View Full Version : 99 Red Balloons: A Recipe for Armageddon!

06-02-2001, 09:47 PM
Okay, I'll stop with the stupid titles, but I do have an actual question.

Could enough latex balloons look like incoming missiles to radar? Would it have been wise to release latex balloons north of the DEW Line during the Cold War? How 'bout mylar?

I know we've had close calls. Did anything like this happen, or was Nina on some drugs?

-Derleth, incorrigible retro junkie.

06-02-2001, 09:57 PM
I'd guess that such detection radars measure speed and trajectory as well as position and size. There's no way you can mimic the speed of a missile using balloons - missiles accelerate faster than even manned spacecraft.

The Ryan
06-02-2001, 10:09 PM
I think the idea was that the generals wanted war, and so were willing to take anything, even something as innocuous as 99 balloons, as evidence of hostile intentions. If it were possible to mistake balloons for missiles, the point of the song would be lost.

Phoenix Dragon
06-03-2001, 02:30 AM
From what I understand (Can't remember the source, though!), thermal systems were used to detect the actuall launch of a ballistic missile. A bunch of balloons wouldn't have anywhere near the correct thermal signature for a missile launch :)

06-03-2001, 12:18 PM
For the record, it was Nena, not Nina. Her real name was Gabriele Kerner, and she was German. (Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't 99 Luftballonsactually just translate into "99 ballooons?" I think the "red" was added into the English translation.)

I was always under the impression that the balloons were being interpreted by the military as an airstrike across the so-called Inner-German Border--which was, after all, where World War III was usually expected to start. This would make it somewhat more plausable than reading it as missiles coming over the Pole--and keep in mind that we're talking early-'80s technology here--but not a lot. The FRG-GDR borders were chock-full of SAM and anti-aircraft sites--the balloons would have to fool a lotof radars, satellites, and observers long enough for the side they were floating towards to launch a retaliatory attack.

06-03-2001, 02:13 PM
Heck, clouds have been mistaken for ICBM launches. I don't think that balloons would be too much of a stretch.

06-03-2001, 02:35 PM
99 Serge Luftbaloons Listen to the German version again.