top of page

Recent Posts: 

1
2
Search

Updated: Apr 15, 2022

Mata Hari meets James Bond with a twist in this short story thriller set in Dubai, the center of commerce and intrigue where the Western and Eastern powers vie for power in the Middle East of Cold War 2.0.


As I promised, this site will provide free short story content for your enjoyment. your comments and feedback are always welcome. Read On ...


Zahara

A Short Story by Fritz Struhsaker

Zahara - Pop Art vision of our heroine
Zahara

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

It is the near future. Russian military adventurism in Europe and the aftermath of the Battle of Taiwan Straights between China and Western Allied Nations have created two opposing spheres of influence. A second cold war divides the world between the totalitarian regimes aligned with China and Russia and the rest of the free world. The great powers vie for the control of the Middle East with its oil reserves and newly discovered lithium reserves to fuel the green energy economy. Dubai, the defecto economic capital of the region, has become a center of intrigue and espionage.

Port of Jebel Ali, Jebel Ali Economic Freezone, Dubai

Chief Detective Amrita Singh focused on the gasoline-powered Mercedes Benz Sprinter van in front of her. The van was still idling. The driver, likely European, sat upright, held in place by his seatbelt. Blood dripped from the hole in his forehead, and a far greater amount of blood permeated his clothing from the wound in his chest. A dead Asian woman with similar injuries sat beside him, handcuffed and strapped to the passenger’s seat. Judging from the size of the holes through the front windshield and the entry wounds in the victims’ foreheads, the pair had been shot at close range with a small-caliber weapon—likely a 9mm of some sort. “Very clean, very professional,” Chief Detective Singh thought to herself.


Singh wrapped up her questioning of the patrol officers who discovered the victims. “So, to be clear,” she asked, “You found no witnesses, no sign of a struggle, and no brass or other physical evidence, correct?”


“That’s correct, Chief Detective,” the lead officer answered. “All we found was a van with four bullet holes in the windshield, idling in the middle of the night in the Jebel Ali port warehouse district. We only stopped to investigate because our thermal scanners indicated the engine was running and the van hadn’t moved after two patrol passes flying over the area.”


A warning tone gradually increased above them. The forensics team arrived in their FlyCr (“flicker” – slang for flying car). Singh didn’t bother to look up. Instead, she turned and thanked the patrol officers and dismissed them to return to their duties. She turned to her Mech synthetic partner Sam, whom she’d nicknamed after the fictional detective Sam Spade. “Sam, please run a second check of the crime scene for brass,” Singh ordered. “I’d like your opinion on whether we are looking at one or two shooters once you’ve sized up the crime scene.”


“Yes, Sayidi,” Sam confirmed using the Arabic word for master, a term Sam knew irritated his human partner. The Mech turned and went about his work. “Such a smart-aleck,” Amarita thought, wondering if the Mech’s personality was a reflection of his creator, Travis Stanhauser. The new Stanhauser Robotics Mechs purchased for the Dubai police department were a marvel. Unlike the older Japan Robotic Corp models, the Stanhauser units could perform all the duties of a typical human partner. Five thousand Stanhauser units already filled the Dubai police ranks, making up one-third of the force. Another five thousand were on order with plans to have Mechs staff half the force. One Mech partnered with one human for patrol officers and detectives.


After 30 minutes, the forensic team completed their initial investigation of the crime scene. Amrita could finally physically inspect the victims. She donned a pair of latex gloves and AR glasses (augmented reality glasses). She tucked the stems of her AR glasses under her black hijab, the traditional scarf covering her head and neck, leaving her face uncovered, unlike a more traditional niqab that left only the eyes exposed. The hijab complimented her gold-embroidered black tunic and flowing black haram pants. She looked every ounce of the well coffered upper-middle-class emigre that flocked to Dubai to make their fortune.


Amrita started with the European driver. She turned his head, looked directly at the victim, and tapped the side of her AR glasses, which instantly linked the image to both the INTERPOL and Dubai police databases. In a few seconds, the cloud-based facial recognition system identified the victim as Detective Hans Kleiner, a German national assigned to UAE INTERPOL. “What are you doing here running around in a ground transport van with the rest of the kafala,” Amrita thought to herself with a tinge of guilt for using the derogatory term, kalafa, an Emirati catchall for lower class foreign migrant workers from India, Pakistan, and the Philippines, among other nations. Ground vehicles are for logistics and those too poor to afford a FlyCr. “Where’s your assigned FlyCr? More importantly, where’s your backup?” she mused.


Amrita turned her attention to the Asian woman in the passenger seat. The petite woman wore a designer western pantsuit, revealing far too much blood-stained cleavage to fit within the norms of good taste in polite Dubai society. The victim’s striking medium-length platinum-dyed hair only added to her decadence. In Amrita’s opinion, this poor girl would be quite fetching if it were not for the weeping bullet hole in her forehead. “Pitty, you had your whole life in front of you,” Amrita sadly reflected as she lined up the young woman’s face in her field of view for identification with her AR glasses. The identification data quickly returned, highlighted in bold red script in her field of vision:


Cynthia Gao, US Citizen, resident of San Francisco, graduated with honors from Stanford with a BA in logistics.


Smart girl,” Amrita thought. “But not smart enough to escape your fate here, it seems.” Amrita blinked with her right eye signaling her AR glass to display more information. Now it got interesting. INTERPOL had a RED NOTICE out on Miss Gao. Gao, a Hong Kong 14K Triad operative, was suspected of being the mastermind behind several 14K smuggling operations. “So much for using that pricy exclusive Stanford education as a force of good. Of course, the same could be said of most Silicon Valley CEOs from Stanford,” Amrita mused sarcastically.


Gao had neither AR glasses nor an “old school” smartphone in her possession. The same was true for DDetective Kleiner, which was odd. Amrita carefully checked the driver’s seat and floor area again. A slight oblong bulge under Kleiner’s left foot caught her eye. Amrita surmised that Kleiner had just enough warning to drop his phone, kick it under the floor mat, and place his foot over it before the shooting started. She opened her purse and pulled out an interrogator to extract the phone number and SIM identifier from the smartphone. She dictated a brief message and added the extracted smartphone information.


From: Chief Detective Amrita Singh, General Department of Criminal Investigation

To: Watch Officer, General Department of Artificial Intelligence

Subject: Urgent Forensic Access Request.

Please forward the last twenty-four hours of phone records and text messages of the attached device. This is an urgent priority request in conjunction with a double homicide involving a member of INTERPOL.


Dubai was not the United States or European Union. The legal concepts of privacy rights, self-incrimination, search and seizure, and prohibition of torture did not exist. Not a problem if you are a law-abiding resident or citizen, but a considerable advantage over criminal elements for the UAE police and internal security. As part of the Ministry of Interior, the General Department of Artificial Intelligence captured and recorded phone records, emails, texts, and WEB access history of every person in the UAE 24x7x365. Amrita would have her information in a few minutes. Meanwhile, it was time to see what Sam had discovered.


“So, Sam, what have you found?” Amrita queried her synthetic partner.


“Forensics found no fingerprints, and my second search found no brass,” Sam stated. “However, evidence indicates that two different weapons were used to perpetrate the crime. The bullet holes through the van’s windshield and the victim’s wounds have size differences. Ms. Gao’s ballistics are consistent with small-caliber 5.8mm x 21mm ammunition. The only weapon that uses 5.8mm x 21mm rounds is the Chinese QSZ-92 pistol, a weapon of choice amongst the various Triad organizations. The ballistics for INTERPOL Agent Kleiner are consistent with 9mm x 19mm parabellum rounds typical of a Glock, Luger, or any number of other weapons manufacturers. The evidence suggests two assailants stood at point-blank range in front of the van and fired two clean shots with little or no warning. The shooting accuracy along with a clean crime scene would indicate the work of professionals.”


Amrita held up her hand to pause her synthetic partner’s report. The download from the General Department of Artificial Intelligence had just arrived. She scanned the list of incoming and outgoing phone numbers. Nothing unusual until the last few calls before the attack. Three calls went out to the same local UAE number, which looked oddly familiar to Chief Detective Singh. Then it dawned on her. It was her friend Zahara Fitzroy bint Sharif Al Ronaihi’s cell number. Amrita scanned the text messages. She found nothing unusual until the final message:


[Zahara – It seems our troubles are twice as complicated. We may need the help of your Russian associates. Let’s meet at our usual place in Deira (north of Dubai Creek) first thing tomorrow. Our window of opportunity is less than 36 hours.]


No sooner had Amrita finished reading the text when an urgent message arrived from her Chief to return to the station and provide an update. Word that an INTERPOL officer was dead traveled fast. “Sam, we need to go see the Chief,” Amrita stated.


“Do you think the Chief has an issue with Mechs?” Sam queried his partner. “He always seems so ambivalent and curt when we speak with him.”


“It’s not you, Sam,” Amrita observed. “It’s me. The Chief is a chauvinist, and he finds it irritating that his best detective is a woman. Even worse, an infidel, non-Emirati, woman from Boston. My existence stands as an affront to his narrow-minded worldview.” Amrita viewed her career as a personal feminist crusader the day she emigrated 12 years ago with her MIT-educated husband, who accepted the Dean of Engineering position at Zayed University.


“Good to know!” Sam quipped as he let out a synthetic laugh. “I am happy that it’s you and not me who offends the Chief,” Amrita smiled and laughed at her synthetic partner’s little jest. Sam’s little quips and wry comments never failed to amaze and amuse her.


The pair boarded their unmarked FlyCr, set the destination to headquarters, and ascended straight upward 1000 feet to merge into the traffic pattern of the Sky Lane above them. As the FlyCr made its automated journey to headquarters, Chief Detective Amrita Singh sent a brief message:


[Zahara – what have you gotten yourself involved in now? Agent Kleiner is dead along with RED NOTICE suspect Cynthia Gao. We need to talk. Call Me.]

Pop Art - Burg Al Arab Hotel, Umm Suqeim Beach, Dubai
Burg Al Arab Hotel,

Burg Al Arab Hotel, Umm Suqeim Beach, Dubai

“It’s time for you to go,” Amaran, Zahara’s AI minder, chimed softly in her ear. “You mustn’t keep Mr. Morozov waiting.”


“I am aware of the time, Amaran. Morozov will wait,” Zahara mentally replied. “After all, we are meeting twelve floors down and five minutes away. I have plenty of time to finish things properly here.


Zahara returned her attention to Farah bin Mohammed Al Kalief. Farah stood naked in front of her, surveying the view of northern Dubai through the floor-to-ceiling tinted glass windows of their 39th-floor room in the Burg Al Arab hotel. Looking out toward the Sharjah desert, a glittering array of skyscrapers, residential towers, and affluent coastal neighborhoods filled Farah’s field of view, including the Burj Kalifa, the world’s tallest building, and the iconic Dubai Frame. The view was as breathtaking as the ultra-luxury Burj Al Arab hotel itself, with its stunning, unmistakable sail-inspired architecture designed by British architect Tom Wright.

Farah was the first wife of the Deputy Director of State Security of the UAE Ministry of Interior, Mohammed Al Kalief, and a member of Dubai’s extended royal family by marriage. Farah was as striking as Dubai itself. Zahara admired her shimmering long dark hair, silky tanned skin, and her tall, lithe, incredibly toned frame.


Zahara, completely naked herself ...

Read the Full Story by tapping the link below

& signing up


75 views0 comments

With all the talk about World War 3, can we survive if nuclear war does come? Will civilization end? The short answer is, No, life will go on! This primer will arm you with the information you need to survive and, over time, thrive in a post-nuclear world.

a color picture of the damage at Hiroshima
Hiroshima, Japan epicenter effects of air burst 15 kiloton atomic weapon, August 1945

This blog to follow up on a series of questions readers had from my recent blog, “Nuclear war, what’s in it for you? which is a primer on nuclear weapons systems, nuclear war strategy, the destructive power of nuclear weapons, and the impact of radiation on the human body—everything you need to know now that Cold War 2.0 is in full swing.


This blog posting, “A Survivor’s Guide to Nuclear War,” will look at what an average person (not a doomsday prepper – no offense to the well prepared) can do to improve their chance of survival and stand a very good chance of thriving in what would become a brave new world. Here is what we’ll cover:

  • Basic Survival Steps. If Nothing Else, Do This!

  • Fallout – the Invisible Killer: fallout, fallout patterns, and the effects of radiation exposure on humans

  • EMP - Electromagnetic Pulse and what to do about it.

  • Extended Supplies for Survival

  • A Brave New World: Long Term Survival and Reconstruction

There’s a lot to unpack, so here we go …


Basic Survival Steps: If Nothing Else, Do This!

Human survival depends on having a hierarchy of our physical needs being met. Our survival depends on a very simple rule known as “The Rule of Threes.” Three minutes without air, we fall unconscious and die. Three days without water, our organs start failing, and we die. Three weeks without food, we have organ failure and, in some cases, infection resulting in death.


In the case of nuclear war, we have to add a new rule: Radiation exposure. We need to limit our radiation exposure to 100 REM to avoid ARS, Acute Radiation Syndrome (i.e., radiation sickness). Beyond 100 REM, we increase our percentage chance of death by ARS until our exposure reaches 1000 REM, certain death (i.e., 100%).


In the event of a nuclear attack, you’ll have a very short warning period before the warheads begin to strike. Depending on your location, the warning can be as little as 10 minutes for an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) attack in Europe to no more than 30 minutes for an intercontinental ballistic missile attack from Russia or China on the United States. What do you do?


Rule 1 – Gather your Survival Supplies and Take Shelter IMMEDIATELY

Ideally, you will shelter in a basement or an interior room in your home without windows. This tends to be a bathroom. Live in an apartment? Get to the basement or an enclosed stairwell near the ground floor. Assuming you’re not in the nuclear blasts vaporization or major damage zone, there’s a large light damage zone (blast pressure ~1 psi) where buildings are intact, but almost every window will shatter. Keep in mind that the force of the blast will drive shattered glass like shrapnel from a grenade. A severe injury will result.


If the best shelter location does have a window, you have two choices:

  1. Have a precut piece of plywood in your survival kit and screw or nail it over the window.

  2. Cover the entire window with duct tape to minimize the glass shatter effect. Stay low and out of the line where shattered glass will likely fly.

Gather your family and pets in your shelter area and wait for the blast. Nuclear attacks happen in waves, and you may have to take shelter and stay sheltered for several days and up to two weeks. So be prepared.


Also, never look at a blast! Depending on the location, you have a good chance of being blinded or possible 2nd or 3rd-degree burns. If you are sheltered, you eliminate this risk!


Rule 2 Store Critical Electronics in a Makeshift Faraday Cage

Nuclear weapons detonations create both a shock wave and an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that can destroy most electronics. Both blast and EMP effects fall off the further you are from the blast center until they have no appreciable effect, with one exception, which we’ll discuss later.

Home made Faraday Cage
Makeshift Faraday Cage for an iPhone, Place iPhone in a plastic bag, then seal with aluminum foil

It only takes 30 seconds to save your iPhone/smartphone, iPad/PC, portable radio, and other small electronics from EMP. Your electronics must be protected in a makeshift Faraday cage. A Faraday cage is a protective enclosure that prevents electromagnetic radiation from entering or exiting. All you need is an insulator around your device and place it in a sealed metal container. You can use a plastic bag, plastic food wrap, or paper for the insulator. Folded aluminum foil can serve as a metal container. Yes, it’s that simple - a plastic bag and foil!


Place your device in a plastic bag or wrap it in plastic or paper to insulate it. Seal the insulated device in aluminum foil, carefully folding every seam making sure the device is completely sealed.


Loose lead-acid, alkaline, or lithium-ion batteries don’t need protection and are unaffected by EMP. That is not true of portable battery/charger packs or battery chargers themselves. Anything with electronics like chargers or battery packs must go in a temporary faraday cage.


Rule 3 Remain In Your Shelter – under no circumstance go outside or open any windows

Fallout can travel 10s even 100s of miles. For example, the fallout from a strike on San Antonio, TX, will blanket Austin, TX, and be more hazardous than direct fallout from a nuclear strike on Austin. Radiation is a silent and unseen killer. Unless you have a Geiger counter, you have no idea about the local radiation level. Assume the worse. Assume you are in a heavy fallout zone with radiation of 100s, even 1000s of RADs an hour. Your goal is to keep as much mass and distance (i.e., walls, floors, ceilings, etc.) as possible between you and the outside world. Subways and underground fallout shelters are always preferred if available. Unfortunately, deep underground shelters are NOT available for most of us.


There are lite damage and heavy damage zones associated with a nuclear detonation. Structures in the lite damage zone will have minor structural damage except for shattered windows. Shattered windows allow fallout to penetrate deeper into your home or apartment, degrading the effectiveness of your shelter. After the initial shock wave, a handful of minutes exists to limit fallout contamination through shattered windows before fallout descends around the immediate blast area.

While precut plywood would be ideal, heavy-duty plastic tarp material will suffice to cover broken windows or sliding glass door openings.

  • Select part or all of the home or apartment to cover, cover off a hallway if necessary.

  • Breakoff and clear any remaining glass in the window opening

  • Cut the plastic tarp, allowing an extra 2” along each dimension (Note: having plastic precut and marked would be a tremendous help)

  • Staple (the recommended method) the plastic starting at the top, moving to the sides and bottom

  • Run duct tape along all the edges and the floor for sliding glass doors to seal the barrier

Glass will be in short supply or unobtainable for quite some time when “the dust settles.” Having kit available to cover all your windows is an inexpensive insurance policy for tornados, severe thunder/hail storms, hurricanes, or nuclear war.


Rule 4 Have Supplies to Remain in Shelter a Minimum of 2 Days, and Ideally 2 Weeks

Fallout severity dissipation over time
Fallout severity dissipation over time ( Source: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Some good news, as we’ll discuss in greater depth later in this blog - the immediate radiation hazard of fallout dissipates quickly.

  • Radiation levels fall by a factor of 100 in 48 hours - brief outdoor exposure possible

  • Radiation levels fall by a factor of 1000 in 2 weeks - outdoor exposure is marginally safe

Now that we've established the need to shelter for up to two weeks, here is a quick rundown of the supplies you'll need.


Water is the most critical item. You can live without food for three weeks but only 3 days without water

  • Adults need 1 gallon of water per day, 14 gallons for 2 weeks, half for drinking and half for cooking and cleaning

  • For your pets, 1 ounce of water per pound of weight per day

  • Use a bathtub as water reserve – a typical bathtub holds over 40 gallons of water. Fill your bathtub and shut the door to the bathroom before you shelter. After a minimum of 48 hours of shelter, you can return and use this as a water refill cache.

Food: An adult needs 2000 calories a day. Emergency food needs to be ready to eat. Cooking will be prohibited or even hazardous in a cramped emergency shelter-in-place situation. Dried rice, beans, and other dried food are great as long-term food supplements but require cooking in boiling water to be edible. Expensive freeze-dried meals or military MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) are not required.

  • Staples: canned beans, canned meat, stew, granola bars, protein bars, trail mix, and dried nuts will suffice.

  • Fruits and vegetables: V8 or tomato juice is all you need. Supplement with canned fruit and vegetables if desired. Eat any fresh fruits and vegetables on hand first.

  • Pet food as appropriate.

  • Don’t forget a can opener and some utensils!

  • Optional: Vitamins and freeze-dried fruit and vegetable supplements (Balance of Nature, Texas superfood, etc.)

Sanitation in a confined shelter space is critical. Even if a toilet is available, sewage lines will back up. Water must be saved for drinking, not flushing toilets. Adults create between one and two quarts of urine and excrement a day. Bathing will not be possible due to water conservation, but efficient hand, face, and body sponge baths are possible. Here’s a short sanitation supply list:

  • Use 5 gallon sealed lid buckets as a temporary latrine. One bucket holds ten days of one adult’s waste along with pet waste. By day nine or so, a short excursion outside can be used to empty and reuse. Your “latrine buckets” are handy to carry your supplies to your shelter.

  • Toilet paper - one roll per person per week

  • Paper towels to clean up pet waste and general usage- one roll per person per week, one role per pet per week

  • Liquid or bar soap

  • Trash bags for all other garbage

  • Optional: Several changes of clothes (see Dry Decontamination)

  • Optional: toothbrush, toothpaste, etc

Finally, we have a few other items that will come in handy:

  • First aid kits

  • Disinfectant, hydrogen peroxide, etc.

  • Leatherman or Swiss Army Knife

  • Flashlights, lanterns, and the backup batteries to run them – the shelter will have no windows

  • Old school AM/FM battery-powered radio and the backup batteries run it

  • Optional: Geiger counter. ~$500+ for a quality unit, must be EMP protected in a Faraday bag

Here is a useful link to the FEMA recommended Emergency Check List- Fema Checklist


Rule 5 Use Dry Decontamination Procedures for Out of Shelter Excursions

Contamination is likely for any excursion outside the shelter during the first two weeks as radiation levels fall to a moderately safe level. Anyone venturing out is exposed to blowing dirt and fallout debris, especially on their shoes. Decontamination procedures are necessary to minimize fallout contaminates entering the shelter creating a further hazard to the sheltered group members.


Dry Decontamination Procedure -1945 Trinity Atomic Bomb Test (Source: DoD Archives)
Dry Decontamination Procedure -1945 Trinity Atomic Bomb Test (Source: DoD Archives)

When water is available, the standard decontamination procedure is to hose down the individual, remove all clothes and shoes, hose down again, and finally dress in fresh clothes and shoes. The old wet clothes are washed twice for reuse.


No running water? Use dry decontamination procedure during two weeks of shelter period to conserve water. All clothes and shoes are removed and placed in a trash bag. Sponge bath all exposed skin and hair with wet paper towels. Dry with paper towels and place all paper towels in the contaminated trash bag. The individual dresses in a fresh set of clothes to return to the group. Once the water and other services are restored, the clothes can be washed (twice) and reclaimed.


Lacking a change of clothes, individuals that venture outside should segregate from the group, especially children. Do not let your pets outside for any reason. Pets must be washed down for decontamination.


Rule 6 Situational Awareness. Get informed, First by Wireless, then by Foot Reconnaissance

Information is critical. If you experienced a strong damaging shock wave, cellular and/or wifi hotspots are likely destroyed or damaged. AM/FM radio will be your best option to get information. Everyone is sheltering in place for at least 48 hours, so don’t be surprised that you can’t find a signal during that period. Keep trying periodically and conserve your batteries.


SpaceX Starlink Home Satellite Dish (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX Starlink Home Satellite Dish (Source: SpaceX)

One-way broadcast satellite (DVB in Europe, Direct TV, Dish, etc.) and two-way satellite data services (Hughes Net, SpaceX Starlink, Eutelsat. Etc.) will be invaluable. Assuming you have a power source and your equipment was undamaged by EMP (or you protected it in a faraday cage), the satellites in these systems will be untouched. Ground stations that feed these satellite networks could be damaged or destroyed in the nuclear exchange. However, backup satellite ground stations will come online and restore some level of communications. That’s the plan, at least.


Regardless of the state of wireless communications, it’s only natural to conduct short reconnaissance trips outside of your shelter to check on neighbors, contact authorities, and survey the damage. Remember to limit your exposure time to a few hours in the first week and no more than twice that during the second week.


Now that we’ve covered the 6 basic rules for survival, let’s take a deep dive into fallout.

Fallout – The Invisible Killer

Understanding fallout, fallout patterns, and the effects of radiation exposure on humans is critical to survival. This section will provide the basics. We’ll start with a rather sad hypothetical scenario to make a point. Here is a brief scenario to make my point:


Jorge Laurent, his wife Cheri, ten-year-old son Hugo, and five-year-old daughter, Annette, were sitting down to breakfast at their home on Rue Georges Magneir in the Paris suburb of Saint- Dennis when the air raid sirens started. Unaware of what could have raised the alarm, Cheri turned on the TV to find warnings of an imminent nuclear attack and take immediate shelter. Jorge and Cheri grabbed Hugo and Annette and quickly made their way to their small root cellar basement. Jorge, realizing in their panic that he’d taken no supplies, promptly ran back to the kitchen pantry and brought a few bottles of water and some snacks. Their pantry was bare, and the family planned to go grocery shopping at the nearby Carrefour grocery after breakfast.


Paris, France, fallout map: 1.1 million fatalities, 1.5 million injured  (Source: NukeMap simulation)
Paris, France, fallout map: 1.1 million fatalities, 1.5 million injured (Source: NukeMap simulation)

Jorge had barely gotten back in the cellar when the first of two Russian intermediate-range ballistic missiles struck the center of Paris and a military communications facility west of the city. Within minutes the shockwave from central Paris created the roar of a jet engine and shook their house like an earthquake. The children screamed and cried, and Jorge and Cheri did their best to calm them down. A second less intense shock wave arrived a few minutes later, then silence.


The family sat in stunned silence for twenty minutes. With their cell phones dead from EMP and no food in the house, the Laurents emerged from their shelter to find their house intact, and every window shattered (i.e., Lite Damage Zone). A lite grey dust blew through the windows covering the interior rooms of the Laurent’s home in highly radioactive fallout. Jorge checked his car - it was dead. Jorge and Cheri agreed on a plan. Jorge would walk to Carrefour to get emergency supplies while Cheri stayed with Hugo and Annette.


Jorge and Cheri had never seriously thought about nuclear war in their entire lives. After all, nuclear war was an “American problem,” not one for the French. They had no idea that the lite grey dust in their home and on the streets was the fallout from two nuclear detonations. They had no idea that Saint-Denis was in the path of maximum fallout intensity, over 3000 rads, per hour. In less than an hour, both Jorge and his family lay unconscious, stricken with Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS), dying an hour later. Sadly, if the Laurents had remained in shelter for 48 hours, they would have survived.

Likely UK NuclearTargets,  Fallout will cover the UK except for Northern Scotland (Source: UK MoD)
Likely UK NuclearTargets, Fallout will cover the UK except for Northern Scotland (Source: UK MoD)

As stated earlier, radiation from fallout is a silent killer. More importantly, fallout radiation will be widespread in a large-scale nuclear war. These example fallout maps from military target strikes of the US and the UK make a clear point - just after the onset of hostilities, fallout will blanket most of both countries. These maps are just an example. Fallout coverage could be much worse. The point is… No matter where you live, you must shelter in place as a precaution.


DoD US fallout map, Medium Strike, Limited Major City Targeting
DoD US fallout map, Medium Strike, Limited Major City Targeting

Radioactive fallout and radiation impact on humans

Fallout consists of weapon debris, fission products, and in the case of a ground burst weapon, radiated soil. Fallout particles vary in size from thousandths of a millimeter to several millimeters. Much of the fallout material falls directly back down close to ground zero within several minutes of the detonation, but some travel high into the atmosphere. Fallout’s radiation hazard comes from radioactive fission fragments with half-lives of seconds to a few months. Areas that experience surface weapons strikes will have fallout radiation levels of 1000 rads per hour close to blast center, falling to levels of 10 rad per hour, 100s of km away. In these areas, fallout exposure is more dangerous than the blast itself. For the survivors of a nuclear war, contamination from long-lived radioactive isotopes like strontium 90, iodine 131, or cesium 137 could represent a longer-term but manageable health risk


Based on open-air nuclear tests performed by the US in the 1940s and 1950s, the primary hazard arises from external exposure to penetrating gamma rays released from the decaying fallout particles rather than from breathing or ingestion. Early fallout particles tend to be large particles, the size of salt and sand, and they are not easily inhaled. Internal exposure (eating or drink particles) is generally orders of magnitude below external exposure as a relative hazard. In fact, one study puts the ratio of external to internal radiation exposure a better than 100 to 1. Crops exposed to fallout are edible and moderately safe after several weeks of fallout decay.


Turning to the impacts of longer-lasting fallout elements, Potassium iodide (KI) tablets help protect the body from iodine-131 isotopes that are naturally absorbed by the human thyroid gland. Strontium-90 behaves like calcium in the human body and tends to deposit in bone and blood-forming tissue (bone marrow). Thus, strontium 90 is referred to as a “bone seeker,” and exposure will increase the risk for several diseases, including bone cancer, cancer of the soft tissue near the bone, and leukemia. Cesium 137 can cause burns, acute radiation sickness, and even death. Internal exposure to Cs-137, through ingestion or inhalation, allows the radioactive material to be distributed in the soft tissues, especially muscle tissue, exposing these tissues to beta particles and gamma radiation and increasing cancer risk.

Building Shelter factor against radiation– Lower floors and center of a structure are best ( Source: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)
Building Shelter factor against radiation– Lower floors and center of a structure are best ( Source: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

Except for strontium 90, iodine 131, or cesium 137, most of the fallout radioactive elements have half-lives of seconds to minutes. Within 48 hours of a nuclear blast, the radioactive hazard of fallout decreases by a factor of 100. It is critical to shelter in place and minimize fallout exposure for two days minimum, with two weeks recommended if at all possible. Get to the lowest possible floor and the center of any building to maximize protection.


Survivors must limit their radiation exposure to avoid ARS, Acute Radiation Syndrome (aka. radiation sickness). Human radiation exposure is measured in REM (roentgen equivalent man), the body’s exposure of 1 rad of radiation. The onset ARS begins within two days of exposure and usually presents with nausea, vomiting, fatigue, hair loss, and even loss of consciousness at higher doses. Doses over 1000 REM quickly lead to unconsciousness and death in hours, not days. Here is a summary of REM exposure and expected health impacts from the CDC:

  • 0.62 REM – normal dose of radiation a typical person receives in a year

  • 1.0 REM - Dose received during a typical CT (Computerized Tomography) scan

  • 50 REM - Dose that causes damage to blood cells

  • 100 REM – The lowest dose that could cause ARS - acute radiation syndrome.Risk for getting cancer moves from 22% to 27%

  • 400 REM - Dose that results in death for 50% of those who receive it

  • 1000 REM - Dose that results in death for 100% of those who receive it

Radiation is invisible. Unless you have a Geiger counter, you have no way of knowing what the rad levels are in your area. If, for any reason, after the blast, you lived in an area with 100 rad per hour fallout radiation, 4 hours in the open would result in 400 REM exposure, giving you a 50% chance of getting ARS. Two days later, the radiation level would fall to ~ 1 rad, and the same 4 hours would be a tolerable 4 REM.

The logic behind sheltering in place rather than evacuation is simple. Evacuation would leave you exposed during the fallout period. Better to take your chances in shelter than face certain death by ARS from radiation exposure. While a Geiger counter would be invaluable early in sheltering and recovery, it is not a necessity. Assume you are in a heavy fallout area and shelter patiently – better safe than DEAD!


EMP - Electromagnetic Pulse and What to do about it

If you have experienced electronic damage from a nearby lightning strike or power/communications outages from solar flare activity, you’ve experienced EMP. EMP is a short-duration energy pulse across a broad spectrum of radio frequencies. EMP can be powerful enough to melt wire and “fry” the electronics in the circuit boards of any electronic device. At lower levels, EMP will cause “UPSETS” - blow breakers and fuses, reset of electronics, and recoverable power and communications outages. EMP is generally harmless to humans – unless they have a heart pacemaker other electric health devices.


The EMP from nuclear weapons is more intense and of slightly longer duration than natural sources, and hence it is more destructive. There are two types of EMP we need to be concerned with:

  • Source Region EMP (SREMP), created by nuclear weapons detonated at lower altitudes or near the earth’s surface. Any city or installation targeted by a nuclear weapon will experience SREMP

  • High-altitude EMP (HEMP), from a nuclear detonation at 15 or more miles above the earth’s surface.

Surface Regional EMP (SREMP)  impact on cellphones 10 Kiloton weapon, Washington DC
Surface Regional EMP (SREMP) impact on cellphones 10 Kiloton weapon, Washington DC

Source Region EMP (SREM) is a by-product of any nuclear weapon detonated at low altitude. In the first tenth of a second, the blast creates an intense burst of gamma rays, producing SREMP fields of a few kV/m (thousand volts per meter) that can penetrate up to 1Km into the earth. The SREMP fields couple with burried cables, ariel cables, building and communications wires (Ethernet cable), creating destructive energy roughly 10 times larger than severe lighting. Unconnected electronics like cellphones, tablets, cordless phones, and laptops couple to these EMP fields and are likewise damaged.


Fortunately, the effects of SREMP are limited to a few kilometers (km) for unconnected electronics. For communications and power cables emanating from ground zero, the damage can extend over 100Km. Here are a few examples of damage and upset radius for a 100 kilotons nuclear weapon:

  • Cellphone handset: damage 1.72 Km, upset: 2.5 Km (~ same distance as detonation major damage zone)

  • Celluar micro-cell antenna pickup: damage 0.57 Km, upset: 0.95 Km

  • 200-foot cell tower antenna pickup: damage 2.99 Km, upset: 16.25Km

  • 100-foot FM radio station tower pickup: damage 5.49Km, upset: 44.60 Km

  • 100-foot ethernet cable (home) connected equipment: damage: 26.40 Km, Upset: 95.84 Km

  • Wired POTS – Plain Old Telephone System: damage: damage: 87.90 Km, Upset: 149.6 Km

  • Overhead AC power line: damage: 74 Km, Upset: 135 Km

Power distribution, cable TV Coax, Ethernet-connected equipment, and old-fashioned wired telephone will have a much wider area of possible EMP damage than physical blast damage.


Note: The extended ranges of SREMP damage to power distribution and wired communications cables are worse case and apply under specific conditions – in most cases, the damage radius will be far less


High altitude EMP (HEMP) results from the detonation of a nuclear weapon at a high altitude, typically 30 to 400 Km (15 to 50 miles) above the earth. HEMP nuclear detonations create EMP destruction and interference (upset) over an extensive area without destroying structures or causing human loss of life. HEMP has three specific phases, E1 (Early-time), E2 (Intermediate-time), and E3 (Late-time). Rather than bog down in technicalities, E1 and E2 are similar to a massive lightning strike, while the effects of E3 are very widespread and similar to intense solar flare/geostorm solar activity.

HEMP impact on 100 foot Ethernet line connect equipment by 100 Kiloton Bomb detonated at 400 Km altitude just south of Pittsburg PA
HEMP impact on 100 foot Ethernet line connect equipment by 100 Kiloton Bomb detonated at 400 Km altitude just south of Pittsburg PA

As the diagram shows, HEMP causes outages over nearly 1000 km and damage over 100 Km or more. The higher the HEMP nuclear detonation, the more widespread the outage area but, the more limited the damage area. In a nuclear war, the first strike would likely include one of more HEMP detonations to bring down the national power grid (for a brief period - upset) and cause major EMP damage to disrupt communications and cause widespread general confusion.


In 1962, the US conducted “Starfish Prime,” a live HEMP attack over Johnston Island about 900 miles away from Hawaii. A 1.4 Megaton Device was detonated at an altitude of 250 miles (~400 Km). In Hawaii, the microwave link between Kawai and the other islands was interrupted, taking interisland communications offline. Hundreds of street light fuses were blown, and the starters of hundreds of cars were fused. HEMP is a very real thing. In fact, in 2017, a Department of Homeland Security study noted that “A burst similar to Starfish Prime today over the central USA today would likely shut down commercial power and communications in large regions for months or longer.”

Damage from Nuclear detonations will be limited to military and population targets

Damage from EMP could be almost everywhere!


Extended Supplies for Survival

Between direct physical destruction from nuclear weapons, associated EMP, and the radiation hazard of fallout, we are looking at months of work to get basic services back online over much of the US or Europe after emerging from two weeks of shelter. The most critical extended supplies for many will be access to clean water and food. We’ll touch on those and several other supplies to assist in recovery.

Many of these supplies are identical to what you would have on hand for a hurricane or other major natural disaster. There is a simple rule of thumb:


“It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.”


Water is your most critical resource for survival and decontamination. City water supplies may take months to get back online.

  • Alternative water sources: Well water is ideal. Pool, lake, river/stream water can be filtered and sanitized as an alternative.

  • Purification: use Chlorine Bleach to purify water – 2/3 teaspoon per 8 gallons -have several gallons of bleach on hand.

  • Optional water filtering - Osmosis water filters would be ideal. Coffee paper filters will work

Supply chain disruptions are likely, and the availability of many items will be non-existent for weeks or months. Two weeks of emergency food supplies will get you through the shelter/fallout period; however, it would be wise to have at least a three-month food supply. Early in the recovery, food will likely be more valuable than gold, and having six months or even a year’s supply would be helpful to barter for goods or help neighbors.


Rather than spending $1000s on freeze-dried supplies, build up an extended pantry with storable food supplies that you would use in your normal diet. Dried rice, dried beans, pasta, spices, canned meat and vegetables, powdered milk, condiments, salt (don’t forget the salt!), etc., have shelf lives of 2 to 25 years. Expand your pantry, use it for your normal meals, and simply restock any foods you use in your normal cooking and meals. Just follow this simple rule: “first in, first out.”



Finally, you’ll need some practical supplies for repair and recovery

  • Extended first aid kit -link to Mayo Clinic recommendations

  • The cloud and much of the internet will be offline for some time – you’ll need books: First Aid, basic emergency medicine, electrical repair, plumbing repair, pump/electric motor repair, general how too, and reading for entertainment

  • Tools – you can never have enough. You can create a pool of available tools with your neighbors. Note: you need hand saws and hand drills till power returns and your EMP undamaged power tools are replaced.

  • Spare parts – plumbing parts, electrical wire, circuit breakers (not ideal, but you can jumper over a dead breaker), Faraday protected backup pumps or manual pumps for water/septic system

  • Plastic tarps, staple gun, staples, and duct tape to cover roof damage and broken windows

  • Have a septic system? Lucky you! City sewer may take an extended time to repair – you need to dig and use an old fashioned latrine -here’s a link to the CDC guide for emergency sanitation

  • Propane gas for cooking and a camp stove if you don’t have propane appliances - natural gas pumps may take time to repair. In the short term, you can’t rely on natural gas.

You can never have enough backup supplies in an extended emergency. So far, I’ve left off medicine, especially medicine with short shelf lives (e.g., insulin ), or medical treatment for chronic conditions (e.g., kidney dialysis). It is a sad but real fact that the survival of individuals with chronic conditions will depend on the speed of recovery in their local area.


I have also refrained from any discussion on weapons and ammunition. There will be civil unrest and lawlessness, so be forewarned.


A Brave New World: Long Term Survival and Reconstruction

“No man is an island.” Your security and safety depend on working and helping others. The road to normal begins by pooling resources, helping, and protecting your neighbors, then your city or city borough, county, state, and country. In times of natural disaster, church congregations have repeatedly shown their value in assisting the community and working with authorities in recovery. Regardless of your faith, including no faith at all, you can look to the church for help and work with the church to help others.


Numerous studies of people who survive massive disasters, extended time in prison camps or gulags, or extended hardships, like the great depression, point to three critical traits of the survivors:

  • Attitude: You need to believe you can and will not just survive. You will thrive. Remain positive despite myriad setbacks. Take things day by day. Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed.

  • Aptitude: Plumbing, electrical, appliance repair, electrical motor repair, engine repair, carpentry, masonry, engineering, chemistry, and medical training of any type – these skills that power a recovery. That and hard work by everyone skilled or not.

  • Team Work: the cloud, the internet, the metaverse, and the virtual friends you had will be gone. Human-to-human bonds will be the only bonds that count. Teamwork will be everything. As a team member, your character, forthrightness, honesty, and grit will be valued above all else.

Rebuilding will be difficult and take a generation or more to complete. Much of the world will return, at least briefly, to an age without electricity and technology over 100 years ago. Recall, the Allies bombed Japan and Germany to rubble, yet one generation later (~20 years), both countries had almost fully recovered. The US, Europe, and the world will recover.


I'll closethis b og with an anecdotal senario:


Maria de la Garza walked past her high school toward Bulldog Stadium in Bandara, TX, the self-declared “Cowboy Capital of the World,” roughly 50 miles west of San Antonio. Today was Remembrance Day, and the entire town would mark the moment fours years earlier when the town’s emergency sirens went off. Emergency alerts erupted across every smartphone, TV, and radio station. The Russians had launched a full-scale nuclear attack. TAKE SHELTER!


Maria recalled that day when she, her mother, father, and old brother gathered in the family’s tornado shelter. Within minutes they heard the rumbling and felt the force of the first of two nuclear detonation shockwaves from San Antonio some 50 miles away.


After a day of unnerving silence, the family unwrapped their AM, FM, HF radio and searched for any news from the outside world. For the first two days, there was nothing. On the third day, much to their relief, they received an FM station out of Rock Springs, TX. The Russians launched a first strike against both the US and Europe, and China entered the war siding with the Russians. Israel and Iran traded nuclear salvos, and India traded nuclear strikes with China and Pakistan. EMP attacks blanketed most of the world. Only South America and the southern half of Africa were left untouched. A few days later, news came that both the provisional governments of China and Russia had surrendered. Their leaders were killed in the first of three devastating American, French, and British counterstrikes.


For the first time in her life, Maira saw a look of worry on her father’s face. “Is it bad, Papa?” Maria asked her father nervously.


“It’s not great, kiddo, “ her father answered. “It’ll be a lot of work, but we’ll be OK!” he stated with a little more confidence.


Her father was right. They would get by, but that first year would be more difficult than any could imagine. The fallout was light in West Texas, and while there was significant EMP damage, after a few months, the wind farms of West Texas began supplying several hours of electricity a day. As Bandera and the surrounding areas labored to recover, they experienced the first attacks by “marauders.” Bands of survivors from the destruction zones using armed force to steal supplies and working technology. The Marauders killed 20 townspeople, including her mother, before the entire town subdued their attackers. Maria would have joined her mother if she hadn’t pulled out the 9mm Glock her father gave her and killed two of the Marauders attempting to break into her father’s auto repair shop. She still had nightmares about that day.


Maria grew up fast that year. She had no choice. A week after her mother’s death, Maria’s best friend Debbie died. Debbie had diabetes, and with no insulin supplies available, she suffered terribly as hyperglycemia set in. Maria said her tearful goodbyes to her friend. Later that day, Doc Johnson gave Debbie a “concoction” to end her suffering. She passed with her mother and father at her side.

Over the next few months, the towns and counties around Bandera created a force of Rangers to enforce a curfew and keep the peace. Her brother Juan was one of the first to join up. The Rangers rounded up survivor groups, disarmed them, and brought them in for refugee support. Justice in this brave new world was swift and sure. Murder, rape, theft of food, damage to property and infrastructure were punished by death. Minor infractions resulted in assignment to work party for up to a month of hard labor. The law of the old west had returned. The country faced decades of reconstruction and wasting resources on jails, or an extensive criminal justice system simply couldn’t be justified.


Month by month, people pulled together and reconstituted city, county, state, and the national government. Oklahoma City, unscathed by war, became the new US capital.


Near the end of that first year thet entire world faced one great challange - “The Hunger.” The winter was bitter cold, and spring was late, the growing season exceptionally cool, wet, and dreary. Crop yields were half of normal that year. Despite a well-planned and executed rationing system, another 4 million US citizens died of hunger or the violence of urban food riots. 100s of millions starved worldwide. Maria couldn’t remember a day without the pangs of hunger dominating her thoughts for eight months. This, too, would pass.


Maria’s thoughts turned to the present. As she entered Bulldog stadium, she spied her father, the newly elected mayor of Bandera, waving her over to sit upfront in the VIP seats reserved for his family. Her brother Juan, now a Marine, had just returned from Russia on a “Nuclear Security Tour,” securing and removing their defeated enemies’ nuclear weapons systems.


Juan hugged Maria. “You look no worse for wear,” Maria teased. “So, how was Russia?”

A serious look crossed her brother’s face, “Let’s just say, there’s no place like home, and you sure as hell don’t want to be Russian.” He quickly changed the subject. “You ready for your four-year tour of national service? Have you picked a specialty yet?


National service, a combination of military service and relief and reconstruction work, was mandatory starting after high school at age 18. No exceptions. Maria’s thoughts drifted back to the early radiation sickness victims, her diabetic friend Debbie, and her mom bleeding out and dying of her wounds due to lack of proper medical care. A bittersweet smile crossed her face as she answered her brother. “I’m going to be medic,” Maria announced..


“I knew you’d pass the entrance test,” her brother exclaimed! “It’s damn near impossible to get in the medic program. Dad must be ecstatic.”


“I only wish mom were here,” Maria sighed mournfully. Her brother didn’t say a word. He just nodded his head in agreement.


It was Remembrance Day in Bandera, Texas, and in every town and city worldwide. Everyone had lost someone in this brave new world and strove every day to make the world a better place in their memory.


Sources:

319 views2 comments

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

World War III. Thermonuclear War. Mutually Assured Destruction. There’s a whole lot to unpack, thanks to current events. Here’s a primer to help you navigate nuclear weapons systems, nuclear war strategy, the destructive power of nuclear weapons, and the impact of radiation on the human body—everything you need to know now that Cold War 2.0 is in full swing.

Castle Bravo nuclear detonation
Castle Bravo – test of America’s largest thermonuclear bomb -15 megatons

It’s been nearly 30 years since the first Cold War ended, and about that long since the average person thought about Nuclear War. That all ended several days ago when Russia invaded Ukraine, and Vladimir Putin recklessly began rattling his nuclear saber, threatening a nuclear response if NATO intervenes.


As should be expected, American, British, and French leaders and military chiefs of staff were calm and deliberately stated they were not raising the readiness of their nuclear forces and were not taking Putin’s threat seriously. When questioned by a reporter if he was worried about Putin’s threat, President Biden stated, “NO!” Why was the President so certain in his statement? Because 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and year after year, a significant portion of our US nuclear triad of land-based Minuteman III ballistic missiles, B2 and B52 bombers, and Ohio class ballistic missile submarines are on alert, ready to execute all-out thermonuclear war within minutes. The same is true of our British and French nuclear allies. We don’t have to threaten Mr. Putin with our nuclear sword. It is always at the ready. We know this, and Vladimir Putin knows this.


Let’s put rationality aside for a moment and examine what would happen if Mr. Putin is deranged enough to actually “turn” the key and start World War III. What would happen? How would you be affected? Before I answer the question “Nuclear war, what’s in it for me?” let’s begin with an update on the world’s forces and US and Russian nuclear forces in particular. Then we’ll turn to nuclear warfighting strategy, the destructive effects of a nuclear detonation, and the impact of fallout and radiation on the human body. We’ll wrap up with a nuclear war scenario and its aftermath.

In case you missed it: Energy has been a major factor in the current crisis:

Russian and US Nuclear Forces

Nine nuclear-capable nations possess 13,080 nuclear warheads and the weapons systems to deliver them. As the graphic shows, Russian and US nuclear forces dwarf the rest of the world with 5,550 US and 6,257 Russian warheads, respectively.

Estimated Global Nuclear Warhead Inventories
Global nuclear warhead inventories (source: www.armscontrol.org)

The START II treaty between Russia and the US limited both sides to 1550 deliverable strategic warheads out of their larger pool of nuclear weapons. China is the third-largest nuclear power with 350 warheads and plans to expand its arsenal to 1,000 by 2030.


Nuclear arsenals are divided into two basic categories based on destructive power measured in tons of conventional TNT chemical explosive strength.

  • Strategic Nuclear Weapons: 300 to 1000 kiloton warheads capable of leveling entire cities and destroying hardened military targets. Strategic nuclear weapons are carried on long-range weapons platforms, Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), able to strike global targets

  • Tactical Nuclear Weapons: 3 to 20 kiloton warheads delivered by short or intermediate range weapons platforms. Tactical nuclear weapons are typically used against military targets on an active battlefield, like Ukraine for example

As a point of reference, the first atomic bombs, code-named Fat Man and Little Boy used to destroy Nagasaki and Hiroshima, were about the same size as today’s tactical nuclear weapons, 15 kilotons. Strategic weapons are 20x to 100x more powerful than those early atomic bombs. Since strategic weapons are most likely to be used to destroy cities and other civilian targets, let’s take a deeper look at US and Russian strategic nuclear forces.


The US strategic nuclear forces structure, the nuclear triad:

The US strategic nuclear forces structure
The US strategic nuclear forces structure
  • Fixed Land-Based Force: 400 Minuteman III land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) in hardened silos, each carrying a single warhead

  • Submarine Based Force: 12 Ohio Class Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBNs), each carrying up to 24 Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM). Each Trident missile can deploy up to 8 thermonuclear MIRV warheads (Multiple Independently Targetable re-entry Vehicle), equating to 200 warheads per submarine. Roughly 8 SSBNs are on station at all times.

  • Bomber Force: 20 B2 Spirit deep penetration bombers carrying up to 16 B61 or B83 gravity bombs. 46 nuclear-capable B-52H “stand-off” bombers carrying 20 AGM86D air-launched nuclear cruise missiles (ALCM)

The Russian strategic nuclear force structure, the modified triad:

The Russian strategic nuclear force structure
The Russian strategic nuclear force structure
  • Fixed Land-Based Force: 46 R-36M Satan MIRV ICBMs carrying 10 warheads each, 100 SS-17 Topol ICBMs carrying one warhead a piece, and 14 RS-24 MIRV ICBMs carrying 4 warheads apiece

  • Mobile Land-Based Force: 135 RS-24 mobile MIRV carrying 4 warheads a piece and 18 SS-17 Topol Mobile ICBMs carrying one warhead a piece. Note: the US does not have a mobile land-based missile system

  • Submarine Force: 10 SSBNs – 7 older Project 667BDR Delta SSBNs carrying 20 MIRV R29 SLBMs carrying 4 warheads a piece and 3 Project 955 Borey SSBNs carrying 8 MIRV R30 Bulava SLBMs with carrying 6 warheads apiece. While the number is unpublished, we can assume at least half the SSBN force is deployed at all times.

  • Bomber Force: 55 turboprop TU-95 BEAR bombers carrying 16 Kh-55 nuclear cruise missiles (ALCM) and 11 TU-160 Blackjack bombers carrying 12 Kh-55 ACLMs. The entire Russian bomber force is configured as an airborne stand-off platform for nuclear cruise missiles. The Russians do not have a stealth penetration bomber like the US B2 or soon-to-deploy B21 Raider.

Russian and US tactical nuclear weapons (source: Bulletin of Atomic Scientists)
Russian and US tactical nuclear weapons (source: Bulletin of Atomic Scientists)

The final and most critical element tying any strategic force together is NC3, nuclear command, control, and communications. Both Russia and the US have extensive and highly redundant ground, air, and satellite NC3 systems. Early warning satellites combined with ground and sea-based radar systems provide the leaders of both countries accurate assessment of the size and likely targets of an attack within one or two minutes of launch.


Nuclear War Fighting Doctrine

First and foremost, the United States has always had a NO FIRST USE doctrine. The US nuclear Triad and NC3 are massively redundant, and the US can and will ride out the first wave of an enemy’s nuclear attack before delivering a proportional counter strike. The US Ballistic Missile Submarine Force, in particular, is nearly impossible to find and target, which is why the Russians have devoted over 700 tactical sea-launched nuclear weapons in an attempt to destroy them if we go to war. Our Minuteman III land-based missile act as a sacrificial target for the enemy’s first strike. Even then, in their hardened silos, the Minuteman IIIs can survive a near miss, forcing the enemy to double target US land-based missiles to ensure this potent force is destroyed. Most US bomber and submarine forces would survive this first strike to launch a proportional counterstrike.

NC3 – Nuclear Command Control and Communications (source: Breaking Defense)
NC3 – Nuclear Command Control and Communications (source: Breaking Defense)

While cities close to military installations would be destroyed in a first strike, the sheer size of US and Russian forces require both sides to target each other’s weapons systems, not population centers, at the onset of hostilities. Proportionally striking an enemy’s strategic weapons is called counterforce nuclear targeting. Along with a no-first-use policy, counterforce nuclear targeting is a fundamental principle of US nuclear deterrence strategy. The US leadership would assess an attack, launch a proportional counterstrike, pause, and attempt to negotiate a ceasefire. The cycle of strikes and counter strikes would continue until a ceasefire is negotiated or one side prevails over the other.


Population centers would eventually be targeted at some point in the strike/counterstrike cycle. As we will discuss later, once population centers become targets, the loss of human life becomes horrific. The entire point of deterrence is that nuclear war’s outcome is so horrible that starting the war can never be justified. The acronym MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction, is used to describe the nuclear war capability between the US and Russia. It is an apropos acronym, as no sane person would start a nuclear war.


Countries with small nuclear arsenals have no hope of countering the US or Russian nuclear forces. Instead of counterforce targeting, they use a strategy of counter-value targeting. In other words, in the event of a nuclear war, a country like China or North Korea would attack US population centers to slaughter as many innocent civilians as possible from the start. While the US or Russia could easily destroy any other nuclear power, these smaller nuclear powers use the threat of counter-value targeting as deterrence against a first-strike attack.


A major concern for US military planners is that Vladimir Putin could change the former USSR’s policy of counterforce targeting and adopt a counter-value strategy at the onset of hostilities. If he did, he would be signing the death sentence for the entire Russian population and much of the US population.


What about missile defenses?

Both the US and Russia have a limited anti-missile capability, and both nations can defend against a rogue attack by a smaller nuclear power like North Korea. At best, these systems could defend against a coordinated strike of less than 100 nuclear warheads. Even then, missile defenses are less than 100% effective, some warheads would make it through.


Given the costs and limitations of missile defense, the US and Russia entered into the ABM, Anti-Ballistic Missile, treaty in the 1990s. The ABM treaty expired in 2002, however, both countries voluntarily remain in rough compliance even today.


MAD, the threat of total annihilation, not missile defense, remains the best deterrent against nuclear war.


Physical Effects of a Nuclear Detonation

Nuclear weapons are used agast targets in two ways:

  • Air Burst: The warhead is detonated 100M to 1Km above the target to create a large shock wave. Air burst is used against cities and non-hardened targets to maximize the area of destruction. Air bursts create very little nuclear fallout.

  • Ground Burst: The warhead is detonated on the surface or, in the case of penetration bombs, below the ground creating a significant crater and nuclear fallout. Ground bursts are used against hardened military targets like nuclear missile silos or NC3 command centers like Cheyenne Mountain Space Force Station in Wyoming

So, what are the effects of a nuclear weapon on a city? As noted, cities are generally targeted using air burst detonations, so let’s limit our discussion to the impact of an air burst weapon using an 800 kiloton Russian warhead delivered by Topol land-based missile on Washington DC. Note: Simulations in the paper are based on Alex Wellerstine’s NUKEMAP weapon simulation program.

800 Kiloton Airburst Nuclear detonation over Washington DC
800 Kiloton Airburst Nuclear detonation over Washington DC

2.5 million people live in the affected Washinton DC area of attack. The blast results in nearly 500,000 fatalities and an additional 800,000 injured. Many of the injured are burn and radiation victims who will eventually succumb to their injuries due to a lack of medicine and medical facilities. The blast’s center is the .9 km Fireball Radius, shown in deep yellow. Everything within the fireball radius is vaporized. A much larger 11 km Thermal Radiation Radius, shown in light yellow, defines the area where all unprotected individuals will receive 3rd-degree burns. The 6.5 km Moderate Blast Damage Radius, shown in gray, defines the region where the bomb overpressure exceeds 5psi. At 5 psi overpressure, most residential buildings collapse, injuries are universal, and fatalities are widespread. In addition, a firestorm is likely to engulf most of the area within the moderate blast damage radius. Finally, the Light Blast Damage Radius, where the bomb overpressure is 1psi, extends nearly 18km from the blast center (shown in light gray). Most glass windows will shatter at 1psi, resulting in significant injuries for anyone near a window. Overall the destructive effects in the light blast damage radius are similar to a Catagory 4/5 hurricane.

Radioactive fallout and radiation impact on humans

Radiation Exposure Human Impacts (source: offgridweb.com
Radiation Exposure Human Impacts (source: offgridweb.com

For those that survive the initial effects of the blast, the next challenge is minimizing the immediate exposure to radioactive fallout. Fallout consists of weapon debris, fission products, and in the case of a ground burst weapon, radiated soil. Fallout particles vary in size from thousandths of a millimeter to several millimeters. Much of the fallout material falls directly back down close to ground zero within several minutes after the explosion, but some travel high into the atmosphere. Fallout’s radiation hazard comes from radioactive fission fragments with half-lives of seconds to a few months. Areas that experience surface weapons strikes will have fallout radiation levels of 1000 rads per hour close to blast center falling to 1 rad per hour, 100 km away. In these areas, fallout exposure is more dangerous than the blast itself. For the survivors of a nuclear war, contamination from long-lived radioactive isotopes like strontium 90, iodine 131, or cesium 137 could represent a grave threat for as long as 1 to 5 years after the attack.


Potassium iodide (KI) tablets help protect the body from iodine-131 isotopes that are naturally absorbed by the human thyroid gland. Strontium-90 behaves like calcium in the human body and tends to deposit in bone and blood-forming tissue (bone marrow). Thus, strontium 90 is referred to as a “bone seeker,” and exposure will increase the risk for several diseases, including bone cancer, cancer of the soft tissue near the bone, and leukemia. Cesium 137 can cause burns, acute radiation sickness, and even death. Internal exposure to Cs-137, through ingestion or inhalation, allows the radioactive material to be distributed in the soft tissues, especially muscle tissue, exposing these tissues to beta particles and gamma radiation and increasing cancer risk.


Except for strontium 90, iodine 131, or cesium 137, most of the radioactive fallout, most of the fallout radioactive elements have half-lives of seconds to minutes. Within 48 hours of a nuclear blast, the radioactive hazard of fallout decreases by a factor of 100. It is critical to shelter in place and minimize fallout exposure for two days minimum, with two weeks recommended if at all possible.


Survivors must limit their radiation exposure to avoid ARS, Acute Radiation Syndrome (aka. radiation sickness). Human radiation exposure is measured in REM (roentgen equivalent man), the body’s exposure of 1 rad of radiation. The onset ARS begins within two days of exposure and usually presents with nausea, vomiting, fatigue, hair loss, and even loss of consciousness at higher doses. Here is a summary of REM exposure and expected health impacts from the CDC:

  • 0.62 REM – normal dose of radiation a typical person receives in a year

  • 1.0 REM - Dose received during a typical CT (Computerized Tomography) scan

  • 50 REM - Dose that causes damage to blood cells

  • 100 REM – The lowest dose that could cause ARS - acute radiation syndrome.Risk for getting cancer moves from 22% to 27%

  • 400 REM - Dose that results in death for 50% of those who receive it

  • 1000 REM - Dose that results in death for 100% of those who receive it

Radiation is invisible. Unless you have a Geiger counter, you have no way of knowing what the rad levels are in your area. If, for any reason, after the blast, you lived in an area with 100 rad per hour fallout radiation, 4 hours of outdoor work would give you a 50% chance of getting ARS. Two weeks later, the radiation level would fall to the 1 to 2 rad level.


The logic behind sheltering in place rather than evacuation is simple. Evacuation would leave you exposed during the fallout period. Better to take your chances in shelter than face certain death by ARS from radiation exposure.


So how could a nuclear war break out? Here is a hypothetical scenario.


Example Nuclear War Scenario

The Ukrainians, aided by the flow of US and NATO arms through Poland, continue to inflict heavy losses on the Russians. While Ukrainian fatalities exceed 35,000 soldiers and civilians, Russian fatalities have surpassed 15,000. It is clear the war will grind on for years, not months, and Putin is facing a new Afghanistan situation. Further, the west’s ever-ratcheting sanctions are bringing the Russian economy to the brink of collapse. Vladimir Putin’s grip on power is teetering. Putin must stem the flow of weapons from the west and decapitate the Ukrainian President and leadership in order to turn the tide in his favor. Conventional arms are not working.

Lviv, Ukraine, 15 kiloton airburst strike, 80k fatalities, 100k injured
Lviv, Ukraine, 15 kiloton airburst strike, 80k fatalities, 100k injured

Putin orders a limited tactical nuclear strike, hoping to force the US and NATO to negotiate or, at the least, stop the flow of arms and eliminate Ukrainian leadership. He chooses a limited tactical nuclear strike package of eight targets, including the Rzeszów-Jasionka Airport in Poland, a primary logistics center for NATO weapons, the logistics and refuge staging area at the Korczowa border Crossing, and Lviv, where President Zelensky and the Ukrainian Cabinet are rumored to have relocated.


While some Cabinet members are in Lviv at the time of the strike, President Zelensky is inspecting the northern front near Belarus. In a twist of fate, Vice President Kamala Harris and 2000 US Army Rangers arrived at the Rzeszów-Jasionka Airport in Poland and died of immediate blast effects. The most tragic strike is at the Korczowa border Crossing, where over 100,000 fatalities of unprotected and exposed refuges immediately succumb to the blast effects and, within a few days of ARS, Acute Radiation Syndrome.


The Russians use the “hotline” to negotiate with their US counterparts and are informed, per US deterrence policy, “We will first respond with a proportional counterstrike, then we will entertain negotiations. The President wanted to ensure President Putin was aware that his limited strike just killed Vice President Harris.”


In less than an hour, an angered, but cool-headed President Biden responds with a proportional counter strike. Minsk, the capital of Belarus, is hit, eliminating Russian puppet leader Alexander Lukashenko and his cabinet. Two additional Russian staging areas are also targeted within Belarus, effectively eliminating the Russian army’s northern front. The remaining tactical strikes take out Russian troop concentrations on the battlefronts around Kyiv, the port of Odesa, and Zaporizhzhia. The strike effectively eliminated the Russian army in Ukraine for all practical purposes. Putin just lost Ukraine.


With the first limited strike and proportional counterstrike ended, President Biden, now transferred to AIR FORCE ONE, requested his communications officer to establish a call on the hotline. While he waited, the President felt a sharp pain in his temple, let out a brief yelp of pain, and slumped dead over his desk. The stress of the last hour induced a massive stroke. President Putin was on the line, but it was impossible for Air Force One communications team to raise the next office in line for the Presidency, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) accepted the call and requested Russia and the US pause all hostilities for 24 hours. A cooling-off period.


Putin demands to talk directly to the President. The Chairman of the JCS informs President Putin that President Biden and President Harris are dead and that Nancy Pelosi is the Commander and Chief. Unfortunately, Vladimir Putin, a gambler and an opportunist believing the US was leaderless and knowing he faced defeat in Ukraine, made up his mind. He would launch a full first strike against the US, and NATO nuclear powers, the UK and France.


Within minutes of being sworn in as President, Nancy Pelosi received word that the Russians had launched a full-scale first strike. It was a knockout strike targeting Washington DC, the Airforce Minuteman III bases, all major US naval bases, UK nuclear forces, French nuclear forces, and most major NATO bases. As it turns out, history would remember Nancy Pelosi as one very tough, very decisive President. Rather than lose her 400 Minuteman III, she agreed to use all of them in counterstrike along with a full complement of one Ohio Class SSBNs Trident II missile load. The UK and France launched uncoordinated strikes to add to the carnage.


Within the span of a single hour, the first strike resulted in 70 million fatalities, 150 million injured, and 100 cities and towns located near military bases destroyed. The US and Russia took the brunt of the attack. Moscow, London, Paris, and Washington DC lay in ruins. The US still retained a significant second-strike capability. The Russians did not.

London, UK, 800 kiloton airburst strike, >900k fatalities,  >2.25m injured
London, UK, 800 kiloton airburst strike, >900k fatalities, >2.25m injured

President Pelosi attempted to negotiate a strategic pause with President Putin. An enraged and seemingly deranged Putin lashed out at President Pelosi then hung up the hotline. She advised the Joint Chiefs to prepare for the worst and have a set of options on the table to counter any Russian move.


Key members of the Russian military, realizing they faced certain annihilation if Putin were not stopped, staged a coup. It was too late. Putin had already ordered a second strike at US and NATO major population centers – it could not be recalled. The Russian Strategic Forces could only muster a 100 warhead second strike at the time, but the damage to major cities was horrendous.

You would think North Korea, China, and Iran would avoid being drawn into this fight at all costs. Iran at least understood that discretion is the better part of valor. China and North Korea did not. China, wanting the US out of the pacific, permanently staged tactical nuclear strikes on all three US Pacific Carrier Battle Groups but only managed to destroy one. The North Koreans launched a limited strike against Japan. Japan’s US-designed Aegis seaborn missile defense system shot down all but one of the North Korean missiles. Tokyo lay in ruins.

Tokyo, Japan 400 kiloton airburst strike,  700k fatalities,  2.6m injured
Tokyo, Japan 400 kiloton airburst strike, 700k fatalities, 2.6m injured

The US didn’t hesitate, targeting North Korea and a broad list of strategic Chinese targets in the second counter strike package against Russia. The second counterstrike ended North Korea as a functioning nation, destroyed 90% of the Chinese Strategic Force, and completely knocked Russia out of the war. A lower-level Russian general opened the hotline, and President Pelosi accepted Russia’s unconditional surrender. Only China remained in the fight.


President Xi launched the remaining 25 ICBMs in his arsenal. Each ICBM aimed at the 25 largest cities in the US, which was an incredibly poor choice in strategic targeting. The Russians had already these cities in their second strike. The Chinese strike was ineffective, adding little to the destruction and fatalities in place. The US second counterstrike on China was highly effective and disproportional. China’s 150 largest cities lay in ruin with the added benefit of permanently removing Primeir Xi and much of the Communist Party.


The US second strike on China effectively ended the Third World War. The western powers had won, but it is hard to call the win a victory. Everyone loses in an all-out nuclear war.


Aftermath – Among the Dead Cities

Within a year of the cessation of hostilities, the US and NATO suffered a 50% population loss. Roughly a third of their arable land remained contaminated. The destroyed city centers would remain uninhabitable for several hundred years. The situation in China and Russia was far worse. Losses exceeded 75% of the population, much of it due to starvation.


The rest of the world suffered too. Fallout propelled into the stratosphere encircled the globe, raising general radiation levels and creating weather-induced radioactive hotspots and resulting fatalities. Like the reduction of global temperatures from the massive Krakatoa volcanic eruption in 1883, the fallout injected into the stratosphere by thousands of nuclear detonations caused a mild “nuclear winter.” The global temperature dropped an average of 2 deg Celcius, reducing crop yields by over 20%, adding another billion deaths to the nearly 2 billion directly killed in the war.


Average life expectancy was reduced by nearly 20 years due to elevated radiation exposure. Almost everyone died of cancer. Congenital disabilities, miscarriages, and infant death increased by a factor of 20x. Persistently high rates of suicide, depression, and post-traumatic stress added to the misery. Random violence and lawlessness were a problem in some areas until civil authority was reestablished, oftentimes by force.


Now reduced to the economic output of third world countries, it would take over thirty years for the US and NATO allies to recover. A period similar to the reconstruction of Japan and Germany after World War II. President Pelosi did not run for reelection. Having lost all of her family in the conflagration, she felt it was time for new leadership. The old political parties ceased to exist. A new American Reconstruction Party emerged, a party leading from the political center. It was going to be a long recovery.


Nuclear war, What’s in it for you? We can answer this in a single word – MISERY!


Reading this hypothetical scenario is very sobering. It should be! Let’s hope cooler heads prevail in our leadership. Till then, we have to soldier on and live our lives.


Actor Slim Pickens, riding an A-Bomb from Stanley Kubrick’s dark comedy “Dr. Strangelove or how I quit worrying and learned to love the bomb”
Actor Slim Pickens, riding an A-Bomb from Stanley Kubrick’s dark comedy “Dr. Strangelove or how I quit worrying and learned to love the bomb”


Additional Sources

In case you missed it: Energy has been a major factor in the current crisis:

If you are interested in learning more, here are several sources used as sources for this blog:

481 views1 comment
bottom of page