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Subject: Don't take this the wrong way, but....
GOP    4/2/2005 4:16:35 PM
If the US and China were locked in a battle for survival (somehow), and Nuclear weapons had to be used to hurt China's man power, how many people would we kill. Please, please do not take this the wrong way. I am not advocating a nuclear war or anything like that, I am just wondering about the killing power of our arsenal. I know it sounds morbid, but I am just asking a question...
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hybrid    RE:Don't take this the wrong way, but....   4/2/2005 7:57:41 PM
Tactically or strategically?
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GOP    RE:Don't take this the wrong way, but....   4/4/2005 6:04:49 PM
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   RE:Don't take this the wrong way, but....   4/4/2005 6:18:13 PM
The objective in strategic nuclear war is not, amazingly enough, to kill as many people as possible. In fact, such figures are largely irrelevant to a discussion of the effectiveness of a given strategic attack. The intention of such offensives is to remove the enemies capabiltiy to support military operations, by breaking his back (industrial, agricultural, financial, logistical, and command/control). The question your asking would be roughly equivalent to, "how many people can American B-29s kill by firebombing Tokyo?" That alot of civies die in strategic attacks is considered an unfortunate but generally unavoidable consequence. There are exceptions, of course, namely vengeance bombings (Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, etc). But these aren't proper strategic attacks per se, in that their effects on the targets ability to wage war were limited. That being the case, a sizable attack on the PRC by US nuclear assets would render its strategic capabilities statisitcally insignifiant. A reduction to >1% capability. How many folks would die in the process? Alot. And they'd shoot back, of course..
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   RE:Typo   4/4/2005 6:19:45 PM
Make that <1% (less than one percent)..
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gixxxerking    25 Percent at least   4/4/2005 7:06:43 PM
It would kill greater than 25% of their population. That was defined as deterance in the cold war. The details are classified and I have no way of knowing if things have changed but if they have not then doctrine demands that we kill 25% minimum. How many warheads that would take and yields I dont know. But figuring it out isnt too hard to estimate. For a nation as densely populated as some parts of China I think a single SSBN could kill about 25%.
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gixxxerking    RE:Don't take this the wrong way, but....   4/4/2005 7:08:11 PM
We could kill all of them if we wanted. Also believe it or not we could have a good chance to prevent retaliation too.
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   RE:If you really want some pop numbers   4/5/2005 4:25:48 AM
Deterence never presumed we needed to kill X% of the targets population. We've becomes so enamored with casualty estimates and such, and seem to have this almost God-like view of nuclear weapons as these humanity neutralizers. They aren't. No weapon really is, in nature or man-made. A nuclear weapon is awesome for its ability to decimate civilization. To completely shut down water, power, transportation, shelters, contaminate food supplies, etc. But they'll never kill "all of" anyone. Look at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We killed more people fireboming Tokyo than nuking those two cities. But one nuke made them infiniately more unliavble and useless than months of those firebombs over Tokyo. You've got to consider all the variables. Rural populations are reasonably well protected by sheer land mass. Urban populations and those near other priority strategic targets (major dams, military operations centers, nuclear sights) will get some warning, even if only a few minutes. Some will escape. Of those that don't, your looking at perhaps 90% of those within 1 mile of ground zero, down to 70% killed within 5 miles, and perhaps 50% the total population (including those in the nearer zones) within 10 miles killed. These are immediate casualties due to blast effect (heat, shockwave/overpressure, structural failures, asphyxiation or similar trama, and massive radiation poisoning, in probable order of magnitude). So let's crunch some numbers. 90% of the population (over a billion people) live in an area approximately 3 million kilomters squared (roughly 30% the Chinese land areas). This land area comprises the eastern seaboard and the areas immediately inland. Within this region are, we can loosely determine, vritually all targets of definite strategic value, and therefore it is appropriate to go with this land areas population density of 354 persons per square kilometer. Assumeing a kill rate of 50% within 16.09km^2 (it would actually be circular, but why make it more complicated? let's guesstimate high), and the use of 2,500 warheads in the attack (this is a radical number, roughly all the deployed nuclear weapons, which will be our "worst case" total attack). This gives us 7,119,825 dead, and just about 3,000 dead per warhead (averaged out, of course, a handful targeting the major cities would kill many times this number). Not much, is it? Fact is, you're not gonna get anywhere near the kind of complete population destruction you might be expecting. But let us try to be more fair. There is alot of empty space in the region we have specified. A great deal of those billion people are concentrated in major urban centers. If we use a population density of, say, 1,028 per km^2 (a figure which is derived by averageing Chinas major municipal centers within the Eastern landmass specified above as our "target area"), and run the same algorythm, we get 82,702,600 casualties. Still nowhere near 25% the total population (82 millions out of 1200 millions gives us roughly 6.9% the total population). This is very rough guesstimath, and not the kind of thing you'd use in an actual assesment. But it works with a fair degree of reliability (useing average population density of a representative sample from within the target area). The point here wasn't to show that nuclear weapons didn't work. It was to demonstrate that their principle is strategic destruction, not genocide. In the process of killing all those people, we would also effectively shut down China's ability to operate as a modern, industrial nation. There would be no communication and transportation infrastructure. No housing. No water delivery mechanism. No functional power grid. No industrial base. As a consequence, not only will they be incapable of waging war, but you'd see many times as many casualties in the preceding decades (without considerable foreign assistance), as their very social order fell apart. Starvation, disease, civil strife, and such would and up being your major killers over a period of many years, not the nukes.
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   RE:Correction   4/5/2005 4:28:22 AM
Preceding should of course be proceeding. Need an edit button!!
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gixxxerking    Deterence   4/5/2005 11:51:21 AM
Cold War Doctrine was to ensure the destruction of at least 25% of the population. That was defined as deterence. Of course we went well beyond what is necessary for deterence many times over.
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Roman    Nuclear Strike on the PRC    4/5/2005 1:14:12 PM
Gixerking is mostly correct. The assumption was that if you kill 25% of the enemy population that would be a sufficient blow to ensure that the enemy state would cease to function as a unified, modern society. To destroy 25% of China's population in the 1980s (I don't have more recent figures for this scenario - sorry) it was thought necessary to deliver and explode about 500 warheads. Nuclear weapons and their delivery systems, however, have a horrid misfunction rate. It is thought that AT LEAST 1/6-1/10 of the U.S. weapons would fail to reach their targets or fail to explode. Some analyses indicate an even higher failure rate - up to 50% (and the failure rate of nuclear forces of other countries is often worse than that of the U.S. nuclear forces), but let's stick with 1/10 failure rate just to make things simple. That brings the total number of nuclear weapons needed for such a strike to about 556 IF you have the 'luxury' of sequential strikes. If you need to accomplish this in one strike than you would need about 1500 warheads (this is because you do not know which ones will fail, while with sequential strikes, you can wait and see which fail and launch more only at those targets that have not been destroyed already). The above would destroy about 25% of China's population, but China could still strike back at the U.S.. If you wanted to destroy the Chinese strategic ICBMs (at their current level), you would need slightly more than 600 nuclear warheads for that purpose in addition to the above numbers - that is of course assuming you know all the exact locations of where they are. In addition you would need to destroy their SSBN capability - they only have one SSBN operational though (though more are being produced), so that would probably be possible. You would also need to destroy their strategic nuclear bombers of which the PRC has about 120 - I am guessing these are arranged in bomber regiments (aircraft regiments are standard practice for PLAAF), where all aircraft per regiment share an airbase. That would be 4 regiments of bombers, which means you would need to hit 4 airbases 'housing' them. In order to be certain of their destruction before they take off and before they get dispersed to more airbases (which would happen if tensions with U.S. were rising to levels of nuclear concentration and that would make you expend yet more warheads - more airbases to hit...) you would target multiple nuclear warheads against each immediatelly in the first wave - say 40 in total (the 'standard' practice would be to hit the area close to the airbases too to make sure that any bombers that did lift off in time get incinerated too). Altogether, assuming you can engage in sequential countervalue strikes, but not in sequential counterforce strikes, you would need about 1,200 nuclear warheads to destroy the PRC's capacity to strike back with nuclear weapons (assuming you know the locations of all their nuclear weapons, which is very unlikely, but this is a theoretical exercise) and 25% of its population. This rises to about 2,100 nuclear warheads needed if you want to achieve all of the above in one swift blow. As you can see this is a very grisly calculus. As you can imagine such large numbers of nuclear explosions would have negative effects not confined to the PRC...
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