Nuclear Warfare

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Nuclear Warfare

Post by Trevor »

Despite all the talk, I don't think the coming war is going to start with a mass nuclear barrage. Here's why:

The highest estimates are that China has around 3,000 warheads. That sounds like a lot, but it doesn't get them as far as many think, due to the fact most would have to be positioned for counterforce targeting.

Let's go for the worst case-scenario: China launches all its available weapon in a mass nuclear assault, all of which are aimed at the United States and its territories. We're capable of shooting down a few missiles, but probably not enough to make a serious difference in the attack. Our launchers could perhaps take out 20-25, while the AEGIS system could take down a few more. (I know it's not designed for ICBMs, but under nuclear attack, we'd still use them and pray we get lucky) Considering all enemy missiles have MIRV capability, let's say we take down 100-200 warheads)

First of all, China will want to take out our nuclear weapons. We've still got around 400 operational missile silos, dozens of air force bases, naval bases, command and control centers, nuclear production and storage facilities, This isn't including dozens of others we have throughout the pacific. That's a lot of targets they're going to have to aim at. They might aim for our Army/Marine bases, but I think China would focus most of its effort on our ability to hit them. And many, particularly bases that are considered vital to our military, will receive multiple strikes.

And let's say most of these warheads are contained with ICBMs and SLBMs. (I suspect the latter will be more prevalent because they can be more easily hidden) SLBMs would be able to strike our air bases within 5-10 minutes, not enough time for any of our own aircraft to take off.

They'd succeed in destroying most of our air bases, at least temporarily. At least some missile silos would survive long enough to strike back, although even if they could take out a silo with a single missile (I'm unsure how accurate Chinese targeting capability is), the exchange would only just be in their favor since our Minutemen no longer have MIRVs.

Then there's the naval bases, which I surmise will be the hardest hit. Areas like Newport News, where our aircraft carriers are constructed, and San Diego which holds most of our Pacific Fleet would be hit with at least several warheads.

Command and Control centers, some of which are in classified locations, would certainly suffer heavy damage. Perhaps heaviest of all are our storage facilities, where we hold thousands of inactive warheads, which China isn't about to allow us to reinstall.

China would have a few warheads left to hit our cities, but not very many. Washington D.C. would be in utter ruin with many different bombs destroying it. However, it takes more than a single warhead to destroy a city. A 500 Kiloton bomb has a 5-PSI range of 96 Square Kilometers, while 10PSI, which I would put as the radius that kills most people, is only 38 Square Kilometers. (Based on the Nukemap simulation) For comparison, New York City is around 1,200 Sq KM in total, while the Metropolitan Area is almost 12,000 square kilometers.

While this would certainly cause massive damage to the United States, it wouldn't knock us out of the fight. Many of our nuclear weapons would be destroyed: most ICBMs and bombers that were on the ground, but we'd still have enough nukes to hit back. We've got around 1,800 currently operational, so say 500-600 are still operational.

Since China expended all their nuclear bombs, we don't have to destroy them. This leaves our retaliation free to focus on their air fields, production facilities, and cities. We're liable to kill far more of their citizens than they did of ours, if only because they have far more major population centers. Not only would the assault not have destroyed our fighting capabilities, it will have made us very, very angry.

And this is if they only aim at the United States. Considering they have at least India, Russia, and Japan to target as well, that could lower their available warheads aimed at us by as much as half. 1,500 wouldn't even be enough to ensure destruction of counterforce targets.

So I don't expect it to start off with a mass barrage. Admittedly, I could be wrong about this, but I'm thinking the nation that starts using nuclear weapons will be the one that's losing the war.

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Tom Mazanec
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Re: Nuclear Warfare

Post by Tom Mazanec »

This is my thinking as well.

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