Sir Humphrey: But it's not fair! With Trident we could obliterate the whole of Eastern Europe!
Jim Hacker: I don't want to obliterate the whole of Eastern Europe!
Sir Humphrey: But it's a deterrent!
Jim Hacker: It's a bluff, I probably wouldn't use it.
Sir Humphrey: Yes, but they don't know that you probably wouldn't.
Jim Hacker: They probably do.
Sir Humphrey: Yes, they probably know that you probably wouldn't but they can't certainly know!
Jim Hacker: They probably certainly know that I probably wouldn't.
Jim Hacker:Cold War
and present nuclear strategy, with the ideas underpinning it. The title, despite sounding rather like a Robert Ludlum novel
, was a part of British nuclear thinking
and the reason for the Chevaline upgrade to Polaris. It basically meant: retain the ability to destroy Moscow
The ability of one nuclear power to destroy another and only receive an "acceptable" level of losses from nuclear attack yourself. Basically requires the ability to a) eliminate command and control functions or b) eliminate the bulk of nuclear forces in a surprise attack.
The US possessed it until the early 1970s, when the Soviet ICBM force was finally large and well-hidden enough (mostly through the invention of submarine missile carriers) to survive a first-strike. The US feared the Soviets could do this at the beginning of the 1980s and the Soviets also feared that US Gryphon/Pershing II missiles could do the same.
Russia and the PRC have their ICBM forces ready to go in 15 minutes (fuelled, but not targeted) and can detect an attack 10 minutes before first impacts, so both have it against each other. Russia and the USA also require 15 minutes to launch but have 25 minutes' warning for an attack from one another, so neither have it. The PRC and the USA also don't have it.
The ability for nuclear forces to survive a full-scale nuclear attack and be able to launch a devastating counter-attack. In practice, involves SSBNs and back-up command centres, as well as having very large stockpiles of nuclear weapons. Standard thinking was that in a worst-case out-of-left-field all-out nuclear first-strike 90% of one's stockpile might be lost. If your 10% that survive was numericaly big enough to annihilate your would-be attacker, he would not countenance the thought of surviving a counterattack with "acceptable" losses because the complete destruction of one's own side would presumably never be considered acceptable. In other words, if you had enough nukes, you can guarantee whoever attacked you that he would also be annihilated if he tried to win by destroying you first
This is the basis of why American and Soviet nuclear stockpiles were as large as they were during the Cold War. On the American side, war planners in the 1960's estimated that there were about 300 potential targets in the Soviet Union (this number was arrived at by adding up all the industrial centers, military targets, and cities with at least 100,000 residents). Nuclear strikes at the time weren't guaranteed to be accurate - missiles may land twenty miles off-target, or bombers might miss because of navigation errors/nighttime conditions/being chased by enemy anti-air - so planners stacked three nukes per potential target to compensate for that possibility. Now taking into account the previous worst-case 90%-stockpile-loss-on-first-strike, the total number needed now goes up tenfold.
Doing the math, that comes out to 300 targets * 3 nukes per target * 10 to cover the worst-case-scenario = 9,000 nukes needed for Mutually Assured Destruction
. Keep in mind, though, that this is a rough calculation and served merely as a baseline - between all the other factors in play during the Cold War (politics and so on), actual American and Soviet stockpiles reached much higher levels at their peaks (around 32,000 and 45,000, respectively).
It takes about half an hour for a missile to go from the US to European Russia. It's only 10 minutes from Western Europe to Russia and 15 from Soviet Europe to China (and even less from Soviet Asia). This is a factor in determining what sort of controls you would implement on your nuclear stockpile (see the UK's entry).
These two terms refer to what you're targeting, with "counterforce" targeting your enemy's nuclear weapons (airbases, missile silos, etc.) and "countervalue" targeting what your enemy would, well, value (cities, industrial centers, national capitals, etc.) This can affect the kind of nuclear attack you might make - if you're doing a counterforce strategy, your warheads will be designed to detonate on the ground in order to maximize the chance of damaging hardened military installations. For a countervalue strategy, your warheads would detonate in the air in order to spread catastrophe (shockwave, heat, radioactive material, EMP) over the widest possible area (no need to detonate on the ground since countervalue targets like cities and industrial centers will not withstand even a less powerful airburst).
Keep The Toilet Handy- The United States
The main worry for the United States was the survivability of their nuclear forces. Pentagon planners feared a Soviet first strike would cripple their nuclear capability and leave them defenceless. It was important to make sure that forces got off the ground as soon as possible.
The first example of this, before the ICBM and boomer fleet got fully operational was the "aerial patrol" approach. Some American bombers would be in the sky 24 hours a day, in case of a sudden attack. They were under a system called "positive control"- bombers could not proceed beyond a certain point without a verified order from the President.
This had problems- namely nuclear bombs flying around. After a couple of "Broken Arrow
" incidents, with resultant radioactive mess, this idea was abandoned. It also had the effect of keeping Soviet leadership in a constant state of terror because they saw nuclear-armed American bombers flying toward them 24-7. In this state of mind the USSR shot down a large Korean passenger airliner
(which had strayed over Russian territory), on the chance it might be an American trick.
The Strategic Air Command then moved onto a strip alert system. It was initially thought that there would be an hour's warning before Mnogo Nukes
started landing on many targets, but as the Soviet ICBM force got more capable, this was dropped to 15 minutes
As a result of this, Strategic Air Command (SAC) bomber crews (mostly in B-52s) would be kept on constant alert, ready at a moment's notice to rush to their aircraft and take off.
"A Bloody Union Jack On Top Of It" - The United Kingdom
British nuclear strategy
was largely to coordinate with the US, but it had several differences informed by two major considerations. The first was the aforementioned lack of time: with possibly less than five minutes elapsing between recieving comfirmation of a launch and the first mushroom clouds, it was accepted fact that the government would be wiped out before it could give launch orders. RN boomers therefore operated on a limited fail-deadly system: if unable to detect any of several signs of life from the UK, including Admiralty broadcasts and the Today program
, the Captain was to open a set of sealed orders called the Letters of Last Resort and carry them out. This could mean anything from a full retaliatory strike to taking orders from Australia, depending on what the current Prime Minister decided when he wrote them (the letters are destroyed unread when the PM changes). Even today RN Trident missiles don't need unlock codes transmitted from higher command to arm them.
The second factor was that the British, not being the United States, couldn't afford as much in the way of armaments, including the nuclear kind, being heavily in debt (primarily to the US) after World War II
. Unlike the US, their strategy wasn't one of mutually assured destruction; it just wasn't a viable option. Rather, just in case, they wanted enough in the way of nuclear weapons to make it not worthwhile for the Soviets. Also, they were worried that if the Soviets, in event of a nuclear exchange, were to only target the UK and the rest of Western Europe, the United States would not use its own nuclear weapons, preferring to sacrifice those areas instead of suffering through a Soviet strike itself. The British nuclear deterrent was intended to give those evil Russkies a little something to contemplate.
And, yes, one of the major points of this policy was being able to guarantee the destruction of Moscow. There was a problem, though; with four Resolution-class submarines (not counting air-launched weapons deployed by bomber squadrons) the UK had a total of 64 Polaris missiles and 192 warheads. Bear in mind, though, that those warheads aren't in MIRVs; the Polaris only had MRVs. They'd be evenly distributed around the aim point and do more damage, but they couldn't be independently targeted. And that was in a best-case scenario; perhaps one or more of the boats might be destroyed or something similar, almost certainly some of the missiles wouldn't work as advertised, etc.
Against the Brits, even the very limited ABM system around Moscow that the Soviets were allowed under the ABM Treaty (100 interceptors) was worrisome. The Soviets might have gotten the wrong idea. So, the British designed an upgrade to their Polaris missiles; the Polaris A3TK, which was fitted with the Chevaline system. It reduced the number of warheads from three to two as well as cutting range substantially, but on the plus side it vastly improved the chances of those warheads to make it past Soviet defenses.
Basically, the SLBMs would toss off a bunch of countermeasures and "penetration aids," and the Soviets would see a lot of fake, although realistic-looking, contacts with their various sensors, which would more than make up for the reduced number of warheads. The destruction of Moscow could be assured so that peace and harmony might prevail.
Due to the limited range of Polaris and the fact that Moscow is considerably further from a coast than London or Washington, UK
bombers would be up near the Barents Sea or in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Compare with Ultimate Defence of the Realm
Bastion Areas- The USSR
The Soviet Union's targeting strategy was "counter-value", namely focusing on economic targets and cities. Contrary to many perceptions at the time, they showed no interest in launching a first strike- they focused on surviving a first one (or disrupting preparations for a strike on them) with enough forces to launch a devastating counter-strike.
The Soviet boomers had two differences to NATO
ones. One, they were noisier. Two, after the arrival of the "Delta" class, they had considerably more range. This meant that some Soviet submarines could, if need be, launch their missiles from the dock and hit the US.
Since there was no point running the gauntlet of NATO naval forces, later Soviet boomers would stay in bastion areas near the Soviet coast. There they would be protected by other subs and surface ships.
There was still a place for the older stuff though, such as the "Yankee" class. Due to the shorter time of missile flight, they would have been used to destroy time-sensitive targets in a nuclear war (namely bomber bases, boomers in port, etc.)- if they'd been able to launch.
The "Typhoon" class can spend a year submerged - though in practice Soviet SSBNs in general stayed out for far shorter periods of time, due to political concerns about crew reliability - the Soviets might well have used to launch a very late counter-strike.
ICBM forces and a holiday in Cuba
The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 resulted from Soviet missile deployments in Cuba allowing them guaranteed strike capability against the continental United States.
Their forces began to improve and they would harden their ICBM silos in the late 1970s/early 1980s, to ensure a second-strike capability.
The Dead Hand
Seriously worried (more than the West realised at the time) about the US launching a surprise decapitation attack in the early 1980s, with Trident SLBMs, Gryphon cruise missiles and Pershing II MRBMs, the USSR developed a system called "Perimetr". This semi-automatic system, which is believed to still be in operation, would delegate control of Russian missile forces to a senior commander if contact was lost with Moscow. Because the Perimetr is understandably above top secret, it's not precisely known what exactly it does: according to some sources, it gives ordinary officers rights to launch nukes without the president's permission, according to other sources, it automatically detects if the high command in Moscow no longer exists and automatically launches all nukes in that case.
There is some evidence to suggest that the reason that Perimetr was established was to help calm hotheads in the Kremlin, who, after a tense 1983, were seeing US first strikes everywhere.
Minimal Deterrence - The People's Republic of China
From its final conquest of China in 1950 to its production of a handful of nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting Moscow in the early 1970s, the Chinese Communist Party lived in constant fear of nuclear attack. Even before the Sino-Soviet Split and Border Wars of 1960 and 1969, the Khruschev had promised to use the Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal against the USA “only
in the event that the United States uses large yield nuclear weapons, and in this way risks widening the war” - i.e. if the USA looked like they were only going to bomb China, then they would be on their own. Obviously this was far from reassuring, and the CCP made its first formal request for help establishing a joint nuclear programme in 1957. The Soviets withdrew all nuclear aid in 1959, renegueing on a secret agreement made by Khruschev to supply the PRC with the blueprints of nuclear weapons and a few choice samples. The Soviets went on to withdraw all
technical aid to Mainland China in 1960, including aid to the PRC's ballistic missile programme. During the Sino-Soviet Border War of 1969 the Soviets even explicitly threatened to launch nuclear attacks on the PRC's atomic-energy sites if they refused to back down and agree to the Soviets' peace terms, which they did.
With the development of a nuclear arsenal, however, the CCP was faced with the question of how big it should be and what purpose it should serve. Drawing conclusions from Franco-British nuclear doctrine, they soon settled on an explicit policy of 'limited' or 'minimal' deterrence. As far as the CCP was concerned, it would make little difference whether the PRC was able to kill twenty million Soviet/US citizens or two hundred: twenty would be more than enough to dissuade them from escalating a conflict with the PRC. This suited the PRC's needs very well given the PRC's general poverty (which made producing and maintaining an arsenal expensive) and was twinned with an exclusive 'second-strike' nuclear policy - the PRC would never execute a first-strike, so it wouldn't need an arsenal large enough to do that. The PRC's nuclear arsenal remained at about half the size of Britain's throughout the war, and there are no indications it has grown past that size - though there are hopes that, with the development of better submarine technology, submarine-launched missiles could replace the PRC's land-based arsenal.
The PRC's management of its nuclear weapons generally focused on maintaining second-strike capability through the use of hundreds of dummy- and hidden silos. This was necessary because Mainland China had only a tiny and primitive Submarine industry to build on (Soviet help being terminated very early into the Submarine corps' development), meaning that China's first experimental nuclear-ballistic-missile submarine wasn't launched until the late 1980s.
Israel is a nuclear power, and has been since the late 1960s. It's quite a respectable one; at this point, they have something like several hundred deliverable nuclear devices, which are by all accounts quite sophisticated. To put them on target, they have their air force, a number of IRBMs (and they may have some kind of ICBM capability, too...) and even some submarine-launched cruise missiles. Or maybe all they could have is a plastic model of "Little Boy" and a donkey cart. The point is, we just don't know. Everything that is stated about Israel arsenal is based upon, guesswork, hearsay and the occasional leak.
Anyway, Israel developed its nuclear program on the basis of both a good deal of French aid (which may have been mutual, with engineering assistance going back maybe all the other way) and a large quantity of fissile material which, depending upon whom you ask, was either stolen from the United States, provided by them under the table, or provided by South Africa (this was during the Apartheid era when many nations were imposing sanctions on them) in exchange for help enriching the raw uranium into weapons-grade material,; in any case, by 1967-1968, Israel had several warheads. That nation maintains a policy of ambiguity on the subject to this day, officially neither confirming nor denying its ownership of nuclear weapons, although at this late date no one really doubts either their existence or their owners' willingness to use them should the situation grow sufficiently dire.
Some British credible newspaper reports in 2006-07 indicated that around 1960, the United Kingdom supplied some essential hardware to Israel's nuclear program (e.g. tons of heavy water). The export decisions appear to have been made by senior civil servants without consulting the relevant cabinet ministers. (Reminds of Yes, Minister
The nuclear weapons came in handy in 1973, during the Yom Kippur War; the Israelis armed a number of F-4s with nuclear bombs and kept them ready on the ground. The US wanted to keep the Israelis from having to use their nuclear weapons at all costs, so they bailed out their ally in Operation Nickel Grass, a massive airlift to resupply the Israeli armed forces, which had gone through a good deal of their deadly paraphernalia in the fighting.
Today, they almost certainly have boosted-fission devices and probably even a few thermonuclear warheads, too. They developed nuclear artillery shells and may have even devised suitcase nukes.
Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of Israel's nuclear policy is the Samson Option
. In the event that Israel was facing annihilation, they would fire every nuke they had, targeting not only their Arab rivals (who would presumably be responsible for said destruction), but the capitals of Europe, including Moscow, as revenge not only for not helping Israel, but for all those centuries of persecution.
- This is part of the explanation for Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears - the Israelis launched one of their nuclear
F-4s A-4s by mistake, it got shot down without bombing, and after a long series of trade-offs and negotiations the nuke ends up in the hands of terrorists.
Le Champignon Atomique- France
Yes, France is a nuclear power as well. They're one of the five declared nuclear weapons states under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, in fact. It came down to a combination of factors, including a perceived need to be able to independently deter the Soviets as well as national pride. The French were rather afraid of the Soviets overrunning Western Europe, for obvious reasons, not least of which that they'd only just got done throwing out les Boches
. Like the UK, there was no way that the French could possibly build enough warheads and delivery systems to be able to totally wipe out the USSR, but they could gouge it pretty badly. Charles de Gaulle said it pretty well, "Within ten years, we shall have the means to kill 80 million Russians. I truly believe that one does not light-heartedly attack people who are able to kill 80 million Russians, even if one can kill 800 million French, that is if there were 800 million French." It wouldn't be worth it, for the Soviets, to totally wipe out France or whatever; instead, they'd leave France be.
Initially the French nuclear deterrent was based on nuclear gravity bombs, carried to targets in the USSR by Dassault Mirage IV bombers. At first they were intended to go in at high speed and high altitude, but that soon was no longer viable; eventually they were modified for low-altitude penetration and equipped with stand-off weapons. The French also developed a variety of tactical nuclear weapons, including tactical nuclear gravity bombs and some nuclear artillery systems, and were one of the countries to develop their own version of an "enhanced radiation warhead," otherwise known as the "neutron bomb." The nuclear artillery systems were intended to "warn" the Soviets not to go any farther. Today, though, the French strategic nuclear deterrent is (mostly- the Mirage 2000N has an air-launched missile capability) based on submarines: they commissioned their first boomers in 1971, and have been modernizing and replacing their force since then. They're a respectable nuclear power today, although of course they don't have the sheer terrifying world-ending power of the US or Russian strategic nuclear forces at their disposal.
Early in 2008, it was announced that France was going to cut its nuclear arsenal to 1/2 of what it is authorized, to 200 warheads. France doesn't really have enemies in the Middle East (the only countries that might have a reason to do something), and none of them have the means to reach France by missile anyway, and by now neither the U.S. nor Russia really want anything from
France (which are the only countries left that have military forces strong enough to invade it.)
By All Means at Her Disposal- India
India's possession of a nuclear arsenal is a mystery—assuming one wasn't aware of the first 30 years of Indian independence, upon which it becomes a lot less of a mystery. Even before independence, Indian physicists considered the applications of atomic weapons at recently-founded centers like the Institute of Fundamental Research. The specter of war with its fellow-colonial neighbor Pakistan loomed, but it was the 1962 Border War with China that fueled Indian interest. The final push, however, is one rarely considered by western audiences: the appearance of nuclear-armed aircraft within the US Enterprise carrier group in the Bay of Bengal upon India's entry into the Bengal War of Independence in 1971. While it's frequently assumed India and America are always
allies, regardless of seeing eye-to-eye, Indira Gandhi considered Richard Nixon more than a little unstable and predictable, America was Pakistan's premiere international ally, and more than a few political figures and pundits demanded a formal American action against India in 1971. Common sense demanded attention be paid to the dozens of nuclear weapons sitting in fully-fueled aircraft right off the coast. India's nuclear policy was borne out of that turbulent time—accordingly, it followed the lead of one of its allies, the USSR, and took it a step forward by formally announcing a "No-First-Use" position based on a criteria of "minimum deterrence."
Leave us alone or else-Pakistan
When India became a nuclear power, Pakistan began its own programme in response. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and placed 600 tanks on Pakistan's border, it became a necessity. Unlike, India's , Pakistan has a fairly straightforward posture. "Minimum credible deterrence". It means that if the Soviets and or Indians threaten Pakistan with annihilation, Pakistan has the ability to guarantee destruction on an unacceptable scale and Pakistan will maintain an arsenal at the minimum size necessary to achieve such objectives. Soviet and Indian population centers are nearby Pakistani border (from a few tens to a few thousands of kilometers) so Pakistan has (for now) eschewed ICBM'' in favour of air launched cruise missiles, aircraft and mobile IRBM's. in a war, their jobs will be to ensure that dozens of enemy cities suddenly are in need of urgent urban renewal.
Sound simple? Well there is the second part. Its called "strategic ambiguity". While the purpose and scope of Pakistan's arsenal is clear, what exactly are the circumstances requiring its use.....are not. Pakistan has not defined the "minimum" size and composition of its arsenal. Nor has it exactly defined what it deems to be a threshold which triggers use. And, if you ask Pakistani leaders, their stonewalling is of a nature to make Israel look like a model of openness. It, appears to be purposeful, if an enemy leadership is not fully certain what actions will trigger a nuclear response, the theory goes, they will be cautious in dealings.
With end of the Cold War, the Soviet Union is gone, and Russia is not a threat, the Russia plans are presumably now no longer active, although this might change if Putin starts trying to do in C Asia what he did in the Ukraine. The main and only focus is now India/ Possibly some contingencies exist for Israel, and Iran if necessary.