MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Blast from the past: The Pentagon’s updated war plan for tactical nukes

Posted by M. C. on July 16, 2019

Despite decades of practice in the past, from ships to planes to individual troops, the Pentagon has to figure out how to fight in one of the most deadly environments ever envisioned.

Fifty years of cold war nuclear war preparation and the pentagram has taught themselves nothing.

Not a big surprise.

https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2019/07/10/blast-from-the-past-the-pentagons-updated-war-plan-for-tactical-nukes/

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…The world has not seen a nuclear strike in combat since 1945. But a nuclear attack from an enemy — and potential U.S. counter strike — is a scenario that’s drawing renewed attention from the Defense Department as the military prepares for the grim prospect of full-scale combat operations involving nuclear weapons.

“It’d be horrible,” retired Gen. Hawk Carlisle, former head of Air Combat Command and current head of the National Defense Industrial Association, said of this hypothetical scenario that could happen under new Pentagon doctrine.

“All the complicating factors of a nuclear exchange just accentuates whatever problem you would have in a normal hostile environment, with a level of complexity that is an order of magnitude more difficult,” Carlisle told Military Times in a recent interview.

For the first time in decades, incorporating tactical-level targeting and being able to run maneuver operations in a post-nuclear blast area have returned to the thinking of even the lowest-ranking troops. Something most operational planners have ignored for decades.

Winning a nuclear ground war

The Pentagon’s new plans were outlined in detail when the Pentagon recently published its new 60-page “Joint ­Publication No. 3-72 Nuclear Operations” online. The ­document, prepared at the request of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was briefly available to the public but soon removed and placed in an online catalogue of “for official use only” documents.

The document reveals a fundamental change from the Cold War-era belief that nuclear war would result in an Armageddon-like catastrophe and “mutually assured destruction.”

The new plans reflect the modern battlefield where the number of countries with nuclear capabilities is growing rapidly, where asymmetric warfare is increasingly common and where the U.S. military is losing its technological edge over other near-peer military rivals.

The new plan bluntly states that “nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability. Specifically, the use of nuclear weapons will fundamentally change the scope of a battle and develop situations that call for commanders to win.”

And it calls their use “essential” to mission success…

Russia’s nuclear policy since 2000 has been to use smaller payloads in a conventional fight — low-yield or tactical — nuclear weapons to win key battles that could quickly end conflict and prevent full-scale nuclear war, according to a 2012 U.S. National Intelligence Council report.

Some experts see the doctrinal change as simply a way of getting back to the way nuclear conflict was viewed before the Berlin Wall fell.

Before the Berlin Wall fell and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, every U.S. artillery unit in Europe was nuclear capable. “Every battalion had nuclear training,” said David E. Johnson, principal researcher at the Rand Corporation and career Army officer with a background in artillery.

That included defending nuclear weapon storage sites, anticipating effects of even howitzer 155 mm nuclear-enabled projectiles and working field exercises in mission oriented protective posture, or MOPP, gear.

“We need to recover that capability,” he said. “There’s just a knowledge gap in the force.”

Post-blast ground operations

The 2019 nuclear doctrine calls for soldiers and Marines trained and prepared to conduct combat operations in a multitheater post-nuclear environment.

“The greatest and least understood challenge ­confronting troops in a nuclear conflict is how to operate in a post-nuclear detonation radiological environment,” the publication states…

While sniffers detect the location and fallout levels, he said, ­weather airmen analyze wind and other ­meteorological patterns to track and predict how the radiation might drift and dissipate.

Despite decades of practice in the past, from ships to planes to individual troops, the Pentagon has to figure out how to fight in one of the most deadly environments ever envisioned.

“We have been working on it for a few years, and we do have more ­information than we probably had in the height of Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom,” Carlisle said.

“We don’t have anywhere close to all the answers … and not to the level of detail … we need,” he said. “But we are trying to figure it out.

Be seeing you

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