F present news reports are any guide, many Americans are concerned about traditional military operations in the Middle East, in Africa, and in other geographical areas where U. S. interests are endangered. Regardless of this, war planners would be wise to know how we would wage nuclear war, if the need ever arise.
U. S. atomic operations can be divided into three broad areas: weapons delivery systems, command and control, and post-attack reconstruction.
Long-range bombers (B1, B2, B52) are the traditional means of delivering nuclear weapons. The number of aircraft available for these assignments has decreased since the mid-sixties, however, due to improvements in ground-to-air missiles by both the United States and from Russia. Nonetheless, there are post-attack targets that are suitable for these airplanes.
Land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (Minuteman III) overcome the limitations of long-rang bombersnonetheless, the locations of missile silos are well-known and targeted.
Submarine-launched missiles (Trident II) overcome the constraints of both bombers and land-based missiles because the submarines operate in a stealth mode, making them evasive, if not impossible goals for an enemy.
Their targets are spelled out in what was once called the Single Integrated Operational Plan, SIOP for short. It became operational on 1 July 1961 and was meant to make certain that capabilities were closely matched to targets and that there was no overlap among elements of the Triad. In 2003 the SIOP became a part of OpPlan 8044, the general war plan. Although SIOP is technically not a current term, most senior officers understand precisely what it means.
Procedures for the control and control of nuclear weapons have been spelled out in detail, the main of which is the two-man rule. The two-man rule applies as well as the president of america, who must obtain concurrence from the Secretary of Defense before ordering Animal Control.
If the authorization for a nuclear strike is valid, the NMCC will issue an Emergency Action Message (EAM) to all nuclear-capable commands. This EAM will also be transmitted from the Alternate National Military Command Center (ANMCC) and by the National Emergency Airborne Command Post (NEACP). The EAM will specify targets, weapons for use, and Permissive Action Link (PAL) codes to unlock the shooting devices on the weapons.
When two senior officers in the NMCC concurrently turn keys to release an EAM, 100 million people, 50 million on each side, will perish. But in the United States 250 million will stay and survive, though under dire conditions. In Russia roughly 90 million will endure. Other consequences: infrastructure in shambles, destroyed power grids, nuclear fallout, critical shortages of food, water, and medical supplies. Americans will have to depend on Canada and Mexico for massive aid shipments, although the wall we’re now building along our southern boundary may be an impediment to much of this aid.
The United States and Russia will no longer be first-rate powers. For the whole next generation after a nuclear exchange, the two nations will be in reconstruction mode, just as Hiroshima and Nagasaki were in the years after World War II. In an atomic war there are no winners, just losers.