November 1990 (vol. 7, #1) 1601 N. Tucson Blvd. Suite 9, Tucson AZ 85716 c 1991 J Orient


How many weapons of mass destruction would it take to destroy the American military?

It depends on a number of factors: the yield of the weapons used; the circular error probable of the delivery system; the concentration or dispersal of the forces; and defensive capabilities for interdicting the threat and protecting personnel and equipment.

The threat posed by the Soviet first-strike nuclear arsenal is perceived to have evaporated overnight, although the hardware remains intact. No other force or combination of forces in today's world could conceivably disarm the American military on American soil. Is there any reason for a nuclear superpower to feel insecure because of Saddam Hussein, who won't have nuclear weapons for two to five years?

There are historical precedents for the instantaneous loss of the stronger army (e.g. Deut 11:4 and Jud 4:7). The prerequisite was to trap the army in a small area.

Soon, 400,000 American troops will be in the Middle East. With them will be more than half of our most sophisticated aircraft. They will be within range of several types of weapons of mass destruction.

The Chemical Threat

According to US intelligence sources, Iraqi forces invading Kuwait carried chemical weapons, mostly in the form of artillery shells. Satellite photographs showed special troops unloading the weapons from stockpiles during the buildup of forces preceding the invasion. Decontamination equipment was moved into Kuwait (CWCB, Sept 1990).

Producers are scrambling to meet the demand for protective gear. But what type of equipment are they making?

After spending over $100 million to develop respirators (cf. the $6 to $8 million required to develop the British S-10 respirator), the US Army continues to rely heavily on the 40-year old M-17 model, which fails to meet basic NATO standards. The improved newer models are still said to be a ``disastrous combination of poorly conceived and executed technology.'' For example, the MCU-2P requires an attached rubber-coated hood to offer even minimum protection, and the hood contributes greatly to heat stress. US allies, such as Israel, find US respirators and hoods unacceptable.

For eight years, scientists at a defense research establishment in the Netherlands have been demonstrating the effect of dropping chemical agents on standard US Army protective clothing: they splash right through. According to Evan Koslow, former editor of Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Defense and Technology, there is no deployed NBC protective uniform in the free world that fails this test, except in the US (Armed Forces Journal International, May, 1990).

US protective garments are made of permeable fabric with a lining of activated charcoal. Other nations manufacture garments of impermeable material as well. The rationale for the US choice of gear is to minimize heat stress. However, a soldier still cannot work in the suits for longer than half an hour in desert sunlit conditions. External evaporative cooling like that used with Soviet equipment can, under some conditions, extend endurance to two hours, but would inactivate the charcoal in American suits.

All currently available protective equipment could be defeated by the use of new agents, for example perfluoroisobutylene (PFIB). PFIB penetrates conventional activated carbon, the universal NBC air-filtering agent. Such agents would seep through treaties also, since these cover only substances currently believed to be useful for chemical warfare (ibid.)

There is considerable ongoing work on problems of chemical protection, much of it classified.

The threat of chemical weapons delivered by Iraqi ballistic missiles has led some of the harshest critics of strategic defense (even Sen. Edward Kennedy) to acknowledge the possible benefits of a ``theater missile defense.'' However, the Extended Range Intercept Technology (ERINT) has suffered in the budget cuts. The first flight tests are set for 1992.

Fuel-Air Explosives

Rumors that Iraq might have the near-equivalent of nuclear weapons refer to fuel-air explosives (FAE). With the proper type of detonator, an explosion of a fuel-air mixture can produce an overpressure of 300 psi. Within the detonation cloud, blast shelters can be damaged and their occupants killed. Iraq may have had access to FAE technology from West Germany or the Soviet Union.

While some authorities say there is no defense against FAE weapons, an expedient defense actually has been demonstrated in tests conducted at White Sands missile range and elsewhere. The principle is to ignite the gas and cause a deflagration before the fuel-air mixture can be detonated. (This would still be very destructive, but would not harm persons in properly constructed shelters.) One needs a method of detecting the expanding cloud and triggering a very hot ignition point (e.g. one produced by a fuse made of a powder train of black powder). Many different devices are conceivable. An 18-inch dead tumbleweed tied with a string to the wire handle of a fuse lighter has been used with some success.

Are the Iraqis the Only Threat?

Although Secretary of State Jim Baker has stated that ``the Soviet Union has proven a responsible partner, suggesting new possibilities for active superpower cooperation in resolving regional conflicts'' (ROA National Security Report 10/90), the resolution conceivably could be different from the one he envisions (see p. 2). What if one superpower could be eliminated from the equation?