Simulating the Arc Light Approach

First, a primer on nuclear war terms. Counterforce means military targets, countervalue means civilian ones. That being said, on with the post.

Eric Harry’s novel Arc Light, one of the first reviewed on Fuldapocalypse, has a way to get a large but survivable nuclear exchange. This is to have both sides aiming for an incredibly counterforce-centered approach. Doing such approaches in Nuclear War Simulator (and there are official scenarios that show such focuses being done) generally means something similar to the novel: Around a few million dead on both sides (especially depending on which way the fallout blows), but most “important” stuff still intact, as the damage is concentrated in remote bases.

Besides the obvious “but what if it goes beyond missile silos in the middle of nowhere” objection, there’s also context that the US and Russia/USSR are very big, which makes it more possible to have “remote” areas at all. Have a big fallout wave anywhere near the dense massively populated belt of eastern China and the toll rises dramatically. Do it basically anywhere across India’s generally “spread out” (for lack of a better word) populace or in a smaller country and the result is similar.

I have to repeat that the Arc Light approach is something I find a lot more acceptable (not plausible, I use acceptable as a better term) than the Hackett’s WW3 approach. The strategic exchange is aimed purely at military targets? All right, I can believe that. Tac nukes are used but nothing more? I can also accept that. But just a small number of countervalue targets (ie the infamous Birmingham and Minsk?) That’s harder for me to accept.

The Literary Consequences of Nuclear Proliferation

There is one country that, on paper, would be a prime candidate for nuclear weapons. It’s large, militarized, has had a reputation for what can politely be called “stubborn independence”, and directly bordered the USSR. The country in question: Turkey. Now, there has been constant talk and pushing for a nuclear arsenal from it as early as the 1960s. But it has not amounted to anything substantive in actual history.

That could very well have not been the case, and archrival Greece might have followed with an (attempted?) independent deterrent of its own. From there, the butterflies could spiral off. As someone who is no expert on the politics of that region, I will make no claims. But as an avid reader of cheap thrillers, I can safely say that in that situation, Turkey and maybe Greece would join the USSR and Pakistan as the countries of choice where the terrorists buy/steal/are donated nuclear weapons from in novels and their adaptations.

Actually I’m a little surprised that there’s been fairly little use of South Africa as a nuclear source given the apartheid government’s easy villain use and its genuinely successful weapons program. I guess the South African nuclear arsenal was too small (it amounted to only six Little Boy-level warheads) and more importantly, too obscure (it didn’t stay in the headlines long because the ANC government rapidly dismantled it with very little controversy).

Of course, if postwar Japan with its technology and piles of fissile material managed to go nuclear (some fire-breather rises to the top of the ruling party?), you can bet what a bunch of 1990s technothrillers would have focused on.

Soviet Romanian War Aircraft Losses

For the Soviet Romanian War in All Union, since World War III 1987 is doing aircraft losses, I figured I might as well too. (Also, enjoy the Sovereign Union’s flag in picture detail!)

Sovereign Union

  • 22 aircraft lost in the war to hostile fire. Of those, three were lost in aerial combat, two to radar SAMs, and the remaining seventeen to AAA/MANPADS.
  • Around 10 more lost to friendly fire and accidents (the former being folded into the latter for obvious reasons)
  • 30 helicopters lost in the war to all causes.


  • 19 aircraft lost in the war to hostile fire. Two in aerial combat, the rest to AAA/MANPADS. Worse equipment, training, and heavy intense support of the Danube forcing contributed to the lopsided ratio.
  • 8 more to friendly fire and accidents.
  • 16 helicopters lost in the war to all causes.


  • The Romanian air force of around six hundred prewar aircraft was completely destroyed, save for thirteen confirmed escapes to Hungary and U̴̪͇̺͒̽̚ṅ̴̬͖å̶͇̦͚̈́u̷̧͓̞̿t̸̬͛͒̌h̴̳͆o̴̤̍̐͝r̶͈͑̊͘ĭ̶̡̈ͅz̸̜̗̤͒̾̇è̷̡͙̊̿d̶͍̖̄͗̑ ̷̡̩͋͆̊ͅC̴̨͂͗͜l̷̰̤͎̊͝͠ẽ̷͈̟̅̍a̸̱͑r̵̨̯̽̆ä̴̞̠́n̷͉̘͊c̸͓͇̪̍͆e̷͕̾̀͆ ̶̫͔͔͑D̵̢̻̊̽E̸͍̗͆͝T̵̘̽͆̚E̶̞͐̓͝Ċ̵̟́T̶̢̖̔Ę̸̋Ḋ̵̯̒.
  • Over four fifths of the Romanian Air Force was destroyed on the ground in the initial fire strike. Of the remaining not overrun/eliminated in the same way later, sixty one were downed in aerial combat, thirteen escaped to Hungary, thirteen more were lost to friendly fire, and only eight were taken out by the vaunted air defenses. (SAMs were on a tight leash as the planners knew there’d be a lot more friendly ones in the sky).

Operation El Paso

OPLAN El Paso was a proposed campaign in the Vietnam War to block off the Laos trails by land. One southern and two American divisions would deploy by air and hold the terrain. This corps-sized blocking force could theoretically do what no amount of airpower realistically could: stop the flow of troops and supplies south.

It may have been a missed opportunity to decisively change the (conventional) course of the Vietnam war-or a chance for the northerners to inflict a huge number of politically sensitive casualties on the Americans in a place where it was near its supply bases and they were farther. If one of the people responsible for the plan was skeptical that it could work, you know it could very well end up going the way of the similar Lam Son 719.

The Evolution Of The Word “Battleship”

Battleship has an interesting evolution. It originally meant “line of battle ship”, what we now know as “ships of the line” (big armed sailing ships larger than frigates). In fact, some old battleships in the German Navy were deliberately classified as “Linenschiff” (Line Ships).

In the steam age, battleship eventually meant “the biggest and most armored self-propelled ship.” So far so good. It then shifted to leftover World War II battleships that were very distinct from their later missile-age counterparts. However, the specific term has been slipping. Now “battleship” is often used as a synonym for “warship”. Many people mind this. I don’t.

Weird Wargaming: The Condor Missile

Imagine a ballistic missile made by as close to as pure a League of Evil as it’s possible to get. Such a missile did not actually (to public knowledge) enter service, but it was worked on by several of the world’s most nefarious regimes. I speak of the Condor II/Badr-2000 (and undoubtedly many more names if it had spread) missile that was worked on by the Falklands-era Argentine junta, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and Egypt’s military regime (which has been credibly rumored to have continued development on other long-range missiles based on it in secret by itself.)

In Nuclear War Simulator, if I want a basic strategic missile for a rogue nation I’m giving plausible nuclear weapons, I give them Condors. As a final version of the Condor II was never explicitly built and tested, exact figures cannot be determined. However, range has been stated at 500-1200 kilometers and circular error probable from 500-50 meters, with even the larger number being acceptable for a nuclear warhead aimed at a city. The UNMOVIC report on Iraq’s missile program stated that the Badr-2000 had more modest goals: 1 phase with a range of 620 km and a CEP of 6.2 kilometers, followed by Phase 2 (620 km/620 meters) and Phase 3 (750 km/750 meters). The ballpark is narrow enough for me to use a “considerably longer than INF limits, and not too inaccurate” judgement in individual cases.

The payload was about 300-500 kilograms, and the missile around 80 centimeters in width. This would require a small warhead to work properly, and a light one to push the missile to its intended range. The first-gen Iraqi warhead would have been too big, but it would not have been an insurmountable problem given enough time (or, in my backgrounds, an AQ Khan-style nuclear network providing the materials/documentation to build a ‘standardized’ warhead small enough to fit into a Condor II).

To have every regional nuke-seeker get Condors is still a bit of a stretch. Historically, the foreign components and shaky finances of the developments gave opponents leverage that they used to squash it. But to have some of them slip through is not entirely implausible.

All Union February Update

All Union, my alternate history novel project, is coming along very, very nicely. The first volume (yes, it’s grown big and ambitious enough to require multiple volumes) should hopefully release sometime in the spring. I’m very excited.

I’ve long since wanted to write a book like the one I’m making now, and I’m finally doing so. And yes, I’m doing things that the snarker me would have slammed several years ago. Oh well.

The Vehicle Puzzle

The GENFORCE-Mobile organizational chart got the then-still-in-development BTR-90‘s stats wrong. It’s both too light (at 17 metric tons compared to the 21 of the real one), and more importantly has too many dismounts (ten as opposed to seven I’ve seen in every real source). The real BTR-90 was cursed by coming right as the USSR fell, but in many ways it was also just a wheeled BMP-2, so its lack of entry into service is understandable.

But I thought (both for the All Union story and for my own fun) “Well, what if you could get a vehicle with ten dismounts?” The squad would grow to USMC size (two or three in the vehicle plus ten dismounts), and it presents a very tricky puzzle: Get a vehicle that is fit for a mobile corps (so it has to be viable in direct combat, both offensively and defensively), can carry ten dismounted troops as standard, and can’t be too big or heavy. If you want heavier weapons, it basically needs a remote uncrewed turret to not tip the scales. It’s not technologically impossible by a long short, but tradeoffs will have to be made.

Finally, the big squad means I can finally introduce my “eastern fireteam” concept I rejected for the next-gen BMP. Which makes more tactical sense, since doctrinally they’ll be fighting away from their vehicle more often, especially in rough terrain or as part of a tactical heliborne operation. So they need to be (theoretically) better in terms of both equipment and skill.

As for how it works, well, I’m writing right now a chapter where such a motorized rifle unit storms a Romanian town…