If another nuclear bomb is ever exploded on a city, what is the most likely scenario?

I’m not sure whether this thread belongs in the General Questions forum or in the IMHO forum. If I got it wrong, I would ask a moderator to please move it to the correct forum.

I’m not asking about some low-level dirty device that uses an explosive (like TNT) to spread some radioactive material over a few city blocks.

I’m asking about a real thermonuclear bomb. It may be exploded by a nation or by a group of terrorists. But who will likely be responsible and what will their likely target be?

I’d guess that it would be a small group of terrorists that somehow knew how to get their hands on a bomb, perhaps from a Russian storage area or perhaps from some Russian (or other) military official who would sell them a bomb and instruct them how to explode it.

Then they would smuggle it into a large city and explode it in that city.

I think the most likely target would be some city in Russia or the Ukraine or some country involved in the oppression of a minority civilian population and the people responsible would be those who have been brought up in a camp in which a minority population has been oppressed (for example a Palestinian camp or a Ukranian or Chechin camp where families have been oppressed and a child of one of those families has become insanely angry at the way their parents have been treated and explodes this bomb in an attempt to somehow strike back at the oppressor (whoever they believe that is).

Would any of you care to guess who the most likely culprit would be and who the most likely target would be?

I think the target would be the USA. The attacker could be anyone from Iran to N.Korea.

What terrifies me is that there might be a panicky rush to judgement. “It was North Korea! It had to be!” Massive retaliation. Then we find out, oops, it was actually a bomb that Hamas got from Pakistan.

The next ugly thing that comes to mind is, yeah, it was North Korea, so we hit them back, hard, only to find out that China doesn’t approve, and strikes back at us. And up it goes.

Working down the ladder of horror, we might find out who did it, and retaliate via conventional strikes. A few flights of B-2s would be hard to distinguish from a nuclear warhead anyway.

An attack on us in that way might actually help solidify world opinion behind us. “Hey, those Yanks are crazy, but even they didn’t deserve that.”

In other theaters, an Indian/Pakistani war would be hellish, and, while it might not spiral out of control to involve Europe, Russia, China, or the U.S., it also might. Even if everyone else stays out of it, the radioactive pollution would be godawful. And I do not believe for a microsecond that a strike on any city in either country, by anyone could conceivably fail to spiral up into a full exchange. If Brazil set off such a weapon in Hyderabad, the whole arsenal would fly over India…and India’s whole arsenal would fly right back.

If Hamas hit Tel Aviv…the Israelis would hit back. Maybe not with a nuclear strike, but they’d hit back, and damn hard. If the bomb came from Pakistan…see above.

There are very few containable scenarios.

If Hamas ever hit a major Israeli city with a nuclear bomb, I can’t imagine that Israel would ever hold off hitting back with a huge nuclear strike.

After all, Israel almost surely has many big nuclear bombs in their arsenal and if some identifiable villian bombed a major Israeli city, the Israeli govt would want to show the world that if anyone attacks them in that way, they will suffer the most extreme retaliation.

Just imagine that you were the leader of the Israeli govt and Hamas exploded a nuke over Tel Aviv essentially wiping out the entire city. The collateral damage would be huge. The entire country would be crippled for many years to come and would be vulnerable to all kinds of its enemies.

What would your response be?

I would go nuts and would try to wipe out everyone I could identify as being responsible. I would have no concern for restraint. It would be an all out retaliation and damn the consequences. After all, that might mean the end of the country. It would be extremely vulnerable to its enemies and could easily be wiped out by them. Therefore, I would just try to do unto them before they could do anything more unto me. What would be the point in stopping short of anything else?

But…where? Does Hamas really have control of large cities? The cities they do control – like Gaza – could trivially be annihilated without nuclear weapons. (Knock out the electricity and water, and the place starts to die. It can be done with a few flights of fighter-bombers.)

I certainly agree Israel would be hugely motivated to strike back. But nuclear weapons aren’t really designed for the kinds of cities Hamas controls.

It would take around 1,500 times the maximum payload of a B-2 to equal the explosive energy of the small nuke dropped on Hiroshima. (Max payload = 40,000 lbs bombs, about half that is the metal bomb casings, so about 10 tons explosive payload. 15 kt/ 10 tons = 1500.)

Maybe against a really horrible disease outbreak or bioweapon? The world’s major powers could all agree that if not completely incinerated within x number of hours, it would spread and kill most of humanity.

Russia and America.

I know for all the hysteria about terrorists and India/Pakistan or N Korea etc etc, its these two great powers which keep thousands of warheads on hair trigger alert and have very very detailed warplans to use them forthwith.

For terrorist suicide bombers, the delivery mechanism will be an executive jet. This gives them the perfect excuse to be at the perfect altitude for detonation.

For a state-level scenario consider Argentina taking over the Falklands again. Britain no longer has the means to recapture them, so I can see an ICBM being launched at military targets that will cause minimum civilian casualties. Kirchner will be too proud to back down and Cameron will also be between a rock and a hard place and a second strike will ensue.

Pakistan, and some city in Northern India like Delhi. Basically because the Pakistani govt seems more likely than the Russian one to be co-opted by pure nutjobs.

I picture Medina, Mecca, Jerusalem, Damascus, Tehran, and Qom all going within hours of each other via smuggled bombs. No one would know whom to blame and the world would be a different place.

Do you really have any idea of what you are talking about? “Co opted” by nutjobs? You seem to think that in the office of every leader of a nuclear power, you have a big red button which s/he may push at leisure or when co opted by “nutjobs”.

Between the order to carry out a nuclear strike and its execution are many many steps and more importantly people. So the boys at the top can go as nutty as they like, but between the generals who transmit the orders and the battery commanders who actually turn the launch key, there are many many people who can say “wait, why are we dropping all this love on India/<select target> again” and more importantly stop the process.

I don’t think they have “many big nuclear bombs.” I think small nuclear warheads are more useful for their purposes and easier to deliver. Even for destroying a major city, the thinking these days is that several smaller warheads, properly distributed, are more destructive than one multi-megaton whopper. Big bombs are used mostly for trying to make sure you hit a target with an inaccurate delivery system (shouldn’t be a concern for Israel) or bragging rights.

I think the development of the putative Israeli arsenal was, like the rest of their military, guided by practical considerations and desperate necessity rather than showing off (i.e., making really big bombs for bragging rights).


I’m aware.

This assumes they’ll all want to.

So on which case literally thousands of people have suffered madness, which means frankly we have much bigger problems.

I doubt very much there’s thousands of people in the chain between launch command and actual launching. Probably not even more than a couple hundreds, if that. And I’m not saying this is possible with Pakistan as it stands today.

I doubt it; for one, I think it would be political suicide for the party in power in the UK, and second, I suspect they’d muster up the forces one way or another; they certainly have enough land forces, and with the end of the Cold War, they could probably muster a similar sized invasion fleet as the first time around.

Granted, this would probably require the USN to assume some European responsibilities of the Royal Navy, but this is assuming there is no direct US involvement, which isn’t at all a clear assumption.

I personally think that the next nuke to be used will almost certainly not be by one of the initial 5 countries (US, Russia, UK, France and China), but will likely be between India and Pakistan, or possibly by North Korea if things really go south.

I would think you are probably correct.

It would be political suicide to lose the Falklands; keeping them by having nuked some people the other side of the world could be explainable. And our politicians crave power.

Grammar nitpick: there appears to be a superfluous “our” in that sentence.