Some Quick Thoughts

NOTE: If you had problems getting to the site, thank you for persevering and I will simply state that my hosting provider, Dreamhost, sucks. If I had the time and money I’d switch immediately at this point. Don’t, so can’t, but suggestions on good hosting providers most welcome. Given that I usually have a short time in which to write these posts, if the occasional typo/autocorrect error makes you meltdown, you might want to skip. These posts are high-level overviews, and if you want to discuss details, special cases, one-offs, etc. feel free but keep it civil and don’t pretend non-inclusion is a world-ending mistake to give yourself ego-boo. For all those (the majority of you) making good, solid, and thoughtful comments: THANK YOU! Such are very much appreciated.

In yesterday’s post, I failed to add in an important step. Before starting your evacuation, be sure to check any and all vehicles you can to see if any of them start. Some may.

Blast fronts, and even EMP, can do a bit funny on occasion. Terrain, structures, and other delights can create blast shadows and otherwise tamp the fronts. Having been through a “spontaneous disassembly caused by a sudden overpressure” event (the boffins were adamant it wasn’t an explosion as there was unburnt solid rocket propellant lying around), one of the weirdest and amazing things happened to the front of a nearby building. The blast front hit it and sheared off the bolts on the glass curtain front wall and moved the entire structure about ten feet in. Not a single pane of glass cracked or broke. The effort to get it moved back may not have been as successful, think they ended up taking it apart as the crew said no way to move it back without breaking it. Seen and heard of some other weirdness over the years.

The same can hold true for EMP, particularly from a local explosion. Structures and terrain have the potential to block or attenuate EMP and even the radiation front. So, be sure to try your vehicle, and/or any others you can access, before heading out on foot. One suggestion though is to have a proper container you can siphon gas into from any unworking vehicles to use in the one you can as you are not likely to find many working filling stations on your bugout. In fact, an extra-long siphon hose or mechanical crank siphon is not a bad thing to have on hand/with you so you can access underground tanks and even barrels.

While it may seem ghoulish, when checking for working vehicles be sure to check on that older neighbor who has the pristine older vehicle. If they no longer need it, and it runs… If they are alive, kicking, and wanting out, work with them and become a team. Win/Win.

Which leads to another point: know your neighbors. Odds are at least one of them will be good people, and someone you can work with in an emergency, be it an ice storm/power outage or nuclear war. While crowds are not my thing and are to be avoided in most circumstances, having a reasonable sized group is an advantage in a bugout situation. It allows more supplies and gear to be taken, mutual support, and if they happen to be current or former military (which tends to show) it’s going to discourage the looters and others attempting to prey on the weak.

In fact, it’s not a bad idea to get to know a number of people who have different skills. I actually know of some who ended up moving near each other so that in an emergency they could support each other. Sort of like one of those art communities but with an emphasis on preparedness that could also be presented as a historical group who could do blacksmithing and other “old fashioned” things for re-enactments.

Anytime you do have to do the bugout boogie, I want to emphasize something Dean Ing pushes hard in his works: staging. You may be starting out in a vehicle, but roads can be impassable, other things can happen, so you need to leave it and move on. If a car/truck/etc. can’t get through, what about trail bikes or even bicycles? You can even pull a cart behind them at need. Seem to recall a story where they started in an RV, dropped down to a car/truck pulling a large trailer, then to ATVs/trail bikes pulling smaller trailer(s), then to bicycles, and only in ultimate need dropping to foot. Ultimately, be prepared for it being by shank’s mare, but start at the highest level of transport you can get as you can always step down; but, it’s likely to be hard to step back up.

Also, while I focused on sitting tight to avoid the worst of the fallout, I also mentioned that I may be on the wrong side of the conflagration zone. If the structure of my building is too damaged, or the fires are starting/burning, I’m getting the heck out of Dodge. I’m going to see if any vehicle runs, but if not I’m moving out with what I can quickly grab or already have ready (have your bugout bags ready at all times!). I may or may not be able to clear the fires and/or firestorm, but I’m going to try my best to do so.

Just some quick thoughts that really didn’t fit in yesterday’s post.

Some Previous Posts:

Vladimir And The Ukraine

Answers, Ramblings, And A Bit More On Vladimir And The Ukraine

Your Must Read For The Day On Russia

The Puzzles In Play, And The Missing Pieces

Quick Thoughts On Ukraine/Putin

The Thing Behind The Curtain

Missing Pieces And Surprise Pieces

Thursday Update

Not A Lot To Add

Noted

Monday Update

Burn Notice

Accuracy, Reliability, And More

Putin, Trump, And The Coming Storm

Three Futures For Russia

Quick Thoughts

Saturday Update

Mismatched Locomotives

War, Ag, Demographics, And The Worst Is Yet To Come

Past, Present, And A Hungry Future

Huge Grain Of Salt

The Moskva

Retribution Inbound

Uncertainty And Preparation

Honest Question

Monday Morning Quick Brief

War Of The Memes

A Little Free Ice Cream

Rumors Of War

Three Times Is…

If It’s Wednesday, This Must Be Moldova

Going Nuclear

How To Spy On The Russians

Here’s Hoping I’m Wrong

Pins And Needles Time

Mock Away

Intel Wars

The Revenge Of HUMINT

A Funny Thing Happened

Rumors of Rumors

Ukraine, Uvalde, Oh My

Very Interesting


A Quick Russia/Ukraine Update

Russia/Ukraine/Lithuania

Hmmmm

Hmmmm Follow-Up

Ukraine/Russia Tidbit

If You Think

*****

Nuclear War Posts In Order:

Nuclear What?

Nuclear 101: Weapons

Nuclear 101: Delivery

Nuclear 101: Now What?

Nuclear 101: Targeting

Nuclear 101: Scenarios

Nuclear 101: Survival

*****

If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

Nuclear 101: Survival

NOTE: If you had problems getting to the site, thank you for persevering and I will simply state that my hosting provider, Dreamhost, sucks. If I had the time and money I’d switch immediately at this point. Don’t, so can’t, but suggestions on good hosting providers most welcome. Given that I usually have a short time in which to write these posts, if the occasional typo/autocorrect error makes you meltdown, you might want to skip. These posts are high-level overviews, and if you want to discuss details, special cases, one-offs, etc. feel free but keep it civil and don’t pretend non-inclusion is a world-ending mistake to give yourself ego-boo. For all those (the majority of you) making good, solid, and thoughtful comments: THANK YOU! Such are very much appreciated.

First and foremost, yes humanity CAN survive a nuclear war. Is it possible to destroy all life on earth via nuclear war? Theoretically, yes, but it would take enough work and planning that there are good odds the insane people behind such an effort would be detected and hopefully dealt with early on. The same applies for any effort to wipe out humanity.

A current full-level exchange will do tremendous damage to the world, its ecosystems, and reduce human population, possibly even significantly via the loss of major cities. That said, if humans survive in sufficient numbers, we will find ways to thrive and bounce back, it’s the nature of the beast.

While the best way to survive is to not live near a target, it’s not a valid option for many people. I will admit that in my efforts to move out West for my health, one of the factors I’ve used in deciding on location has included not being near any primary, secondary, or even tertiary targets. Until then, however, I do live in a target city: Indianapolis. I strongly suspect it is a secondary target based on the old Soviet doctrine to take out state capitals, and as such it would be a bomber and not a missile target. Let’s run with that as a base assumption.

First, let me say I sincerely hope the Russians have updated their targeting packages as back a few years/decades ago, in addition to the capitol complex they would have targeted the Ford and GM plants, Western Electric (which actually had a bomb shelter under it), and possibly a few other facilities. Given bureaucratic inertia, I would be unsurprised (though extremely briefly disappointed) to find out that the targeting packages had not been changed and the Russians were bombing empty fields and possibly a strip mall.

Manufacturing is no longer the target driver for Indianapolis. Aside from the state government, the largest player is logistics, followed by data/management activities and biomedical research. The Indianapolis International Airport is one of the largest air cargo operations in the U.S. and slated to continue growing as the planned major expansion hub for FedEx. While there is a large amount of rail cargo as well, four interstates and several state highways brings in a staggering amount of truck-hauled cargo each day.

For purposes of our discussion today, let’s limit things to a single 1-megaton device detonated over the state capital. What damage would it do? Check out this entry in Britannica and this page at McGill University for some answers.

Such a blast would not only take out the state government complex, it would also destroy much of the data/management and biomedical research that is concentrated in the downtown area, close those four major interstates, damage if not destroy the airport and prevent operations, and take out a good bit of warehousing and logistics operations.

For me, where I live in a basement room, I am outside the circles for immediate destruction and while the building will likely take damage it should not be destroyed in the immediate blast wave and overpressure. Where things are very iffy is with the thermal effects including firestorm moving out from the area of the explosion. Depending on a number of factors, I’m either toast or I’m fine given distance and location. Let’s go with the fine, and get into what I do to stay fine.

To be honest, as this is a secondary target, if I have a working vehicle I will have packed as much essentials as I have and be long gone given any warning. I have places I can go, friends I can visit, etc. But, let’s say there’s no warning. What do I do?

First up after the blast, I’m checking the building out and determining how long I can stay in said building. I’m also checking to be sure nothing is trying to start a fire or otherwise create a major hazard. There is a very brief period between a blast and when fallout truly starts to come down. Make the most of that very limited time. Even in that time, I’m covering my mouth and nose with a mask, or two- to three-layers of tightly woven t-shirt. The latter is NOT ideal, but works well enough in an emergency.

Many years back, I had some interesting talks with a group at Ft. McPherson about some possible consulting work exploring the use of everyday items in a response to a nuclear exchange. Yes, bunkers, MOPP, etc. may be ideal but are not realistic for the vast majority of people. So, we were going to look at how to improvise good responses. Sadly, that did not take off as new administrations have different priorities. Doesn’t mean I can’t suggest a couple of out-of-the-box ideas here.

Now, the fact is that I, like thousands of others, are going to have to leave because we are on that nasty edge. However, for a number of reasons, it’s going to be best to wait a few days if possible so as to minimize fallout exposure. So, once I secure the structure of the building (and, yes, you should also be prepared to provide security), I’m going to cover the windows to the basement as best I can if not already take care of before the blast. Then, I’m going to shift bookcases and other items in my room to enclose an area as close to the center of the structure as possible. Why the bookcases? Books make great radiation shielding. I’m going to steal some wood pallets from my landlord to create a raised area, then seal that area with plastic including over the pallets. I’m also creating an “air lock” for getting in and out of the area. Tightly woven sheets go over the plastic, providing extra filtration. Put pillows and such down, and you have a nice secure area as a base. Bring in some of your prep food, a 5-gallon bucket as an emergency toilet, and you are in about the best shape you can be at that point.

If I don’t have a keychain detector, dosimeter, or other manufactured device, I check my Kearny Fallout Meter I built when things started to go south. Build it, or buy the other stuff in advance, as after the bombs go off it’s a bit late… If all is good, or at least good enough, and I have enough extra plastic, I’m going to cover the larger room as much as possible. If I’ve planned really, really well, I should have enough stuff left to create a small decontamination area outside the room. If not, one improvises and yes, I do have plans for that as well. As I can, I’m going to help those around me that are wanting to survive and willing to work.

Once I’ve done what I can to create a safe zone, taken care of others as warranted, and done as much advanced prep work as I can, I’m going to hunker down in my inner shelter and wait things out. Presuming no emergencies or the need to defend the site, sit, wait, and see if the emergency radio I tucked away a while back works and if so, if anyone is broadcasting and hopefully providing useful information. If not, I’m going to keep an ear out for military vehicles or any form of announcements being made by people.

Let’s presume no evacuation effort happens, no major problems crop up, etc. After two-three days, or if the Kearny meter says it’s good, I’m going to have to leave. The structure is damaged, power is out which means nasty radioactive flooding if it rains, and a probably degrading security situation. During my wait, I’ve made my preparations to depart. My largest backpack is filled with food, first aid, defensive means, survival gear, etc. I’ve turned the wheelbarrow into a covered means of transport and it has water, food, and other needful things already in it ready to go. Every water bladder, bottle, etc. integral to my gear is filled. I have my medicines and such in the backpack, it’s time.

I’m dressed in layers, and over it all I have my oilskin coat (or duster depending on some issues) and my poncho over that. I’ve rigged a plastic cover over my waterproof hat to help keep dust away from my face. I’m masked up, gloved up, and covered up as completely as I can be. At first light I take off and begin to head out using tertiary roads as much as possible as main roads are likely to be impassible. Where am I headed? In real life, not saying.

In this scenario, I plan to head south then west and try to find transport. Heading this way should put me on a course away from major fallout and radiation. Just to be safe, I frequently check the fallout meter. As for all the waterproof outer layers? Makes decontamination a lot easier and keeps the fallout away from you.

Now, if I were further out from the blast, and was clear of the major fallout path, my preference would be to hunker down and shelter in place. If you have made sufficient advance preparations, and are in a good location, it really would be the best choice. The less you have to go outside, especially at first, the better. Be prepared to deal with refugees and guide them onwards towards help. Be prepared for other issues at need.

Also keep in mind that general emergency preparedness, or preparedness for inflation and food issues, is the same basic preparedness you need for a nuclear situation. The only difference is that you should add in detection gear and gear to help you deal with the fallout. Also, have the means for you and each member of your family/group to transport as much of that material as possible if/when you have to leave. Wagons, carts, wheelbarrows and other delights can be used for other things until needed for emergency use.

If you are interested in preparedness, start here on page 3 of my preparedness posts and work your way forward. Just remember that while the number and type of disasters can approach infinity, there are only a few types of damage and that makes preparation relatively easy.

Again, this is a high-level overview and I’m not getting into a lot of detail. If there is interest in that, let me know and I can look at doing some posts that drill down a bit and explore things in more detail. Also, as I noted the other day, find a copy of Dean Ing’s Pulling Through and buy it! That and Alas Babylon are two excellent books to have on hand. Meantime, the thing to keep in mind is that even near a target, with prior planning (and a bit of luck) it is possible to survive a nuclear blast or war. How well and for how long are up to you to a surprising degree.

Some Previous Posts:

Vladimir And The Ukraine

Answers, Ramblings, And A Bit More On Vladimir And The Ukraine

Your Must Read For The Day On Russia

The Puzzles In Play, And The Missing Pieces

Quick Thoughts On Ukraine/Putin

The Thing Behind The Curtain

Missing Pieces And Surprise Pieces

Thursday Update

Not A Lot To Add

Noted

Monday Update

Burn Notice

Accuracy, Reliability, And More

Putin, Trump, And The Coming Storm

Three Futures For Russia

Quick Thoughts

Saturday Update

Mismatched Locomotives

War, Ag, Demographics, And The Worst Is Yet To Come

Past, Present, And A Hungry Future

Huge Grain Of Salt

The Moskva

Retribution Inbound

Uncertainty And Preparation

Honest Question

Monday Morning Quick Brief

War Of The Memes

A Little Free Ice Cream

Rumors Of War

Three Times Is…

If It’s Wednesday, This Must Be Moldova

Going Nuclear

How To Spy On The Russians

Here’s Hoping I’m Wrong

Pins And Needles Time

Mock Away

Intel Wars

The Revenge Of HUMINT

A Funny Thing Happened

Rumors of Rumors

Ukraine, Uvalde, Oh My

Very Interesting


A Quick Russia/Ukraine Update

Russia/Ukraine/Lithuania

Hmmmm

Hmmmm Follow-Up

Ukraine/Russia Tidbit

If You Think

*****

Nuclear War Posts In Order:

Nuclear What?

Nuclear 101: Weapons

Nuclear 101: Delivery

Nuclear 101: Now What?

Nuclear 101: Targeting

Nuclear 101: Scenarios

*****

If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

Nuclear 101: Scenarios

NOTE: If you had problems getting to the site, thank you for persevering and I will simply state that my hosting provider, Dreamhost, sucks. If I had the time and money I’d switch immediately at this point. Don’t, so can’t, but suggestions on good hosting providers most welcome. Given that I usually have a short time in which to write these posts, if the occasional typo/autocorrect error makes you meltdown, you might want to skip. These posts are high-level overviews, and if you want to discuss details, special cases, one-offs, etc. feel free but keep it civil and don’t pretend non-inclusion is a world-ending mistake to give yourself ego-boo. For all those (the majority of you) making good, solid, and thoughtful comments: THANK YOU! Such are very much appreciated.

Well, I had planned to spend today discussing tactical weapons/atomic demolition munitions and then explore some scenarios. However, Winnie The Poo himself, Xi, has done something incredibly stupid even by his standards which sort of highlights that desperation thing I’ve talked about a few times.

In the epic temper-tantrum and meltdown being pitched by Xi and company over Granny WineBox’s visit to Taiwan, Xi approved the launch of several ballistic missiles: over Taiwan. Even better, according to reports now hitting the media, they landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Now, leaving aside the toddler-level histrionics of the tantrum, doing this would appear to be in violation of more than one international convention, possibly one or more treaties, and is ill-considered to say the least. It does, however, give a good intro to exploring a scenario of how a political leader being an idiot can start WWIII.

For all that it is a tired trope in fiction, I personally find it to be one of the more likely scenarios. Fact is, people make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes snowball. Ego gets in the way of rationality and you also have to consider the toddler-model of governmental interaction (short version: governments tend to behave like toddlers in a room full of toys).

Okay, let’s say one of the missiles had a malfunction, so that it went short and the warhead hit in a major city on Taiwan. Even if a dummy, it’s moving at speeds that start to make it a Kinetic Energy Vehicle (KEV) that could, potentially, have the impact of a small nuke. Safe to say, things are going to get tense and given that the Chinese military is already out acting like a bully having a tantrum and looking for a target, you get good odds of things escalating.

Now, let’s consider a malfunction that causes a missile to go long and off course. What if it hit actual Japanese territory, or say a passenger ship? Do you really think Japan’s going to be terribly understanding? Or that Xi and company might actually think and try to de-escalate the situation? Yeah, I don’t give good odds on that. And, for the record, this is a hypothetical and I know Japan is not a nuclear power and for obvious reasons doesn’t like nuclear weapons. That said, it does have allies who are, and Japan also knows it is on Xi’s list.

Given the amount of air traffic flying over Taiwan (that area is a MAJOR air corridor), let’s think about something that actually could have happened. Back when I was getting my pilot’s license many years ago, one of my cross country solo flights took me through military airspace. Had all the appropriate permissions and such, but as I was in that airspace traffic control came on and told me to turn to a new course immediately. I was making the turn even as I acknowledged the order (crazy I may be, stupid I try to avoid). As I made my turn, I saw artillery firing and could even see some of the shells as they rose up to and through the altitude I was flying.

Like those shells, ballistic missiles, warheads, re-entry vehicles, etc. don’t care that you are there. Unlike those shells, they are moving at speeds that make it almost impossible for them to be spotted and a plane maneuver out of the way. Now, imagine that through sheer bad luck one of those missiles had hit an American passenger jet as it flew through that heavily congested airspace. Shades of KAL007. Except that in this case, as we send in aircraft and ships for search and rescue/recovery efforts, one or more of them are attacked because someone on the Chinese side fucked up.

Situations like that can get out of hand fast. The late Fred Thompson’s line in the Hunt For Red October is true and prophetic. It’s one reason for having tight control of nuclear weapons, and things like Permissive Action Links (PALs, sometimes referred to in older documents/fiction as Presidential Initiative Device, PID) and release codes. Problem is, the smaller the weapon the more likely someone at a lower level could do something like staging it for ready use if they think the order might come. Let’s say the skipper of an attack sub thinks that a release order is coming or that war has already started. He then uses a torpedo (or more) with nuclear warhead(s) to attack one or more U.S. ships coming in for search and rescue/recovery efforts. That whole “least stable” thing I keep talking about with leaders? It goes down the chain as well, and it can fall on a simple seaman hitting the button when they shouldn’t just like in the fictional The Bedford Incident.

In fact, since continuing to think on the imbecilic bone-headed (insert more choice words here) actions of Xi and company is not helping my blood pressure, let’s turn to a potentially fun way of exploring different scenarios. Let’s look at fiction, good and bad.

One of the first books I ever read on nuclear war and surviving afterwards is the highly recommended Alas Babylon by Pat Frank. It is one book I recommend having as a paper copy as it is not just a good story but an excellent primer on on preparedness. It is fairly realistic (esp. for its time) and optimistic.

If you want to get into more nihilistic fantasy with the fanatical commies willing to live underground for 50+ years to take over the world (except for the U.S. which will be a radioactive wasteland with no life of any type), go for Triumph by Philip Wylie. The concepts of special nuclear weapons discussed is interesting, as are the aspects of bunker/shelter design raised. I’m not a fan of the book, to be honest, though it did help inspire a high school science fair project on designing a shelter to keep X number of people alive and communicating for at least five years.

In the same vein, you have On The Beach by Nevil Shute. If emotions are your thing, enjoy. If a thoughtful and realistic novel is your desire, this is about as realistic IMO as Triumph, which is to say not at all.

To get back to books I can recommend, you need a paper copy of Pulling Through by Dean Ing. If you have not read his fiction, I highly recommend it. If you have not read his non-fiction, including his work on preparedness, I HIGHLY recommend it. He and the late Jerry Pournelle wrote a lot of very good material on preparedness and related topics. Get it. If you have to, get it electronic and print it out. Pulling Through is half fiction and half non-fiction, and both halves are chock full of good and important information. Get this book!

When it comes to movies, there’s just not a lot out there that looks realistically at preparedness and survival in the aftermath. Most, IMO, tend to be rather nihilistic and pessimistic as well as heavily political. If inevitable death is your thing, go for The Bedford Incident, Fail-Safe, and a host of lesser movies. Even the enjoyable Dr. Strangelove has the world end. I will note that the movie Damnation Alley shared only a title and a couple of character names with Roger Zelazny’s good novel.

Two movies I do/did enjoy, though realistic is not necessarily a word I would associate with them, are WarGames and By Dawn’s Early Light. WarGames frankly was just some good, fun, escapism in which I could ignore the politics and not have to deal with suspension of disbelief issues because it was so unrealistic. The Mad magazine satire of it was excellent, with everyone including the computer asking Matthew Broderick’s character why he was playing with the computer instead of Ally Sheedy. At the end of the movie, you see the computer going through a variety of scenarios and playing them out. And, yes, the category for these articles is a play on the “Would you like to play a game?” from the movie.

By Dawn’s Early Light is one of those movies I almost hate to like. For certain values of correct, it actually got a few things right. The performances by Powers Boothe, James Earl Jones, and Martin Landau were such that I could/can ignore the anti-Christian, evil Army colonel, grrrlllll power, and one-dimensional patriot aspects as well as some massive plot holes. I admit that I tend to hear Peter MacNicol’s repeated line as ‘Mr. President, please don’t torture yourself, that’s my job!’ All that said, it does offer a more optimistic take on things, and reminds us that people can dial it back under the right circumstances.

The only thing on television that I can even halfway recommend was The Day After. Sorta.

With that, I will call it a day. Tomorrow I plan to start talking about preparedness and survival.

Some Previous Posts:

Vladimir And The Ukraine

Answers, Ramblings, And A Bit More On Vladimir And The Ukraine

Your Must Read For The Day On Russia

The Puzzles In Play, And The Missing Pieces

Quick Thoughts On Ukraine/Putin

The Thing Behind The Curtain

Missing Pieces And Surprise Pieces

Thursday Update

Not A Lot To Add

Noted

Monday Update

Burn Notice

Accuracy, Reliability, And More

Putin, Trump, And The Coming Storm

Three Futures For Russia

Quick Thoughts

Saturday Update

Mismatched Locomotives

War, Ag, Demographics, And The Worst Is Yet To Come

Past, Present, And A Hungry Future

Huge Grain Of Salt

The Moskva

Retribution Inbound

Uncertainty And Preparation

Honest Question

Monday Morning Quick Brief

War Of The Memes

A Little Free Ice Cream

Rumors Of War

Three Times Is…

If It’s Wednesday, This Must Be Moldova

Going Nuclear

How To Spy On The Russians

Here’s Hoping I’m Wrong

Pins And Needles Time

Mock Away

Intel Wars

The Revenge Of HUMINT

A Funny Thing Happened

Rumors of Rumors

Ukraine, Uvalde, Oh My

Very Interesting


A Quick Russia/Ukraine Update

Russia/Ukraine/Lithuania

Hmmmm

Hmmmm Follow-Up

Ukraine/Russia Tidbit

If You Think

*****

Nuclear War Posts In Order:

Nuclear What?

Nuclear 101: Weapons

Nuclear 101: Delivery

Nuclear 101: Now What?

Nuclear 101: Targeting

*****

If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

Nuclear 101: Targeting

NOTE: If you had problems getting to the site, thank you for persevering and I will simply state that my hosting provider, Dreamhost, sucks. If I had the time and money I’d switch immediately at this point. Don’t, so can’t, but suggestions on good hosting providers most welcome. Given that I usually have a short time in which to write these posts, if the occasional typo/autocorrect error makes you meltdown, you might want to skip. Same for anyone melting down about the number of spaces after a period: I was raised two, WordPress keeps trying to change that to one, and so far the battle between us is a draw. These posts are high-level overviews, and if you want to discuss details, special cases, one-offs, etc. feel free but keep it civil and don’t pretend non-inclusion is a world-ending mistake to give yourself ego-boo. For all those (the majority of you) making good, solid, and thoughtful comments: THANK YOU! Such are very much appreciated.

So, we’ve scratched the surface (barely) on weapons, means of delivery, and philosophy. Today, we will focus on the philosophy of reality: targeting. Again, I’m not planning to get into the weeds on this and I’m also, for now, probably only going to focus on a few of the thousands of possible scenarios. While not exhaustive, it will provide enough understanding to help people make decision on preparedness and survival.

While it can be sort of fun in a war game (or if you are trying to create panic in the public) to have an Oprah moment and declare ‘you’re a target, you’re a target, everything’s a target’ it doesn’t really work that way. At least not now, though some do argue that was the case a few decades back. So, what does make a good target for a full-scale attack?

First up, your enemy’s command and control systems. Yep the systems that control the nukes are indeed a prime target, as if you can take them out, it will limit, or possibly, maybe, prevent retaliation. No leaders, no means to communicate, huge amounts of confusion, and you should have time to act with a degree of impunity.

Second, your enemy’s atomic weapons and delivery systems. The emphasis is going to be on getting the first strike weapons such as missiles, boomers/missile subs, cruise missile launchers/launch sites, etc. Within that, you are going to target bomber and other bases to try and take out those nuclear weapons as well. You also want to prevent fighters from launching to prevent them from shooting down your bombers and you don’t want the tankers to launch as they can keep fighters, command planes, and other platforms fueled and up.

What makes a good secondary target? Going back to the days of the Soviet Union, that could/would/did include state capitols, manufacturing centers, ground-force bases, harbors, naval bases that weren’t first strike targets, and other delights.

The basic idea is to use your missiles (cruise missiles, etc.) to take out your enemy’s ability to use their nuclear weapons on you. You do this by getting inside their communications loops (in terms of time and, if possible, the actual signals) or outright eliminating their leadership and those communication systems and loops before they can be used. You do this by destroying the missiles, bombs, and weapon depots before they can be used/utilized. With those systems removed, you go in and attack the secondary targets using aircraft and other means.

Can you have a less-than-full-scale exchange? Theoretically, yes. One class of scenarios involves having a weak-willed enemy who for various reasons chooses not to retaliate at all to a limited strike. Another class involves someone who agrees to limit retaliation to the same level of damage. Yet another class of scenarios is based off having your enemy fuck up by the numbers and give you clear targets that also eliminate the means of retaliation. Could happen. Maybe. Has happened conventionally, so…

The most likely form of limited attack, in my opinion, is likely to be a terrorist or rogue state attack. For a number of good reasons, they are not likely to have/have access to a large number of weapons. In such a case, odds are pretty good they will go after more symbolic targets though some scenarios look at them hitting targets that have a chance of creating situations messier than a nuclear device alone. No, not going to get into more details on that, they have enough ideas as it is and I may have been banned from being OPFOR more than once.

Actually, the scariest scenario out there — to my mind–involves only a single weapon. It’s a scenario that is often associated with surprise first strikes, but just by itself has the potential to put us back to a 1600s level of technology and food production. That scenario is a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) attack.

This version of a FOBS attack essentially has a large warhead (possibly a special warhead to boot) masquerade as a harmless satellite launch. As the device heads up towards orbit, it passes over the center of the United States, and detonates. The resulting Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) will take out not only the electrical grid, but fry every computer and/or electronic device in the continental United States. Only shielded systems will survive. Hate to break it to you, but your car with multiple computers (the newer the more it has), your cell phone, your radio, your stove, your microwave, your toaster, your computer/laptop/tablet, even a large number of medical devices are not shielded. Say bye to them and to your heating/cooling, municipal water, well pumps, sump pumps, and all the features of modern life.

For a nation dependent on just-in-time shipping, it means stores will be rapidly out of food, medicines, clothing, and anything else not locally made. The food in your freezer or refrigerator? Cook and eat it fast, as even if there was power they are still controlled by electronics that are now fried. Even if every train in every museum could be brought back on line and wood/coal/other fuel for them obtained, it’s not even a fraction of one percent of what is carried by train and truck today.

Now, really want to lose sleep? Think about Iran having not only a bomb (courtesy of a lot of help from Pakistan and China apparently) but a proven ability to launch a satellite (again, word is you can thank the CCP, the assholes). Yep, did it a while back and if corporate media covered the story, it tended to be along the lines of ‘nuclear ambitions thwarted, Iran has joined the peaceful use of space club’ type story. Think about the fact that the Mullahs are facing the strongest opposition and uprisings since the revolution; and, that they are committed to bringing about the return of the hidden Imam to Earth — which happens to require an apocalypse. Remember yesterday when I mentioned how MAD placed the safety of the world in the hands of the least stable leader? Can you really look at Putin, Xi, Biden, and the Mullahs and say any of them are in a secure position such that they feel safe and secure about remaining in power? You’re welcome.

A few more points need to be brought up in regards targeting. These are factors that planners (and those seeking to thwart said plans) have to consider.

First up, where do you explode the bomb? Exploding it above ground is going to allow the weapon to destroy or damage a larger area. It also tends to produce less fallout, making it a cleaner weapon.

If you really need to take out a particular structure or location for whatever reason, a ground burst may be the better option to ensure total destruction of that target. Because it is a ground burst, there is going to be a larger amount of fallout since the bomb will be vaporizing/pulverizing soil, structures, etc. and sending it up into the atmosphere and on its way.

The final option is a sub-surface burst. Hardened structures such as bunkers, or even some surface structures, are designed to withstand direct hits and/or near misses. Using ground-penetrating systems increases the chance that even a deeply buried bunker, or massive surface structure, can be destroyed or at least taken off line. Nasty fallout, but I’m also told that it is more limited, at least in terms of the spread. If the boffins from whom I got that information are wrong, I hope it’s on the nastiness of the fallout.

Now, there are two things to consider in regards the statement “How much do you hate that target?” The first is technical in nature, the second one is political in nature.

Your enemy, like you, has a primary control center located well away from other targets like the capital city. It may or may not be a “secret” base or center, but it is likely to be solidly built and deep underground or even inside a mountain. Since The Hole and the Cheyenne Mountain Complex are far from secret and have had their exteriors star on film and television (and rumor is those who worked at both wish the interiors had been as nice as Hollywood portrayed), I’m going to use them for examples. Yes, they did shut down the Cheyenne Mountain Complex for a while, and the Stargate program (annoyed about that still) in the dummy missile silo below the NORAD center (cough, choke, wheeze). While it is not what it was, still makes a good example.

Let’s face it, anyone who wants to attack the United States of America hates The Hole. They don’t just want to knock it offline, they want to destroy it. When first constructed, it was extremely survivable given the accuracy of the times. Now, I don’t know anyone who truly considers it to be survivable. A shaped nuclear charge in a ground penetrator on the most accurate delivery vehicle possible… Think the movies in this case have it right: the orders have to be given and command delegated before it gets hit.

Now, let’s look at the Mountain. Again, when it was built the design was amazingly good. For those who aren’t familiar, the tunnel opening you always see on television and in the movies runs all the way through the mountain. The idea was that if a bomb went off nearby, the blast would go through and not directly impact the doors and such inside. Net result was that the Mountain could ride out even very large blasts.

While there are a couple of tricks that could be tried to simply collapse any and all chambers in the Mountain, I think changing times could easily turn a key defense into an Achilles heel. If you used a cruise missile or hypersonic glide vehicle to put a warhead into the tunnel, the complex is not designed to withstand that. Now, I can think of a couple of ways to prevent that, but…

Now for the political considerations. By and large, the U.S. has focused on developing “clean” weapons. There are a number of reasons for that including but not limited to the fact that I have yet to meet anyone on our side who wants to live underground for a few decades. As long as the weapons are relatively clean, I don’t think it will come to that or any other bad science fiction nihilistic apocalyptic trope.

But, not everyone feels that way about cleaner is better. In fact, an argument can be made that some targets require a dirty weapon because you don’t want ANYONE going into that area for decades. Someone completely unhinged could even desire to make every bomb a dirty bomb to make an enemy the new Carthage. Doing so is easier than many would care for: simply jacket the bomb in cobalt (nasty radiation, long lasting) or some other element or elements that give the desired level of radiation and a decay rate that meets your plan. Someone brought the cobalt bomb up in comments, my thanks to them.

I didn’t cover special weapons in detail the other day as this series is primarily intended for people who have thought little or not at all about the unthinkable. I really don’t want to overwhelm, as my hope is that they will then want to start digging into things and that is when you can start getting into details and precision. Right now, accurate and high-level works. Getting into extreme details on weapons design, orbital mechanics, polar launches, and the many variables on FOBS is counter-productive to the reasons and goals for this series. Feel free to add details and even trivia in the comments, just keep it polite and unclassified.

However, I do feel that I need to mention the nuclear “torpedo” that Russia is allegedly developing as the warhead and the delivery vehicle itself can be considered to fall into the special category. According to the marketing hype, the warhead is massive and dirty, which puts it into the special weapons category. The delivery vehicle, which from the marketing hype would appear to be the size of a small submarine, may either be a form of underwater cruise missile or a drone. Detecting such a vehicle before it hits Norfolk, Pearl Harbor, or other major base could be a challenge. Something to keep an eye on.

The final thing I’m going to bring up in targeting today is the need for multiple attacks on major targets. Why? Simple. When was the last time you saw a complex distributed system where everything worked perfectly when cut on?

Planners tend to be a pessimistic bunch, with good reason, when it comes to reliability. What do you think the odds are of every missile we have igniting, launching successfully, and sending every one of those independent re-entry vehicles on their way with no problems? Planners have to plan for rockets not to launch, problems with the re-entry vehicles, and the fact that a number of the bombs are not going to detonate. They have to plan on planes not starting, having maintenance issues in flight, and that some of their bombs may be duds. Same considerations apply to submarines as well. Also don’t forget that they do have to plan for anti-missile defenses as well.

So, as you look at targets and targeting, keep in mind that a target may get hit multiple times to be sure it is taken out. Trick is, making sure that all the weapons don’t hit too close together, as that tends to work in the targets favor courtesy of one presentation of nuclear fratricide. Multiple hits by multiple means ensures that the target is hit at least once, and odds favor more than once. For example, Washington D.C. could be hit by a sea-launched missile, which if launched off the coast could arrive in 8-15 minutes — not a lot of time. Yes, I’m ignoring for now that DC actually has multiple targets within it. The DC area even more. Sea launched, ground-launched, and aircraft will be headed there. Let’s get people thinking about the unthinkable, then add in the details later when they are better able to handle it.

To end this on a somewhat lighter note, I’m going to bring up a point that may have been rather injudiciously brought up around those who were, possibly, easily offended.

In military operations, there is a concept of selective elimination, to be blunt assassination. The idea is to take out the enemy’s effective commanders and leave the less competent (complete incompetents) alone. However amusing, or true, it is not diplomatic to suggest that Vladimir wants to hurt us, not help us, and as such has elected not to destroy Washington D.C. and state capitals like Albany, Sacramento, Indianapolis, Olympia, Salem, or a few others. Thus concludes both targeting and today’s free diplomacy lesson.

Some Previous Posts:

Vladimir And The Ukraine

Answers, Ramblings, And A Bit More On Vladimir And The Ukraine

Your Must Read For The Day On Russia

The Puzzles In Play, And The Missing Pieces

Quick Thoughts On Ukraine/Putin

The Thing Behind The Curtain

Missing Pieces And Surprise Pieces

Thursday Update

Not A Lot To Add

Noted

Monday Update

Burn Notice

Accuracy, Reliability, And More

Putin, Trump, And The Coming Storm

Three Futures For Russia

Quick Thoughts

Saturday Update

Mismatched Locomotives

War, Ag, Demographics, And The Worst Is Yet To Come

Past, Present, And A Hungry Future

Huge Grain Of Salt

The Moskva

Retribution Inbound

Uncertainty And Preparation

Honest Question

Monday Morning Quick Brief

War Of The Memes

A Little Free Ice Cream

Rumors Of War

Three Times Is…

If It’s Wednesday, This Must Be Moldova

Going Nuclear

How To Spy On The Russians

Here’s Hoping I’m Wrong

Pins And Needles Time

Mock Away

Intel Wars

The Revenge Of HUMINT

A Funny Thing Happened

Rumors of Rumors

Ukraine, Uvalde, Oh My

Very Interesting


A Quick Russia/Ukraine Update

Russia/Ukraine/Lithuania

Hmmmm

Hmmmm Follow-Up

Ukraine/Russia Tidbit

If You Think

*****

Nuclear War Posts In Order:

Nuclear What?

Nuclear 101: Weapons

Nuclear 101: Delivery

Nuclear 101: Now What?

*****

If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

Nuclear 101: Now What?

It truly is the eternal question: Now What? In 1945, it was the question asked as we realized we were on the back of the bull/tiger/dragon/colorful metaphor of your choice and needed to hang on. It’s still the question today, and we will get to it here in time.

In 1945, the United States was the most powerful nation on Earth, with a temporary monopoly on the power of the atomic bomb. While some felt that we could hold onto that power indefinitely, reality as always intruded. The Soviets had known about the Manhattan Project from the start and were already at work on creating their own bombs. This was spurred along, no doubt, by reports that some were pushing to use the bomb to take out the Soviet Union, nip Mao in the bud, and do other world-cleaning events. There were indeed such pushes, given that both politicians and generals had been quite vocal about the need to go ahead and take on the Soviet Union with the conventional forces already in place in Europe.

In those early days, there was what we would now consider an amazing lack of knowledge about atomic weapons. Radiation, contamination, fallout, and more were learned about somewhat on the fly. Aside from the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, U.S. and Soviet troops were exposed to blasts, marched through blast zones within hours, and treated to other delights. A surprising number of military and civilian leadership/elites apparently truly thought there would be little to no effect on the troops, despite what was being seen in Japan with survivors. Yet others simply saw this as an opportunity to learn what would happen.

As it began to sink in that atomic munitions were not something to be used like extra-powerful conventional bombs, there came a spate of serious proposals that read like bad science fiction. Of course they wanted atomic-powered planes, rockets, and more. There were also serious proposals for armored/shielded land crawlers that would dwarf a Jawa sand crawler, giant robots, and more. It can be a lot of fun to go back and look at some of these proposals.

At the same time, strategic concepts were being developed for the use of atomic weapons. The ridiculous idea that they would pre-empt and prevent conventional war was quickly disproven by Korea and a host of smaller conflicts around the world. At the same time, people began to realize that as more countries got more and more bombs, that a nuclear war would be/could be devastating on a scale never before seen. Pretty much every country of any significance began upgrading its air defenses as planes were the primary means of delivery at that time. As rockets and missiles came to the fore, work began on anti-missile defenses.

As things progressed, concepts were developed for the use of weapons and fighting an atomic war. In some respects, the focus was on preventing the use of atomic weapons and limiting exchanges between parties (really between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.). Thus was developed the moral abomination of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) which simply was that if the U.S. were attacked, we might be destroyed but we guarantee you will as well. Both sides had the means to destroy the other, potentially a few times over, and would do so at need. Since each side could do so, neither would attack the other. At least that was the theory, though it really didn’t consider independent powers that weren’t part of the two major power blocks. Worst, it put the safety of the world in the hands of the least stable leader with nukes.

Yet, planning continued on “limited” nuclear war and, to be honest, how to get around MAD and various treaties. After all, if you could come up with a way to take out your enemy’s atomic arms and/or the command and control of same, you’d win, wouldn’t you?

To get a better idea of the ideas involved, allow me to recommend reading Herman Kahn’s Thinking About The Unthinkable and Thinking About The Unthinkable In The 80s. There are other books out there, some of which are quite good, but these two capture a great deal of the philosophies of nuclear war, and avoiding same. NOTE: This is not an endorsement of or agreement with everything espoused by Herman Kahn. Agree or disagree, it is a fascinating window to this world.

They also provide a window into the concept of limited nuclear war. In such an event, only a small number of weapons — perhaps even only one — would be used and then both sides would stand down from further use of atomic weapons. Two problems, IMO, with that are human nature and clarity. Human nature says that even if a limited strike is executed on Country A by Country B, Country A is going to want to strike back and if they feel an existential threat they are going to be inclined to strike back as hard as possible. Clarity, in this case means that you know what you are doing and that you want to limit things, but the country you are attacking, and any allies, aren’t mind readers and are likely to be taking any announcements from you with a grain of salt. To be polite.

Is a single missile being launched a harmless weather sounding mission? Is it a satellite launch? Or, is it a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) that will detonate over the target country and take out pretty much all electronics with a burst of EMP so a surprise attack can be launched? Even the use of tactical devices on the battlefield runs a real risk of escalation. If one uses such against a city with military and political headquarters, you have just put your cities at risk.

It was the U.S. position for decades that the use of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons would be regarded as first use of nuclear weapons, and would be responded to in kind. Those particular red lines have been severely eroded, which may have unfortunately emboldened enemies and given the concept of “escalate to de-escalate” an undeserved air of legitimacy. For those who are not regular readers, this is a Russian concept that they could use a special weapons/tactical device or devices on the battlefield and prevent retaliation by threatening to go strategic (full exchange) if anyone fires back. Sort of a ‘you know I’m crazy because I’ve used a nuke, if you retaliate I’m crazy enough to launch them all’ scenario. I have my doubts about how well that’s going to work…

Tomorrow, I think we discuss targeting and may start looking at some scenarios; but, for today, let’s close out with two very important considerations: Command and Control, and defenses.

Command and Control is how the President (or civilian authority in line of succession) gives orders to our nuclear forces. It’s also how the military shares information with the President, so he can make the decision(s) on how to respond to an event or events. There are such command and control systems/structures for every atomic power.

In the case of the U.S. we have bases, airborne command posts, and perhaps some other things devoted to detecting threats and responding to them. There are dedicated communications networks for these purposes, for all that the Chinese seem to be potentially trying to spoke them. No, I’m not happy about those Chinese land purchases that also seem to come with all sorts of interesting electronics, though I expect little to be done for now. Just keep in mind, as I’ve noted before, the majority of our detection systems are older tech and focused pretty much entirely on ballistic missiles. Much broader threat envelope today…

The Russians also have detection, command posts, and airborne command posts. However, the Soviet Union back in the day realized the communications nets sucked so they devised a system to work around it. For all that we joke about the President pushing the button, the Soviet-now-Russian system is pretty close to that. It has an official name (Perimeter) but is best known as “Dead Hand.” The idea being that a dead hand can still launch a retaliatory strike.

I wrote about the system before at Blackfive years back (can’t find the link, sadly) but the basics are that the system monitors cities, seismic data, and more and if it detects information indicating an attack on Russia, a duty officer is notified and they can decide next steps. Also, if they get the launch orders from the special control system that is usually near Putin (or previous leaders), they can act. Either way, they make a decision on target packages and then launch a missile that as it rises up broadcasts a radio signal to the nuclear armed forces that gives them the launch orders. Once that rocket goes up, the Russian missiles will launch. Which is why we should all celebrate Col. Stanislav Petrov, who when a major warning system malfunctioned, made the decision to ignore the false information and prevented 1983 from being the year of WWIII. The system also came close to being activated by Boris Yeltsin when a weather rocket launched from Norway was mistaken for a first strike.

The British, French, Chinese, and others all have their systems and those systems reflect their governments. With the British, we have a good deal of sharing and it used to be fairly common to see British liaison officers at NORAD and other facilities I’m told.

Now, a little on defense. While Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) systems get a lot of play, there are a variety of options. Passive defenses include bunkers, such as The Hole or Cheyenne Mountain Complex. Active defenses can include ABMs, projectile systems, or potentially space-based systems. Work on lasers and other directed energy devices is advancing according to industry publications and RUMINT. For a number of reasons, I’m not able to comment on a lot on this work, but will admit I find it frustrating when told (usually by an over-educated idiot) that some or all of it won’t work. You might look up Dean Ing’s discussion on accidentally directly intercepting a missile in flight. It was decades ago, and the idea apparently was to have a near miss so they could get the data to allow a direct hit. Ooops.

Sadly, a lot of our defensive efforts have been prevented/gutted/etc. by people who seem to feel it is immoral and improper to defend yourself. Or possibly because they agree with the enemy. I do wonder some days. And, yes, there is a group that feels that because of MAD we have a moral duty to die without defending ourselves since that might undermine MAD. My thoughts on them I leave to your imaginations.

Some Previous Posts:

Vladimir And The Ukraine

Answers, Ramblings, And A Bit More On Vladimir And The Ukraine

Your Must Read For The Day On Russia

The Puzzles In Play, And The Missing Pieces

Quick Thoughts On Ukraine/Putin

The Thing Behind The Curtain

Missing Pieces And Surprise Pieces

Thursday Update

Not A Lot To Add

Noted

Monday Update

Burn Notice

Accuracy, Reliability, And More

Putin, Trump, And The Coming Storm

Three Futures For Russia

Quick Thoughts

Saturday Update

Mismatched Locomotives

War, Ag, Demographics, And The Worst Is Yet To Come

Past, Present, And A Hungry Future

Huge Grain Of Salt

The Moskva

Retribution Inbound

Uncertainty And Preparation

Honest Question

Monday Morning Quick Brief

War Of The Memes

A Little Free Ice Cream

Rumors Of War

Three Times Is…

If It’s Wednesday, This Must Be Moldova

Going Nuclear

How To Spy On The Russians

Here’s Hoping I’m Wrong

Pins And Needles Time

Mock Away

Intel Wars

The Revenge Of HUMINT

A Funny Thing Happened

Rumors of Rumors

Ukraine, Uvalde, Oh My

Very Interesting


A Quick Russia/Ukraine Update

Russia/Ukraine/Lithuania

Hmmmm

Hmmmm Follow-Up

Ukraine/Russia Tidbit

If You Think

Nuclear What?

*****

Nuclear War Posts In Order:

Nuclear What?

Nuclear 101: Weapons

Nuclear 101: Delivery

*****

If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

Nuclear 101: Delivery

Once again, this is a high-level overview. Part of that is because the only means of delivery I’ve never heard seriously discussed (over adult beverages may be a different issue) is using a kite. Everything from balloons to human assets has been discussed, proposed, and possibly even implemented.

Given the size and weight, the original bombs were designed to be delivered by aircraft. To get the bombs to the airfield, however, required ships. My father actually slept on top of the Hiroshima bomb, not knowing what it was, onboard the Indianapolis. Story for another day, but the first bombs were huge, crude (by today’s standards) and low-yield compared to modern thermonuclear devices.

As size and weight came down, the types of planes that could be used for delivery increased. While the big bombers (B-52, etc.) are still the primary delivery vehicle, even fighter bombers and small aircraft can technically carry a bomb. A fact that tends to give planning staff ulcers given some of the scenarios that enables.

Outside of suicide scenarios, the key is the ability to support the bomb and bombing run, and the ability for the plane to be a safe distance away when the bomb goes off. This can mean anything from bombing at high altitude to ensure enough distance; coming in at high speed and lower altitude; or doing a lob toss (idiot’s loop) where the pilot flies a course that releases the bomb onto a ballistic arc to the target while the pilot does a 180 and redlines the engine(s) to get to a safe distance before it goes off.

Rather, those used to be the only options for aircraft. Today, however, you have the ability to use Air-Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCM), glide vehicles, and RUMINT has it other options (loitering systems?) are either here or in work. The key to all of these from the U.S. perspective is protecting the expensive highly-trained crew for future use by sending in unmanned systems from a distance. Not every country/power shares that concern.

For years, bombing was the only real option and it remained the most accurate option once the Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) became an option. The rocket attacks on London by Germany in WWII were the first use of modern ballistic missiles in war. While they did a good deal of damage and killed a fair number of civilians, they anything but precise and were aimed only in the crudest sense of the word. Even if targeted at a specific landmark, you were doing good just to have it hit in the greater-London area. The inertial navigation systems used on the rockets were not very good, which is not surprising in a first generation system. Yes, yes, they were in use on planes, but no one had ever designed one that could be fitted in a rocket.

When the ICBM came into the picture as a means of nuclear delivery, there had been some improvements to the system, but you still had a Circular Error Probability (CEP) measured in miles. As in the warhead would impact up to several miles off target. As a hypothetical, a U.S. warhead might hit up to a mile off target, while Soviet systems of the day may have had a tendency to hit 10 or so miles off target.

The U.S. response to this was to improve the guidance systems to reduce the CEP such that it was measured in yards, then feet. As seen in non-nuclear use in Iraq and elsewhere, modern guidance systems for missiles, cruise missiles, drones, and loitering munitions can in a number of cases be measured in inches. The problem is that the Minuteman system, our ground-based launch component, is mid-1960s tech. Our Trident Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) are newer than that, but still are based on technology that is 40-50 years old. More on this as we get into strategies and related discussions in the days ahead.

The Soviet response to having such large CEPs was typical. Given problems with manufacturing and technology, they simply made their nuclear weapons more powerful. Didn’t matter if they were a few miles off target, if the bomb was large enough to take it out anyway, along with a hell of a lot of additional real-estate. One of the terms for them you may come across is “city busters.” Even after they stole, bought, or developed improved guidance systems, they have retained that tendency to go for larger warheads — which may say something about the real accuracy of their systems as opposed to what the marketing brochures say…

A brief aside: their problems with technology still persist, and it is telling that the Russians are heavily dependent upon Western companies (looking at you Germany. Though they are not the only government turning a blind eye to companies providing such to Russia, they are the leading one) to provide the components needed for precision guidance in every type of munition.

A couple of other important points to keep in mind when discussing ICBMs. First, they require silos or other launch support. Silos are fixed, expensive, and a target. Mobile launch systems are not as robust but are harder to find/keep track of by an enemy. Silos, because such are very precisely surveyed locations, offer a higher degree of initial accuracy to the guidance system. Mobile launchers tend not to have that precision on launch point since planners rarely count on GPS and other systems being available. Great if it is available, but never count on it.

The second point is that there are two types of missile: solid fueled and liquid fueled. While it is technically possible to make a solid propellant engine I’m told, it’s not a thing with ICBMs.

Solid propellants are limited for the most part to motors: you can start it and it goes until all the fuel is gone. You have no start/stop capability. The advantages to solid fuel pretty much comes down to instant use capability. The disadvantages are that solid motors have a definite lifetime, and require inspection and testing during that time to be sure problems haven’t developed. Cracks and voids are very bad things.

Liquid fuel engines are the alternative to solid motors. While there are arguments to be made over thrust, specific impulse, and other things near and dear to rocket people, the key from an ICBM viewpoint is that they are reliable, easy to maintain, and have a very different inspection and testing regime. Theoretically you also have the ability to start/stop the engines as an additional means of flying an evasive course. A downside to them is that you don’t have instant launch capability, as you have to load the fuel just before launch.

And, yes, you do want to do it just before launch. Attempts to keep them fueled constantly have not worked out well for anyone in the past, just as attempts to use hypergolic fuels have ended badly. In Saturday’s discussion on weapons, remember the comments on designing weapons so that fire, explosions, and other things don’t accidentally set off the weapon? There are good reasons for that other than planes crashing, as it’s quite the faux pas to nuke your own silo(s). Even though having a missile cook off inside it while closed up pretty well takes it out anyway.

It is worth noting that the U.S. has gone with solid motors for pretty much all its missiles. The Soviet Union, then the Russians, have primarily gone with liquid engines for ground-launch. With proper maintenance and testing, both work just fine and can do the job. The key is the maintenance and testing, and I’m trying to decide if I should start in on the history of nuclear war theories tomorrow or do a discussion/rant on the need for testing and what I regard as the abysmal state of America’s nuclear preparedness.

Aside from missiles and aircraft, nuclear weapons can be delivered via glide vehicles, cruise missiles, drones, artillery, and other means. At various points the U.S. and others have explored shoulder-launched systems, human strike teams, and even more far-fetched ideas.

Glide vehicles are not new, and may have even originated as far back as the days of balloons. The idea is simple: create something that has wings/surfaces that will induce motion even as the object drops. Light the fuse and drop it so it heads towards the enemy. Glide bombs were used during WWII, and modern versions can be used for bombing and (one-way primarily) recon. I’m not aware of anyone seriously using them, but they are an option where advanced tech may be limited. The exception to this is the idea of a hypersonic glide vehicle, which is an option reportedly being pursued by the Russians. If successful, it would be a major game changer.

Cruise missiles have been around a while (see the Navaho, aka NeverGo, cruise missile for an early attempt) and with the advent of the drone revolution, have continued to advance. For purposes of our discussions, cruise missiles differ from drones because they operate independent of human control. Drones are flown and while they may have (depending on model) some auto-pilot capability there is usually a human in the loop. Cruise missiles have the ability to come in low and fast, thus evading early warning systems which were (on both sides) primarily developed to detect ballistic missiles. Drones are often stealthy, which opens some interesting possibilities.

Artillery can be used to deliver nuclear weapons. While mostly reserved for tactical weapons, it is theoretically possible for modern systems to launch a strategic weapon. The trick, as always, is to ensure that the launch system is OUTSIDE the blast radius of the device being launched. And, yes, that actually was an issue early on.

While not in use anywhere that I know of, pretty much everyone around the world has looked into some form of man-portable launch system, with at least one shoulder-fired system developed. Problem was, such systems had issues including the slight downside of the person launching the weapon being inside (potentially well inside) the blast zone. Oddly, not a favorite with the troops.

Also, pretty much everyone has looked into the idea of small teams who can be inserted with a weapon into an area (most often by air) who will then place the weapon where needed and then high-tail it out of Dodge with the weapon timed to go off after they are safe. If all goes well.

Finally, you can put a bomb in a van or small truck (might want to beef up the suspension), and drive it to a target that can be reached via roads. Tom Clancy, John Ringo, and others have covered this quite well. Not great for a mass attack, but when we get into strategies it is another concept that can give planners ulcers. Same holds true for large boats/small ships.

So, that concludes a very quick, high-level overview of common, not so common, and even a couple of improbable delivery systems. I wasn’t joking when I said the only delivery system I haven’t heard seriously discussed was kites…

Some Previous Posts:

Vladimir And The Ukraine

Answers, Ramblings, And A Bit More On Vladimir And The Ukraine

Your Must Read For The Day On Russia

The Puzzles In Play, And The Missing Pieces

Quick Thoughts On Ukraine/Putin

The Thing Behind The Curtain

Missing Pieces And Surprise Pieces

Thursday Update

Not A Lot To Add

Noted

Monday Update

Burn Notice

Accuracy, Reliability, And More

Putin, Trump, And The Coming Storm

Three Futures For Russia

Quick Thoughts

Saturday Update

Mismatched Locomotives

War, Ag, Demographics, And The Worst Is Yet To Come

Past, Present, And A Hungry Future

Huge Grain Of Salt

The Moskva

Retribution Inbound

Uncertainty And Preparation

Honest Question

Monday Morning Quick Brief

War Of The Memes

A Little Free Ice Cream

Rumors Of War

Three Times Is…

If It’s Wednesday, This Must Be Moldova

Going Nuclear

How To Spy On The Russians

Here’s Hoping I’m Wrong

Pins And Needles Time

Mock Away

Intel Wars

The Revenge Of HUMINT

A Funny Thing Happened

Rumors of Rumors

Ukraine, Uvalde, Oh My

Very Interesting


A Quick Russia/Ukraine Update

Russia/Ukraine/Lithuania

Hmmmm

Hmmmm Follow-Up

Ukraine/Russia Tidbit

If You Think

Nuclear What?

*****

Nuclear War Posts In Order:

Nuclear What?

Nuclear 101: Weapons

*****

If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

Nuclear 101: Weapons

UPDATED to correct typo, sure there’s at least one more in there…

While the primary focus is on nuclear weapons and war, I’m going to talk a bit about other types of special weapons as they can and do play a role in a nuclear war and nuclear strategy. So, let’s start by taking a look at the basic weapons.

First up, the original weapon that opened the nuclear age. Fission weapons derive their energy from breaking apart the atom. To be a bit more precise, a neutron is used to break apart a single atom into two smaller atoms which releases energy and more neutrons which then break apart yet more atoms in a sustained chain reaction. This releases a large amount of energy, which is then measured in kilotons (1 kiloton = 1,000 tons of TNT [note: typo corrected! Thanks for pointing it out]) or megatons (1 megaton = 1,000,000 tons of TNT). Note that pretty much all fission weapons stay in the kiloton range.

In terms of operating systems, there are two types of fission weapons: gun-type and implosion. In a gun-type fission weapon, conventional explosives drive two masses of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) into each other to produce what is called a criticality: the chain reaction necessary for the bomb to function. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was a gun-type device.

The implosion device uses a core, or pit, of plutonium surrounded by conventional explosives. The sophisticated explosives create a uniform compression of the plutonium which creates the criticality which then ensures the chain reaction with some form of neutron initiator. If you want more details, you will need to look it up yourself and I note that there is a lot of information out there, a good bit of which is accurate. I will note that you can use HEU as the pit instead of plutonium. In fact, the UN reports that Iraq was doing just that back in the bad old days. It should also be noted that the world’s first nuclear explosion at Alamagordo and the Nagasaki bomb were both implosion devices.

Brief aside, gun devices are easier to build from a technological standpoint but tend to be rather large. Implosion devices are much more technologically challenging on almost every level, but allow a great deal of power in a smaller device.

The next level of weapons are fusion devices. Whereas fission splits, fusion brings deuterium and tritium together to form helium and a whole bunch of energy. Hence the name, hydrogen bomb as deuterium and tritium are isotopes of hydrogen. Edited for clarity and to fix a typo. The energy output of a fusion weapon is much (much much even) higher than a fission weapon.

In discussion on nuclear war, you are going to hear the term “thermonuclear weapons” used. What are they? Simply put, they are a combination of fission and fusion weapon. In grossly over simplistic terms, the fission weapons can be “boosted” by adding in a fusion component. The majority of nuclear weapons in use by major powers today are in fact thermonuclear devices.

Regardless of type, conventional warheads tend to be divided into two areas: Strategic and Tactical. Strategic are mated to longer-ranged delivery systems and are of larger yield. Tactical are intended for use with short-ranged systems and have a much smaller yield. Strategic are intended to take out large areas/targets and tactical are designed to take out a small/limited target and minimize damage outside a limited area. Cough, cough.

There are some specialized types of nuclear weapons. One that hit the news a few decades back was the so-called neutron bomb. This was a device designed to do minimum damage to an area (though it could be argued that it was intended to focus damage to a specific area/target) and neutralize the surrounding area via a massive dose of neutron radiation. That burst of radiation would result in the death of humans (and other animals) hit by it, but leave the infrastructure intact and non-radioactive.

Are there other types of specialized warhead? RUMINT, of course, says yes. Everything from enhanced/tuned EMP to signals to the aliens waiting just outside the solar system. May have to pull some of them into some fiction I need to write, but for purposes of our current discussion the only ones that, if they exist, would have any impact would be enhanced EMP.

No discussion of nuclear weapons would be complete without discussion of issues of criticality and fizzles. Criticality is essential to enabling the chain reaction that is a nuclear explosion. It’s when you get it without wanting to set of such a chain reaction that it becomes a not-so-minor issue.

One way to get an accidental criticality is to bring two masses of material, be it HEU or plutonium, close enough together that a reaction starts. This has happened, in more than one country, when people handling such materials either brought them too close together as part of an experiment (or manufacturing process) and got a flash criticality. This was a short-term event because the materials were immediately separated, though the flash was most often a terminal event for those present.

The other way it can happen is if a fire or other catastrophe some or all of the conventional explosives in a nuclear device. I will simply note that modern weapons make use of specialized explosives and explosives design/layout to minimize the risk of such.

Then there are fizzles. While most of the discussions of learned types focus on boosted weapons, they technically can happen to any type of nuclear explosive. In short, a fizzle is simply an incomplete reaction. In a boosted weapon, the boost doesn’t happen. In a single-type weapon, the chain reaction is not sustained to the planned extent. At worst/best (worse from the user standpoint, best case from the view of the target), the explosion is not as large as planned. RUMINT suggests that there can be odd effects from a fizzle, including some potentially nasty material for clean-up.

You can also have duds. For whatever reason, the bomb does not go off. The conventional explosives may or may not go off, but the core of the bomb does not even reach fizzle status. If nothing goes off, it does make clean-up and containment easier. If the conventional explosives do go off, it can spread radioactive materials around.

Which gives a nice segue into other types of special weapons. In the parlance in which I grew up, CBN for Chemical, Biological, Nuclear.

Chemical covers a range of nastiness from nerve agents to simple caustic compounds. They are intended to incapacitate or otherwise neutralize large groups of ground forces. For those who have not served, having to operate in MOPP gear is hot, nasty, and cumbersome to be polite I am told. I include it here because one of the best ways to deny an enemy use of nuclear weapons is to hit the appropriate storage depots with chemical (or biological) weapons. This prevents ready use and preserves them in case you want to secure them or use them for your own purposes (don’t judge). By the time someone can secure, decontaminate, verify, and then deploy — well, it’s most likely things are already over for the time being.

Biological weapons also cover a range of options. Most people think of killer plagues, and yes there has been research into such (and some countries continue on that to this day). It also includes other vectors designed to incapacitate enemy leadership. Again, there’s a range and if you are really interested, dive in and explore. I include it here primarily because it is a factor that needs to be mentioned, though one scenario may come up in later discussions.

Non-explosive nuclear are best represented by dirty bombs. That is, using conventional explosives to contaminate as large an area as possible by spreading some form of nuclear material including nuclear waste. If, like me, you’ve had the joy of going through the FEMA Weapons of Mass Destruction Course, even a very large and effective dirty bomb is only going to cover a limited area. Pick the right area though, and… While not necessarily practical, you could potentially use a non-explosive criticality to take out key enemy leadership with the right assets. This may or may not get discussed later.

Now, to the topic that generates large amounts of wailing and gnashing of teeth: testing. Yes, testing is needed.

Before computer modeling and simulations because practical, most nuclear weapons design was based on mathematical probabilities and a certain degree of trial and error. Want to know if a new design worked, and worked as planned? Build it and try it.

With the advent of truly advanced computer design and simulations, there came a group who said we no longer needed to do testing of any sort, above ground, underground, or even deep space. There’s just one problem that the smug SOBs who say that computer simulations are all we need don’t get: GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out.

Simulations, while often quite good, are no replacement for reality. They can limit the amount of real-world testing required, but they can’t replace it any more than they can replace the need for manual checks of the weapons to detect corrosion in the pits or elsewhere, damage to components from radiation, or any of the other things that need to be checked. They can suggest a schedule of such checks, and maybe even where to spend extra time checking, but they can’t replace the checks, or the tests.

Question for the class: when was the last time we tested either a new or existing design to be sure they either worked as planned or still worked as designed and tested?

Given how much of our nuclear forces are still using designs and components from the mid-1960’s, it’s kind of an important question. Especially since we are at a point where we not only need to modernize our weapons and forces, we need to look at a variety of new warhead and delivery vehicle options to meet new and different threats.

On that note, I think I will stop for the day and on Monday pick up with delivery vehicles and systems. Today is a very quick and broad overview of the weapons, now it’s time to look at how they get from point A to point B.

Yes, I’ve very deliberately not gone into detail on any number of areas and issues. You can write massive tomes and dissertations on any facet of everything brought up today. It suffices to get get some basic information out and avoids becoming a primer if you will.

There are plenty of such out there, and some are fascinating reading. For the purposes of this series of posts, however, the high view should be sufficient.

Some Previous Posts:

Vladimir And The Ukraine

Answers, Ramblings, And A Bit More On Vladimir And The Ukraine

Your Must Read For The Day On Russia

The Puzzles In Play, And The Missing Pieces

Quick Thoughts On Ukraine/Putin

The Thing Behind The Curtain

Missing Pieces And Surprise Pieces

Thursday Update

Not A Lot To Add

Noted

Monday Update

Burn Notice

Accuracy, Reliability, And More

Putin, Trump, And The Coming Storm

Three Futures For Russia

Quick Thoughts

Saturday Update

Mismatched Locomotives

War, Ag, Demographics, And The Worst Is Yet To Come

Past, Present, And A Hungry Future

Huge Grain Of Salt

The Moskva

Retribution Inbound

Uncertainty And Preparation

Honest Question

Monday Morning Quick Brief

War Of The Memes

A Little Free Ice Cream

Rumors Of War

Three Times Is…

If It’s Wednesday, This Must Be Moldova

Going Nuclear

How To Spy On The Russians

Here’s Hoping I’m Wrong

Pins And Needles Time

Mock Away

Intel Wars

The Revenge Of HUMINT

A Funny Thing Happened

Rumors of Rumors

Ukraine, Uvalde, Oh My

Very Interesting


A Quick Russia/Ukraine Update

Russia/Ukraine/Lithuania

Hmmmm

Hmmmm Follow-Up

Ukraine/Russia Tidbit

If You Think

Nuclear What?

*****

Nuclear War Posts In Order:

Nuclear What?

*****

If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.

Nuclear What?

Yesterday, I read an interesting article on a recent conference on nuclear deterrence (and more) held in Omaha. This is an annual conference held under the aegis of the U.S. Strategic Command, formerly known as SAC before it was abolished in a fit of premature celebration years ago.

While it’s been going, mostly, since 2009, it seems this year the shit finally got real for some people as they realized what others have been saying for years: Russia is a realistic threat who is modernizing as rapidly as possible; the Chinese are still a few years away but working hard to bypass parity with the U.S. as soon as possible; Iran is a realistic threat on it’s own, much less as a catspaw for others; and, even North Korea needs to be taken seriously.

Consider the fact that at least the backbone of our nuclear capability is based on mid-1960’s technology. The Minuteman system is indeed just that, and you might want to take a look at the BUFF and how some of it’s crews include three generations of military family serving in the same plane over the years. Let’s not get into our command and control system and the reported use of floppy discs and other delights. Let’s not get into the age and design of our warheads, or that we need a better range of warhead options for scenarios that might have changed just a bit since 1965. Nor the fact that we have not taken full advantage of our technology and what is allowed under treaties to engage in the type of anti-ballistic missile (heck, anti-missile period) defense that would protect us from not just ballistic threats, including depressed trajectory shots from sub-launched missiles, but also from cruise missiles, hypersonic delivery vehicles, specialized delivery vehicles (deep penetrators, etc.), and, well, you get the picture. A lot has changed since 1965. Sadly, it isn’t our nuclear presence or posture.

Meantime, Russia has the SATAN-1 deployed and is working on the SATAN-2. I’m taking some of the things with the SATAN-2 with a grain of salt right now, as it was supposed to be fully deployed (and replacing the SATAN-1) about two years ago. They have continued warhead development, a variety of delivery vehicles, nuclear-capable bombers, and everything needed to have a reasonable assurance of a reliable and robust system. Or, at least the appearance of one. Again, there appear to be some glitches in the system, and I do take the Russian/Soviet tendency to develop what I call “Ronco Systems” as a result of an occasionally massive inferiority complex. That is, systems that are larger, better, faster, etc. than corresponding American systems and they also do other things/provide more options in the process. Problem is, the more bells and whistles, the more often there are performance issues.

China, well, what I will say right now is that they are working hard (and stealing tech/designs) not only for nuclear weapons, but the systems to accurately deliver them under a variety of circumstances. They appear to be looking for a robust, diverse, and effective system. Yes, they do worry me. They should worry anyone with a brain.

Iran, despite the implication in the linked article, was pursing and has never stopped pursuing development of nuclear weapons. They appear to have gotten a good bit of help from the Chinese both on weapons and on rocket technology. I find it amusing that when COVID hit them, it may have come in on some of the clandestine flights between Iran and China related to this project. While I don’t see them yet as a near-term peer, as I have written before, I can see them using their new satellite launch capability to initiate a Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) attack on the U.S. as a lead in for another power to take advantage of. Given the current sorry state of our power grid, and that pretty much all efforts at hardening it and the electronic systems we depend on from just such an attack, just one burst of EMP could eliminate the U.S. as a modern society for some time to come.

North Korea is proof that the idea of the fate of the world resting on the least stable world leader wasn’t scary enough. For all that I think there is at least some method to the madness, I still see the madness as not being a happy-making thing.

I think that getting into all that is involved may end up taking several posts. For the public to understand not only what is going on, but how we got here and the options available to us, is complex and may take some time. For example, we need to look at basics of nuclear war, from theoretical limited use to a full exchange. We need to look at what is required to have a reliable and robust system and ensure it works when needed. This is especially important given that according to some sources, we’ve gone from an 80 percent success rate to a 20 percent success rate for launch. We need to look at what is required training for our political and other leadership so that they respond as well as possible to threats or attacks. The war games described by Tom Clancy and Larry Bond in their works were real, but can anyone tell me the last time a POTUS or other senior political leader took part in such? And, there are a few other topics that may need to be discussed in this context.

My goal is over the coming weeks is to explore these topics and to take such explorations where they, and possibly even the comments, lead to the extent that I can legally and morally do so. Meantime, I’m going to go ahead and invite some people I know to join in and shoot holes in what I put up. Who knows, maybe we will get a good guest post or two out of it.

I’m going to include this in my Russia/Ukraine coverage as it is there that I see the largest chance for people on all sides to fuck up by the numbers. Right now, I think we haven’t seen the worst simply because of legalisms, but that is both a past discussion and perhaps one for the future. Meantime, have a good weekend!

Some Previous Posts:

Vladimir And The Ukraine

Answers, Ramblings, And A Bit More On Vladimir And The Ukraine

Your Must Read For The Day On Russia

The Puzzles In Play, And The Missing Pieces

Quick Thoughts On Ukraine/Putin

The Thing Behind The Curtain

Missing Pieces And Surprise Pieces

Thursday Update

Not A Lot To Add

Noted

Monday Update

Burn Notice

Accuracy, Reliability, And More

Putin, Trump, And The Coming Storm

Three Futures For Russia

Quick Thoughts

Saturday Update

Mismatched Locomotives

War, Ag, Demographics, And The Worst Is Yet To Come

Past, Present, And A Hungry Future

Huge Grain Of Salt

The Moskva

Retribution Inbound

Uncertainty And Preparation

Honest Question

Monday Morning Quick Brief

War Of The Memes

A Little Free Ice Cream

Rumors Of War

Three Times Is…

If It’s Wednesday, This Must Be Moldova

Going Nuclear

How To Spy On The Russians

Here’s Hoping I’m Wrong

Pins And Needles Time

Mock Away

Intel Wars

The Revenge Of HUMINT

A Funny Thing Happened

Rumors of Rumors

Ukraine, Uvalde, Oh My

Very Interesting


A Quick Russia/Ukraine Update

Russia/Ukraine/Lithuania

Hmmmm

Hmmmm Follow-Up

Ukraine/Russia Tidbit

If You Think

*****

If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, feel free to hit the tip jar in the upper right or the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo. Getting hit by lightning is not fun, and it is thanks to your help and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.