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Missilemap (nuclearsecrecy.com)
190 points by Fej on Aug 28, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 50 comments

If anyone is interested in a real-life simulation of a nuclear missile crisis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VZ3LGfSMhA

I try to plug it whenever I can. It's an amazing piece of art, and it's one of the best ghost stories ever told.

Wow. It's gone.

And I didn't wget the video when I had the chance.

I can't believe it's gone. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14508078 All of them. There were like nine versions of the video, published by an anonymous author over the course of a year and a half. People were suspecting it was more than just a talented amateur. We'll never know.

That's so strange! Ben Marking, who are you?

EDIT: It's up. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_D3vCiYbXFE Thanks to dcgoss and junkculture for looking. Apparently they removed all the old revisions, so we're left with this one.

It was an incredible video! I can't believe it's gone either. The mystique behind "Ben Marking" as discussed in that thread is only enhanced by this disappearance.

Edit: It's back? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbB0srzLuuo

Aha. This appears to be the latest version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_D3vCiYbXFE

Thank you.

I think what happened is that the author removed the nine revisions and uploaded this latest one on the 17th. It was interesting to see their progression though.

Going to youtube-dl it just in case.

This video made me realize I don't think I understand how nuclear war is supposed to work. Why is a thermonuclear bomb necessary to take out an air base? Why are battlefield nukes a thing at all? The only use for nukes that I can imagine is true total war. I suppose total war would be necessary against a large country with diverse infrastructural elements, like the United States.

You don't need nukes to take out an air base, you need nukes to take out a hundred air bases at once.

Look at the one time nukes were used in war (so far) for an example. The US didn't need nukes to destroy those cities. Hiroshima and Nagasaki probably weren't even the deadliest bombing raids of the war: that honor goes to the attack on Tokyo on March 9-10 1945.

The difference is that it took 339 B-29s to devastate Tokyo, but only one B-29 to devastate Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

If you have a few hundred bombers armed with conventional weapons, they can destroy a large target. Arm them with nuclear weapons and they can destroy hundreds of large targets.

Battlefield nukes are similar. An attacking enemy tank division can be stopped by a division of your own... or a single nuclear artillery shell.

This was really important during the cold war because the USSR had massive superiority in conventional arms. NATO troops were significantly outnumbered, and they weren't willing to spend what it would take to reach parity. Nukes were a cheap way to defend. Instead of stopping invading Soviet troops with lots of your own troops, stop them by blowing them up.

Then it just escalates. If the other guy can nuke your troops, you need to be able to nuke his or else you'll lose the war. You want to stop the other guy's nukes, so you nukes nukes that can destroy their air bases and missiles, not just tactical nukes. If the war continues then supplying your troops becomes important, and you need to destroy their factories and transportation infrastructure too.

Nukes come in a range of sizes.

The MOAB weighs 21k pounds and is equivalent to 11 tons of TNT.

The W54 battlefield nuke weighs 51 pounds and is equivalent to 10-20 tons of TNT

Just to clarify, MOAB is a conventional ordnance

The W54 had several versions, one of which hit up to 1 KT (1,000 tons TNT equivalent) yield. Another had 250 tons of TNT yield, intended for air-to-air use.


According to a comment left by the channel owner a few days ago, the videos are still all available - just unlisted. He was fed up moderating all the comments and wants to "make room for upcoming productions".

Time to start searching your browser history I guess :p

There is an interesting series of posts (several years old), that explores possibility of a WW III, a nuclear one, had it started in year 1983. It's fiction (obviously), but a convincing one. With a ton of really interesting comments and maps illustrating movements of different armies. The "(hist)story" is based on declassified documents, historical context, existing technology available in 1983. If you found this video interesting, I suggest you read it. https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/able-archer-8...

So chilling I couldn't watch. Reminds me of watching "The day after".

Yeah. My thoughts exactly, that's the stuff of nightmares. One of the big worries I have is that a losing super power would turn to nukes once conventional weapons stores are exhausted.

The nukes only get turned to in that sense, as a territory protection matter, not as an offensive option after conventional weapons are exhausted.

It's pretty straight-forward and has been for decades: conventional forces go first; if you begin losing badly, then you pull the nuclear card to prevent any meaningful territorial losses; the war ends in some variation of a stalemate.

Whether they can make it work that way in practice, hopefully we'll never find out. The biggest challenge to the practice of it, is dealing with even small existing territorial losses when the nuclear card comes out. Countries like Pakistan and North Korea may also not function that way, hard to guess about their operations under pressure just due to the nature of their brittle regimes, but most of their leadership also likely wants to live.

In the context of the video where nuclear weapons are used in a war:

"It's pretty straight-forward and has been for decades: conventional forces go first; if you begin losing badly, then you pull the nuclear card to prevent any meaningful territorial losses; the war ends in some variation of a stalemate."

Exactly where have nuclear weapons used "for decades" in this way?

United States, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, France, North Korea...

They are "used" passively. Any country that has the ability to create a nuclear explosion is constantly using them as diplomatic leverage. Even if you don't detonate them, even if you don't talk about them directly, the capability alone shapes reality.

The video is about activly using nuclear weapons in a war.

Parent was

"One of the big worries I have is that a losing super power would turn to nukes once conventional weapons stores are exhausted."

Nuclear tests have been going on since the 1940s. And bigger and bigger ones every time.

It's a pretty impressive video all right. Still, I have to think - presuming it's meant to be real-time, it could happen that fast, but I don't think it could happen that way that fast. I'm not a military logistics expert, but I'd have to think, to have that much movement and activity going in an hour, they would need to spend weeks, months ahead of time getting everything planned out and in position. Steps which would presumably be very obvious to the various NATO intelligence agencies.

Now that it's gone I _really_ want to see it. I mean, I was interested in it before... but why is it gone? Any idea what the title was, or description?

The ending of these videos scare the shit out of me. The nuclear missile launch warning robotic voice and the klaxons are too much for me.

I think it's even customised for your country - I got one for Australia. Best use of region locking I've ever seen

Thank you for ruining my productivity

I really recommend a BBC made movie from the 80s called Threads. I reckon it was the most harrowing thing I've ever watched on TV.

What is the point of this, other then scaremongering?

It serves as a reminder that it's wise to have a mentally stable commander in chief.

"Scaremongering" implies that you're doing it insincerely and making people afraid of something they should't actually fear. I'm pretty sure this is entirely sincere, and nuclear war is a huge actual hazard for humanity.

Warn us of the dangers of fake news.

Really, this video should have been tagged more appropriately. And they shouldn't have used the BBC branding.

Related: the author recently wrote this 5-year retrospective about NUKEMAP, which is MISSILEMAP's precursor


Interesting. What I really admire is the work that went into it, like documenting how to construct a permalink, and hide various elements. Or use the JS console to disable the dynamic Monte Carlo length.

"It was made to aid in discussions about missile development, since the technical nature of honest-to-god 'rocket science' can make it rather impenetrable from the perspective of laymen, yet many of the fundamental questions are key to local understanding of geopolitical questions (e.g., 'could North Korea hit my city with their latest missile?')."

And in case you're curious, here are the latest figures I could dig up on N. Korea's launch capabilities. Caveat emptor!

Range: 10,000 km (Hwasong-14 aka KN-20 test successes indicate >6690km range, though the missile appears to break up on reentry)

Circular Error Probable: ? Poor. Could not hit a city, especially since it breaks up before hitting the target. The fine article says 2 km is what early Chinese ICBMs could achieve, so it makes sense as a starting point.

Yield: 7-8 kilotons according to seismic estimates.

> Circular Error Probable: ? Poor.

In a paper from a defense think tank, I read that when nuclear weapons were developed, at least one major tactical reason was that the accuracy of all munitions at the time was similarly poor (long before modern precision weapons); remember it could take waves of bombers and hundreds of bombs to destroy one building in WWII. The blast radius of nuclear weapons was a solution to that problem.

They also said that precision weapons could, in that way, replace nuclear weapons. If your weapon is accurate enough to hit a building reliably, you need a much smaller blast radius, and destroying the entire city doesn't have a military benefit. For awhile, and maybe still, the U.S. was considering a system called Prompt Global Strike with that application in mind.

I don't think precision weapons could entirely replace nuclear weapons. They could to a degree, but if you want to destroy, say, every enemy military base simultaneously, the number of conventional precision weapons needed for that would be cost prohibitive.

Accuracy is also a reason why nuclear weapons got bigger and bigger up to the 1960s or so, then began to shrink. It's also why the Soviets tended to have larger ones than the Americans. If your bombers or ICBMs are only accurate to within a couple of miles, then you need a big bomb to reliably destroy your target. If they're accurate to within a couple hundred feet, you can use a much smaller bomb.

Prompt global strike is still being worked on, but I don't think they have it figured out yet. It would be relatively easy to stick a conventional bomb on an ICBM and do it that way, but the enemy couldn't distinguish that from a nuclear launch, so there are fears of false alarms.

> if you want to destroy, say, every enemy military base simultaneously, the number of conventional precision weapons needed for that would be cost prohibitive

For the U.S. and similarly wealthy militaries, the math doesn't seem to support that statement. You don't need to destroy every base, just enough to effectively eliminate the enemy's military capability. Let's say that's even 10,000 targets - that's not a lot of munitions for a war. At $2 million a pop - rounding up Wikipedia's price for a high-end cruise missile - that's $20 billion, a pittance in war. The Iraq War, not a major one, cost over $1 trillion AFAIK (up to the first pullout, that is; it's not over yet).

For poor countries, who lack international networks for targeting and communication in addition to the munitions and launch systems, I think the statement holds up. It's also cost-effective for another reason: 1 nuke aimed at Seoul or Tokyo or LA is enough to deter attackers in almost any situation.

10,000 conventional targets doesn't seem anywhere close to enough to destroy the military capacity of a superpower.

Look at the US's cruise missile attack on that Syrian airbase a few months back. That was something like 50 missiles and the base was back in service in a day.

> Look at the US's cruise missile attack on that Syrian airbase a few months back. That was something like 50 missiles and the base was back in service in a day.

Excellent point.

Any idea what's that thing in North-West Algeria that's on the map by default?

Seems like the only launch site that you can see on the map by default, which doesn't make a lot of sense since Algeria is a non-nuclear weapon state. Quick searching around tells me no other country stores nukes there neither.

It's precisely 35 degrees North latitude and 0 degrees longitude. There's nothing actually there.

Has anyone watched the live entry of the US mirv's launched from one of our subs to the range of 4k miles? The warheads enter and hit the intended targets within 100m. US ICBMs eliminate guidance error using multiple methods, some of which require no outside signals. They are wicked accurate, without GPS or ground signals. I assume the Russians have the same. Ergo we are all fukered

In missle theory greater accuracy means having to fire fewer and smaller warheads to destroy a target. So greater accuracy probably means fewer civilians hit in a given exchange. But then MAD theory suggests such reductions could result in a greater willingness to start a war.

"Worker's housing" has been an explicit objective of strategic bombing campaigns since WWII. "Worker's housing" as in "obliterate the enemy's civilian population centers".


One of the ways this works is that a lot of the guidance data is stored onboard and updated often (things like the density of earth under the missile's trajectory)

This 'software' upgradability is why the same old missile can get more and more accurate as better data is fed into the onboard guidance computer.

It bugs me that engineers spent countless hours perfecting these killing machines and yet we still don't have a cure for most forms of cancer. It's ludicrous.

If you take the engineers building rockets and ask them to cure cancer instead we probably still wouldn't get a cure for cancer.

Curing cancer is not an engineering problem, and can't be done using engineering methods. Not the methods that are used to develop weapons, at least. Bio-engineering is a much, much younger discipline.

Shall we play a game?

Tic Tac Toe ? :-)

How about a nice game of chess?

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