Sunday, June 1, 2008

Purity of Essence

One of my fav movies ever.... Dr. Strangelove satirizes the cold war and the strategy of "mutually assured destruction" (MAD) that was supposed to prevent nuclear attacks.

In the 60's, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) was responsible for a major chunk of the US nuclear delivery platforms. They controlled the B-52 bombers and the ICBM's (The other nuclear delivery platforms were the ultimate deterrent - submarine launched ICBM's - and tactical nukes launched as artillery shells). To provide deterrence, SAC operated a fleet of B-52's in the air at all times, ready to strike targets in the Soviet Union within 2 hours of orders. This was called Operation Chromedome.

The movie portrays a B-52 bomber crew who have been given orders to bomb their targets by a lunatic general. What is impressive is the level of detail to which the actual nuclear dropping operations have been shown. The youtube clip below shows it all - multiple levels of security to make sure that accidental nuclear strikes don't happen; as well as security to ensure that once orders are given, they can be followed easily.

Which brings us to the economics of having a nuclear capability. You might need to spend only 30 billion to develop a nuke. But developing reliable delivery platforms will cost you a 100 times that. And developing a set of processes for handling these nukes safely is priceless.

As for the title of this post, you need to watch the movie to get it :-)

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