View Full Version : RAF tactical nuclear missions


ThomasJW
8th Dec 2009, 07:07
I am a military historian and I am performing some research regarding the RAF's tactical nuclear mission during the Cold War.

I am principally interested in the RAF's mission to deploy tactical nuclear weapons against european Soviet and Warsaw Pact targets in the event of a major confrontation between WARPAC and NATO forces.

I am keen to shed some light on the RAF's role in this regard. Much work has already been performed looking at the role of the V-bombers, although relatively little seems to have been done looking at the role of the Tornadoes and the WE177s for example, in addition to the other aircraft and weapons involved in this mission.

I would be very pleased to hear from any air and ground crew, or planning staff, who were involved in this mission and are keen to share their experiences.

I realise that much of the history surrounding this mission may still be classified, but any information which can be shared in the public domain would be very gratefully received.

Credentials
I know that some of you asked for some more details about my background. I have worked as a military historian and defence analyst for over ten years. I've published four books (details on two of them can be found here: Amazon.com: Thomas Withington: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle (http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Withington/e/B001JPCAU8/ref=sr_tc_2_0)) I've also been a contributor to the RAF Defence Recognition Journal, I've worked for DSTL in the past as a historian and published articles for several publications including the RAF Air Power Review. My interest in this subject is with a view to getting a journal article or perhaps a longer work written on this subject. Have a good day!



deeceethree
8th Dec 2009, 08:36
ThomasJW,

It may help your case if you refer people here to some of your previous military history work - a few links to some of your on-line writings perhaps? Or links to somewhere on-line selling a book of yours? As a rule, military folk are happier to converse with you on such subjects if they can reasonably establish your bona fides.

Best of luck with your research!

cornish-stormrider
8th Dec 2009, 11:32
Beadwindow possibly?

forget
8th Dec 2009, 11:52
Beadwindow?

........ but any information which can be shared in the public domain would be very gratefully received.

Pontius Navigator
8th Dec 2009, 12:28
As DC3 says, a little more about yourself may elicit more information. You may wish to approach the Air Historical Branch at RAF Northolt.

As for Beadwindow, unlikely. While I haven't written about nuclear ops from the 1970s it is unlikely that there would be any embargo.

cornish-stormrider
8th Dec 2009, 13:40
That is why I queried it myself. Just because we do not use those weapons and exact procedures anymore does not negate their usefulness...

I agree though - an explanation of who this historian and his creedo's would be helpful for anyine wishing to converse.

scarecrow450
8th Dec 2009, 15:49
Yes, would like to know err other people would like to know a bit more about you, just in case you are one of those blokes in black suits just testing us out !!! mmmm ?

pr00ne
8th Dec 2009, 16:03
"just because we do not use those weapons and exact procedures anymore
does not negate their usefulness..."

YES it does, one hundred percent!

So, my time on the toom sat on Q in RAFG is somehow dangerously relevant to fighting the Taliban is it?

Some people do get more than a little precious about anything to do with a nuclear reaction. Pathetic really............

greycoat
8th Dec 2009, 17:11
Some publications have been de-classified but I'm sure the Official Secrets Act would still apply to role and possible tactics, targetting etc.

The Gorilla
8th Dec 2009, 17:25
post three and we get a beadwindow gordon bennett

Dengue_Dude
8th Dec 2009, 17:30
Some people do get more than a little precious about anything to do with a nuclear reaction. Pathetic really............

I SOo agree, I'm surprised that so many people manage to navigate - with their heads up their @<hidden>

I'm sure the Russians don't regard where their missiles were targetted in 1970s as particularly relevant anymore either.

I was an Int Officer, as well as aircrew in the early 80's, and all I knew then is now museum data.

Wholigan
8th Dec 2009, 18:20
I'm sure the Russians don't regard where their missiles were targetted in 1970s as particularly relevant anymore either.



Had a fascinating encounter that this reminded me of.

After the Berlin Wall et al, I was sat in a bar at a base in Bedfordshire chatting to some Russian and East European chaps. The conversation inevitably got round to what did you do in the (Cold) War chaps.

A russian colonel said he was the commander of a nuclear missile site at ********. I said "Hmmmm you could well have been one of my targets".

He asked "Where were you then?"

My reply was "Bruggen", which brought forth the response "Aaaaah, I know you were one of mine!!"

AR1
8th Dec 2009, 18:46
Whilst we're on the subject of Nuclear snobbery. in the mid 80s I did a radio job in ASU, under escort all the way in, despite being on the same side, We walked past their open air display of inert obsolete devices. Oh said I - Blue Steel! And pointed to the white missile on its trolley. Completely deadpan, my same rank same trade, but right up his own arse escort replied. 'We don't talk about that sort of thing in here'

So why is it on display? was my response.

The US had an altogether more pragmatic approach. On a job in one of their (long defunct) facilities they let me go in on my own, there were no museum exhibits, and the guy on the gate said keep to the path or they'll shoot you. Fair enough.

Yellow Sun
8th Dec 2009, 18:55
Apart from some nitty gritty detail of the release authentication procedures the rest is ancient history.

There is some good material in print and on the web about the weapons themselves but an authoritative account of the whole subject has still to be written. It could make quite interesting reading, it would certainly be sobering and might act as a timely reminder.

YS

Widger
8th Dec 2009, 19:18
Bit close to the knuckle this. Whilst some might consider it ancient history, it is very easy in the current age, living in a peaceful Europe to be very naive about these matters but, there are nations out there laughing at us, whilst we are concentrating on matters in the Stan and we drop our security guard. Just because it is not in the current inventory, does not mean it is not in the future. Maybe not by the UK, but possibly by another NATO nation or even someone who wants to use those tactics against us. So go ahead and spill the beans, be a nice test case in the courts!

Pontius Navigator
8th Dec 2009, 19:25
As early as 1974 we had an unclassified targetting exercise on the WEC. Our target was an airfield in east Germany. Our available weapons included the B57 and a Nike-Hercules amongst others.

Considerations were the airfield had 4 dispersed HAS sites and runway redundancy. We concluded that a single B57 would not be suitable for the task. The weapon of choice was the N-H in airburst mode. It offered the biggest yield and the potential to disrupt operations at all sites. It had the benefit of destroying a large part of the adjacent town.

Now it doesn't need an Einstein to look at a map, arc off RoA for different aircraft types, and draw up a list of target sets. The meat that TJW probably wants is the fact that targets had backup aircraft allocated as well as a primary. For instance I was told that an F104G primary target might also have an F4M allocated is the 104 went US. This created a problem as the F104 route and attack speed was greater than the F4M.

AR1
8th Dec 2009, 19:26
Maybe Widger - but one would hope that we wouldn't be relying on a manned bomber for delivery.

greycoat
8th Dec 2009, 19:30
Not sure if this link has been used before in previous threads but it might be a very useful and comprehensive place to start nuclear-weapons.info (http://www.nuclear-weapons.info/vw.htm#WE.177)

Widger
8th Dec 2009, 19:40
AR1,

Just because the UK does not use air-launched Nuclear munitions, does not mean that others don't. If it is good enough for the USAF it is good enough for others who would do us harm.

AR1
8th Dec 2009, 21:04
Ah, I see the dimension you're comng from.:ok:

Squirrel 41
8th Dec 2009, 21:40
I'm with Widger - it also that some countries are seeking to acquire these capabilities, and knowledge of what we used to do could be of assistance - remember that Mr. S Hussein (late of Baghdad) built his first uranium enrichment plant on the (publicly available) blueprints for the Oak Ridge plant which was "too old to be relevant". Oops.

Sorry to be boring!

S41

Low Flier
8th Dec 2009, 22:05
Don't tell 'im, Pike.

ThomasJW
9th Dec 2009, 05:55
Morning everyone!

Thanks for the replies posted to my thread yesterday. I know that some of you asked for some more details about my background. I have worked as a military historian and defence analyst for over ten years. I've published four books (details on two of them can be found here: Amazon.com: Thomas Withington: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle (http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Withington/e/B001JPCAU8/ref=sr_tc_2_0)) I've also been a contributor to the RAF Defence Recognition Journal, I've worked for DSTL in the past as a historian and published articles for several publications including the RAF Air Power Review. My interest in this subject is with a view to getting a journal article or perhaps a longer work written on this subject. Have a good day!

newt
9th Dec 2009, 10:15
Why would anyone want to read about this? Furthermore, did we not all sign the Official Secrets Documents? Who knows what is still valid information and what should be in the public domain?

Best forgotten about in my opinion! Never did like being interviewed by the SIB!!
:mad:

StuartP
9th Dec 2009, 11:15
Why would anyone want to read about this?

Speaking as someone with vivid memories of sitting in a classroom as a 13 year old, all bricking ourselves watching 'Threads' in an English lesson, I'd be interested.

From the human interest point of view (rather than the 'Terrorism 101 - How to launch a nuclear strike' point of view) it's a period about which the general public still knows or understands very little. The most we were ever told was how you had all trounced SAC again at Red Flag or wherever. We could more or less work out why you were all practicing flying at zero feet, but it would still be interesting to read people's first hand accounts of, for example, what it was like to be on 'Q'.

There's a thread on here somewhere (I think it's on here anyway) where someone describes an excercise in which a convoy of 4 tonners was sent westwards to simulate families etc being evacuated from one of the RAFG airfields, and the panic it caused in the German population. Eventually we'll all be able to go to Kew or the IWM and read the official reports for ourselves but the small details like that get forgotten and need recording while you're all still here and compos mentis enough to write them down. I fully appreciate the difficulties caused by the sensitivity of some of the information you were working with though.

Dengue_Dude
9th Dec 2009, 11:58
Best forgotten about in my opinion! Never did like being interviewed by the SIB!!


You too huh? In my case, I got CSC too . . . but that's another story :(

RETDPI
9th Dec 2009, 17:40
Furthermore, did we not all sign the Official Secrets Documents? Who knows what is still valid information and what should be in the public domain?

Another myth.
The fact that you may , or may not, have signed up to one or more of the Official Secrets Acts ( of which there are several) is irrelevant.
You are still liable to prosecution as a U.K citizen if you contravene.

jindabyne
10th Dec 2009, 10:00
Why would anyone want to read about this?

Because those who were not associated with the topic, and possibly many that were, might be interested.

green granite
10th Dec 2009, 10:08
Surely the whole point of a tactical mission is that it is in response to a specific battle situation and therefore not preplanned in the sense that it is written down in a manual somewhere.

Yellow Sun
10th Dec 2009, 10:15
Surely the whole point of a tactical mission is that it is in response to a specific battle situation and therefore not preplanned in the sense that it is written down in a manual somewhere.

Back in the good old non-PC days I recall being told on a course somewhere that the simplest definition of a tactical nuclear weapon was one that goes off in Germany.:ooh:

YS:}

Out Of Trim
10th Dec 2009, 15:26
Time to close this thread I think; nobody is stupid enough to want to discuss this in public - I hope!

Maybe in a hundred years time, it might just be appropriate but not now.

:ugh:

Shack37
10th Dec 2009, 15:45
Time to close this thread I think; nobody is stupid enough to want to discuss this in public - I hope!

Maybe in a hundred years time, it might just be appropriate but not now.


The Great Leader has Spoken, Mods please note.:oh:

Was in for a fair bit of the "Cold War" but never heard of beadwindow, then again, I was in Coastal.........what cold war?

stumpey
10th Dec 2009, 16:01
And what were the previous interviews with the SIB for? Do tell, might be an interesting tale..............in a different tread!

Pontius Navigator
10th Dec 2009, 16:29
Why would anyone want to read about this? Furthermore, did we not all sign the Official Secrets Documents? Who knows what is still valid information and what should be in the public domain?

Best forgotten about in my opinion! Never did like being interviewed by the SIB!!
:mad:

I think Gp Capt Lloyd at AHB wo0ld disagree with that sentiment as would many museums throughout the world. The RAF Museum is working up a new Cold War exhibition and has just acquired an F111.

Then you should also look up 'parallel history project'.

Also when talking procedures, search out the BBC R4 programme 'Finger on the button.' This is not Cold War history but also right up to date with a practice launch sequence in an SSBN; now that is something that very few people today even consider.

Gainesy
10th Dec 2009, 17:05
has just acquired an F111.


Are they going to kick the Bucc out?:)

Speaking as someone with vivid memories of sitting in a classroom as a 13 year old, all bricking ourselves watching 'Threads' in an English lesson, I'd be interested.


Speak to some of the Servicemen who would have been left behind, ask about railway sleepers and their use in triage systems. That'll keep you awake nights.

I still have nightmares, trapped down the Hole at Boulmer with 200-odd WRAF (very odd, some of 'em) and only 20 rounds. The Horror.:uhoh:

kitwe
10th Dec 2009, 18:51
The RAF Museum at Cosford acquired an F111 for its Cold War Exhibition quite a long time ago.

jindabyne
10th Dec 2009, 18:56
Are they going to kick the Bucc out?


Naughty boy! Methinks foldie might be spot on ----

Gainesy
11th Dec 2009, 07:36
We got told to bugger off by the hook-the-duck stallholder at Alnwick Fair once. Boy could those Lasses hook em.

ExRAFRadar
11th Dec 2009, 10:44
To my eternal shame I used to wargame a lot of WW3 type stuff back in the late 70's to mid 80's. Get yourself a copy of SPI's old Nato Division Commander.

Thing had manuals that would not have looked out of place in a War College, including discussion of weapon yield and target placement to maximise Ivan's tank losses. Thanks to my wargaming days I knew more about NATO deployments and Ivan attack routes than some of the Occifers on my Station Aircrew selection board.

As for the definition of Tactical Nuclear Strikes - didnt someone once ask how far West German towns were apart on average, 'About 5 kilotons' was the reply.

I did like the quote in SPI's Nato wargame. "To simulate the effects of Strategic Nuclear exchange pour lighter fluid over map and apply heat"

:)

Blacksheep
11th Dec 2009, 14:27
Speak to some of the Servicemen who would have been left behind, ask about railway sleepers and their use in triage systems. That'll keep you awake nights.

"left behind" As in afterwards? http://images.ibsrv.net/ibsrv/res/src:www.pprune.org/get/images/smilies/confused.gif


In theory, NBC Teams, wearing their NBC suits, would assemble at the NBC Centre, next to the Astra cinema, to be issued with their equipment. Team A would then proceed to measure and map radiation levels in the surrounding area to find the "coolest" spots for the casualty clearing stations. Team B would categorise the casualties, directing the walking wounded to the nearest casualty clearing station and marking an 'X' on the foreheads of those too severely injured to stand. Team C would treat those who were too severely injured to proceed to the casualty station by administering a 9mm full metal jacket behind the right ear. Team D were to use wood and other flammable materials, gathered by those collected at the casualty clearing stations, to build funeral pyres for the category X casualties that failed to recover from their treatment. You'd be amazed at how much wood it takes to consume a body but of course corpses are themseves flammable material.


In practice, there would have been no afterwards... http://images.ibsrv.net/ibsrv/res/src:www.pprune.org/get/images/smilies/puppy_dog_eyes.gif


I recall that during my own training for Team C the instructor was talking about the destruction of the City of Lincoln and our role in dealing with those citizens who had survived. One chap pointed out that the destruction of Lincoln would be collateral damage caused by the two or three Megaton Range devices dropped on Scampton and Waddington.
"Yes. So?" asked the Rock Ape.
"So, we'll all have been vapourised and thus unable to participate."
"There's bound to be some of you on the p*ss in Nottingham that'll survive"
"...and you think we'll come back here? Really?"

Pontius Navigator
11th Dec 2009, 15:32
I remember a Micky Finn at Waddo. In the build up to the afterwards, the noise of bombers receding in the distance the Bomber Control handed over to the Bomber Fallout Controller.

In dead pan tones the bomber box spoke:

"Bomb Number One, Waddington, High Air Burst, 5 Mt 1012Z

Bomb Number two . . . "

Some short while later they rang up the GDOC. "Why aren't you reporting the fallout readings?"

To which Keith Batt, later Gp Capt, said "Didn't you plot Bomber No 1? We're dead."

"Don't be a fool Batt, plot the fallout.":}

PS, I fear we are drifting away from tactical nukes as in the OP. :)

Timelord
12th Dec 2009, 14:51
TJW

Check your PMs

foldingwings
14th Dec 2009, 16:58
I don't mind telling you that my 2 engined wonder jet had to go so far east that there were words on the map on the return leg that said 'EJECT NOW'!

I joke not!

Now then Gainesy, since Jindabyne Naughty boy! Methinks foldie might be spot on ---- has cross-referred another of my comments on one of these thread things:

Are they going to kick the Bucc out?

Just when and why were you chopped from the Bucc on 237 OCU?!:=

Foldie:ok:

jindabyne
19th Dec 2009, 22:16
At a recent gathering, I discovered that my grandson's fellow grandparents lived very adjacent to my intended target - we were all thankful!!

BTW,

Just when and why were you chopped from the Bucc on 237 OCU?!

Pontius Navigator
20th Dec 2009, 07:43
jindabyne, I think we all were.

Read Neville Shute's 'On the beach' for a real cold reality check.

Gainesy
21st Dec 2009, 09:11
Jinda, you didn't have to be aircrew to be at Honington, :) I was in ground radar, specialising in kicking the pre-historic PAR into some semblence of life, in between fairly regular visits to Colt to borrow spares for said piece of junk, which for some reason were almost always nil-stock at Hon.:)

The morale black hole at Honington wasn't confined to 237 BTW, I think it was something in the wallpaper paste, or the water.

StuartP
21st Dec 2009, 09:28
Gainsey, Blacksheep - thanks, that's exactly the sort of thing I meant. Funnily enough there's no mention of that in 'Protect and Survive'.

Gainesy
21st Dec 2009, 10:56
I think that was probably written by the Blue Peter team.:)

barnstormer1968
21st Dec 2009, 12:05
Gainesy
Are you trying to infer that the protect and survive films were not very good?
Do you really think that after a full nuclear exchange, with millions dead, that I would actually have needed MORE than 14 days worth of food and water*?:}

*this was needed to keep me supplied until the shops re opened as usual:}:}:eek:

Although I can see the logic in injured survivors being treated with a 9mm injection, I am more appalled at other post strike plans. The nearest regional government bunker (3 miles away from my house (oops did someone say target:eek:)), had the important task of re starting tax collections as soon as it could be operational, after a devastating exchange!

minigundiplomat
21st Dec 2009, 12:20
Nah, you'd have survived. As long as the chin strap on your helmet was done up when you saw the flash and hit the deck. Least that's what the rocks told us.

RETDPI
21st Dec 2009, 12:37
The nearest regional government bunker (3 miles away from my house (oops did someone say targethttp://images.ibsrv.net/ibsrv/res/src:www.pprune.org/get/images/smilies/eek.gif)), had the important task of re starting tax collections as soon as it could be operational, after a devastating exchange!

Ever see "The Bed-sitting Room?"

Tigger_Too
21st Dec 2009, 12:56
It seems almost improper to suggest that fortune was smiling on Tsutomu Yamaguchi in the dying days of the second world war.

On 6 August 1945, he was in Hiroshima, preparing to return home from a business trip when the American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, dropped an atomic bomb on the city. Yamaguchi lived, while 140,000 other people who were in the city that morning died, some in an agonising instant, others many months later.

Burned and barely able to comprehend what had happened - only that he had witnessed a bomb unlike any used before - Yamaguchi spent a fitful night in an air raid shelter before returning home the following day.

That home, 180 miles to the west, was Nagasaki. His arrival came the day before it was devastated by a second US atomic bomb on 9 August.

In a barely conceivable course of events, he had twice been perilously close to nuclear ground zero; and both times he had lived. More than 70,000 other residents of Nagasaki were not so lucky.

More than 60 years later, the 93-year-old became the first and only known survivor of both attacks yesterday to win official recognition from Japanese authorities.

While other survivors died prematurely from cancer and liver disease caused by their exposure to radiation, Yamaguchi remains in relatively good health apart from near-deafness in one ear and complaints that his legs are "growing weak

Wonder whether he had his chinstrap done up? :cool:

Roadster280
21st Dec 2009, 13:13
Tsutomu "Two Bombs" Yamaguchi.

Gainesy
21st Dec 2009, 13:40
Are you trying to infer that the protect and survive films were not very good?


Most certainly not; its well known that building a papier mache igloo was a precursor to the issue of bacofoil titfers.

I was single at the time but I think the Mrs would be a tad annoyed if I unscrewed all the doors and stacked them in the bath or whatever daftness they promoted.

Twas a plot anyhow, pages from the Sun or Mirror were not big enough to cover the proles' windows, so that lot were doomed for a start.

Did old "Glowy" Yamaguchi :uhoh: ever win the Japanese Lottery?

Pontius Navigator
21st Dec 2009, 14:03
Gainesy, you bring to mind the paper sandbags. Every window 'reinforced' but no thought to actually stocking the thousands of bags nor sourcing the sand.

Pontius Navigator
21st Dec 2009, 14:09
14 days worth of food and water*?:}

Or whatever was deemed the required quantity of war reserve foods.

Remember periodic turnover of the war stocks? I remember the steak and kidney pudding served in the mess at ISK. The suet was tin shaped and imprinted with the date etc. They served it straight from the tin - no disguises.

Or the scrambled 'egg'. As far as I know they didn't serve compo fried eggs.

Gainesy
21st Dec 2009, 14:31
Would wearing the suet from said puds come under NBC or get you a free bouncy room at Nocton Hall or someplace similar? Stuff certainly looked nuke-proof.

Hmm, where did the nutters get sent? Apart from St Athan where they'd easily blend in.