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Old 03-14-2010, 11:13 PM
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Default Why the nukes did less damage

ChalkLine

Why the nukes did less damage

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I've been reviewing the timeline as per the canon, and a few things have occured to me.

On the 1st Jan '97 NATO throws it's hat into the ring against a nuclear armed opponent. This is the enemy that it has spent forty years planning it's war against.

Yet it is not until July 9th that the first nukes fly. Even though prosecuting a fast and savage war, NATO will have been keeping an eye on the nuclear situation from the start. Troops will be dispersed, decontam gear to the fore and drills vigorously enforced.

The various disaster relief agencies will have seen it coming. While there will be stunning failures to perform in some cases, it should be assumed that this is not the bogeyman first strike that the West scared itself with for four decades and that a degree of preparedness will allieviate the damage to some extent. A very large proportion of people will have evacuated large cities or moved away from military targets if at all possible. Civilian authorities will have stockpiled supplies. More importantly, military infrastructure industries will have initiated decentralisation and hardening plans.

Continental European countries have felt under the hammer for decades, thier planning was comparitively more advanced than comparable US and UK plans.

Most importantly, the USSR initiates the strikes when their homeland is threatened. They had very advanced mitigation plans and the central authority to see that they were put into effect. The power of the central authority in the USSR cannot be stressed enough, you can bet your last bullet that military, industrial and supply assets a were dispersed and hardened. The USSR will not launch until it's going to be at maximum preparedness.

Barring a catastrophic intel failure, the West (and probably the PRC) will no doubt pick this up, and react accordingly.

So, when the missiles climb into the sky, people were probably already in their short-term shelters. In fact, they may have been living in them for months.


ChalkLine



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DeaconR


I think those are all pretty good points. One thing I'm curious about though: if this is the case then why were certain key areas NOT hit? What is coming to mind specifically are major power plants.


DeaconR





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ChalkLine

Obviously, it's a failure in the writer's targetting list. For game purposes, perhaps we could say that these targets had an ABM coverage that wasn't overwhelmed by MIRV strikes.





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chico20854

Deacon,

What Jason, Flamingo and I have discussed for why certain targets that would seem logical (major power plants, SAC bases, refineries, etc.) were not hit is that the exchange was very much a tit-for-tat exchange. We're still trying to work out what would be a major enough escalation to cause the USSR to evelate with the Thanksgiving Day Massacre, but we're working on something along the lines of the theater nuclear exchange in Europe hitting something that the USSR considered such a strategic asset that they felt it was logical to escalate to hit targets in the US. Setting that aside, we talked about a portion of the exchange (post-TDM) going something like:

U.S. B-2 bomber on patrol over the Urals locates a Soviet SS-24 missile train and drops a B-61 175kt bomb on it.
USSR retaliates by launching a single SS-19 missile with 5 MIRVs targeted at a U.S. missile field's 5 launch control centers.
U.S. retaliates with strike on the launch control centers of the missile field that launched the SS-19s.
USSR retaliates (and changes the direction of the exchange away from coutnerforce) by striking US refineries in Houston area.
US retaliates by striking Soviet BMP factory in Kurgan
and so on...

The exchange ends for two reasons. First, the hardened communications systems (several of which were designed for the first hour of a massive nuclear exchange) begin to break down after numerous strikes (some directed against those very communications links) and months of full-tempo operations. Second, the damage inflicted on each side is of such an extent that the enthusiasm for a retaliation strike for each strike received dies down.



chico20854




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ChalkLine
Rogue Conformist

Quote:
Originally Posted by chico20854
Deacon,
U.S. B-2 bomber on patrol over the Urals locates a Soviet SS-24 missile train and drops a B-61 175kt bomb on it.
USSR retaliates by launching a single SS-19 missile with 5 MIRVs targeted at a U.S. missile field's 5 launch control centers.
U.S. retaliates with strike on the launch control centers of the missile field that launched the SS-19s.




This is where I have a problem Chico, because while the retaliatory missiles are in the air the US has no idea if what the targetting of those warheads are until terminal approach. There is no 'wait and see' in a nuclear war, you must launch or possibly lose your capability.

In addition, it only takes one or at most three high altitude detonations and your entire country is ruined by EMP effects. This will paralyse, essentially fixing, much of your capability. In that time, there may be launches you cannot detect. Regardless of how heavily hardened detector arrays are, they are still attennae and will fail in an EMP attack. The time between fail and routing to offline (and possibly damaged) systems can mean the annihilation of your capability to retaliate and possibly your entire culture.

Remember, a MAD retaliation is just that. A retaliation - regardless of how many warheads are in the air.

(Hmm, that looks a little emphatic. I hope it doesn't come across as berating)


ChalkLine

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DeaconR


What Chalkline said.

I also think that power plants are in a way better targets than oil refineries. What's also not taken into account is that there is an infrastructure in place in major oil producing areas in the USA and Canada that could ultimately replace a gap or even several gaps. I mean in Alberta alone there are companies that specialize in producing materials for oil drilling. A power plant though? A major arsenal? You can't replace those as easily in my opinion.


DeaconR


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Targan

I'm not all that knowledgeable about Soviet nuke tech, but weren't the Ruskies' nukes both less acurate and more prone to failure that western nukes? Also, perhaps, different classes of Soviet nukes tended to have greater or lesser problems in one or both areas. For example, say the Soviets' ICBM warheads tended to be reasonably accurate (well, no less accurate than they would have expected) because a bigger volume of weapon means less miniaturization of targeting compenents is required, but because they were the products of an earlier development cycle they had a higher detonation failure rate. While conversely, perhaps Soviet ALCM or medium range surface to surface nukes turned out to be hopelessly inaccurate but because they were a recent development at least their warheads would go off when the missile reached what it thought was the target area.

I don't actually know whether the above is true or not, its just some ideas I'm throwing out there. But if the above were the case, it would explain some of the strange results from the target lists. Primary targets would tend to be hit by ICBMs (targets like Norfolk for instance). Now if the Soviet ICBM warhead that hit Norfolk had been working properly, the fact that it was falling towards Chesapeake Bay rather than directly onto USN facilities wouldn't have mattered, because the intended (rather large) airburst would have shredded the whole area anyway. Instead the warhead went off with a smaller than intended fission reaction when it hit the water, creating something like a tsunami in the bay but being largely ineffective.

Secondary targets would often be targetted by cruise missiles or medium range SSMs, right? Well what if it turned out that they tended not to arrive very close to their intended target locations on a regular basis? You would still take casualties, but nothing like what the Ruskies might have hoped for. The US and Germany may have quite a number of nuke sites not shown on the target lists that are no where near anything important so they don't rate a mention, and their intended (secondary) targets are still there (or were taken out some other way later in the war, whatever).

Targan

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Raellus

Good topic- makes one think

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Chalk, your starter post raised some really interesting points. I hadn't really thought about preparedness before, but it makes perfect sense. Based on the points you made, it stands to reason that casualties from nuclear strikes on urban centers would cause fewer net casualties than canon suggestes. I've thought about it a bit and here are a couple things that occured to me. I'm not trying to be oppositional or argumentative, but I wanted to add a couple of ideas to the discussion.

New Orleans & Hurricane Katrina. Here's an example of a large city who knew full well that a major [natural] disaster could cause massive damage/casualties. They'd known this for quite some time as well. They had forewarning that Katrina could be that very disaster that they'd been dreading for decades. They had some preparations in place (the much maligned levee system) and evacuation plans. Folks were told to leave ahead of time. But, many chose not to. The resulting debacle was the biggest natural disaster (in human and material terms) in U.S. history.

I think that it's human nature to hope for the best or to hold to the belief that "it can't happen here/to me". I think that many city dwellers would opt to stay put even in the face of probable nuclear or conventional attacks. Especially business/property owners who have something to lose. Also, as in New Orleans, the poor often don't have the money to up and leave.

During the Blitz in WWII, I know of large scale evacuations of children to the countryside (thanks "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe"!) but it seems that most Londoners stayed at home. Same with Berliners, Dresdeners, Tokyo-ites, etc. And this was during heavy bombing. If I recall correctly, the Nazi party forbade Berliners from evacuating the city (except, of course, for wealthy, influential party functionaries...).

Another question that I've been wrestling with: Where do you place all of the urban refugees who do evacuate as told? I figure it would be difficult to provide food, shelter, etc. for all of those people- at least in the long term. Rural towns simply wouldn't have the infrastructure to support large refugee populations. Tent cities might cut it in the warm months, but when winter rolls around, they'd become untenable. Prepared stockpiles of supplies (food, meds, etc,) would help a lot in the short run, but once those supplies are spent, serious problems would emerge. In the long run, I still see a large population decrease due to starvation, disease, and exposure.

As you pointed out, perhaps in the USSR, where the government had plenty of experience with large scale forced population relocations, it could be easier. But, would the gov. invest all that fuel and manpower to shift civilians around? Especially considering that they are supporting a two-front conventional war. I just don't know.

There's a lot to think about here. I'm sure I'm not seeing the entire picture yet.

I hope this didn't come across berating. I'm just thinking out loud. Opposing view points are always welcome!


Raellus

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thefusilier

I could see large cities filling back up from the initial evacuations over time. In UK S.B. it mentions such that with London. Many people leave when war breaks out... but as it drags on people return. Not only is it really hard on small communities and towns to support so many people, but its hard on the refugees as well. "Screw it, lets go home."


thefusilier

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DeaconR


Actually the game does talk about one set of evactuations, those from for instance New York as described in "Armies of the Night". There is also some discussion of this in "Howling Wilderness".


DeaconR

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pmulcahy

Actually, one of the best reasons for why the nukes did less damage than thought may be, "I'm the GM, and I say so!"


pmulcahy


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TrailerParkJawa

I'm not sure the nukes themselves would do the most damage in terms of deaths. It is the total breakdown of civilization afterward that would kill the most.

At the time of the Thanksgiving Day Massacre there was somewhere between 6-7 million people living in the San Francisco Bay Area. The nuke strikes againt the refineries would probably kill more than 10% of the local population outright as the locations of the blasts are not the most heavily populated area.

Yet, in the weeks that followed there would be a dwindling supply of food, fuel, and medicine. Once its all gone, unless the gov't in Sacramento can help out, we all start to starve to death.

Any farm within a few days walk of the Bay Area (and there are a lot of them, some of the most productive in the nation) would be swamped by hordes of hungry people and essentially destroyed. Wildlife within a few days walk would be decimated as people shoot, trap, or otherwise drive off all the animals.

Its not a pretty picture as I see it.

TrailerParkJawa

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Headquarters

destruction

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I have to agree with you on this one trailerParkjawa.

The collaps of foodsupply,watersupply and health care services will kill a lot more people than the actual blasts themselves.Then the climate will take its toll ( cold winters will kill anyone without a fireplace and alot of wood),Fallout will be the next biggest killer then comes violence ..

In the fact that the canon states that 100 mill people are alive in the US in 2001 me and my players have taken a heretic stance and openly speak out against these passages in the canon,claiming a significantly higher deathrate would be the case . (canon states 1:3 Americans , our little heresy comes in on about 1 in 6 nationwide-and many places 1 : 100 )
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