During the past summer the US Air Force tested its new B61-12 nuclear bomb and the improved B-2 bomber that delivers it.
One “advantage” of the new bomb is that it can penetrate the earth more efficiently. Thus it is more effective at destroying deeply buried targets without causing so much devastation above ground, where a larger fraction of explosive energy would just bounce off the surface.
This change is part of a massive upgrade of the B-2 system over the coming years, until it is superseded by large numbers of the emerging series of B-21 Raider bombers.
The B-2 is being modified now to include what’s called the Defensive Management System, a technology that will let the B-2 recognize and elude enemy air defences. It can detect signals from ground-based anti-aircraft weapons. The B-2 crews will know the location of enemy air defences and can maneuver around high-risk areas where they are more likely to be targeted.
This is required now because the 1980s stealth technology is no longer effective against the best air defences. However, a new generation of stealth technologies is being developed that will let the B-21 put any target in the world at risk, at any time.
The US Air Force now maintains 20 B-2 bombers, most of them based in Missouri. These planes, which entered service in the 1980s, have flown missions over Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan. Because they can fly 6,000 nautical miles without refueling, they were able to fly all the way from Missouri to Diego Garcia island near India before launching bombing missions over Afghanistan.
Source: Kris Osborn, “An Air Force Sealth B-2 Spirit Just Test-Bombed a Nuclear Bomb.” The National Interest, August 23, 2018.
Leaders of the 29 NATO nations met in Brussels in July and approved changes in their policies on nuclear deterrence— none of which would please many peace activists. Unlike previous declarations, which had not explicitly referred to a need for US nuclear weapons in Europe, this one states that the alliance “relies on United States’ nuclear weapons forward deployed in Europe.”
The declaration also devoted more attention than usual to some alleged Russian violations of the 1987 INF Treaty. It praised both the US and Russia for reducing strategic nuclear weapons under New START, but stopped short of calling for an extension of the treaty beyond its 2021 expiration date. New START had not been mentioned since the 2010 summit document.
Source: Monica Montgomery in Arms Control Today, Sept. 2018.
During August there were three major international meetings to limit various types of conventional weaponry. The Fourth Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) met in Tokyo. The peace activist participants were perturbed by the failure of the states parties to address some arms transfers that violate the Treaty’s provisions. For example, attention was diverted away from the continuing sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Cameroon, and Nicaragua, where international humanitarian law is sometimes flouted.
However, the Conference made constructive decisions about outputs from the Treaty’s working groups, increasing the information output that can aid states in implementing national control systems.
From Tokyo, several activists went directly to Geneva to attend the sixth Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, where a Group of Governmental Experts met to focus on killer robots—or (to use their formal title) “Autonomous Weapons Systems” (AWS). The peace workers urged states to explicitly require meaningful human control over the selection of targets and engagement in each individual attack, thus banning any fully AWS.
The majority of states did support the prompt beginning of negotiations toward a treaty to prevent the development of fully AWSs. However, a few states (Australia, Israel, Russia, South Korea, and the United States) blocked any agreement to start negotiations next year. Nevertheless, the European Parliament soon adopted a resolution calling for a ban on killer robots.
Finally, some Canadian peace workers stayed in Geneva for a meeting on ongoing elimination of cluster munitions. It seems that Syria is the only country still using them. Stigmatization is working!
Source: Reaching Critical Will E-News, Sept, 2018.