F present news reports are any guide, many Americans are worried about conventional military operations in the Middle East, in Africa, and in other geographic areas where U. S. interests are threatened. In spite of this, war planners would do well to understand how we would wage nuclear war, if the need ever arise.
Long-range bombers (B1, B2, B52) are the conventional means of delivering nuclear weapons. The amount of aircraft available for such assignments has decreased since the mid-sixties, though, 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 constraints of long-rang bombersnonetheless, the locations of missile silos are well-known and targeted.
Submarine-launched missiles (Trident II) overcome the limitations of both bombers and land-based missiles because the submarines operate in a stealth mode, making them elusive, if not impossible goals for an enemy.
Their targets are spelled out in what was once referred to as the Single Integrated Operational Plan, SIOP for short. It became operational on 1 July 1961 and was meant to ensure that capabilities were carefully 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 overall war plan. Although SIOP is not a current term, most senior officers understand precisely what it means.
Procedures for the command and control of nuclear weapons have been spelled out in detail, the main of which is the rule. Aboard bombers, in missile silos, and aboard missile submarines, two senior persons must authenticate launch orders which come from the National Military Command Center (NMCC). The two-man rule applies also to the president of the United States, who must obtain concurrence from the Secretary of Defense before ordering Critter Control.
This EAM will also be transmitted by the Alternate National Military Command Center (ANMCC) and from the National Emergency Airborne Command Post (NEACP). The EAM will define targets, weapons to be used, 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 launch an EAM, 100 million people, 50 million on both sides, will perish. But in the United States 250 million will remain and survive, though under dire conditions. In Russia approximately 90 million will survive. Other consequences: infrastructure in shambles, destroyed power grids, nuclear fallout, critical shortages of water, food, and medical supplies. Americans will have to depend on Canada and Mexico for massive aid shipments, although the wall we are currently building along our southern border may be an impediment to a lot of the aid.
America and Russia will no longer be first-rate powers. For the whole next generation after a nuclear exchange, both countries will be in reconstruction mode, just as Hiroshima and Nagasaki were in the years following World War II. In an atomic war there are no winners, only losers.