage sensitive electronics. When America detonated a 1.4 megaton bomb 400 km above the Pacific in 1962, it knocked out streets lights and telephone services in Hawaii, 1300 km away.

Critical military satellites are shielded to protect them from such effects, but civilian satellites and power grids are unprotected. Five years ago, a top Pentagon official, George Ullrich, warned Congress that a single high-altitude nuclear blast "could result in serious problems for the entire US civil and commercial infrastructure."

Testing a nuclear interceptor would violate a 1963 treaty that bans tests in space or the atmosphere and would almost certainly provoke wide international criticism.
 

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IBM поставляет Regatta министерству обороны США - Archont @ 15:45
IBM сегодня сообщила о том, что 66 компьютеров Regatta будут закуплены министерством обороны США для использования в системе национальной ПРО. Закупка компьютеров у IBM является частью программы НПРО, на которую Конгресс США выделил 2,5 млрд. долларов. Компьютеры, проданные минобороны США, стоят от $800 до $10 млн. за каждый.

Первый заказ, на 20 машин, оформлен от лица компании Boeing, которая выступает подрядчиком. На этих компьютерах будут проводиться тесты и моделирование боевой обстановки. Остальные компьютеры были приобретены корпорацией TRW для использования при управлении боевыми действиями.
 

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