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Subject: Battlefield/Tactical/Theater and Other Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons
Roman    7/12/2004 10:01:07 PM
I think the nuclear disarmament movement ought to concentrate on banning these non-strategic nuclear weapons completely. They provide a slippery slope for escalation of a non-nuclear war into a nuclear one and it is difficult to argue that they are necessary for deterrence, which is accomplished by strategic nuclear weapons anyway. In order to be usable, the authority to launch tactical nuclear weapons needs to be more devolved than with strategic ones, which makes them even more dangerous as there are more opportunities for a rogue or a mistaken launch. The U.S. wisely dismantled its last nuclear artillery shell a couple of months ago and other nuclear powers need to follow suit. The same needs to be done with tactical nuclear rockets/missiles, nuclear demolition munitions, tactical nuclear bombs and other such nuclear devices that are not strategic in nature. Because strategic deterrence would not be directly effected by this ban, I think it could be feasible that the current nuclear powers would agree on the matter, though U.S. would have to abandon any plans to field bunker-buster nukes, mini-nukes, micro-nukes and similar nuclear contraptions that it is currently exploring. There are two main problems I can see with this. One is a matter of definition of non-strategic (battlefield, tactical, theater and other operational) nuclear weapons as opposed to strategic ones. I would advocate a two-tiered definition: 1) Any warhead with a yield of 20 kilotons or less including warheads with variable yield that can be set for an explosion of 20 or fewer kilotons should be considered non-strategic. If stricter criteria were desired, the limit could be set at 100 kilotons. 2) No launchers with an operational range (combat range in case of aircraft) of less than 2,000 kilometers should be capable of using or carrying any nuclear arms at all. Again, if greater strictness was desired the limit could be 5,000 kilometers - which is generally considered to be the limit of a theater, but the 2,000 definition is more likely to be acceptable, since many strategic targets are within theater range. All stationary or land-mobile-but-not-launchable nuclear explosive devices, such as nuclear mines, nuclear demolition munitions, nuclear time-bombs, nuclear truck-bombs, nuclear suitcase bombs, nuclear container bombs and other non-launchable nuclear devices would either also be banned or at least limited in number (and still would have to exceed the 20kt or 100kt explosive power) by treaty and monitored. Some of these can be semi-strategic in nature, so it may be more difficult to ban them completely so at least do the next best thing and limit and monitor them if they prove impossible to ban. The second problem would be verification. This would have to be done through 'national technical means', but would be considerably more difficult than the enforcement of strategic nuclear cuts. Nonetheless, it would probably prove sufficient method of verification. Comments?
 
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Warhammer    RE:Battlefield/Tactical/Theater and Other Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons   7/12/2004 11:23:31 PM
As much as I would like our military to have nuclear bunker busters, it is probably a bad idea in the longrun. If the nuke triggers in transit, before it gets far enough underground, or detonates on impact with the ground, then the collateral damage would be enormous in terms of fall out and blast damage, but mainly in terms of PR. Also, how do you deliver the nuke? Every country in its flight path is going to be shaking in their boots, probably with their hand on their own little buttons. Would you want to trust that a country using a nuclear bunker buster on your mountain fortess is not in fact going to drop it on your cities? No one wants nukes flying around in a war, it just leads to trouble. Also, even using nukes on a small country like Afghanistan, you would be setting the precident on future wars. Future wars probably including someone bigger than a 3rd world country. If the US used nuke busters on Pakistani mountains in a theoretical future invasion, what is to stop China from saying, what the hell, and dropping some on our carrier groups, and any of our forces that get close to them? It is kind of worse than playing with fire, you are playing with white phosphorous.
 
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Thomas    RE:Battlefield/Tactical/Theater and Other Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons   7/13/2004 4:34:30 AM
I think it very significant, that the US retired their last nuclear shell. The size of a tactical nuclear weapon is primarely deternined by the accuracy (or rather the lack of it) of the delivery means. The more accurate you get, the smaller the needed yield - untill a direct hit by a MRLs rocket is all you need. If one isn't enough let them have a salvo - that will open most doors. Look at the downside to having nukes: 1. They are complicated and very expensive to build - you need a whole power industry just to make the raw materials for the explosíve. In fact that is one of the reasons Iran is suspect: Why would an oil-rich nation go through the expense of building nuclear power, when a couple of ships diesels could do the job at a fraction of the cost??? And the Israeli Air Force will maintain your pet-project in an appropiate state of disrepair. 2. When you got the firecrackers, you have to se to it that nobody absconds with them. In the bad old days, when the USAir Force had a tactical nuclear delivery wing in Europe, the wing had only 2 F-16 squadrons releative to the normal 3, because a whole third of the organisationwas just looking at, and after (hopefully not for) the damned articles. My somewhat provocative attitude is that tactical nuclear weapons serve no military purpose today, that could not be fulfilled by other and far cheaper means.
 
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Roman    RE:Battlefield/Tactical/Theater and Other Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons   7/13/2004 9:21:16 PM
"My somewhat provocative attitude is that tactical nuclear weapons serve no military purpose today, that could not be fulfilled by other and far cheaper means" Thomas, I agree with this completely and that is the reason why I think a ban on non-strategic nuclear weapons would be workable - historically countries have generally been more willing to ban weapons that were not particularly useful.
 
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Roman    RE:Battlefield/Tactical/Theater and Other Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons   7/13/2004 9:22:02 PM
Warhammer - yep I definitely agree with what you said.
 
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elcid    I think the nuclear disarmament movement ought to concentrate on banning these non-strategic nuclear   7/17/2004 5:42:43 AM
While I think the anti-nuke movement diserves little credit, this has substantially happened. All Navy tactical nuclear warheads have been withdrawn. So have battlefield Army nuclear weapons. Most classes of nuclear weapons are no longer in service. [Lots of examples: SAMs, ADMs, torpedoes, most of which were not good ideas to begin with]. Now we are seeing dramatic reductions in multiple warheads (in favor of Pennaids for USA and Russia, or conventional rounds for UK). The next logical step in the build down is to go to one warhead per missile. [Kissinger said the Russians offered this, and he refused. He wonders "what was I thinking?" Multiple warheads are terribly destabolizing.] The build down continues, and just last month we announced another almost divide by 2 of deployed weapons.
 
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elcid    Any warhead with a yield of 20 kilotons or less ... would be considered non strategic   7/17/2004 5:46:00 AM
Such a definition would classify both Hiroshima and Nagasaki as "tactical." Utter nonsense. A tactical nuclear warhead is something like 1 kt or less, with many of them in the under 100 ton range. I have witnessed a 1 kt explosion and it is pretty much overkill. We now contemplate much smaller yields for the hardest of targets.
 
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elcid    No launchers with an operational range (combat range in case of aircraft) of less than 2,000 kilomet   7/17/2004 5:47:47 AM
How could one make that realistic? One would not be able to know, or check on, such an idea. South Africa delivered atom bombs out of the cargo doors of a C-130 - probably by parachute extraction. Anyone can do that.
 
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elcid    No launchers with an operational range (combat range in case of aircraft) of less than 2,000 kilomet   7/17/2004 5:47:49 AM
How could one make that realistic? One would not be able to know, or check on, such an idea. South Africa delivered atom bombs out of the cargo doors of a C-130 - probably by parachute extraction. Anyone can do that.
 
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Roman    RE:Any warhead with a yield of 20 kilotons or less ... would be considered non strategic   7/19/2004 12:53:56 AM
There are some 'tactical' warheads which are rather large - you want to get them all hence the overkill is a good thing.
 
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Roman    RE:Any warhead with a yield of 20 kilotons or less ... would be considered non strategic   7/19/2004 12:56:45 AM
"While I think the anti-nuke movement diserves little credit, this has substantially happened." In the U.S. only and even there not fully. Furthermore, there are preliminary investigations being made into designing new classes of tactical nuclear weapons such as bunker busters, small 1 kt nukes, 100 ton 'mininukes' and even 10 ton 'micronukes', and these developments are a definite step back. "All Navy tactical nuclear warheads have been withdrawn." This is good to hear. Even though I did not mention it, I was actually particularly worried about Naval tactical nuclear weapons when I decided to create this thread. Some people seem to believe that the use of tactical nuclear weapons in naval warfare is acceptable. This alone is an excellent reason to get rid of them, since it is the most likely way to let the nuclear genie out of the bottle again. "So have battlefield Army nuclear weapons. Most classes of nuclear weapons are no longer in service. [Lots of examples: SAMs, ADMs, torpedoes, most of which were not good ideas to begin with]." Yes, progress is being made - why not codify it in international law? "Now we are seeing dramatic reductions in multiple warheads (in favor of Pennaids for USA and Russia, or conventional rounds for UK). The next logical step in the build down is to go to one warhead per missile. [Kissinger said the Russians offered this, and he refused. He wonders "what was I thinking?" Multiple warheads are terribly destabolizing.] The build down continues, and just last month we announced another almost divide by 2 of deployed weapons. " Do you have a link to that - as is apparent from my threads and posts I do have an interest in nuclear weapons and am surprised that I missed such a significant development as an announcement to halve the number of deployed systems.
 
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