Offutt AFB, Omaha, Nebraska 0745 Zulu, 27 July, 1987 (0245 Local Time)
SAC’s command post was located two hundred feet underneath the headquarters building of the Strategic Air Command. The facility was manned 24 hours a day. At the start of hostilities eighteen days earlier, the SAC command post schedules and shifts were modified to pace Zulu Time. The change was a nod to the time zone differences between the continental United States, Central Europe and Moscow. When CINC-SAC, General Jack Chain, USAF arrived this morning it was 0245 hours in Omaha but approaching 1000 in Germany and 1100 in Moscow. The four-star general’s first task of the day was to receive a briefing from his operations officer, bringing him up to speed on war-related events that had occurred while he was asleep, along with the current readiness level of SAC forces.
The atmosphere in the command post remained calm and business-like. Unusual, given the fact a global war was raging across large portions of the planet, yet an encouraging sign. In the waning hours of peacetime, US and Soviet officials worked to carve out an agreement of understanding on the dispositions of their respective strategic forces. The alert levels of US and Soviet nuclear forces were not to be altered under any circumstances. Any increase in readiness would be regarded as escalatory at once by the other side. Aware of the direction a sudden escalation could move the war in, both Washington and Moscow considered the agreement to be in their best interests.
So far, it was holding. Chain knew there had been modified changes to the readiness of US SSBNs in the Atlantic and Soviet missile submarines assigned to their Northern Fleet over the last week, but the reasons for modifications had been explained to the satisfaction of both sides. Right now, the US missile subs in the Atlantic were in their assigned patrol sectors and their Soviet counterparts had reached their bastions in the northern Barents Sea. US and Allied naval forces operating in the northern Norwegian Sea were keeping their distance from the enemy SSBNs. Moscow had made it clear that a move against its sea-based deterrent would bring on an immediate nuclear retaliation.
On land, the dispositions of US and Soviet strategic bombers and ICBM forces remained unchanged. Silos in the Midwest and across the Soviet Union showed no signs of alarming activity. Bombers were at their parent bases, displaying no indications of dispersal preparations. Chain was satisfied with the arrangement. He did not expect a massive Soviet first strike to materialize out of nowhere at some point in the coming hours. The first exchange between NATO and Pact forces would be tactical in nature and occur in Europe, giving Chain and his Soviet counterpart a few hours at the very least to prepare their intercontinental forces for the next round.
If the worst did come to pass and he was vaporized right where he sat at present without warning, SAC was prepared, and the command would push on without missing a beat. Right now the deputy CINC-SAC was airborne on the Looking Glass aircraft flying somewhere over southern Manitoba, far enough away from any missile fields, bomber bases or other primary targets. He was fully prepared to take over Chain’s duties if necessary. That was the entire purpose behind Looking Glass; having a general officer and staff airborne in a command plane 24 hours a day and ready to pick up the ball should SAC headquarters be incinerated. Before this airborne command plane landed, another would already be in the air.
The chances of this being the day where a general officer on Looking Glass would be forced to assume his duties appeared low, Chain reflected. But not entirely outside the realm of possibility. And with that grim reminder, CINC-SAC officially began his workday.
Author’s Note: Evening, everyone. I’m not satisfied with the pace of the D+18 entries thus far. To try and speed it up, I’m revising the layout in order for each entry to cover more hours in the day. Trial and error and all of that. Some ideas seem good until you try them out. 😊 – Mike