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Old June 1st, 2014, 02:29 AM
Carlobrand Carlobrand is offline
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Default Mini Tac-nukes

This is - kind of sounds like a news reel, but I suspect it was classified for military and government personnel only - footage of the 1962 Ivy Flats exercise, a showpiece exercise where the Army exhibited the Davy Crockett nuclear artillery piece and tried to show it could incorporate low yield tactical nuclear weapons into its plans to resist Soviet attack in Europe.

In the '50's, with the Soviets still lagging technically, Eisenhower's idea was to emphasize nuclear arms as a means of countering potential Soviet aggression. By '62, this was looking less tenable as the Sovs were coming out with their own tac-nukes to respond with and had been increasingly mechanizing their forces. The use of metrics in the film leads me to believe the film was made for the European audience, to persuade Euro military and political leaders that we could use nukes in their territory to stop the Sovs without blasting everything to hell and gone.

Davy Crockett was, interestingly enough, a recoilless rifle. It launched a small nuclear warhead with a yield equivalent to about 20 tons of TNT. The device was an improvement over the early 50's Army tac-nuke tests, which had involved devices in the tens of kilotons. The "light" model they mention had a range of 2000 meters - about one and a quarter mile. Appears to be treated as an enhanced radiation weapon based on the minimal blast effects and maximized radiation pulse, more due to the small size of the device than anything else, I think.

As the film showed, it had an immediate-kill radius of 200 meters and a lethal radius of 350 meters where the enemy would most likely be incapacitated immediately (and would die within a week or two). The film noted that troops at 650 meters were "well beyond" the minimum safe distance. Well, sort of, assuming those troops were ducked down in trenches. Unstated in the film - maybe unknown, maybe deliberately withheld - is the fact that individuals subjected to as "little" as a hundred rads could become casualties within a week or two, requiring hospitalization for treatment of radiation effects on blood formation. The weapon also wasn't terribly accurate. Davy Crockett was not a weapon that could be used when the two sides were in close contact.

(Survivors of the Japanese detonations had experienced cancers from doses estimated to be in the 15 rad range, but I'm not clear if this was known at the time of the test.)

An interesting bit is the film statement that, "Moderate damage to tanks from blast extended to about 20 meters." Soviet tanks of the 70's could be expected to stop about half the radiation from a blast:

'62 tanks were not that good but offered some protection. Nonetheless, it's likely that tank crews in that 350 meter region would be incapacitated for at least long enough to be taken captive or destroyed by the attacking force, though most of the tanks themselves would have survived the initial attack.
Comments made are for the purpose of offering alternative campaign settings for consideration. The writer acknowledges that Traveller is intended to emulate certain common science fiction tropes and that, in the course of emulating those tropes and providing a better playing experience, some liberties must be taken with science. No statement by the writer should be interpreted as constituting a criticism of the game on that basis ... except for that bit about Virus. Dude, really?!
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