Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Who Needs Nukes When You Have Fuel Air Bombs?

My old professor Kenneth Minogue at the LSE once told me over a pint that Russia would soon rise again. I scoffed at the idea. This was in the middle of the economic collapse following Sachs failed 'shock therapy.' My thoughts at the time were that Russia was so mixed up economically, politically, socially and everywhere that you could imagine that it would take at least a century before Russia posed a threat to anyone other than itself. My old roommate -- who maintained he was one of the few complete persons having been born in Mother Russia and raised in the Fatherland -- agreed with Minogue. Minogue knew. Arkadi knew. Russia is always a threat. It merely takes time off occasionally to lick its wounds.

Russia Says It Tested World's Most Powerful Air Bomb (Update1)
By Michael Heath
Sept. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Russia tested the world's most powerful air-delivered vacuum bomb that generates a shockwave similar to a nuclear blast, the armed forces said, as the country moves to reassert its global military power.
The bomb is ``comparable to a nuclear weapon in its power and efficiency,'' Alexander Rukshin, deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, said on state television yesterday. Unlike a nuclear bomb, it doesn't leave radioactive contamination, he added.
The weapon is four times more powerful than the Massive Ordinance Air Blast bomb tested by the U.S. military and known as the ``Mother of All Bombs,'' according to the report by broadcaster Perviy Kanal. This prompted the Russian designers to call their device ``the Father of All Bombs,'' it said.
Russia is reasserting its military power with a new intercontinental ballistic missile, upgrades to its air force and the expansion of its navy. It wants to counter the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's expansion in eastern Europe and U.S. plans to deploy anti-missile defense in the region.
The Russian leadership is ``showing the strength of the administration,'' Christopher Langton, senior fellow of conflict and defense diplomacy at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies research group said at a news conference today in response to a question about the bomb.
``It's important to note the presidential elections in March next year,'' he said. Vladimir Putin could be the first Russian president ``to leave office under normal circumstances,'' so he wants to leave ``on a high,'' Langton said.
Ultrasonic Shockwave
The new weapon disperses a cloud of explosive material that is set off by a charge and produces ``an ultrasonic shockwave and an incredibly high temperature,'' Perviy Kanal said on its Web site. After the blast, ``the soil looks like a lunar landscape,'' according to the report.
The new bomb carries fewer explosives than the U.S. device, while the temperature at the center of its blast is twice as high and the area of damage much greater, Perviy Kanal said.
``This has made it possible to reduce the accuracy requirements and made it cheaper, which is necessary in the current situation,'' Yuri Balyko, head of the Defense Ministry's 30th Central Research Institute, told the channel.
The new weapon will allow Russia ``to ensure the nation's security and at the same time battle international terrorism in any situation and in any region,'' Rukshin said.
Russia's Defense Ministry said the bomb ``doesn't contradict a single arms treaty,'' the channel reported. ``Russia isn't unleashing a new arms race,'' it added.
President Putin last month ordered a permanent resumption of strategic bomber flights around the world, ending a 15-year suspension of long-range air patrols. The move is to protect Russia's shipping routes and ``economic zone,'' he said.

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