High Performance Computers
Nuclear Weapons Stockpile Stewardship
Assuming compliance with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the designers of new or modified PRC nuclear devices will have to certify the performance of aging weapons by using a combination of treaty compliant experiments and computer simulations.30
Identifying, predicting and mitigating the effects of aging on nuclear weapons is computationally intensive, requiring three-dimensional modeling and simulation involving many uncertainties. For the PRC, the computing demands are even greater because of the limited amount of nuclear test data to support the modeling.
Thus, HPCs at high MTOPS levels would be particularly useful in helping explore many values for many variables quickly.31 As the United States is finding with its Stockpile Stewardship Program, maximum HPC performance in the range of millions of MTOPS is necessary for three-dimensional modeling of the aging of nuclear weapons.
For this reason, the Select Committee judges that the PRC is almost certain to use U.S. HPCs to perform nuclear weapons applications. Moreover, the PRC continues to seek HPCs and the related computer programs (known as codes) for these programs.
The U.S. national weapons laboratories are currently modernizing their test data or "legacy codes" based on data from the large number of U.S. tests. The Select Committee judges that if the PRC were to acquire nuclear test codes and data from the United States, then the PRC could access empirical data from the large number of U.S. tests that were conducted before the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
The possession of stolen U.S. test data would greatly reduce the level of HPC performance required.
It is also likely that the PRC seeks access to the Los Alamos National Laboratory-based Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility, for the reason that it uses powerful X-rays to analyze the effects of implosions during non-nuclear tests.
The PRC is also likely to seek information regarding the use of lasers for high energy density studies.
Transfer of HPC Technology Can Benefit PRC Intelligence Capabilities
The PRC is improving its capabilities in intelligence collection and unmanned aerial vehicles. The PRC is also a user of encryption technology in its government networks.32 HPCs are useful in the design and operation of intelligence collection platforms, including unmanned aerial vehicles, and are essential to running the computer codes that process intelligence data and perform encryption tasks.
Sensors for Surveillance, Target Detection, and Target Recognition
Radars, acoustic and non-acoustic sensors, and signal and image processing appear to be continuing targets for acquisition by the PRC.33
Based on U.S. experience, HPCs can be used to facilitate research and development of sensors for surveillance, target detection, and target recognition. Use of HPCs in this manner results in sensor systems that are more capable of detecting stealthy platforms, such as aircraft, missiles, and submarines.34
In the design phase, these applications can be computationally intensive, depending upon the level of realism required. For example, U.S. computational requirements range from 500 to over 40,000 MTOPS.35
Also, many of the resultant systems require HPCs and advanced software for their operation. For example, a deployed X-band phased-array radar for ballistic missile search, fire control, and kill assessment requires an HPC to control the radar, detect, identify, and track targets, and compute fire control solutions of multiple high-speed targets.36
In general, timely detection of targets using radar requires homogeneous, tightly coupled systems. The radar system functions by creating images of remote objects and processing the resulting images for review by humans or input into automated guidance or decision support systems. This operation is computationally intensive since large volumes of data must be filtered, enhanced, and interpreted, often in real time.37
In the United States, some radar processing applications ó for example, the processing of data from synthetic aperture radars ó require 32,000 to 115,000 MTOPS.38 Although less capable computers may be useful for these applications, they are not suitable for operational environments that require real-time detection of targets with weak radar signatures, or target discrimination in high target-density environments. Further, radar system performance requires high-quality target templates and empirical validation, in addition to HPC processing speed.39
Sensor Platforms for Aerial and Space-Based Reconnaissance
The PRC is interested in acquiring unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are used for day/night aerial reconnaissance, battlefield surveillance, target positioning, artillery spotting, border patrol, nuclear radiation sampling, and aerial photography.40
The HPC challenge is to provide a sufficient on-board-sensor data processing capability to allow wide-area searches at high resolution, while minimizing communications requirements.41
Satisfying such sensor data processing requirements could also be of value to the PRCís efforts to improve space-based information gathering capabilities.42
Another potential application of HPCs by the PRC is cryptology ó the design and breaking of encoded communications. This application demands fast processing, and the ability to handle large amounts of data. As a point of reference, the U.S. National Security Agency uses some of the highest performance computers available. However, significant cryptologic capabilities can be achieved through the use of widely available computer equipment, such as networked workstations or parallel processors.43
Transfer of High Performance Computer Technology To the PRC Could Contribute to the Manufacture of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Missiles, and Other Weapons
While there is little information regarding the specific ways that HPCs are being used in the PRC to achieve military objectives,44 open source reporting and stated PRC military modernization goals tend to support the belief that the PRC could be using HPCs in the design, development, and operation of missiles, anti-armor weapons, chemical and biological weapons, and information warfare technologies.45
The PRC is developing advanced cruise missiles, anti-ship missiles, and conventional short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs).
While the PRC could design, for example, a stealthy cruise missile without using HPCs, HPCs facilitate the design of such weapons, particularly in exploring guidance and stealth concepts.46 For instance, the Beijing Simulation Center is using hardware-in-the-loop testing in the development of homing guided missiles. Given that such testing involves near real-time processing, HPCs are particularly useful.47
The PRC is also developing new tanks, and new multiple-launch rocket systems. HPCs are useful for executing the detailed, physics-based simulations of weapons effects. Such simulations are useful in assessing the effectiveness and vulnerabilities of these new systems. The calculations are complex, and HPCs are required for efficient processing.48
Chemical and Biological Weapons
The PRC has mature chemical and biological weapons programs that have produced a variety of chemical and biological agents since the 1960s. Such weapons could serve deterrent, retaliatory, or offensive purposes.49
Computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM), a classic use of HPCs, would be useful in planning and designing the integration of chemical warfare agent development processes with chemical industries.50 This possibility is consistent with papers published by PRC scientists concerning chemical and manufacturing processes.51
The PRC can deliver chemical and biological agents with a variety of weapons systems, including missiles and artillery. Since the PRC can employ a variety of delivery means for such agents, key operational considerations for the PRC include how dispersion patterns vary as a function of delivery method and weather. This is a computationally demanding area in which HPCs are extremely useful.
The Select Committee concludes from evidence it has received that the PRC is interested in HPC modeling of dispersion patterns of chemical and biological weapons based on different weapons delivery systems and varying weather conditions.52 In addition, the PRC could be employing HPCs to model the negative effects on the opponent of casualties, and of cumbersome protective gear for a given dispersion pattern of chemical and biological weapons.53
Finally, the PRC may also be using HPCs to design chemical agent detection sensors and protective measures. Such applications can require computational power ranging from 2,000 to 30,000 MTOPS.54
Several PRC scholars and leading military strategists indicate that the PRC has an ambitious, albeit nascent, offensive information warfare program. Currently, the PRCís primary focus for information warfare is military conflict. Concluding that information is becoming a key determinant of military power and victory in war, the PRC has identified the development of information warfare capabilities as a key modernization goal of the PLA.
The PRC should . . . fully bring into play the guiding role of information warfare research in building the military and seek measures by which to launch vital strikes in future warfare, so as to damage the enemyís intelligence gathering and transmission abilities, and weaken the enemyís information warfare capacity.55
HPCs could prove valuable to the PRC in the evolution of this strategy by exploring U.S. information networks and their vulnerabilities, and the technologies that are associated with information warfare such as jammers, microwave weapons, and anti-satellite weapons.56
Transfer of High Performance Computer Technology To the PRC Could Support Attainment of Other PRC Military Objectives
The effectiveness of military operations depends heavily on support functions that include:
- Command, control, and communications
- Weather prediction
- Combat forces training57
HPCs can be used to enhance all of these functions.
In military operations, size, weight, and power consumption limitations are all stressing requirements that may necessitate the use of customized or embedded HPCs, rather than commercially available systems.58
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