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Does Divine Strake Live On?

It would seem that “Divine Strake” may occur after all. Divine Strake was supposed to occur earlier this year at the Nevada Test Site before a concerted local grass roots campaign put a spanner in the works. It was subsequently delayed indefinitely. A spokesman for Republican Senator Pete Domenici has announced that Divine Stake may now occur at White Sands New Mexico.

Divine Strake involves setting off a massive explosive cocktail of 700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil against a tunnel complex. There can be little doubt that the purpose of Divine Strake was/is to simulate the effects of a low yield “bunker buster” nuclear weapon. A bunker buster such as the envisaged Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator is designed to burrow a few metres into rock before detonating and the resultant explosion would generate shock waves that would hopefully destroy underground complexes buried some 1000 feet into the ground.

Documents released previously state that Divine Strake is to simulate a “low yield nuclear weapon ground shock effect”. The yield of Divine Strake would be approximately 0.6kt TNT. The low yield B61 gravity bomb has yields ranging from 0.3 to 170kt. The current penetrator, the B61-11 has a yield of 400kt. The envisaged RNEP is to be based on the 1.2 megaton B83.

The Bush administration continues to push the envelope on the low yield earth penetrator despite concerted public and congressional opposition. The danger of low yield nuclear weapons is that they would erode the firewall between conventional and nuclear war. Advocates of the RNEP argue that the low yield penetrator is more “useable” than other nuclear weapons. In fact in the US nuclear war plan, OPLAN 8044 Rev 05 (the SIOP has been given the chop), we begin to see the “integration of conventional strike plans into the war plan.” The implications that all this would have for strategic stability should be pretty clear.

Indeed President Bush has signed a National Security Presidential Directive that extends Global Strike to “counter all Hard and Deeply Buried Targets and to include both tactical and strategic adversarial targets”.

Perhaps such targets would include the Russian strategic command and control facility at Kosvinsky Mountain. It is worth quoting from a 2003 article by Bruce Blair in The Washington Post

…"Kosvinsky is regarded by U.S. targeteers as the crown jewel of the Russian wartime nuclear command system, because it can communicate through the granite mountain to far-flung Russian strategic forces using very-low-frequency (VLF) radio signals that can burn through a nuclear war environment. The facility is the critical link to Russia's "dead hand" communications network, designed to ensure semi-automatic retaliation to a decapitating strike.
"This doomsday apparatus, which became operational in 1984 during the height of the Reagan-era nuclear tensions, is an amazing feat of creative engineering. It features hard radio nodes near Moscow that can use remote control to launch communications rockets, which in turn can launch virtually the entire Russian missile force without human intervention. But the Moscow-area radio nodes have grown vulnerable over the past 20 years. Kosvinsky restores Russia's confidence in its ability to carry out a retaliatory strike.
"Kosvinsky came on line recently, which could be one explanation for U.S. interest in a new nuclear bunker buster. If there's a new item on the target list, U.S. strategy requires a weapon to destroy it. Even with a "robust nuclear earth penetrator," as the bunker buster is called, destroying Kosvinsky is not an easy assignment; the command center is protected by roughly 1,000 feet of granite…"

It would be interesting to see the damage expectancy calculations for the RNEP and Kosvinsky Mountain.