The National Archives and Records Administration has released a detailed study that offers new insight into United States’ Cold War planning (like how to execute World War III and annihilate mankind) in 1959 including the systematic and overwhelming destruction of urban-industrial targets, purposefully targeting civilian populations in all cities, including Beijing, Moscow, Leningrad, East Berlin, and Warsaw, by dropping atomic bombs eight times the yield of the bomb that destroyed Japan’s Hiroshima.
While we are glad that WWIII didn’t happen then, today’s simmering tensions and the return of great power politics bring with it the risk of powerful states going to war unleashing previously unseen forms of warfare and using nuclear weaponry to inflict unthinkable irreversible damage on the enemy state.
Don’t believe us? Well, Russia is developing a drone submarine, dubbed Kanyon, capable of “damaging the important components of the adversary’s economy in a coastal area and inflicting unacceptable damage to a country’s territory by creating areas of wide radioactive contamination that would be unsuitable for military, economic, or other activity for long periods of time” – in layman’s terms, Putin is developing an underwater drone that can deliver a nuclear warhead and wreck havoc on American shores.
Since it would only take a small spark to start a conflict between US and Russia, which can snowball into a full-blown war, let’s see how many countries have nuclear armaments, how powerful are modern nuclear weapons, and how worrying should we be about a nuclear war…
Nine countries together possess nearly 16,000 nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia maintain about 1,800 of their nuclear weapons on high-alert status – ready to be launched within minutes of a warning. While China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States are officially recognized as possessing nuclear weapons by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), India, Israel, and Pakistan are known to possess nuclear weapons – though the three never joined the NPT. North Korea had been a party to the NPT but withdrew in 2003. It is estimated that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has 6-8 plutonium based warheads as of 2015.
America detonated the first ever nuclear weapon in a New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945. The Trinitytest yielded about 20,000 tons of TNT, enough to cover an estimated area of about five square miles in radioactivity. 70 years since, nearly 2,000 nuclear tests have been performed, and about 125,000 nuclear bombs have been built.
The two nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII yielded about 36,000 tons of TNT and killed at least 129,000 people. Looking at the amount of energy discharged and the subsequent catastrophe, they (Little Boy dropped on Hiroshima and Fat Man dropped on Nagasaki) could easily be termed extraordinarily powerful explosions.
But 16 years later, on October 30, 1961, Russia detonated Tsar Bomba with the force of 3,800 Hiroshima explosions; tested with a yield of 50 million tons of TNT, it was and still remains the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated. The ensuing detonation threw up a mushroom cloud 64 kilometers high and would’ve subjected anyone 100 kilometers away to third degree burns. It was originally supposed to deliver a yield of 100 million tons, which would destroy an area the size of Connecticut.
After the Soviet Union conducted its first nuclear test explosion in 1949, the United Kingdom (1952), France (1960), and China (1964) followed. Between 1945 and 1990, more than 70,000 total warheads were developed, in over 65 different varieties, ranging in yield from around .01 kilotons to the 25 megaton B41 bomb.
At the height of the Cold War, thousands of US and Soviet ballistic missiles on high alert were capable of delivering up to 10 independently targeted warheads at a time, each one 20 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. At the peak of its arsenal in 1988, Russia possessed around 45,000 nuclear weapons in its stockpile, roughly 13,000 more than the United States arsenal, the second largest in the world, which peaked in 1966. By the end of the Cold War, the US was estimated to hold about 3.8 billion tons worth of nuclear weapon yield.
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