Archive for March, 2009

U.S. Agency Readies Controversial Shift of Nuclear Component Work

Titan – 9 MT RV

Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

[posted for Global Watcher]

From NTI’s Global Security Newswire

WASHINGTON — The U.S. agency that oversees the nation’s nuclear weapons complex is shifting design work on a key warhead component — the tritium gas system — from one government laboratory to another, a move that is generating some controversy (see GSN, Nov. 10, 2008).

Robert Smolen — until last month a top National Nuclear Security Administration official — announced the decision in a Jan. 5 internal memo. The agency, he said, would soon consolidate responsibility for designing tritium “gas transfer systems” from the two organizations currently performing the work — the Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories — down to a single site, Sandia’s facility in Livermore, Calif.

Congress in 2000 established the National Nuclear Security Administration as a semiautonomous arm of the Energy Department. The agency oversees the national laboratories as part of its mandate to maintain the stockpile.

The component at the center of debate, called the “gas transfer system,” moves tritium from container bottles into the core of the nuclear warhead as the weapon explodes. It “enables tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, to boost the yield of a nuclear weapon,” according to an NNSA statement issued a day after Smolen’s internal memo.

The news release heralded the decision without identifying New Mexico-based Los Alamos as the facility expected to lose the work.

The NNSA announcement went largely unnoticed and a number of issue experts contacted for this article said they could not comment before learning more about the move. One U.S. nuclear weapons official opined that the arcane bureaucratic machinations amount to little more than “inside baseball.”

However, new revelations about the initiative raise broad questions about how competing interests might affect the future safety and reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons.

Read the rest of the story on NTI’s webpage.


Mystery plane revealed

Ok – I have kept everyone in suspense for long enough. Here is a side view of the same plane – and you can start answering some of the questions I posed.

This was a flight demonstrator for the Shaped Sonic Boom program. The thought was that a modified underside of the aircraft’s fuselage could potentially reduce the sonic boom that an aircraft made when going supersonic (Mach 1+) speeds.

[The newest jet engine’s – i.e. the F119 on the F-22 Raptor – no longer has to go to afterburner to get to supersonic speeds. One of the reasons that the Concorde wasn’t able to make money (and got retired) was because it was constantly on afterburner (and burned a huge amount of jet fuel). Beyond the fuel costs – the other reason that the Concorde wasn’t successful – was because it was restricted to overwater flights. Because on an overwater flight – there was no homeowner’s association or EPA to complain about the noise pollution].

Read the rest of this entry »


What were the Chinese touchy about?

USNS Able (T-AGOS-20) on acceptance trials

USNS Able (similiar to Impeccable) on trials

Earlier this week – a story came out that several Chinese vessels had been harassing a US Naval Support ship – USNS Impeccable while it was in international waters.

Now let’s be perfectly clear – USNS Impeccable is not a replenishment ship.  It is SURTASS ship.  SURTASS ships were designed to supplement fixed SOSUS sites to provide sound surveillance of large stretches of the ocean.

Read the rest of this entry »


[UPDATED] Who hid the recipe?

Poseidon – C3

Originally uploaded by rob-the-org

Every organization has had it happen. For whatever reason – the one person who “knows” how things works leaves the organization and there were certain things that only that person knew how to do.

That’s fine when you are dealing with a store or consulting business – but how about the assembly of a nuclear warhead?

That’s what has happened w/ the warhead for the US Trident submarine launched ballistic missile. The Sunday Herald recently reported that the UK Trident modernization plan is threatened with costly delays because no one in the US weapons plants knows how to make a hazardous material code named ‘Fogbank.’

I remember seeing articles over the last couple of years talk about how all of the bomb designers at Los Alamos were nearing retirement and there was concern over who would be left to build the bombs when they left. I guess we know the answer to that question now….

But you have to wonder – if this lack of knowledge was an unspoken reason why the previous Administration had been pushing a new warhead design (the Reliable Replacement Warhead) so strongly.

[Update, March 11] And talking about developing nuclear warheads – take a look at this ScientificAmerican article about ‘Advances in Monitoring Nuclear Weapons Testing‘ (the article’s authors claim that any test of at least 1 kt would be detectable, and in some parts of the world – even below 1 kt).


Going Mobile

BlackBerry Upgrade!

Originally uploaded by bluemarla

If you haven’t noticed – we have tweaked ThreatAxis so that if you try to read if via your mobile device (Crackberry, iPhone, Android) you will get an optimized version of the site for your device.

If you have any issues with this – please let us know.


Return of the Mystery plane

In between meetings – they let me get away from the customer site. And I always take my camera with me.

Here I present one of the unique and unusual aircraft I found. Now – I am talking about the white airplane w/ the blue and red stripes across the nose (in the foreground). The gray plane in the background – isn’t much of a challenge.

Please post in the comment the following information;

– Original airframe it was based on?
– What it was used for?
– Who paid for it?

I will provide a clue – the airplane was photographed in Florida.

First Prize – an honorary ‘Threat Axis’ Gold Star (to be worn on your fatigues when it is time to take over the Banana Republic)

The decision of the judges is final (note – bribery is allowed. A special prize will be awarded for the most creative bribe).

Good luck!


Marine One data exposed by Contractor

Marine One

Originally uploaded by Pradagirl

It was disclosed this morning that blueprints and specifications of the Presidential Helicopter ‘Marine One’ have been compromised via a File Sharing program on a contractor’s computer.

And that the same data was found on a computer system in Tehran Iran.

The article doesn’t mention if this is the current Marine One, or the new Marine One (which might never go into service due to continuing cost overruns).

Someone will probably lose their job over this (unless they are a VP).

But this is a prime example of why you keep work on one computer and play on another.