I have no faith in the so-called controlled use of atomic weapons. There is no dependable distinction between tactical and strategic situations. I would not recommend the use of any atomic weapon, no matter how small, when both sides have the power to destroy the world.

Admiral Charles R Brown

This was the subject of a GROUP PRESENTATION made by allied officers in the PAF Air War College


On 6 August 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. At least 66,000 people died almost immediately after the explosion and the firestorm that followed. Tens of thousands more died in the aftermath. Three days after the first explosion, a second bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. The immediate death toll numbered some 40,000 people and about 40% of the city's structure were destroyed as against 80% in Hiroshima.

The devastation caused by the two atomic bombs in August 1945 set forth a dilemma, which strategists have been trying to solve ever since. Initially when atomic bombs first made their dramatic entrance on to the international stage, they were discussed and understood in terms derived from the established theorizing of air power. Eventually, nuclear weapons became more powerful, more numerous and more crucial, possessed by more than one nation. New concepts and approaches developed in an attempt to come to terms with a situation to avoid the most dreadful catastrophic fallout, if nations or organizations were to use these weapons.

Development of Concepts and Approaches

Since the beginning of nuclear age in 1945, within 40 years, the super powers and their Allies developed 70,000 nuclear warheads. While comparing its effect with Hiroshima bomb, it is said, 'The total explosive of their stock is equal to one million Hiroshima bombs with 5 tons of TNT nuclear explosive power per capita for entire world's population'. The history of atomic development refers to the period of 1930's, when the British scientists told the United States of America that the making of atomic bomb was possible. That led the Americans to be in possession of their first nuclear bomb in 1945, and had the monopoly till the former Soviet Union developed the nuclear bomb in 1949. But they did not have an exclusive franchise on nuclear weapons as the development continued by other countries like Great Britain, France, China and India which exploded the nuclear device in 1954, 1960, 1964 and 1974 respectively. To illustrate this development further, this can be divided into six time periods:-

(a) 1945 to 1961. This was the first time-frame. Since 1945, the United States remained confident of leading the nuclear arms race. But that confidence ended abruptly in 1957, when the Soviets put the first satellite Sputnik into orbit, thus signalling capability of developing missiles carrying nuclear warhead across the intercontinental distances. This fear of missile gap gripped the United States, which was capable of bomber-borne nuclear weapons only.

(b) 1961 to 1967. This was the second stage. Realizing the vulnerabilities of the missile gap, during this period, the United States developed the concept of arms control agreement with Soviet Union. This allowed each other to target only military installations. This is known as counter force theory. Therefore, for protection of nuclear missiles, the missile silos were constructed.

(c) 1967 to 1974. This period witnessed the development of the Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs), in order to destroy more than one missile in the underground silos. Consequently, to counter the MIRVs both sides developed Anti- Ballistic Missiles (ABM) Systems.

(d) 1974 to 1981. Following the development of Anti Ballistic Missile Systems, during this period, the former Soviet Union developed most powerful and transportable Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM) i.e. SS-20. This led the Western European countries to develop their own IRBMs for security. Simultaneously, the USA with the worries of strategic parity, developed the stealth bombers and large MX missiles with multiple warheads, and continued the reconstruction of nuclear forces till 1985.

(e) 1981 to 1985. During this reconstruction period, the fleets of Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) were increased and updated, B-52 bombers and B-1 bombers were developed with nuclear cruise missiles for deep penetration strikes into Soviet territory. This was also the period when the concept of Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI) was thought of, to intercept and destroy the Soviet Strategic Ballistic Missiles. But it did not take a real shape due to budgetary constraints, its doubtful technical feasibility and change in Soviet leadership.

(f) 1985 to 1991. Following Gorbachev's rise to power in 1985, the Soviets changed their policy with the adaptation of Perestroika and Glasnost. This affected the participation of Soviet Union in nuclear arms race and resulted in 50% reduction of nuclear warheads under Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). The latest survey carried out by the Defence Council of the United States shows that from 70,000, the number has reduced to 36,000 with 12,000 in US and 22,000 in Russia, while 14,000 of 36,000 warheads are awaiting dis-assembly.

Strategic Nuclear Weapons

During this period, the nuclear weapons were developed broadly in two categories, i.e. strategic and tactical. The strategic nuclear weapons were developed to cover a distance of 6400 km mainly with Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM). Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) and the long-range bombers. The four most important characteristics of strategic nuclear weapons are their striking power, Accuracy, Survivability and Penetrability. Some of the strategic nuclear weapons, having these characteristics are discussed below:-

Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs)

(a) Striking Power. The largest single-warhead carrying ICBM is the Russian SS-18, which has an explosive yield of 20 megatons (MT), while its MIRV version has ten MIRVs each with 500 kilotons (KT) of yields. (1000 ton+ 1 KT, 1000 KT+ 1 MT)

(b) Accuracy. The designers continued to improve the guidance system for better accuracy. For example, the ICBMs built in 1950s i.e., the US Atlas-D and the Soviet SS-7 had CEP (Circular Error Probable; the radius of circle into which half the warheads aimed at the circle's centre, are predicted to fall) of about 1600m, while the latest models of the Minuteman-III and the SS-18 have CEP of about 200m and 320m respectively. The latest versions of ICBMs carry a very high degree of accuracy.

(c) Penetrability. The ballistic missiles have excellent penetrability because of difficulty in destroying or deflecting them in flight with ABM missiles. It is like hitting a bullet with another bullet when an ICBM can launch also the decoys MIRVs and at the end only one is enough to cause the disaster.

(d) Survivability. The improved missile accuracy and development of MIRVs made the ICBM silos much more vulnerable. A MIRVed ICBM could destroy a number of silos, whereas, a single warhead ICBM could destroy only one silo. It was estimated that the former Soviet Union could destroy 90% of the US ICBM force using only 1/5 of her 308 SS-18s. Similarly, the United States could destroy 90% of the former Soviet Union's ICBM force with 300 MX Missiles.

Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM)

(a) Poseidon. The submarines armed with Poseidon ballistic missiles are by far the most survivable types of strategic nuclear weapon, which, on patrol, could stay under water for more than a month. The Poseidon type US missile submarines carries 16 SLBMs. Each SLBM has ten 50-kiloton MIRVs, enabling one Poseidon submarine hit 160 targets.

(b) Trident. Much larger is the Trident submarine, which carries 24 SLBMs, each with eight 100-kiloton MIRVs and the range is equal to an ICBM, i.e. 6400 km. therefore, one Trident submarine could hit 192 targets.

Long Range Bombers. These were first long range strategic nuclear weapon carrying aircraft developed by the United States of America. A B-52 bomber can carry upto 12 Cruise Missiles armed with nuclear warheads. However, these bombers were found to be vulnerable to attack. they also suffered from the problem of penetrability. A strategic bomber like B-52, being much slower and bigger, unlike the missiles, is easier to shoot. This led the United States to further research and B-IBs were developed for low level penetration. This aircraft is capable of carrying 22 Cruise Missiles. The latest addition is of B-2 Stealth Bombers which has an improved penetrability carrying strategic nuclear bombs of 1 to 2 megaton yield.

Tactical Nuclear Weapons

As compared to the range of strategic nuclear weapon, the tactical nuclear weapons were developed to cover the distances below 6400 km with Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM), Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBM) and Short Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM). Additionally, the Cruise Missiles, Nuclear Capable Attack Aircraft, Nuclear Artillery, Torpedoes and Mines were also developed. The most powerful is the Soviet SS-20 IRBM. It has a range of more than 4800 km and can carry a 1.5 megaton warhead or 3 MIRVs of 150 kiloton each. the least powerful is the US made nuclear land mine with explosion power as low as 0.01 kiloton. The diversified tactical nuclear weapons can be classified into two broad categories.

(a) Theatre Nuclear Weapons. The theatre nuclear weapons were developed primarily for use against the targets well behind the battlefront. The US Pershin-II is a typical theatre surface-to-surface nuclear weapon. It has the range of 720 km with yield from 60 to 400 kilotons and CEP of 40m. The India's Agni IRBM has a range of 2500 km with 680 to 900 kg payloads and CEP of 60m while the Prithivi SRBM has the range of 250 km with 750 kg of payload. The latest edition of Prithivi has the range of 350 km. Both the missiles have the capability to carry the conventional payloads as well.

(b) Battlefield Nuclear Weapons. The Battlefield Nuclear Weapons were designed for use against enemy front-line troops. Their range is less than 160 km and the yields are of one or two kilotons. the US M110, an 8-inch self-propelled gun, whose nuclear shell has a yield of one kiloton and range of 21 km, is a typical battle field nuclear weapon. the neutron bomb or Enhanced Radiation (ER) warhead is a significant innovation in battlefield nuclear weapons. It is designed to kill the tank crewmen by direct radiation only while causing no damage to the tanks.

Effects of Nuclear Weapon Employment

The very thought of the employment of nuclear weapons is dreadful and shocking. The best reference point for visualizing the effects of nuclear weapon employment, is the nuclear explosion at Hiroshima, which had a yield of about 14 kilotons and killed about 130,000 people in total. Today, we have atomic warheads in thousands ranging from 20 megaton to 0.01 kiloton. The destruction would depend on the distribution of energy on the warhead's size and its design. However, the following will be the outcome of the use of a nuclear device:-

(a) Blast. Maximum damage to the cities would occur from the Blast. For example, a megaton surface burst would cause over pressure of more than 5 psi on things 6 km (4 miles) away. This would exert a force 180 ton on the walls of building with a wind speed of 255 kph thereby, crushing the building to the ground level.

(b) Initial Radiation. The initial or direct radiation occurs at the time of explosion. Direct radiation did substantial damage to the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A dose of 600 rem (roentgen - equivalent - man - a unit used to measure biological damage) would create 90% fatalities within a week, while 300 rem would create 10% fatalities, of the exposed people.

(c) Thermal Radiation. The flash of lights and heat, which would precede the blast wave by several seconds, would cause thermal radiation. This would produce flash-blindness in people looking directly at the explosion. A megaton surface burst could cause flash-blindness at a distance of 21 km on clear day and at 53 km on a clear night. The same yield explosion would cause the third degree burns at 8 km distance.

(d) Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). The EMP from a nuclear explosion is similar to lighting but the rise in voltage is hundred times faster. This would damage the communication and electronic power systems.

(e) Fallout. The fallout is strongly influenced by the local weather condition. With a uniform wind speed of 24 kph, the radiated particles would be flown downwind in a long plume. The length of the plume from a megaton explosion is expected to be 386 km (240 miles). The biological effects of the fallout are the same as those from direct radiation.

(f) Nuclear Winter. The effects of nuclear weapons' employment are subject to very large uncertainties, eg the uncertainties of Nuclear Winter as a result of nuclear exchange, which could last for months or possibly a year (Some radiation particles would also be accumulated into the stratosphere and may not return to Earth for some years. For example, some fallouts from US and former Soviet Union's weapon tests in the 50's and early 60's were detected in 80's. Some scientists believe that the large-scale burning of cities and forests after a nuclear explosion would loft smoke into the stratosphere, therefore, would block the incoming solar radiation and cause a drop in temperatures. The effect is called Nuclear Winter, which would last for months or possibly a year. The effect is compared with that of a volcanic eruption in 1815. The explosion was so great that the pressure wave encircled the Earth several times. The dust lowered the global temperature by 10C. The next year, i.e., 1816, was the year without a summer.

Since the effects of a nuclear war cannot be calculated or measured in precise terms; what then is the answer? Conventional doctrines are likely to become irrelevant in case of a nuclear conflict. It soon became apparent that only the nuclear doctrines provide effective answer to the nuclear threats.

Evolution of Nuclear Doctrines

Nuclear doctrine and strategy developed during the cold war period of continuing political struggle between the United States and the former USSR. Deterrence was of extreme importance in creating an impression of military strength upon a potential adversary that he would have no chance of victory in war. There will be no victors in a nuclear holocaust. This gave birth to an arms race between the superpowers, unprecedented, in warfare.

During the first decade after the end of World War-II, the United States enjoyed first, a real nuclear monopoly, and then an overwhelming nuclear superiority. The USSR, on the other hand, had large-scale conventional forces. The Soviet Union, however, succeeded in constructing a few atomic bombs, and in forming an embryonic striking force. Faced with these initial Soviet steps towards development of a nuclear threat and an air defence system, the United States declared the doctrine of massive retaliation; which is defined as, 'A great capacity to retaliate instantly by means and at places of our own choosing' against Soviet aggression. In other words, it will be an all-out nuclear response to an enemy's attack.

The resulting stockpile, which gave birth to nuclear deterrence by massive retaliation, was substituted by the doctrine of flexible response in 1967. The logic of nuclear deterrence strategies of the superpowers reflects the enormity of the punishment that a nuclear-armed deterrer would be capable of inflicting on the homeland and society of an aggressor. In the nuclear age, a surprise attack attains a chilling connotation, cities are considered to be the only viable targets for atomic assault but unless the enemy's means of nuclear retaliation are destroyed, little could be gained by surprise.

The next question was 'why squander precious assets of surprise and the initiative in attacking cities (the counter-value targets); a mission which can be carried out later so easily. The main targets of a surprise nuclear attack must then be the force-in-being or counter-force targets. Therefore, the first and foremost priority in the security programme of a nuclear weapon state of the age of atomic weapons was to take measures to ensure the possibility of retaliation in case of a surprise nuclear attack must then be the force-in-being or counter-force targets. Therefore, the first and foremost priority in the security programme of a nuclear weapon state of the age of atomic weapons was to take measures to ensure the possibility of retaliation in case of a surprise attack. This formed the basis of the 'Second Strike' capability.

Nuclear Parity

When the Soviet nuclear stockpile developed to a level to create nuclear parity with the United States, a new era of nuclear doctrine emerged. A situation arrived where neither side could eliminate the retaliatory power of the other. Restraint was considered a more prudent option as compared to Massive retaliation or Flexible Response. The nuclear doctrine started to mention of 1st and 2nd strike capability.

A First Strike capability was taken to refer to a strike that was not only the opening volley of a nuclear war, but was also directed against the nuclear capability of the enemy, with the intention of crippling his means of retaliation. A second strike force or capability was the one capable of ensuring effective retaliation even after absorbing an enemy's first strike. Whereas the first strike involved a counter-force, i.e. the enemy's nuclear forces, the second-strike would be targeted at counter-value targets i.e. the enemy's cities. Unlike first strike weapons, second strike weapons were, therefore, seen as contributing to stable deterrence.

The concept of 2nd strike was based on Triad of Forces, which include nuclear warhead delivery by means of missiles, submarines and the aircraft. While the missiles, being deployed on fixed locations were expected to be the obvious targets of counter-force first strike, the aircraft could be launched on warning to make a retaliatory move. But their survivability and timely reaction was also not guaranteed. Submarines enjoyed immunity from first strike menace thus constituting an ideal 2nd strike platform. With the disposition of nuclear forces in a Triad, and with the Soviet nuclear stockpile developed to a level of nuclear parity, the situation of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was reached. This period was also termed as the period of nuclear stalemate or stability of deterrence or the balance of terror.

As the USSR built its own arsenal of ICBMs, this strategy changed in two ways. First, the US government sought to protect its nuclear striking force against a Soviet pre-emptive attack by reducing the vulnerability of its weapons. Second, it sought to develop forces that could oppose Communist aggression of various types without resorting to nuclear war. That was, the policy of flexible response. This flexible response was the last major change in the US strategy, and from the 1960s to the 1980s, it remained the official US doctrine. During this period, both the United States and the USSR, built nuclear arsenals many times larger than needed to guarantee assured destruction. For the United States, the principal reason for this surplus was the need to ensure the credibility of its commitment to Asia and Europe. More generally, the US government believed that the deterrence would be enhanced if it could match the Soviet Union at every level of force. It can, therefore, be concluded that the doctrine of massive retaliation that was adopted after the Second World War and which gave birth to nuclear deterrence and counter-force theory was replaced by the doctrine of Flexible Response. This provided the United States a variety of options to respond to Soviet aggression.

Nuclear Strategy After the Cold War

The Cold-War ended with the break-up of Soviet Union about a decade ago. The nuclear warheads have now been reduced from 70,000 to 36,000. This is because of the feeling and apprehensions that these weapons posed the most dangerous threat of a pre-emptive first strike. The Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) between the United States and Soviet Union resulted into agreements specifying the elimination of multiple-warheads, land-based MIRV's missiles deployed by each side. However, both sides would continue to possess SLBMs. The effect of the agreement is to reduce the effectiveness of a surprise attack by either side.

Doctrines of Other Nuclear Weapon States

Britain, France and China are the other acknowledged nuclear weapon states. They pursued nuclear weapon programmes to attain great power status besides, acquiring a credible deterrence. They did not make any significant contribution towards the process of evolution of nuclear doctrine and by and large, followed the American concept of employment.

While the nuclear concept of surprise and defence is applicable to all the states having nuclear arsenal, the concept of deterrence may be slightly different.

The real nuclear weapon states are deterred from resorting to the use of nuclear weapons due to MAD or even a possible extinction of human civilization. The smaller nuclear weapon states have a different concern ranging from inability to control the course of events after launching the opening volley of nuclear arsenal to a possible reprisal attack from a nuclear weapon states. Therefore, while India sees it's nuclear potential as a tool of projecting itself as a great power, Israel sees it as a security guarantee against conventionally powerful and hostile Arab neighbours. This brings us to have a look at some possible nuclear weapon employment scenarios.

Possible Scenarios of Nuclear Weapons Employment

It is unlikely that nuclear weapons would be used by anyone out of sheer cunning and with the objective of totally destroying an enemy in a surprise attack. All the assumptions behind the following scenarios are of their worst case sort, and the Middle-East has had its share of terror. In any case, it is most likely that if any atomic destruction comes, it will arise from a perceived need for more drastic action, which the conventional means wouldn't permit. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, any further use of nuclear weapons will have to be justified to the world and international opinion. A last ditch defensive effort would be the best, and perhaps the only justification. It is, therefore, possible to imagine, three defensive military scenarios, i.e., Survival Scenario, Interdiction Scenario and Preemption Scenario.

Survival Scenario. To begin with, we should again take note of a survival syndrome that seems constantly present in the Middle East. For Israel, this is expressed as fear of another holocaust similar to that which engulfed over six million European Jews during World War-II. From security standpoint, however, the Six-Day war was in certain respects a poor bargain for Israel. The areas occupied in 1967 became a major focus for Arab anxieties about their own security, what residual holocaust fixation remained in Israel was thus mixed with new Arab fears for their own survival. This explosive mixture reached its most volatile state with the arrival of the first American F-4, Phantom in Israel during 1969 and Israel's subsequent deep-penetration raids into Egypt in 1970 with these Phantoms. October 1973 represented the almost inevitable Arab effort to gain some measure of military self-assurance for them, even though they were not victorious in any strict sense. Under such circumstances, extreme measures involving nuclear or other unconventional weapons might be used in defence of real or imagined threats to the nation's survival.

Interdiction Scenario. It should be recalled that certain tactical nuclear weapons can be used either to destroy large number of an enemy's approaching forces on the front-line or to disrupt military activity behind enemy lines, rail junctions, airfields, and so on. Whether used in shorter or longer-range modes, however, such unconventional arms are designed to slow down or stop a superior conventional attack. Such an attack might come as a surprise or involve a powerful offensive (or counter-offensive) breakthrough, against which retreating forces would have to use some kind of extremely powerful interdiction to turn the tide or at least moderate it.

Middle Eastern wars have seen both surprise-attacks and sudden breakthrough. With the short distances involved and expected increase in the number of tanks and other equipment likely to be used in a new round of fighting, it may prove necessary for either side to mount an effective interdiction campaign. While one can imagine using conventional means for this, one lesson of the October 1973 war is especially important for the next war, should it occur. Equipment and personnel losses were rapid and high, and in a war involving the use of everything, attrition should be worst. Even if the superpowers could (or would) mount equipment airlifts on the 1973 scale, this would hardly replenish forces that are larger than they were at that time. And some doubt may be expressed that even a 1973 style re-supply effort would materialize, whatever be the size of an outside assistance effort, attrition would be more rapid than in 1973, given the likelihood that even better sophisticated weaponry is now deployed. Under these conditions, use of nuclear weapons might quickly become an attractive option should war erupt again. In fact, one can say that all the Arab-Israeli wars in the past have shown some form of surprise attacks and/or breakthrough, which provide decisive results.

Pre-emotion Scenario. A pre-emptive scenario or what is now called by some Preventive War would likely occur, if a state intelligence indicates that such an attack was imminent, there would have been a need to stop this devastating blow by preventive action, what one might call a preventive scenario. In this case, inferior conventional power could be compensated for, in dire circumstances, by initiating atomic warfare. A feeling of inferiority could result from one of the two reasons:-

(a) Fear that one is ill-equipped to stand and fight in the first place

(b) The fear that one is under-supplied for a long war once started.

In a sense, a pre-emptive or preventive war is a form of surprise attack, but the effects of a pre-emptive strike, however, are the same as of a surprise attack and will be so treated by the country attacked. Both are designed to catch an enemy by 'surprise'. This might lead to the conclusion that since this will be the final round of fighting and one is already losing after the first shots, one had better take drastic interactive action against the pre-emptor, by using nuclear weapons pre-emptively, out of fear that the opponent will attack first.

Any pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons would not only bring about world condemnation but probably retaliation of some sort by one or more members of the nuclear club. Pre-emptive attack with nuclear weapons would surely be the most dangerous use of un-conventional arms in the world.

Effects on Conventional Force Structure

After having looked at the development of nuclear weapons, the doctrines and the possible scenarios, let us now discuss the effects on the conventional force structure. The initial euphoria on development of nuclear weapons provided reasons to consider conventional forces redundant. But owing to their menacing character, the realization developed that nuclear weapons were not 'just another type of weapons'. They would have to be kept as the weapons of last resort or mainly for the purpose of averting armed conflict by creating a credible deterrence.

Deterrence is likely to play an increasingly important role in future arms struggles. It is not likely that even with possession of large amount of nuclear weapons, in the present state of parity, that anyone is going to resort to their use unless when conventional defence has virtually broken down. Even in this situation, there is a possibility that nuclear weapons will not be used. However, this puts a great burden on the conventional forces. Hence, they must continue to be employed as long as they possibly can.

Sophistication of Conventional Weapons. Today's sophistication and lethality of conventional weapons can be called a spin-off of nuclear weapon production. The spin-off of nuclear research and development enhanced the accuracy and effectiveness of conventional weapons. Now smart and intelligent munitions can be employed with surgical accuracy to attack military targets without fear of much collateral damage. The one weapon one target concept has given great strength to the conventional forces.

Structural Changes. As regards to structural changes, their effectiveness, long employment range combined with a smaller size of weapons brought out a conceptual change in the art of waging conventional war. For a conventional force to meet the challenges of a nuclear environment is by no means an easy task. It needs to re-evaluate its war-fighting concepts, create its organizational structure and enhance its ability to operate under the threat of a nuclear strike. These would be in the form of Organization, Survivability, Mobility, Command, Control, Communication and Intelligence and Electro-Magnetic Spectrum:-

(a) Organization. The essence of organizational changes would encompass the following:-

  • Reducing the size of existing units without degrading the existing kill potential/operational efficiency. This would entail greater mechanization and increased firepower.
  • Integration of the all arms concept at the unit level to give it greater autonomy.
  • Rehashing the entire training infrastructure would be required to meet new doctrinal compulsions. This would include special psychological training programme, including confidence building for troops to operate in the new scenario.
  • Introduction of specialist units to cater for detection, monitoring, damage limitation and casualty evacuation for troops operating in areas where nuclear strikes may be initiated. Special medical facilities will also be required to evacuate, receive and treat personnel exposed to a nuclear strike. The requirement of surveillance units equipped and organized to provide early warning of incoming aircraft and missiles will also have to be met. Special forces for special operations to neutralize missile deployment indepth will have to be created and trained.

(b) Survival. To increase the survivability factor and generate adequate confidence level in the conventional forces, it would be essential to do the following:-

  • Provision of Nuclear-Biological-Chemical (NBC) defensive equipment for personnel and combat vehicles.
  • Hardening of communication systems to reduce collateral failures and maintenance of command and control centres and posts.
  • Creation of hardened command posts in pre-selected areas.
  • Suitable equipment to monitor radioactive fallout.
  • Introduction of special camouflage and concealment equipment to reduce the chances of exposure.

(c) Mobility. Under nuclear environment, the smaller units and larger area equation have greater emphasis on mobility. Hence, mobility on the battlefield has become essential for rapid concentration and dispersal and, therefore, a greater dependence on mechanization and aerial mobility.

(d) C3I Network. Command and control of these smaller but spreadout units will have to be tightened up considerably if they are to be employed to maximum advantage. To make the command and control meaningful, a comprehensive C3I network is essential. The command and control problems associated with the employment of strategic nuclear forces were tackled through extensive R&D. Airborne Command Post, Joint Surveillance Target Acquisition Radar System (J-STARS) and Joint Tactical Information and Distribution System (J-TIDS). These types of C3I systems have become a reality. Now even a conventional force commander can exercise control over each and every tank employed in the tactical battlefield or fighter aircraft deployed, apart from having a complete theatre picture in real time. This has projected the art of warfare in the fourth dimension, i.e., the struggle for supremacy in the Electro Magnetic Spectrum.

(e) Electro-Magnetic Spectrum (EMS). Deception units, equipped to generate audio-visual and electronic emission to deceive the enemy on actual battle plans and movements, would increase the degree of difficulty in the decision making process for the adversary. The efficient use of EMS or successful denial of its use to the enemy has become a battle-deciding factor.

Tactical nuclear weapons, today, are considered as important as a conventional force structure. The modern state-of-the-art weaponry and tactical nuclear weapons have had a profound effect on small states' force structure as well. Those countries, which can develop nuclear weapons, would like to possess them on their inventory for deterrence purposes, but not without possessing a viable conventional force structure comprising a highly effective and sophisticated military machine. This means that the existence of nuclear weapons has not been able to reduce the conventional forces in terms of numbers. As a matter of fact, conventional forces have become more destructive due to weapon sophistication. Even the nuclear powers spend several times as much on conventional as on nuclear forces.


War has always been the breeding grounds for advances in weapon technology. Generally, a weapon was developed to meet a doctrinal requirement. However, a new development like nuclear weapons altered the doctrinal concept.

They were developed to meet a doctrinal necessity of potent strategic bombardment but came out to be so devastating that the plausibility of their employment as just another weapon of war waging became questionable. Nevertheless, they were developed to stay and form an integral part of war waging doctrine. The pendulum, however, swung from these weapons being the main force structure to their being unemployable. The unemployment of nuclear devices, after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragedy, resulted in full-scale comeback of conventional weapons. Conventional weaponry has witnessed unprecedented qualitative and quantitative developments during the last fifty years. The same has been the case with the employment doctrines of conventional forces, in the back drop of nuclear advancement in the fields of enhanced weapon effectiveness, organization, command, control, communication, survivability, mobility, creation of specialist units, field of reconnaissance and surveillance and development of electro-magnetic spectrum.

In short, the non-employability of nuclear weapons to start an armed conflict or during the conflict have resulted in giving greater importance to conventional force structures. In today's world, modern, sophisticated, effective and strong conventional forces are maintained by all nuclear states and are organized, equipped and trained to operate in a nuclear environment.

(Note: The article is based on a presentation made on the topic by a group of four allied officers of No. 11 Air War Course to some of the members of air staff at the PAF Air War College, Faisal on 24 April, 1998. Lt Col Rosly Bin Jalahuddin of the Royal Malaysian Air Force was the group leader. Col Yasin Mohammad Muhsen Al-Ma'aitah of the Royal Jordanian Air Force, Wg Cdr. Muhammad Anwarul Haque of the Bangladesh Air Force and Lt. Col Kuswantoro of the Indonesian Air Force were the other three members of the group. South Asia, at the time of presentation, had not gone under a strategic change as a result of nuclear explosions conducted by India and Pakistan in May 1998.


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