Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Military History of the Cold War and What Might Have Been

The Cold War, which seemed such an ever-present reality just a few years ago has now been relegated to history. The mighty armies that faced each other across so many borders in northern, central and southern Europe are now but shadows of their former selves. The navies which patrolled the seas have dispersed, and former enemy armies now spend most of their time on common exercises and in comforting each other about the glories that are gone. The air forces, too, are bemused by the changes that a few years have wrought; vast orders for the most complex and sophisticated machines ever invented by man have been cancelled, training is now minimal, and recruits are hard to find; indeed, some even question the need for air forces at all.

The armed forces were, however, only the public face of the international effort put into the prosecution of the Cold War. Entire industries depended upon the Cold War – tank production, warship construction, warplane manufacturing – as also did many less obvious concerns such as electronics, power-plant and machinery manufacturers. Virtually all governments involved in the Cold War ensured that their national plans revolved around preparing for, fighting and surviving a possible Third World War. Indeed, when the Cold War ended, many things came to light that show just how thorough and far-reaching the preparations had been. Buried headquarters and survival shelters, which only a very select few had ever known about, were advertised for sale. Huge strategic stockpiles of commodities such as coal, oil, sugar and flour were publicly acknowledged and sold off. Secret arsenals of weapons for use by guerrilla forces were revealed, even in ostensibly neutral countries such as Austria. But many more facets of the conflict probably remain unknown, even to this day.

The Cold War does not have two convenient dates to mark its start and finish. No troops poured across a border to open the campaign, nor did victorious armies march in triumph through the enemy’s capital city to mark the end.

Many dates could be taken to mark the start of the Cold War, but the events of 1945 to 1949 are considered to be preliminary skirmishes and manoeuvring for position, and 4 April 1949, the date of signing the North Atlantic Treaty, which formalized the anti-Soviet alliance, is taken to be the most apt date.

Similarly, the end of the Cold War was publicly announced on at least ten occasions as triumphant politicians signed yet another agreement in Washington, London, Paris, Geneva or Moscow to reduce or remove tension. But the signal for the real end of the Cold War came in Berlin, the city which for forty-two years had crystallized all the issues at stake. There on one night in November 1989 an East German government official telephoned the security guard commander at the checkpoints on the Berlin Wall and ordered him to prevent East Berliners from crossing to the West. But the officer, probably no more senior than a captain, looked out the window, saw the vast crowd, sensed its determination, knew deep inside himself that the game was up, and, realizing the futility of it all, refused. Throughout the Cold War the Communist system had depended absolutely upon orders being obeyed, and with that refusal in East Berlin the entire system proceeded, with dreadful inevitability, to collapse.

There were no heroes and no villains in the Cold War. There were definitely two ‘sides’, and on a political level each felt the other to be wrong, but at the military level there were just millions of officers and sailors, soldiers and airmen, the great majority of whom were doing their job as best they knew how and carrying out the orders given to them by their governments.

There were hundreds of ‘incidents’. Aircraft were shot down, ships collided, and, on several occasions, tanks loaded with live ammunition faced each other across borders. But opponents ‘on the other side of the fence’ were never left with no way out other than humiliation; no side ever pushed the other over the brink.

Frequent mention is made of military plans prepared during the Cold War, and a word of explanation is required. Many civilians find it hard to understand why soldiers, sailors and airmen spend so much of their time analysing possible threats against them and, when preparing plans, taking the worst case. Thus, throughout the Cold War, congressional and parliamentary committees and media correspondents were regularly given the direst of predictions about the other side’s numbers and capabilities. Sometimes there were genuine errors, but frequently each element in an estimate was given a pessimistic ‘tweak’ which, when all were put together, resulted in an overall prediction that was later proved to have been very wide of the mark indeed.

This predilection for the ‘worst case’ was partly due to professional caution and the desire not to be caught out. Far better, planners thought, to find the situation was not so bad after all. Partly, however, it was also due to the knowledge that if war did come it would almost certainly be of short duration and there would therefore be little chance to make good any peacetime deficiencies. Thus, by painting the gloomiest possible picture of the enemy’s strengths, one’s own side would be better armed to meet him should the day come. Matters were not helped, however, when politicians took the budget figure the military asked for and subtracted 10 per cent, since the military responded by adding an extra 10 per cent the next time around, on the assumption that they would lose it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Plan for WWIII



By the autumn of 1945 it was the turn of the Americans to become the hawks in the stand-off with Stalin. The US finally began to outline plans for their post-war strategy, yet there was no presidential or ‘top-down’ directive as there had been with Churchill and Unthinkable. Instead, individual officers as well as the US Joint Planning Staff (USJPS) took the initiative in preparing reports on a post-war strategic plan. The plans did not, at this stage, detail operations but looked at overall US military capability and its requirements for worldwide bases and military reserves. ‘New weapons and countermeasures’ were discussed, with special consideration given to the potential of atomic bombs and guided missiles. Experts concluded that these new weapons had limitations, which would not change US military strategy, for at the time the range of V–2-type rockets could not be extended beyond 1,000 miles, while atomic bombs could not be made small enough to suit artillery rounds or naval torpedoes. Consequently, the planners and their experts believed that these new weapons would supplement conventional weapons and the idea that atomic bombs could be used as a deterrent did not seem to enter the equation. However, the planners did determine that crippling a nation’s industrial capacity would not affect the outcome of any atomic war, since the war would be over well before that could take effect. By late 1945 the strategic plan, which cloaked its objective with talk of ‘maintaining world peace’, was presented to the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and then the president for approval.

The impetus for more detailed US operational plans for a major conflict with the Soviet Union would take months to build. The US planners had not consulted with their British counterparts at this stage, for as an ailing Harry Hopkins observed, ‘to hear some people talk about the British, you would think the British were our potential enemies.’ But to some Americans, the British Empire was just that; when Major-General Francis Davidson of the British General Staff was on a tour of the US in the autumn of 1945, he was accosted by a journalist who demanded to know about ‘British imperialistic designs on Indonesia’. Such language might well have come out of the Kremlin, but at least Anglo-US military relations were on a more cordial level. During the autumn and winter of 1945 there was increasing co-operation between the two armies as well as a sharing of intelligence on Soviet deployments. Gradually, as a result of these constant and verifiable dossiers, corroborated by their own agents in the field, US intelligence began to take the Soviet threat seriously.

During October and November 1945 the US Joint Chiefs examined reports that assessed current Soviet military capability at more than sixty offensive infantry divisions, 25,000 tanks and 60,000 large-calibre artillery pieces. They concluded that Soviet forces could easily overrun Western Europe and the Middle East any time before 1948; such an alarming prospect made the US Joint Intelligence Committee calculate the effect of ‘blocking’ that advance by unleashing nuclear weapons. In what was the first US outline plan to attack the Soviet Union, twenty Soviet cities were selected as targets for atomic bombs, to be delivered by heavy bombers, yet the American JIC were excluded from most of the US atomic secrets and would not have had accurate data on the number of available bombs.

In November 1945 the US State Department was alarmed by news that Soviet troops in civilian clothes were assisting a tribal revolt in Iranian Azerbaijan with a view to annexing this adjacent province. The US Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered ‘a reassessment of US military capabilities in view of Soviet aggressive policies’, which indicated the US themselves were now preparing contingency plans for a conventional war with the Soviet Union. On 2 March 1946 the US Joint War Plans Committee (JWPC) produced a draft for Operation ‘Pincher’, the US broad equivalent to the British Operation Unthinkable. However, the casus belli was no longer Poland. It was assumed that the Soviet Union had already set up its ring of satellite states to protect its borders, and the conflict would arise from the Soviets attempting to infiltrate more countries beyond that ring. In particular, Pincher singled out the Middle East as a flashpoint, where US or British interests could be undermined. There might also be incidents in Turkey or Iran, which would compel the Western Allies to retaliate by military force, and thereby spark a Third World War. The original plan envisaged a war sometime between 1946 and 1949, but as tensions rose dramatically during 1946, the time span was drastically reduced. It looked to US planners as if they were staring into the abyss. Of course, they were unaware of the extent of the leaks by Donald Maclean, and how much the Soviets knew about US plans for retaliation in the event of a hostile move against Turkey. It is possible that because of the knowledge that the US would retaliate, Stalin may have backed off from an invasion of Turkey in 1946, which diffused the crisis.

Belatedly, President Truman talked of Stalin’s tactics in Poland as an ‘outrage’. This tough talking may have resulted from the new US atomic muscle, but their foreign policy hardened by the month. In February 1946 George Kennan sent his famous ‘Long Telegram’ from the US Mission in Moscow to Washington. It was a seminal moment, for in Kennan’s own words, ‘these years had been a strain for me nearly all the way through, because I watched our government making concession after concession to the Soviets.’ It seemed that both the US government and public opinion had needed a gestation period before they could readily address the Soviet threat.

It was not just the US administration that was changing its policy towards Stalin. Churchill’s fears about Soviet domination in the spring of 1945 had, by early 1946, become orthodox thinking in the British Foreign Office. The Mediterranean, Turkey and Iran were all vulnerable, and northern Italy had proved contentious. There were also concerns that the pro-Soviet French communist party might take power in France. If a conflict with the West erupted, Stalin would have no qualms about ordering a communist insurrection in France, to be followed by an attempted communist coup in Belgium and, after a civil war, a communist regime could follow in Spain. The worst fear for Britain remained triumphant communism ‘fuelled by German economic might’, as the British JIC confirmed:

Russia will no doubt give full weight to the fact that Great Britain and the United States are both war weary, faced with immense internal problems and rapidly demobilising their forces. By comparison, Russia’s own forces and industry are still on a war basis. No further demobilisation has been announced, and Russian divisions are being rapidly re-equipped with the latest material.

Churchill, now free of the political constraints on a prime minister, though still recognised as a world statesman, sensed a rising tide of realism in the West. On 5 March 1946 he used such recognition to full effect by giving a legendary speech during a tour of the US. At Fulton, Missouri, he uttered a solemn warning to Russia, and talked of ‘an iron curtain’ descending on Europe. He reminded the American people that the West could not afford to appease the Soviet Union, for such a policy had been disastrous before the war and now, in a post-war world, would be seen simply as weakness by Stalin. Yet despite the dramatic tone of his speech, the British press and public were lukewarm in their support for the ex-premier. This was hardly surprising, since in Britain there remained an overwhelming feeling of gratitude to the Soviet Union for their undeniable sacrifice in the war. Such public goodwill was certainly fostered by the unrelenting diet of wartime pro-Soviet propaganda that emitted from the British government. It was unrealistic to suppose that barely a year later the public could absorb the ‘justness’ of an attack on the Soviet Union.

Regardless of any protests in the West, Stalin’s suppression of Eastern Europe continued apace. In March 1946 alone the Soviet Ministry of the Interior recorded that ‘8,360 bandits were liquidated’ in the Ukraine, while in the Baltic Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia nearly 100,000 people were deported to gulags ‘forever’. Even as the packed cattle trucks of ‘bandits, nationalists and others’ trundled eastwards, Stalin launched his own verbal repost to Churchill’s Missouri speech, denouncing him as ‘a firebrand of war’. But Churchill’s views were no longer seen by the US as either extreme or as an impediment to better relations with Stalin. Just days before Churchill had delivered his Fulton speech, the US JWPC had finalised their Operation Pincher war plans. US policy was turning full circle in its attitude to the Soviet Union:

It is wise to emphasise the importance of being so prepared militarily and of showing such firmness and resolution that the Soviet Union will not, through miscalculation of American intentions, push to the point that results in war.

The US draft plan for their own Unthinkable war estimated that in the spring of 1946 the Soviets had fifty-one divisions in Germany and Austria, fifty divisions in the near or Middle East and twenty divisions in Hungary and Yugoslavia. This force of 121 divisions was supported by a central reserve of 152 divisions in the homeland, and a total of 87 divisions of pro-Soviet forces within the satellite states of Eastern Europe. A Soviet attack would most likely sweep across Western Europe and seize the channel ports and the Low Countries in little more than a month. Simultaneous attacks would be launched into Italy as well as the Middle East. In the midst of such overwhelming force (again, an estimate of three to one in favour of Soviet infantry), it was recommended that US troops would retreat into Spain or Italy to avoid being decimated by the Red Army on the continent. It was conceivable that the Red Army would even carry the invasion into Spain in an attempt to block the western Mediterranean, in which case US forces would swiftly withdraw and retreat to Britain. While Britain was considered a valuable base, Germany, Austria, France and the Low Countries would be sacrificed. Retreating Allied forces would also move across to the Middle East to bolster defences around the vital Suez Canal Zone. It was no surprise that the US chiefs of staff now accepted that an essential object of Stalinist policy was to ‘dominate the world’.

There would be a fight-back by the West, of course, but not until the Red Army had swept through Western Europe, the Balkans, Turkey and Iran; in the Far East, South Korea and Manchuria would also fall. Although Pincher did not go into further detail, the US and her Allies would launch devastating air attacks from remaining bases in Britain, Egypt and India, no doubt deploying their growing stock of atomic bombs, though the use of such weapons was still not seen as a ‘war winner’. Meanwhile the US Navy would seek to blockade the Soviet Union and destroy her naval fleets, as attempts were eventually made to recover Western Europe by a southerly thrust via the Mediterranean.

One old festering wound in Europe that looked like it could precipitate Operation Pincher was the dispute between Tito and the West over the Venezia Giulia region. It was also this scare that brought together the US and British Joint Chiefs of Staff for their first planning sessions for a Third World War. The first British Unthinkable plan, involving the attack on Soviet forces on 1 July 1945, had not been discussed beyond the tight circle of the prime minister, his Joint Chiefs and their Joint Planners. Similarly, the highly sensitive US Pincher plan was initially confined to the US Joint Chiefs, their Joint Planners and the commander-in-chief. But on 30 August 1946 Field Marshal Henry ‘Jumbo’ Maitland Wilson, representing the British Joint Chiefs, attended a lunch with his American counterparts. Reporting back to his JCS committee, Wilson was able to reassure them that at least both sets of chiefs were alert to the risk of an armed clash in Venezia Giulia, which could pull in both power blocs, whether they wanted war or not. There was agreement that in the event of a conflict in the Venezia region it was pointless having a plan for large reinforcements to be sent into the territory, since the fight would swiftly spread into central Europe. Poland, no longer seen as the tripwire by late 1946, would nevertheless find herself at the very centre of military activity.

Ironically, the US chiefs were now discussing all the scenarios that Churchill had foreseen 18 months before, when formulating his plan for Unthinkable. President Truman had even appointed a Special Counsel, Clark Clifford, to report on the growing Soviet menace, concluding that Stalin believed ‘a prolonged peace’ between the Marxist and capitalist societies was impossible and the only outcome was war. At a top-level meeting between the US and Britain, even the new US chief of staff, General Eisenhower, was talking the Unthinkable talk of establishing Allied ‘bridgeheads’ in Europe. In the face of any Soviet onslaught he advocated withdrawing forces to bridgeheads in the Low Countries. As Churchill had earlier recommended, this would deny the enemy the use of bases from which to launch rocket attacks at Britain, as well as offering the Allies a short line of communication back to Britain. The UK would be of huge strategic value for the Allied air forces, though the Americans noted that longer airstrips would be required in British bases to enable more B–29 squadrons to be accommodated. The Naval representative also argued for a reoccupation of Iceland to broaden the reach of naval forces.

So, with a consensus reached, the meeting broke up, but not before it was agreed that the utmost secrecy should be imposed on the Combined Joint Chiefs of Staff outline plan, and that no one beyond the level of the chiefs and their immediate planners should be allowed access. The US chiefs were most keen to drive on and agree a command organisation for the US and Britain in the event of Soviet aggression, which they saw as ‘imminent’. However, it was not long before other senior British commanders became involved in the plans. On 16 September Field Marshal Montgomery, supposedly on a private visit to the United States, met with General Eisenhower and President Truman to discuss the war plan options for the West. Cabling Prime Minister Attlee to advise him of developments, Montgomery referred to the highly sensitive plan and stressed it was ‘Personal and Eyes only for PM’. ‘So far as I am aware, no (repeat) no one here knows anything about matter.’ Montgomery was keen to add, ‘all agree that secrecy is vital.’ To cover their trips to meet US Joint Planning Staff, the British planners used the excuse of researching for a ‘report on the strategical lessons of the recent war’. There was even concern within the British camp that the amply proportioned ‘Jumbo’ Wilson might have presented a large silhouette on board the yacht where he met with US chiefs. Furthermore, it was questioned whether British planners should wear ‘uniform or mufti’ when meeting with their American counterparts. Fortunately, the idea of ‘cocktail parties’ for visiting teams was hastily dispensed with.

Yet it seemed that the tight security in the US was now unravelling. The British were horrified to learn that the secretaries to the US War Department and Navy Department were also aware of the plan and it was only a matter of time before operatives in the US State Department heard of the details. British security operatives may well have been aware of the leaks to the Soviets from within the State Department and feared the worst. Attlee certainly did. Confiding to Field Marshal Wilson, he stated ‘the issues now raised are of the utmost importance and potential value, but any leakage would have the gravest consequences.’

During October 1946 the Canadian war planners were also introduced to the operation and a representative met with British and US planners for further meetings in London. Discussions included the intended bridgeheads and the capacity of Naval forces to evacuate US and British troops from mainland Europe, should the Red Army advance to the West. There was also the pressing problem of renewed Soviet threats to Greece and Turkey, as well as the issue of ‘standardisation’ of weapons and equipment between the US, Britain and Canada.

Operation Pincher went through a number of modifications during the summer of 1946, and the US Joint Planners ensured that it remained relevant, but it still excluded specific reference to the use of atomic bombs by the strategic bomber force. As with Unthinkable the planners made little attempt to project beyond the initial stages of a conflict, since there were just too many variables. One of the constant worries remained the issue of demobilisation. For with peace came a great desire for ‘bringing the boys home’ as soon as possible and for reducing the huge cost of a vast army. Consequently, by June 1946 the US armed forces, which had numbered more than 12 million at the end of the war, were reduced to fewer than 3 million. Secretary of State James Byrnes was frustrated with the whole process, ‘The people who yelled loudest for me to adopt a firm attitude towards Russia,’ he moaned, ‘then yelled even louder for the rapid demobilisation of the Army.’ So formidable was the strength of Soviet armour and infantry that once US troop reductions were underway, the planners concluded that Allied land forces would not be strong enough to drive into the Soviet interior for at least three years. Allied air power offered the only hope of victory, by employing massive strikes against ‘the industrial heart of Russia’.

It was unrealistic to believe that the Soviet Union could be threatened with oblivion in 1946. Even by the autumn of that year the US only possessed nine atomic bombs. There were two Mark III Fat Boys earmarked for testing off the US mainland, and seven Mark IIIs were held in secure housings on the mainland. They could only be delivered to the Soviet Union by the Silver Plate B–29, suitably modified to hold the weapon in place, but there was a lack of properly trained aircrews, as well as bomb assembly teams. Furthermore, scientists were returning to civilian life and the production of both uranium and plutonium was falling. However, production would be dramatically increased in the next few years, so that by the time of the first Soviet atomic test in 1949, the US would have a stockpile of some 400 atomic bombs. Despite the comfort of atomic superiority, senior commanders in the West were in no doubt about the consequences of an imminent world war. ‘My part in the next war,’ wrote Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris, ‘will be to be destroyed by it.’

While Britain and the US faced up to the Soviet Union, Poland, as a cause, had slipped off the list of priorities. During Christmas Eve 1946 the ‘Polish Sixteen’, who had been the hope of a future liberated Poland, were languishing in various Soviet prisons. One of the most prominent leaders, General Okulicki, passed his last hours in Moscow’s Butyrka Prison. His disappearance, together with other leading members of the Polish underground, in April 1945, had done much to increase the climate of fear surrounding Soviet intentions. He was either murdered by the NKVD or died as a result of his hunger strike; it has been estimated that between 1944 and 1947 some 50,000 Poles, including many members of the AK, were deported to the Soviet gulags. In the spring of 1946 the US Joint Chiefs declared that the Soviet Union was giving the highest priority to ‘building up their war potential and that of their satellites so as to be able to defeat the Western democracies’. To combat Soviet plans for ‘eventual world domination’, the West would also have to provide military and economic aid to frontline states, such as Greece, Turkey and Iran.

So the post-war Western governments continued their stand-off with the Soviet Union, a situation that became known as the Cold War. The 1947 elections in Poland were duly rigged and a communist government was returned. But the Polish government-in-exile in London continued its existence, despite the worldwide recognition of the communist puppet government in Poland. In fact, showing all the old stoicism, the London Poles continued their existence until 1991, when the old presidential seals were finally handed over to the first post-communist government in Warsaw. Throughout the late 1940s the Cold War festered with intermittent crises erupting, such as the Berlin Blockade, when the Soviets attempted to cut off Western access to Berlin. The West arranged an airlift of supplies to lift the ‘siege’ and, in 1949, the Soviets backed down. It was, however, a momentous year for other reasons – the Soviet Union developed its own atomic capability and the balance of power shifted again.

Operation Unthinkable might have been just another quiet footnote in the story of the Cold War, but in 1954 there was a bizarre incident involving Churchill and Montgomery that threatened to expose the whole plan.

In a low-key speech at his Woodford constituency, Churchill suddenly announced that in 1945 he had ordered Field Marshal Montgomery to preserve captured German weapons and to be ready to reissue those arms to ‘German soldiers whom we should have to work with if the Soviet advance continued’. An intrigued press tackled Montgomery for his comments and there ensued a wrangle over whether or not Churchill had ever formally issued the order. The Soviet press immediately seized on his comments, attacking ‘Churchill’s crusade’, and there were critical articles in the British and the US press. The Chicago Tribune attacked Churchill and his wartime policy with headlines that screamed ‘Folly on Olympian Scale’. The whole episode blew up out of nowhere but more rational observers wondered why, at the height of the Cold War, the prime minister would casually disclose such controversial plans to attack the Soviet Union. Major-General Sir Edward Spears was wheeled out in defence of Churchill. ‘The whole thing is absurd,’ he countered. ‘The Times is behaving as if Sir Winston had called in Hitler for help against Russia. Hitler was out of business.’ But the prime minister still had to calm the storm by admitting that he could find no telegram in his records and that he must have issued a verbal order to Montgomery. Privately he confessed, ‘I made a goose of myself at Woodford.’

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Air-to-air combat losses between the Soviet Union and the United States

Air-to-air combat losses between the Soviet Union and the United States

After World War II, there were many instances of air-to-air combat between the Soviet Union and the United States. During the Korean War formally the air forces did not meet, as the Soviet Union was not a combatant in the conflict. In August 1945 the USSR declared war on Japan and commenced their offensive campaigns against the Japanese Army.

Dogfight Over the Sea of Japan — The Cold War Air Battle That Officially Never Happened

Dogfight Over the Sea of Japan - The Cold War Air Battle That Officially Never Happened

THE COLD WAR wasn't always that cold. In fact, on a few occasions it got downright hot. One of those instances occurred on Nov. 18, 1952 over the Sea of Japan when a brief but furious dogfight broke out between a flight of four Soviet MiG-15s and an equal number of F9F-5 Panther jets from the carrier USS Oriskany .

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Cold War – Equipment Cost

The Ohio class is a class of nuclear-powered submarines currently used by the United States Navy. The navy has 18 Ohio-class submarines: 14 ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) and four that were later converted to guided missile submarines (SSGN).  The average cost of a Ohio is 2 billion with 50 million per year per sub in operating costs (1996 costs, 1996 dollars). So 50 years at 50 mil per year = 250 mil in operating costs, plus some upgrades (700mil each for an upgrade starting in 2002) and you’re still very short of 7 billion dollars.

All nations expended a substantial proportion of their defence budgets on equipment, and the Cold War was a ‘happy time’ for military men on both sides of the Iron Curtain, even though they constantly complained that they were short of money and starved of resources. The fact was that public funds had never been so generously lavished on military forces in peacetime, and many of the shortages were more apparent than real.

The naval, general and air staffs and the government procurement agencies alike faced many challenges, of which the most fundamental was that, in the worst case, the Third World War might have broken out very suddenly and then been both extremely violent and very short. This would have been quite unlike the First and Second World Wars, where there had been time to mobilize national industries, to develop new equipment, and to produce it all in sufficient quantities. But, whereas those wars had lasted four and six years respectively, the indications were that, in the worst case, the Third World War would have been over in a matter of months, perhaps even of weeks. Such a conflict would therefore have been fought with whatever was available at the time – a ‘come as you are’ war, as it was described at the time. In consequence, armed forces had to be constantly maintained at a state of high readiness, with their weapons, ammunition and equipment to hand – a process which proved difficult to sustain for forty years. A second problem was that the accelerating pace of science and technology, coupled with the lengthy development time for new equipment, meant that many weapons systems were obsolescent before they had even entered service.

Inside their respective pacts, the two superpowers enjoyed many advantages: their financial and industrial resources were huge in comparison to those of their allies, and their own forces were so large that they guaranteed a major domestic market for any equipment that was selected. They thus dominated their partners, and it proved a struggle for their European allies on either side of the Inner German Border to avoid being overwhelmed.

Even for the USA, however, military procurement was by no means smooth sailing. Enormous amounts of money were expended on systems which, for one reason or another, were cancelled before they reached service. One prime example was the effort devoted by the US air force to finding a successor to the Boeing B-52, to maintain its manned strategic bomber force. First there was the XB-70 Valkyrie hypersonic aircraft, which was followed by the B-1, the B-1A (which was virtually a new aircraft) and then the B-2. The sums expended on these aircraft for what was, in the end, very little return are almost incalculable. Further, quite what purpose such aircraft would have served in a nuclear war, apart from dropping H-bombs in gaps left by ICBMs and SLBMs, is not clear. The US army had some dramatic failures, too, such as the Sergeant York divisional air-defence system and the MBT-70 tank.

The US forces were certainly not alone in having problems. The Canadians, who had little enough money for defence, undertook three massive projects, which many contemporary observers warned were over-ambitious. The first was the all-Canadian Arrow fighter of the late 1950s, which reached the prototype stage before cancellation. The second, in the 1980s, was the submarine project which grew from three replacement diesel-electric submarines to twelve nuclear-propelled attack submarines; this reached an advanced stage, though short of orders being placed, before it was cancelled. The third, in the 1990s, was an order for over fifty Westland helicopters to replace ageing anti-submarine and general-purpose helicopters; this was summarily cancelled by a new government, and large compensation payments had to be made. These three projects incurred expenditure totalling hundreds of millions of dollars, but, in the end, there was not a single aircraft, submarine or helicopter to show for any of them.

The British suffered from two problems. The first was projects reaching an advanced stage and then being cancelled. This affected numerous aircraft, such as the Nimrod AWACS, the Vickers-Supermarine Swift fighter and the TSR-2 strike aircraft, while the navy suffered a similar fate with the CVA-01 aircraft carrier, as did the army with the SP70 self-propelled gun and the Blue Water battlefield missile. In addition, some of the projects that did reach service did so only after many years in development and the expenditure of great sums of money, when a viable foreign alternative was readily available at much lower cost.

This is not to deny that some excellent equipment was produced. In the USA, the Los Angeles-class SSNs and aircraft such as the B-52 bomber, F-86 Sabre, F-4 Phantom, F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon were world leaders in their day. Among British successes were the Canberra and Vulcan bombers, the Hunter fighter and the Harrier V/STOL aircraft, the Leander-class frigates and the Centurion tank. The Germans bought most of their aircraft from abroad, but on land their Leopard 1 and Leopard 2 tanks were outstandingly successful. The French produced some outstanding fighter aircraft in the Mirage series, which sold around the world.

Indeed, some European equipment was so good that it even found a market in the United States. The US air force, for example, purchased the British Canberra bomber, while the Marines ordered hundreds of Harrier V/STOL aircraft. In the 1980s the US army bought its most important communications system, RITA, from France, while its tank guns came first from the UK (105 mm) and subsequently from Germany (120 mm).

More Strategic Bombers

Strategic bombers exercised a major influence over the first half of the Cold War, principally because in the 1940s and 1950s they were the only practicable means of delivering the very heavy atomic and hydrogen weapons over intercontinental ranges. Allied to this, bombers had played a major role in the recently concluded Second World War, with the Allied bombing campaigns against Germany and Japan giving the appearance of a war-winning strategy. Indeed, the war had been brought to a close by the two USAAF (United States Army Air Force) B-29 bombers which dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

There were also bureaucratic reasons for the fierce advocacy of the bomber, however. The US air force finally became independent of the US army in 1947 and was extremely keen to prove itself to be the war-winning arm in the Cold War. In the UK, which found itself facing the reality that it was now only the second most powerful nation in the West, membership of the exclusive ‘nuclear club’ appeared to be the only way to retain superpower status, and, in the short term, bombers were the only feasible way of achieving that. On the Soviet side, the air force realized that it had never produced a bomber force to match those of the USA and UK, and was desperate to rectify this. Thus, from 1945 into the mid-1960s, the strategic bomber armed with nuclear weapons was the symbol of global power.

Atomic warfare was associated with aviation from the very beginning. The first and last nuclear weapons ever used in anger were dropped by U. S. B-29 bombers in August 1945 on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These actions represented the end of World War II (Japan soon surrendered) and the beginning of the Cold War (erstwhile allies aligned against one another). As postwar tensions mounted, the United States clung to its monopoly on atomic weapons as its trump card in any future conflict. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the U. S. Air Force developed the newly created Strategic Air Command into an elite force of medium- and long-range bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons to targets throughout the Soviet Union, a strategy of massive retaliation in the event of war with the communist nation. Though the Soviet Union tested its first atomic bomb in 1949-years earlier than expected-the United States remained well ahead in its capacity for nuclear attack throughout the 1950s. In the early 1950s, the superpowers added thermonuclear weapons to their arsenals; some explosive yields were 1,000 times more powerful than early atomic bombs. By the mid-1950s, it had become possible to kill an entire nation in a matter of days. U. S. military planners hoped their nuclear superiority would deter any war, but should it come they continued to believe they could “win” a nuclear exchange by undertaking a massive first strike, thereby preventing Soviet retaliation.

The study of German jet engines helped the Soviets develop their first jet fighters (in 1946, the MiG-9 and Yak-15 were introduced). At the same time, Soviet designers benefited from the wartime acquisition of several U. S. B-29 bombers. The strategic bomber force was reorganized in 1946 within the Soviet Air Force, equipped with Tu-4 heavy bombers (based on the B-29 design) and Il-28 medium bombers.

The progress of the Cold War since the 1960s, the development of nuclear, thermonuclear, and missile weaponry, as well as the development of entirely new technologies, prompted significant changes in the Soviet Air Force. The political and military leadership needed a world-class airpower to back up rising global ambitions and be able to participate in any number of contingencies-nuclear and conventional. At the same time, the greater emphasis on ICBMs in the development of strategic power allowed the Soviets to reduce a number of obsolete aircraft without lowering the combat capability of its air force.

From the 1960 to the 1980s, the Soviets modernized their fleet of strategic bombers and introduced the supersonic Tu-22 bomber (1963). Beginning in 1987, the Tu-160 strategic bomber entered service. This bomber force was an integral (although the smallest) part of the Soviet strategic triad. Additionally, air-to-surface cruise missiles enhanced the strategic function of these aircraft. The cruise missiles, as well as the introduction of the Tu-26 longer-range bomber, in 1974 gave the Soviet Air Force the ability to carry out deep strikes across Western Europe, the North Atlantic, and North America.

Bomber designers and the tacticians fought an unending war against the potential defenders in an effort to ensure that the bomber would get through to its targets. In the late 1940s the major threat came from radar-directed anti-aircraft guns, which had reached a considerable degree of sophistication, and the bombers’ first response was simply to fly higher than the effective ceiling of the guns. The next threat was air-defence fighters, and here again the bombers responded by flying higher and faster – there were numerous reports of British and US reconnaissance flights over the USSR in the early 1950s in which the Soviet fighters simply could not reach the same altitude as the intruder.

Second World War bombers were fitted with machine-guns in a variety of positions – including the nose, the waist, above and below the fuselage, and the tail – but these were rapidly reduced to just the tail, the elimination of the others saving considerable weight and enabling the aircraft to fly higher and faster. Also in the Second World War, bombers had been escorted by fighters, particularly on the USAAF’s daylight raids; but the strategic ranges now being flown were far in excess of anything a fighter could undertake. So in the 1950s the US air force trialled the idea of the B-36 bomber taking a fighter with it, with the latter being carried on a retractable cradle from which it could be launched in mid-air to deal with enemy fighters, then being recovered for the return to base. A special miniature fighter, the McDonnell XF-85 Goblin, was tested, as was the RF-84K, a modified version of the full-size F-84 Thunderjet fighter, but, although launching proved feasible, recovery did not, and the idea was not pursued.

Electronic countermeasures (ECM) were always used, becoming increasingly sophisticated as time passed. Thus electronic jamming was used to confuse enemy radars, as was ‘chaff’ (strips of metal foil cut to the wavelength of the radar), which was dropped in large quantities, either by the bomber or by specialized escorting aircraft.

One of the earliest devices to help the bomber get through was the US air force’s ADM-20 Quail, which resembled a miniature unmanned aircraft and was dropped over enemy territory, where it flew for some 400 km, using its on-board ECM devices to confuse the enemy as to the strength, direction and probable targets of the incoming bomber force. A maximum of three Quails could be carried by a B-52, and the device was in service from 1962 to 1979.

The main emphasis then turned to stand-off missiles – a concept which, like so many others, had its genesis in Germany, where V-1 missiles had been launched from Heinkel He-111 bombers in 1944–5. The Cold War missiles carried a nuclear warhead and were designed to be launched from the bomber while still outside the range of the enemy air defences. One of the first was the US Hound Dog – a slim missile with small delta wings, and powered by a turbojet – which entered service in 1961. Two Hound Dogs, each with a 1 MT nuclear warhead, were carried beneath the wings of a B-52. The missile could be set to fly at any height between about 50 m and 16,000 m, and had a range at high level of 1,140 km, less at low level. The guidance system was capable of high- or low-level approach, with dog-legs and jinxes to confuse the defence.

Next came the unhappy saga of Skybolt, which was an attempt to use a bomber to launch a ballistic missile, which would have given longer range and, of greater importance, a much shorter flight time. The UK air force joined the project, but the incoming Kennedy administration unilaterally cancelled it in December 1961 – greatly to the indignation of the British, who used the issue as a lever to obtain Polaris missiles and SSBN technology to replace its V-force bombers.

The Short-Range Attack Missile (SRAM), which entered service in 1972, was a rocket-propelled missile with a 170 kT nuclear warhead and a speed of Mach 3. SRAMs could fly either a semi-ballistic, a terrain-following or an ‘under-the-radar’ flight profile, the latter terminating in a pull-up and high-angle dive on to the target. The range depended on the height, and was from 56 km at low level to 170 km at high level. B-52s normally carried twenty SRAMs, while the FB-111A carried six and the B-1B twenty-four.

The Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) entered service with the US air force in 1982. This weapon had folding wings which extended when it was dropped from the carrier aircraft, and was powered by a small turbojet engine. Designed exclusively for low-level flight, the ALCM used a radar altimeter to maintain height and a map-matching process known as terrain comparison (TerCom) to give very precise navigation. The nuclear-armed version (AGM-96B) had a 200 kT warhead, a CEP of 30 m and a range of some 2,500 km. The AGM-96C was conventionally armed, with a high-explosive warhead, and this version demonstrated its effectiveness and accuracy when thirty-five were launched by B-52s during the Gulf War. B-52s could carry up to twelve and B-1Bs twenty-four.

Soviet stand-off missile development followed a similar pattern and time-scale, although in the early stages of the Cold War the missiles tended to be much larger and less effective than their US counterparts. Indeed, the first missile designed for use by strategic bombers, the AS-3 (NATO = ‘Kangaroo’) remains the largest air-launched missile to go into service, with a length of some 15 m, a wingspan of 9 m and a weight of 11,000 kg; only one could be carried by a Tu-95 (Bear-B). It did, however, have a useful range (650 km) and a high speed (Mach 2), and with an 800 kT warhead it was targeted against large area targets such as cities and ports.

The AS-15 (NATO = ‘Kent’) was much smaller and generally similar in size, performance and role to the US Tomahawk; sixteen could be carried by the Tu-95 Bear-B and twelve by the Tu-160 Blackjack. It carried a 200 kT nuclear warhead and flew at high subsonic speeds over a range of some 3,000 km at a height of 200 m, with an accuracy (CEP) of 150 m.

The most dramatic bomber to serve with SAC was the tailless, delta-winged Convair B-58, with a Mach 2 speed and 8,250 km range. Air-to-air refuelling enabled the B-58 to undertake long flights (e.g. from Tokyo to London), loudly advertising its wartime capabilities. The aircraft used a unique system in which a large pod under the fuselage housed both the nuclear weapon and the fuel for the outward flight; it was dropped complete, enabling the aircraft to make a very rapid getaway before returning to base on its internal fuel supply. Although generally successful, the B-58 was very expensive to operate, even by US standards, and was retired after just ten years’ service, without replacement.

In 1969 US satellites began to return photographs of a new Soviet bomber on the apron at the new aircraft factory at Kazan. This turned out to be a swing-wing version of the Tupolev Tu-22, designated Tu-22M (NATO = ‘Backfire’). Subsequently, a virtually new aircraft with some external similarities to the Tu-22M appeared and was put into production as the Tu-26 (NATO = ‘Backfire-B’). (The relationship between the Tu-22M and the Tu-26 was probably similar to that between the American B-1A and B-1B.)

Three versions of the Tu-26 entered service, one of which carried nuclear weapons for use in the land-attack role. There were, however, repeated arguments between the United States and the Soviet Union over the role of this bomber, with the former stating and the latter denying that it was a strategic bomber. This became a major issue in the SALT II negotiations, and President Brezhnev eventually ordered that the aircraft’s flight-refuelling probes be removed to prove that it did not have the ability to reach the USA, although since these could have been replaced in less than thirty minutes this was only a token gesture. The Tu-26 entered service in the mid-1970s and was produced at the rate agreed under SALT II – thirty per year – with service numbers peaking at about 220.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Cold War Part I

It took time before the western zones of Germany were amalgamated and gained autonomy, and the communists were defeated in the Greek Civil War. The Sovietization of eastern Europe was a steady process, completed with the Czech coup of 1948, and only effectively resisted by Tito, another communist. Austria did not join the ranks of the neutrals until the country was reunited in a 1955 treaty and promised not to confederate with either West or East Germany.
1. from Germany to Poland 1945
2. from Germany to USSR 1945
3. returned to Czechoslovakia from Hungary 1945
4.  returned to Romania from Hungary 1945
5. from Hungary to USSR 1945
6. from Romania to USSR 1945
7. to USSR 1940, lost 1941, retaken 1944
8. to USSR 1940, lost 1941-44,
9. returned 1947 o to USSR 1947
10. Federal Republic of Germany  formed Sept. 1949
As victory over Germany grew closer, tensions among the Allies grew. The ideological conflict between the Soviet Union and the West had been only temporarily eclipsed by the common effort against Hitler. Numerous contentious issues, including the slow development of a second front and the future political status of Poland and Germany signaled possible postwar conflicts. Stalin recognized that the Soviet Union was bearing the brunt of the war against Germany and suspected that the British and the Americans would be happy to let that continue. After all, Harry Truman, then a Senator, had remarked in 1941, “If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany and that way let them kill as many as possible.” After the opening of the second front in June 1944, disputes over the future shape of Europe threatened to wreck relations. President Franklin Roosevelt put a high priority on staying on good terms with Stalin, well aware Soviet troops were doing most of the fighting. At a three-way summit in Tehran in November–December 1943, Winston Churchill and Roosevelt agreed to Stalin’s keeping the Polish territory he had seized as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

The fates of Germany and of Eastern Europe were still unsettled. Unable to reach a consensus on the German question, the three Allies, meeting at Yalta in February 1945, agreed as a stopgap measure to divide the country into occupation zones. At American insistence, France was included as an occupying power. The result was the division of Germany and of Berlin into four zones each, one for each power. This was not intended as a permanent solution, only a temporary expedient until a better solution was reached. Yalta also tried to reach some compromise on Eastern Europe. The war against Germany was clearly won, but Roosevelt’s priority had shifted to Soviet cooperation against Japan. Stalin’s actions made it clear that he intended to establish friendly governments in Eastern Europe. Needing Stalin’s assistance, and with the Red Army occupying Eastern Europe, Roosevelt had little choice but to acquiesce. Churchill and Roosevelt did obtain Stalin’s commitment to democratic governments in Eastern Europe. Both sides had, however, very different ideas about what democratic meant. So while there were very real conflicts about the future of Europe, Yalta had achieved at least a temporary solution.

In April 1945, though, Roosevelt died. He was replaced by Harry Truman, who had much less commitment to fostering Soviet-American relations. This coincided with growing evidence that Soviet policy in Eastern Europe was incompatible with Western interests. Given the history of Soviet-Polish relations, no democratic government in Poland could be pro-Soviet, defining democracy in Western terms of free expression and free elections. Stalin’s unshakable desire for a friendly and docile Poland thus required active Soviet intervention in Polish politics. Similar processes occurred in the Balkans, where pro-Soviet parties took power in Bulgaria and in Romania. The universal presence of the Red Army made Stalin’s task simpler. This Sovietization did not happen uniformly or immediately. Hungary, and especially Czechoslovakia, maintained open, multiparty systems for several years. By 1948, though, Eastern Europe had been thoroughly Sovietized. Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria were all run by one-party systems, taking direction from Moscow. Yugoslavia was communist as well, but its large wartime resistance movement under Jozef Broz Tito meant communist rule was imposed without active Soviet involvement, and in 1948 Yugoslavia broke from the Soviet bloc while remaining communist. Overall, though, the Soviet Union replicated its own political system in the territories under its control, and the West was terrified by what it saw.

The West also saw evidence of Stalin’s potential hostility outside of the Soviet bloc. Stalin was reluctant to withdraw his troops from northern Iran after World War II. Britain had attempted to maintain its prewar influence in the Mediterranean by supporting Greece and Turkey. The pro-Western Greek government was under threat from a domestic communist insurgency, backed by Yugoslavia. Turkey, by contrast, was facing Soviet pressure for concessions at the Turkish Straits. By 1947, Britain was near bankruptcy and could no longer underwrite Greek and Turkish security. The result was a new commitment by the United States to European politics. Truman agreed to take over Britain’s role in the Mediterranean and committed the United States to containing communism more generally. In early 1947 he proclaimed the Truman Doctrine, pledging American support to peoples attempting to maintain their freedom against outside pressures: communism. Massive economic and military aid to Greece and Turkey followed.

Despite the growing tensions, the Cold War was not yet military. It involved a competition for political influence, but the threat of force remained muted. Both the United States and the Soviet Union had demobilized their armies rapidly after the war. Soviet manpower dropped to under 3 million by 1948 and was moreover counterbalanced by the American atomic monopoly.

In mid-1948, though, the Cold War’s military side began to become more important. The trigger was Germany. The occupying powers had all imposed their own social and political systems in their respective zones. The difference was that Germans found the Western systems much more pleasant. The Soviet zone saw the steady imposition of one-party dictatorship, while the Western zones enjoyed the slow return of normal social, economic, and political life. As time passed, it became more and more difficult to envisage a way in which the steadily diverging British, French, and American zones, on the one hand, and the Soviet zone, on the other, could be brought back together.

In response to the creation of a unified currency for the three Western zones, Stalin acted to halt the creation of a pro-Western Germany by exerting pressure on the West’s most vulnerable spot: the Western-occupied enclaves in Berlin, buried deep inside the Soviet zone. On 24 June 1948, he shut off road and railroad access to West Berlin. Stalin did not see this as a prelude to war, for the Soviet occupying force in Germany made no preparations for war. Indeed, the entire operation seems quite shortsighted; Stalin made no provisions for military complications and cut off Berlin while the United States still enjoyed an atomic monopoly. It was instead an effort either to liquidate the Western presence in Berlin or to force a better deal for Stalin in Germany as a whole. After considering and rejecting the option of testing the Berlin blockade with military force, the United States and Britain organized the Berlin airlift, supplying the city with food and fuel by air. The Soviet military harassed flights into Berlin, but did not halt them. When the blockade had clearly failed, Stalin canceled it on 12 May 1949.

Simultaneously with the Berlin blockade, Stalin remilitarized the Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union itself. Eastern Europe had generally been demilitarized after the war. Hungary’s army, for example, bottomed out at a mere 5,000 soldiers (plus 8,000 border guards). In 1948, however, a major military buildup began throughout Eastern Europe. Soviet military advisors flooded Eastern Europe, and Soviet satellite governments were instructed to build mass armies. Domestic military traditions were obliterated and replaced by the wholesale Russianization and Sovietization of uniforms, doctrine, traditions, and training. Top military officials had Soviet minders. In the case of Poland, Stalin appointed Konstantin Konstantinovich Rokossovskii, a Soviet marshal of Polish ancestry, as Poland’s Minister of Defense. Levels of interference varied, depending on the particular country’s strategic importance and the level of anti-Soviet attitudes. Bulgaria was relatively free; Poland was tightly controlled. There was at this point no overarching structure; the Soviet Union managed its military ties to Eastern Europe through individual, bilateral arrangements.