"A Mushroom Cloud over Las Vegas..."

...Is what will almost, but apparently not quite, be seen on June 2. According to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency , the dust cloud from Divine Strake, a massive conventional explosion scheduled to take place at the Nevada Test Site this summer, "may reach an altitude of 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) [but] is not expected to be visible off the Nevada Test Site."

boom.jpg

The open-air test will ignite 700 tons of ammonium nitrate/fuel oil, good for 593 tons of high-explosives equivalent, according to the Washington Post . The Associated Press describes the test as the largest-ever open-air chemical explosion at the Nevada site by a factor of forty. Due to the size of the blast and its sensitive location at the home of the United States' erstwhile nuclear test program DTRA has taken the trouble to warn the Russians ahead of time of the upcoming test.

The tests purpose, according to Defense News, is "to examine ground shock effects on deeply buried tunnel structures." The WaPo describes the test as "a conventional alternative" to the politically ornery Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, or "nuclear bunker-buster."

Heres my $64,000 question, though: is this (700-ton!) explosive really a conventional "alternative," or is it a stand-in being used to simulate a low-yield nuke?

By the way a "strake is "a straightedge used for leveling a bed of sand ."

-- Center for Defense Information science fellow Haninah Levine has been passing tips and comments to Defense Tech for months. This is his first post for the site.

(Big ups: Xeni, DS)UPDATE 11:08 AM: "Ain't nothing you can do when it's Strakes on a motherfucking plain."UPDATE 04/03/06 12:15 PM: John Fleck, from the Albuquerque Journal, has the answer to whether Divine Strake is nuke-related. "A Pentagon budget request is explicit about itspurpose: to "improve the warfighter's confidence in selecting the smallest nuclear yield necessary to destroy underground facilities while minimizing collateral damage."Meanwhile, Globalsecurity.org decodes the media gobbledygook surrounding the Divine Strake test.UPDATE 04/03/06 5:15 PM:"In response to an email earlier today, a DTRA spokesperson confirmed that Divine Strake is the same event that is described in DTRA budget documents as being a low-yield nuclear weapons shock simulation," the FAS Strategic Security Blog notes.
It also turns out that Divine Strake is "an integral part" of STRATCOM's new Global Strike mission, which is normally reported to develop mainly non-nuclear capabilities against time-urgent targets. Global Strike is one of the plillars of the Bush administrations so-called New Triad which is said to be reducing the role of nuclear weapons.
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