Yesterday I wrote about some new ICBM silos China is building in its western desert. These things clearly interest me and so I was doing a little more digging when I found this even more recent article, this one from the BBC about an entirely different ICBM silo field that China is building in another western desert.
In terms of data visualisation and information design, we are looking at the same kind of graphic: an annotated satellite photograph. But the story it paints is the same: China is rapidly expanding its nuclear missile arsenal.
Similar to the earlier piece we see dots to indicate missile silo construction sites. But the Federation of American Scientists noted these silos appear to be at earlier phase of the construction process given that sites were still being cleared and prepared for construction activity.
But put it together with the publicly available information from yesterday and, again, we can only draw the conclusion that China wants to greatly increase its nuclear arsenal. And like yesterday we’re left with the same question:
How will the United States and her allies respond?
Credit for the piece goes to the Federation of American Scientists.
We can move from the microscopic things that will kill us to the very big things that will kill us. Nuclear missiles.
Because satellite photography from late June indicated that China is presently building over 100 ICBM silos in its western deserts. China has long had nuclear weapons, but has also long kept its arsenal small, compared to the two nuclear behemoths: the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia. But you don’t begin building over 119 missile silos unless you intend to build ICBMs.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean that China will build 119 missiles. More than likely it’ll be a very expensive and potentially deadly shell game. How many missiles are underneath the silo covers? Can you keep track of them? But even if China builds a fraction of 100, modern ICBMs come with multiple independent reentry vehicles (MIRVs) that allow a single missile to target several cities independently.
We also know that China has been building shorter and more intermediate range ICBMs. But some of those are thought to be equipped with conventional warheads, designed to target and sink American supercarriers in the Pacific. The goal to deny American sea and airpower effective bases to defend Taiwan or other allies in the South China Sea.
We know about this most recent buildup because of a Washington Post article that used satellite photography to pinpoint those new silos.
Of course this isn’t news to the defence and intelligence agencies. For sometime now they’ve been warning of China’s build-out of its military capacities. The question will be is how does the United States and her allies respond?
Credit for the piece goes to Planet/Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
North Korea tested another missile yesterday. And while we do not have the precise details, I happened to come across this video from the New York Times exploring the different means by which the United States defends against missile threats. It makes use of some nice illustrations and motion graphics to explain ballistic missiles and missile defence systems.
Credit for the piece goes to Robin Stein and Drew Jordan.
Yesterday the United States dropped a GBU.43 on a cave complex in eastern Afghanistan. The bomb is better known by its nickname MOAB, Mother Of All Bombs. But just how does the GBU.43 compare to some of the more common—and not so common—weapons in the US arsenal?
What we do know is that yesterday was the detonation of the largest non-nuclear bomb in warfare. We do have an even larger conventional weapon called the Massive Ordnance Penetrator—phrasing?—but its size and warhead are not as large as the MOAB. MOP is instead intended to be used as a super bunker buster.
When I was in high school I began to listen to music. To find music. To find artists. A guy who owned and operated the store next to where I worked recommended David Bowie, that guy whose songs I had heard on Philly’s classic rock radio stations. Back in those days we still had record stores—not that I knew what a record was—and I found a few used CDs—now that kids today would know what a CD is. Over that summer, I picked up a lot of new music. But what struck me about this David Bowie guy is that Space Oddity, Tonight, and Heathen all sounded so different from each other. He was a great one. And while I’m certain there will be some graphic in the future about his timeline—how can there not—today I am going to follow up once more on the North Korean nuclear test after coming across this graphic from Reuters.
You will recall how last week I looked at a New York Times post that explained the differences between a few different types of nuclear weapons. Well, here Reuters illustrates those differences.
Yesterday we looked at the sites and timeline of nuclear weapons tests. Today, however, as we learn more about North Korea’s hydrogen bomb test, some are wondering whether it really was a hydrogen bomb or something else. After all, there are different ways to build the bomb. Some suggest North Korea tested an atom bomb on steroids, more properly called boosted fission. Anyway, the New York Times does a nice job explaining the differences between the atom bomb, the hydrogen bomb, and how we can infer what North Korea tested from the calculated size of the blast.
Credit for the piece goes to Josh Keller, Ford Fessenden, and Tim Wallace.
Last night, in the States’ time at least, North Korea purportedly tested a hydrogen bomb. How does this differ from their previous tests? Well, those were all nuclear fission bombs, this is a nuclear fusion bomb. (Admittedly, I am simplifying a lot here.) Hydrogen bombs, the H-bomb, are more powerful and more efficient in that they emit less radiation. They are still pretty bad news, though. That bit has not changed.
Anyway, the Washington Post put together a nice piece about nuclear weapons testing. The big feature piece is a map of test sites over time. What I really like about it, however, is that they chose to split the world at a different point—the Pacific Ocean opposite the Prime Meridian. I have occasionally argued for using such maps more often given the increasing relevance of Asia and the relative decline of Western Europe. So it is nice to see it put to good use here.
This past weekend, the US and allies reached an agreement with Iran on the Iranian nuclear programme. In this graphic the Washington Post explains the several steps necessary to take uranium and make it useful for a reactor, a research reactor, and nuclear weapons. Admittedly, a simplified diagram, but still quite useful.
Credit for the piece goes to the Washington Post graphics department.
The Washington Post looked at the testing of the first atomic bomb at White Sands. Nuclear weapons are a topic on which I have done some work in the past. But this piece looks more at the historic test called Trinity.
Credit for the piece goes to Alberto Cuadra and Laris Karklis.