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Sidestepping Tactical Nuclear Weapons Limits With Strategic Bombs 138

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the comes-in-five-flavors dept.
Lasrick writes "Benjamin Loehrke describes the rather odd definitions of what is a 'tactical' nuclear weapon and what isn't. 'There is enough ambiguity surrounding the capabilities of tactical and strategic nuclear weapons to render the term "tactical" all but useless for arms control purposes. As the United States and Russia pursue new arms control treaties, they should drop the tactical distinction and limit the total number of all nuclear weapons — strategic, tactical, or other.'"
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Sidestepping Tactical Nuclear Weapons Limits With Strategic Bombs

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  • by partofme (2643183) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @02:09PM (#40052497)
    From my Civilization 2 days I remember how SDI defenses were able to completely destroy any incoming nukes. How does it work and is it that good in real life?
    • by Sqr(twg) (2126054) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @02:19PM (#40052565)

      The basic idea is: you use satellites detect the nozzle flame of ICBM:s as they launch, then use other satellites to destroy their fuel tanks or payloads with lasers.

      The only difference between Civ2 and real life is that in Civ2 it works.

    • by Shavano (2541114)

      The idea was to make a virtual shield over your country, able to identify and shoot down any incoming missiles. The shield consisted of all kinds of vaporware technologies -- space-based x-ray lasers and the like. But also ABMs. The CCCP was very worried about the ABMs. They probably weren't so worried about the orbital lasers because they had plenty of Russian scientists smart enough to advise the leaders that there was no way the USA could do anything like that any time soon.

      (In the 70's the Russians

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        Unfortunately SDI is completely ineffective against long range cruise missiles flying nap of the earth. So far the only effective defence has been treaties and agreements limiting number and range (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MTCR). Of course if you start separating the components, engines, fuel tank, warhead and target guidance you can fiddle the numbers any way you want. A detached nuclear warhead is just a warhead not a particular kind of warhead. Detached extremely extended fuel tanks do not even nee

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        CCCP

        Those are just Cyrillic letters for USSR, and if you writie in English language you should use English alphabet. Simples!

    • by bkmoore (1910118) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @03:18PM (#40052829)

      ....How does it work and is it that good in real life?

      SDI works like a condom. It blocks incoming nukes. It might provide protection, or it might not. It may prevent unwanted wars or it may not. The only sure way is abstinence. But what's a loose nuke among friends anyway?

    • Take rockets and advanced materials and social collaboration by engineers that could make the solar system rich through billions of self-replicating space habitats supporting trillions of human lives, and instead waste it all fighting over oil fields and on posturing about whose socioeconomic system is a little less broken given twenty-first century facts like advanced automation making most of the paid jobs go away...

    • SDI works by getting a load of DoD contractors to approach the government saying 'we can build this magic system. If the Russians build one first, they'll be able to launch a first strike without fearing retaliation. OMG Communists!!111eleventyone' The people on the appropriations committee don't want to be seen as Soft on Communists, so they authorise the spending. The Russians believe that, since the US government and their contractors believe that the system will work that they need to be able to def
  • Every "rule" has at least one hole you can use...

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      Every "rule" has at least one hole you can use...

      There was a Jean Claude Sartre film in which there wasn't.

  • Wait until we have tactical laser platforms or mass driver launchers in orbit. Now that is some kind of weapons of mass-destruction I can get down with.
    • by Crosshair84 (2598247) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @03:06PM (#40052789)
      We will have neither of those

      Mass drivers. Too expensive to get that much mass into orbit and no matter how fast you throw your projectile, it can only penetrate so far underground, as limited by physics.

      Tactical lasers: Effectively banned as they are all too easily used, intentionally or unintentionally, as blinding weapons.

      Also stupid easy to destroy such systems. Launch a missile straight up in a sub-orbital intercept trajectory. Payload is aluminum spheres that is released into a fan pattern once the missile has cleared the upper atmosphere. Any Nation that has SCUDs or similar could develop such a system. A SCUD-C has a max altitude of about 124 miles at the max range of 340 miles with a 1300lb warhead. Both system you propose would be in low earth orbit, 500 miles tops. If you shot straight up and reduced the payload weight I see no reason why a SCUD-C could not launch a payload of aluminum spheres 500 miles up. Once up there, the satellites own kinetic energy will destroy it when it hits one or more of the spheres, which relative to the satellite are not moving.

      Such a system has the benefit of not creating space junk, as the spheres will simply fall back and burn up in the atmosphere. The only serious technical difficulty is targeting. The targeted satellites may have maneuver capability, but if it only has a short window of warning it will take a significant amount of fuel to maneuver out of the way of such a cloud. Running the satellite out of thruster fuel will be just as effective as destroying it.
      • by cavreader (1903280) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @04:27PM (#40053199)

        Orbital strikes are the way to go. Launch a steel based rod metal projectile insulated using the heat shield materials that came out of old shuttle project. Add the maneuvering control system currently used with drones and thrusters for course changes and there you are. Massive destruction without having to worry about any radioactive fall out. People have criticized the US stoppage on the shuttle but they never mention the US already has a craft capable of reaching orbit, maneuvering, and landing back on earth. So far it has being a total military project but it has been in development for over 10 years using information collected from the shuttle program. The maneuverability to intercept and destroy any other countries military satellites if needed would also be devastating to those countries who rely on them.

        • Launch a steel based rod metal projectile insulated using the heat shield materials that came out of old shuttle project.

          Do you even have the most basic understanding of how much that would cost? Here is a white paper with the details

          Price Per Pound to orbit (pdf)
          http://www.futron.com/upload/wysiwyg/Resources/Whitepapers/Space_Transportation_Costs_Trends_0902.pdf [futron.com]

          So you want to launch a one ton rod into orbit? Just the cost of a launching that would be about $8 million, assuming a $4,000 per pound launch cost. Add onto that several million just to build it in the first place. You won't be able to afford to deploy thes

          • I never mentioned a 1 ton rod. That would be massive overkill. It's the velocity of the projectile not the projectile weight that dictates the level of destruction.

            Shooting down a military satellite from the ground that uses high orbits is really not feasible right now. Maybe a rail gun could do it but it is still in the developmental stage. The Chinese and US satellite shoot down demonstrations both targeted satellites in very low orbits. And exactly how do you know what China or any other countries milit

            • Yes, well, his example was a 1 ton rod at mach 10, which equalled 2 800K cruise missiles.
              If you argue that the mass could be much lower, how do you accelerate whatever weight you end up with to equal that?
              How do you get that thing to reach mach 30 in atmosphere?

              If you can solve that, you still have a solution that is still not cost effective compared to existing non nuclear technology.

  • by Dupple (1016592) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @02:32PM (#40052627)

    During similar talks over conventional weapons, a certain number of Russian Army Tanks were transferred to the Russian Navy, thus making them exempt from the treaty.

    This is the best link I can find. Scroll down to the 'Cold War' section.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Infantry_(Russia) [wikipedia.org]

    • by Dupple (1016592)

      I should point out that the 'Naval' tanks were eventually included in the treaty. That wasn't clear from my post

    • by pesho (843750)
      That would have been very clever if US marines were completely devoid of armor. Which is not the case so what exactly is your point?
    • Yes, I wonder how long it takes for North Korea to start calling its nuclear program a "tactical nuclear weapons program" and that they will "preemptively defend themselves from the American Empire" and launch an operation called "operation freedom" that will "liberate" their countrymen down south.

      • "Yes, I wonder how long it takes for North Korea to start calling its nuclear program a "tactical nuclear weapons program""

        That would be a total nonsense. Everybody knows that "tactical nuclear weapons" are those launched from Germany, aimed at a target in Germany.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    From TFA:

    In any case, as a bonus for ratifying a single-limit treaty, the United States and Russia would be one step closer to retiring the term "tactical nuclear weapon," allowing this confused Cold War anachronism to drift into irrelevance.

    This makes no sense to me. Tactical nuclear weapons would continue to exist, and would continue to be referred to as such. Plus, it's not obvious at all why they are any more anachronistic than strategic weapons, or why this guy seems more comfortable with the idea of weapons meant to be dropped on cities and kill vast numbers of civilians than ones intended to be deployed on a battlefield, with a much higher ratio of combatant to civilian casualties?

    • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @03:55PM (#40052997) Homepage Journal

      During the Cold War, there was a bitter German joke to the effect of, "Tactical nuclear weapon: any nuclear weapon intended to be detonated over German territory." IOW, it's a euphemism, and "tactical" nukes are, in practice, unlikely to be any less murderous than "strategic" ones.

    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      The point is that there's no technical difference between a bomb dropped on a city to kill civilians and a bomb used on the battlefield. They're more or less identical, right down to the size of the warhead. This is particularly true with the invention of MIRVs- the "big bombs" you'd drop on a city are basically just cluster bombs made of the dozens of the small bombs you'd use on the battlefield. Nobody has much use for genuine "big bombs" anymore.

      So if you're talking about limiting the number of bombs a c

      • by DougF (1117261)
        Correct, which is why the conventional military now uses "tactical" and "strategic" to define the value of the target, not the weapon or the weapon system. Any weapon can be used on a strategic or tactical target (and yes, there are better "fits" for each target/weapon, but the point stands). As well, any weapon system can be used against strategic or tactical targets--it makes no sense to say an ICBM is a strategic or tactical weapon system...it is just a weapon system. To use an ICBM on a tactical-valu
  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @02:57PM (#40052753)

    Why do we care about limits on this stuff, in terms of numbers? I can totally understand saying "Let's get rid of these things, period, they are too dangerous." However I can also understand why that'll never happen. So then why do we care how many the US or Russia have given that the answer is "more than is needed" in both cases? It isn't like having "only" say 1,000 nuclear weapons in the US instead of 5,000 would really mean anything.

    Is all just seems rather silly. If someone has a viable strategy for real global nuclear disarmament, I'm all ears. However this push to try and limit the numbers the US and Russia has seems like feel-good security theater. They'll agree to it because they know it makes no difference to their actual fighting capabilities. They can destroy a couple hundred nukes as a symbolic thing, probably the ones the computer simulations show are failing anyhow, and it changes nothing.

    This is just silliness.

    • by mysidia (191772)

      Why do we care about limits on this stuff, in terms of numbers? I can totally understand saying "Let's get rid of these things, period, they are too dangerous."

      Statistically.... every weapon is a risk. The number of weapons stolen and placed in the wrong hands required to cause massive loss of life: ONE. The number of insane technicians required to detonate a unit they're supposed to be maintaining or dismantling: ONE.

      The number of weapons required to malfunction to cause serious problems: ONE. Even

      • by realityimpaired (1668397) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @04:02PM (#40053049)

        The number of weapons required to malfunction to cause serious problems: ONE. Even if it's a 0.0000000000000000000000000000000001% probability; the more weapons you have in more places, the more likely something goes wrong.

        With you until you said that. Nuclear weapons are not stored in an armed state, and they aren't designed to keep a critical mass in such a configuration that it could turn into an uncontrolled fission. The absolute 100% worst case scenario possible would be that the non-nuclear part of the payload (which is used to mash the nuclear components together and trigger a critical mass detonation) could go off prematurely, but as the weapon is not stored in an armed state, that would not trigger a nuclear detonation (in the un-armed state, the physical position of the nuclear fuel is such that it would be blown away from each other, not towards, in the event that the explosive went off accidentally). It would, essentially, be a dirty bomb whose effective area would be contained to the storage facility in which it went off... dirty bombs are most effective when they're used outside where the local weather can carry the nuclear contaminants. Even that is not very likely, because the type of explosives they're using in modern weapons are extremely difficult to set off accidentally. (check youtube for a video of somebody cooking their lunch with burning c4... that stuff does not accidentally explode).

        A *far* more likely scenario than anything you suggest would actually be some nuclear fuel "going missing". The problem with stealing a bomb is that somebody will notice it pretty much immediately. They're big, and difficult to transport. While you could fit one in an 18-wheeler, you'd have a hard time sneaking that truck into a military facility without being noticed. On the other hand, the nuclear fuel is significantly smaller and easier to transport. In theory, somebody could take the nuclear fuel from a weapon while working on it, and sneak it out in a briefcase. I would be extremely surprised if anybody ever managed to successfully do that, because my understanding is that they film people when working on nuclear weapons, and that nobody's ever left alone with a bomb.

        You're right, it only takes one, but there are safeguards in place that provide an extremely small chance that any of the situations you suggest could ever happen. I would prefer nuclear disarmament too, but given that it's never going to happen, I'm comfortable with the safeguards in place. The engineers who designed these things are not morons, and designed them to fail safe (or at least, as safe as you can get with several kilograms of nuclear fuel involved).

        • by Crosshair84 (2598247) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @04:40PM (#40053271)
          Not to mention that even IF you steal one, good luck arming one. Nukes that are on active standby are heavily guarded and the detonators require pass codes to arm. Talked with someone whose duty was to guard nukes and his orders were, "ONE warning, if you do not get IMMEDIATE compliance, shoot to disable. If you can't shoot to disable, shoot anyway." People working on the weapons accidentally breaking procedure did happen on occasion, where they have to tell everyone to stop everything until the guards can sort everything out. Obviously everyone immediately complies because they know what the guards orders are and know if they get shot it's their own fault. Not unreasonable given what they are working on.

          You can't just rip out the pass-coded detonator and wire all the blasting caps on the explosives together, to get the explosive "lens" in an implosion type weapon requires some blasting caps go off before others to take the core super-critical.If that timing is off all you get is a dirty bomb

          Weapons that are not on active standby have vital parts removed including, when possible, the nuclear core.

          This is done not only for safety, it prevents a saboteur from detonating a warhead. Worrying about a nuke accidentally going off is like me worrying about my car accidentally starting and driving over a little kid while I sit here in my house. Sure my car could accidentally catch fire, the horn could accidentally go off, but for the engine to accidentally start, the transmission accidentally shift into reverse, and the parking brake to accidentally disengage is an event so improbable that it is not worth considering.

          They also don't store nukes in downtown New York, even though sometimes I think they should.
          • by mysidia (191772)

            You can't just rip out the pass-coded detonator and wire all the blasting caps on the explosives together, to get the explosive "lens" in an implosion type weapon requires some blasting caps go off before others to take the core super-critical.If that timing is off all you get is a dirty bomb

            No, I certainly could not, but I am sure there are people that exist who would be able to defeat the pass-code protection or reset the code to a known quantity, or reverse-engineer the detonator and engineer their

            • but did you consider the possibility that a faulty electrical component in the unit's electronics or software results in it arming the device when it's not supposed to be armed, or acts as if a passcode has been entered and starts a countdown when no human has instructed it to arm or detonate?

              Probably no more than you have considered that your ATM will malfunction and randomly allow a PIN of 1111 to access your bank account, even without your ATM card.

              I mean, if you want to doubt in the capability for reliable electronic authentication, why stop at warheads? Bad news for you, a large part of the world we live in relies on electronic authentication. Social security, loans, credit, payroll, taxes, communication....

            • No, I certainly could not, but I am sure there are people that exist who would be able to defeat the pass-code protection or reset the code to a known quantity, or reverse-engineer the detonator and engineer their own, given a sufficient amount of time.

              if you have that level of engineering expertise, just skip the whole "steal nuke" part and build your own with stolen enriched Plutonium.

              Accidentally entering the passcode might not be too likely... but did you consider the possibility that a faulty electrical component in the unit's electronics or software results in it arming the device when it's not supposed to be armed, or acts as if a passcode has been entered and starts a countdown when no human has instructed it to arm or detonate?

              Yes that was considered all the way back in 1945, which is why nukes back then had multiple interlocks to prevent such a thing. For example. Here is the firing sequence of a "Little Boy" nuke:

              Several mechanical timer switches closed 15 seconds after the bomb was dropped. ( don't have an exact number of how many there were.) These timers cut-off the barometric switche

              • by mysidia (191772)

                if you have that level of engineering expertise, just skip the whole "steal nuke" part and build your own with stolen enriched Plutonium.

                I assume defeating the security component would be easier and less costly for a bad actor to accomplish than to design and construct the whole thing from raw materials.

                Yes that was considered all the way back in 1945, which is why nukes back then had multiple interlocks to prevent such a thing.

                You mean before the mass production of many nukes became a priority, and

            • Mind not making up things about how the nuclear arsenal works? Some of us have actually worked on them and reading your posts makes me wonder about your sanity.

              First it is 100% impossible for a nuke to go off on its own. Second, the techs never have access to the codes, nor an input method (contrary to movies, no US nuke has a keypad on them, all codes are sent from the platform they are fired from, something that only ICBM's are stored in and even still those are not stored hot so worst thing an accidental

          • You can't just rip out the pass-coded detonator and wire all the blasting caps on the explosives together

            Indeed. Bypassing a PAL [Permissive Action Link] [wikipedia.org] should be, as one weapons designer graphically put it, about as complex as performing a tonsillectomy while entering the patient from the wrong end."

        • "The problem with stealing a bomb is that somebody will notice it pretty much immediately. They're big, and difficult to transport. While you could fit one in an 18-wheeler..."

          Well, let's see what wikipedia has to say about the W62, the 170 kilotons warhead of which the Minuteman loads three: "The exact dimensions of the W62 are classified, but it fits within the Mark-12 reentry vehicle which is 22 inches in diameter and 72 inches long".

          Kind of ridiculously tiny 18-wheeler, I should say.

          • by pngai (561529)
            And wikipedia says: The W80 is physically quite small, the "physics package" itself is about the size of a conventional Mk.81 250 pounds (110 kg) bomb, 11.8 inches (30 cm) in diameter and 31.4 inches (80 cm) long, and only slightly heavier at about 290 pounds (130 kg).
    • by Crosshair84 (2598247) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @03:56PM (#40053007)
      The purpose of having so many is relatively simple: Modern SOP in regards to nuclear war is "Retaliation after Ride-out". "Launch on Warning" is simply impractical given the short time between the launch of a first strike and the warhead reaching its target. Therefore a country thinking about defense will have to work on the assumption of a large portion of its nuclear weapons being destroyed in the first strike, even after extensive hardening of the launching platforms. Depending on who you ask, the military assumes a worst case scenario where between 90-95% of its strategic nuclear weapons will be destroyed/damaged in a first strike. So if you have 5,000 strategic nukes, ICBM, SLBM, bomber launched cruise missiles, that means that after ride-out you should expect to have only 250 to 500 weapons operationally available with which to immediately retaliate against the aggressor nation.

      Then also remember that you don't want to use all your working weapons against the first aggressor nation, there are other nations that may take advantage of the strike to attack you, so you need to hold back some weapons in reserve in case you need to use them against other aggressor nations.

      Going from 5,000 to 1,000, assuming 90-95% losses in a first strike, means you now only have between 50 to 100 warheads with which to retaliate with. When you look at it that way,you can understand why having 10,000 nukes is not seen as excessive by many in the military. They don't see us having 10,000 nukes. They see us having 500-1000 nukes after a first strike. less in fact when you consider that many will be offline for maintenance. Figure retaining half for continued deterrence and then you only have a max of 250-500 nukes to immediately retaliate with.

      Of course then there is the fact that nuclear disarmament would probably make large scale war MORE likely. With nukes you do not need a large standing army for national defense. (For national OFFENSE, what the US is doing today, you do.) Without them you have to expend vast resources maintaining a conventional military for purely defensive purposes. Seriously, why DIDN'T the Soviet Union just steamroll until they got to Gibraltar? They could have done so with conventional forces largely at any time during the Cold War. Because they knew full well that such an action would result in nuclear retaliation.
      • Well I think the military disagrees with that now days, particularly when you see some of the things they've changed like bringing seafarer offline, moving NORAD out of Cheyenne Mountain and so on. Could well be because the only country with massive first strike capability was the USSR and these days we aren't worried about Russia doing that, never mind that we found out what a sorry state most of their weapons are in.

        However none of that is relevant to my point of why are these people pushing for partial d

        • True, though I wonder if it is not partially because of increased technology that we simply don't need NORAD in a mountain anymore. With better and better communications tech even after a first strike retaliation will still take place.
        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          North Korea already has nukes and Iran will probably get them in the next decade. We want them to have as few as possible, and reducing our own stockpiles is an important step that backs up our diplomatic efforts. We don't want another arms race.

        • by u38cg (607297)
          Because total disarmament is currently impossible because there is insufficient trust. Successful implementation of an arms reduction agreement brings the point where you have that trust closer.
      • by Iskender (1040286)

        Of course then there is the fact that nuclear disarmament would probably make large scale war MORE likely. With nukes you do not need a large standing army for national defense. (For national OFFENSE, what the US is doing today, you do.) Without them you have to expend vast resources maintaining a conventional military for purely defensive purposes. Seriously, why DIDN'T the Soviet Union just steamroll until they got to Gibraltar? They could have done so with conventional forces largely at any time during the Cold War. Because they knew full well that such an action would result in nuclear retaliation.

        The little bit of political science I've read contradicts this, although I admit it's so little that I can't dig up any sources on short notice.

        But the basic thing is this: if you have a lot of nukes you tend to build up a huge army precisely so that you'll never have to use them. You know nukes probably mean mutually assured destruction, so you never go "oh no problem, I'll just lean on the nukes".

        Now, even though I live in Western Europe I think it's not that important: the Soviet Union was the only super

        • But the basic thing is this: if you have a lot of nukes you tend to build up a huge army precisely so that you'll never have to use them. You know nukes probably mean mutually assured destruction, so you never go "oh no problem, I'll just lean on the nukes" Now, even though I live in Western Europe I think it's not that important: the Soviet Union was the only superpower to defend its home turf in Europe. It had a huge army. The US also had a huge army, but it didn't have its capital in Europe. The fact remains that both nuclear armed to the teeth superpowers also had strong conventional arms.
          .

          As opposed to building up a huge army because you don't have them?

          No, the reason the Soviets had large conventional force was to keep satellite nations and their own civilian population in line

          The US also did have large conventional forces because it was operating under the flawed premise of perpetual "Limited War" in the third world and desire to police the world. That theory will hopefully be shot in the head and burred for good after the last few we've been in

          350,000 US troops in Europe in 1980. Add different national armies to this and the fact that the defender tends to be in a better position and the certain Soviet victory starts looking a lot less certain. Not to mention that 350 000 troops mostly standing guard far away from home hardly sounds like defence is cheap.

          The Soviets outnumbered NATO 3-to-1

    • If nothing else, it's a cost-saving measure. Politically, you aren't allowed to use your nukes, or even test them much anymore; but that doesn't make them any cheaper to maintain, stockpile, keep ready for use, etc. A shiny, bilateral, humanitarian, oh-so-noble, strategic arms reduction treaty serves as a pleasantly face-saving way for both the US and Russia to say 'fuck it, this shit isn't worth the money'.

      Nobody wants to be the first to blink; but being a 'responsible' nuclear power is actually pretty
      • Far more money would be saved by downsizing ones conventional forces, we don't need them for defense. Strong Nuclear Triad, reasonably sized navy, small ground forces for small scale events. That's all you really need for defense.
    • The usefulness of a weapon in preventing wars is directly proportional to the odds of it killing politicians. I mean its all fun and games sending off the flower of a country's youth to perish on some distant battlefield while you sit there sipping bourbon, and if worst comes to worst you can usually come to some sort of gentleman's agreement with your counterpart, but with nukes the supply of fine spirits gets rapidly curtailed along with oh, everything else.

      Therefore the more self interested a politician

    • Because the upkeep/maintenance costs for thousands of nuclear weapons is really expensive even today. A huge portion of the Department of Energy budget is devoted to nuclear weapons. So the fewer we have, the less money we spend, no? But the majority of nuclear weapons are for counterforce purposes - destroying military installations and other nuclear weapons. So a unilateral disarmament down to a fifth of the previous arsenal places the U.S. or Russia at an unacceptable risk for a decapitating first strike

    • "If someone has a viable strategy for real global nuclear disarmament, I'm all ears."

      http://www.pdfernhout.net/recognizing-irony-is-a-key-to-transcending-militarism.html [pdfernhout.net]

      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @08:31PM (#40054423)

        This guy thinks he's discovered some magic thought experiment that let you think everything away. No, not really. The problem is that there are hostile, sometimes crazy, nations that have nuclear weapons. There are other nations that are kinda bullies (like China) that have nuclear weapons too. So if the US, England, France, and let's say Russia too get rid of all their nuclear weapons, then all that happens is those nations have leverage to push them around.

        Right now, China's nuclear arsenal is defensive only and that's all it can be. They tried to use it offensively, they'd risk total nuclear annihilation. However if nuclear weapons went away from the other nations, it would be feasible. China decides to invade Russia and don't say "that would never happen" realize a small border conflict, with fatalities, happened in 1969, and a larger one happened in 1929. So they decide to invade to take land, which they quite want and need. Russia responds with conventional weapons and is doing well in the fight but China threatens them off: Leave us alone or we'll nuke a few cities. What is Russia to do?

        Or worse yet, you take North Korea. Again, right now there's an understanding that if they nuked SK or Japan, it would mean nuclear annihilation for them and crazy though their leaders may be, they don't want to die or become rules of the glass parking lot. However with the US nuclear threat gone? Maybe they decide to go for it, nuke the major military installations in SK and Japan, and invade. What do they care? The life of their citizens doesn't matter to them and they aren't getting nuked back.

        That's why I say there's no viable strategy. Doesn't matter what you could talk the US and Russia in to, they aren't the only ones who have nuclear weapons and there are likely to be more nations in the future, not less. If you think you can "irony" North Korea or China or Israel or Pakistan in to giving up their weapons, good luck with that, however until that happens, don't bother trying with the US or Russia.

        • "The problem is that there are hostile, sometimes crazy, nations that have nuclear weapons"

          Like the USA? :-) If not today, maybe after the next election? What about a country that has institutionalized torture, that has about a quarter of its population food insecure, that is becoming completely dependent on other countries for consumer goods, and that is blowing up people around the world with killer robots, is sane?

          You may be unable to see the forest of my point for the trees of your strategic reply, perh

        • by Bomazi (1875554)

          The first step is for the US and Russia to transition to a policy a minimal deterrence and reduce their stockpile to no more than a few hundred weapons each. That would put them at the same level as everyone else.

          Then we can start talks that involve all nuclear powers. Will it be possible to agree on global disarmament ? Maybe not, but we won't know until we try. The problem today is that other countries are not interested in even talking about disarmament as long as the US and Russia maintain such ridicul

  • Bad strategy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gmuslera (3436) * on Saturday May 19, 2012 @03:06PM (#40052785) Homepage Journal
    Since War Games we know that the only winning move is not to play
    • by ScentCone (795499)

      Since War Games we know that the only winning move is not to play

      Wrong, unless you include the rest of the correct notion. The only winning move is not to play, and to make sure that nobody else will or can, either. For those against whom a deterrent is appropriate, the "won't" part is fine. For those who are crazy or willing to sell the weapons to people who are, the "can't" part is more important.

      • For those who are crazy or willing to sell the weapons to people who are, the "can't" part is more important.

        Except for the historical fact is that nobody is that crazy.

        The Soviet Union wouldn't give China nukes, nor would they even give them assistance in developing their own.
        China/Soviet Union sent large amounts of supplies to North Vietnam, never even considered giving them a nuke.
        North Korea will sell it's missile tech, but no evidence of even them being crazy enough to sell a nuke.
        Iran wouldn't give a nuke to the insurgents either. (For the simple fact that the insurgents would use it against the Irania

        • by wer32r (2556798)
          You forgot to add: For now...
          • Please elaborate. I don't see the game changing all that much. If China, who had no problem with human wave attacks and killing tens of millions in its botched social programs, wouldn't give North Vietnam a Nuke then the same factors are at play with Iran, Pakistan, etc.

            If you disagree please tell me why so I can address it.
    • by Rezazur (677119)

      or to be player one...

      obligatory smbc reference:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFCOapq3uYY [youtube.com]

  • Why they are exempt from various quota talks?

    Until I read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennium_Challenge_2002 [wikipedia.org]

    So.. Where were we? Importance of arsenals?

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      Why they are exempt from various quota talks?

      Everyone knows that in a real war a carrier fleet is just a target-rich environment. Carriers are great for bombing third-world nations who can't shoot back, but not much use against modern missiles and submarines.

      • by DoninIN (115418)
        Who knows? These sort of experiments are tremendously costly in terms of cash, lives, and the political aftermath. But the current state of thinking, among those who do that sort of thing for a living. Is that this is not the case. Nor has it been the case for the most part since the aircraft carrier became the staple of US military power projection. Getting missile platforms within range of a carrier battle group, and then getting those missiles (Generally these things are the size a small airplane ) a tar
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Are you sure that just limiting the number is enough?

    I am reminded of Edward Teller's backyard weapon: a bomb so powerful that it needed not being delivered physically on its intended target. Its yield was so high that it could have been simply detonated in the garden behind Edward Teller's home.

    A backyard bomb would only count as one.

  • How small can you make a nuclear weapon critter anyway? Could individual soldiers carry something like a personal nuclear weapon? And would that make sense in a combat situation?

    Of course, what terrorist folks would like to do with these is another matter.

    Have any micro nukes been produced? Or would we even know if they had been?

    • How small can you make a nuclear weapon critter anyway? Could individual soldiers carry something like a personal nuclear weapon? And would that make sense in a combat situation?

      If we accept the possibility of the Russian 'suitcase nukes', around 100lbs. The US W54 warhead was around 51lbs for the bare warhead. Wiki info here [wikipedia.org]
    • Yes, micro nukes have been produced. Small enough to be shot with a recoilless rifle: Let me present the M388/Davy Crockett [wikipedia.org]. Here [youtube.com] is the relevant video. Whoever would want to fire a nuke, however small the yield, with a launcher limited to a 4000 m range is beyond be, though.
      • Whoever would want to fire a nuke, however small the yield, with a launcher limited to a 4000 m range is beyond be, though.

        Says you, conveniently ignoring every suicide bomber in the known universe.

      • by DoninIN (115418)
        You shoot, you jump in a hole. You'll almost certainly survive the immediate blast and radiation effects. Now you're long term survival may have been harmed. But in an alternate timeline where WWIII begins with tactical nukes back in the fifties/sixties and you find yourself on the front lines shooting Davy Crockett at the Russian steamroller. Tomorrow is about as long term as you've got to think about.
  • The last line of the post leave me perplexes. "strategic, tactical, or other". What the hell does "other" mean in that context? Are we talking railgun shooting nukes on top of bipedal tanks or maybe orbital bomb that look and behave like satellites. Or Super Doomsday Nuke capable of seeding the whole atmosphere with cobalt-60.
  • by backslashdot (95548) on Saturday May 19, 2012 @05:44PM (#40053639)

    They could bomb the crap out of a city with 10 megatons of dynamite, nobody will give a crap. It'll be the second news item right after the important breaking news on who Snooki is dating.

    Did anybody care when Dresden was bombed and tens of thousands of humans died? We don't hear anyone saying we mustn't have a repeat of Dresden. Noo .. it's we mustn't use nuclear weapons.

    Mankind has a psychosis over radiation .. I'm telling you .. forget strategic nuke or midget nukes ... the issue is that its nuclear. It's radioactive.

    A nuclear weapon stockpile is no longer a deterrence to war. Conventional armies still are. If someone tries to invade the US, conventional weapons can stop it much better and easier than nukes can. The most powerful nuclear weapon ever made has only a 50% kill ratio in a 15 mile radius .. you cannot scale much higher easily because the earth's curvature will prevent the blast from reaching far .. and if you detonate it high in the sky the blast pressure reduces pi-squared with distance-- so 15 miles is a reasonable upper limit ..and that's assuming it's in a city where the debris is a danger. OK, then what about using multiple nukes at the same time? It won't be wise ... due to fallout ..-> the radiation can gather into a cloud system and rain down on an allied location or worse if we are unlucky it may even get caught in a weather pattern that brings it here. When the US tested one of the first thermonuclear weapons in Bikini Atoll, Japanese fishermen on aboard the Daigo Fukuryu Maru died from the fallout that happened hours later .. they were 100 miles from the atoll. They got more radiation than if they were just 15 miles away. There is a map of the US and thyroid contamination due to fallout from the Nevada test sites at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_fallout_exposure.png [wikipedia.org] You can see that Montana, which is a thousand miles from Nevada got most of the radioactive effect --- meanwhile people in Nevada itself and its neighbor California got much less radiation exposure.

    If anyone anywhere uses a nuke, even a tiny tiny nuke and in self defense .. it will still GUARANTEE a new nuclear arms race. Rather than having a stockpile of nukes that can be compromised by a terrorist or psychopathic group of individuals -- it's better to have a very strong conventional army and a small well protected nuclear stockpile. Best of all deterrents though .. is diplomacy .. good foreign policy, being reasonable, not interfering except for extremes, and not bearing hatreds.

    • I suggest doing some research about Dresden, many historians and ex-military feel that it was not justified, and an act of pointless brutality to the extent that some wish to call it a war crime.

    • not interfering except for extremes

      Judging by recent behaviour, the US of A (amongst others) is happy to interfere even if the only EXTREME is the extremely fabricated "evidence".

  • The have ensured a remarkably peaceful era and continue to do so.

  • Time to update the lyrics to this song - anyone got the current figures?

    Flander's and Swann - 20 Tons of TNT [youtube.com]

    I have seen it estimated:
    Somewhere between death and birth
    There are now three thousand million
    People living on this earth
    And the stock-piled mass destruction
    Of the Nuclear Powers-That-Be
    Equals--for each man or woman--
    Twenty tons of TNT.

    Every man of every nation
    Twenty tons of TNT
    Shall receive this allocation
    Twenty tons of TNT.
    Texan, Bantu, Slav or Maori,
    Argentine or Singhalee,
    Every mai

  • I think they figured out that using them is bad. I'm worried about the other countries that have them, or may soon acquire them. Or worse, the nukes that have gone missing from the old USSR stockpiles and whoever has those.
    So the big guys can do all the talking they want, but the next nuke explosion is coming from somewhere else. But I hope to God, Cthulhu, and FSM that another nuke is never fired.

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