D+18 1621-1640 Zulu 27 July, 1987

Aboard NEACP-Primary, 1620 Zulu (1220 Local Time)

The Soviet SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missiles were detected less than twenty seconds after launch by a Defense Support Program satellite. Its onboard computers analyzed the launch data and transmitted a detection alert to the earth below. Alarms went off at ground stations on three separate continents. Five seconds after this, the data was relayed to military command centers in the continental United States. A second round of klaxons pierced the strained quiet in places like SAC Headquarters in Omaha, the National Military Command Center and the NORAD complex situated deep inside of Cheyenne Mountain.

NEACP was airborne and passing eighteen thousand feet, set on an initial course that take it out over the Atlantic. F-15s from Langley AFB and KC-10 tankers from McGuire AFB were taking off from their respective bases and heading out to sea. The Eagles would provide escort duties for the E-4B while the tankers established a refueling anchor. Reagan and his advisers situated themselves in the conference room as the NEACP battle staff went about establishing communications links with headquarters on the ground, other cabinet members and allied leaders overseas.

The missile threat conference reconvened as the launch detection FLASH arrived. CINC-SAC and CINC-NORAD reported the attack appeared to be just as the Soviets said. Probable impact points were western Greenland and central Spain. Admiral Crowe assured the president that the information would firm up shortly. He did not believe Greenland, or specifically any US installations there were a target.

“Unless there’s a malfunction,” Secretary Weinberger admitted reluctantly. “Which is always a possibility with Russian weapons and hardware.”

Reagan’s first call to a foreign leader went to Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. He briefed his Canadian counterpart on the present situation and confirmed the Soviets had targeted the Canadian SIGINT station Alert in northern Nunavut. The president then attempted to get in touch with Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez but efforts to raise him were as yet unsuccessful. Next on the list were the leaders of Britain, France and Germany, but before Reagan initiated that conference call, he went back to the missile threat conference for an update.

SAC was scrambling the alert force bombers and tankers and NORAD was launching air defense fighters across the United States and Canada. There were no further launch detections from Soviet ICBM fields. Madrid was to be the first target reached with impact estimated at 1636 Zulu. The SS-19 bound for Alert was expected to impact just over two minutes later. The remaining line of succession members were at various points of the evacuation process and communications were not one-hundred percent reliable. When the politicians, cabinet members and other general officers eventually reached their designated evacuation points or command planes they would become essential game pieces on the board. For now though, the primary mission for these men was evacuation.

Reagan watched the clock closely as the British prime minister was reached. Thatcher was presently enroute to her own emergency bunker. The discussion was brief but helpful. The president summarized the situation, emphasizing the short amount of time remaining until the Soviet missiles reached their targets.

“Have you spoken to the French and West German leaders yet?” Thatcher asked loudly.

“No. I don’t plan on doing that until after the attack blows over,” Reagan explained.

“Think twice on that, Ron,” Thatcher cautioned. “The French have their own nuclear weapons. You do not want them to launch independently.”

“No. That will just complicate things. Our response needs to be unified, but I don’t think we can begin to think about that just yet.”

“Agreed. I would suggest that your military people start considering retaliation options for now, however.”

“They already are,” Reagan confirmed. “As are yours, I’d imagine.”

“Yes. What do you need from me, Ron?”

Reagan thought about that for moment. “If you could call Francois and Helmut it will take a big load off of my shoulders right now.” He was referring to the leaders of France and West Germany. “Inform them what is happening and that I’ll initiate a conference call soon after detonation. It won’t be long now.”

“Very well. I’ll be in touch once I finish with them.” The call ended.

Reagan looked around the conference table, taking in the faces of his present advisers and trying to read their minds.

“How much time left?” He asked.

“TTG is seven minutes, sir.” CINC-NORAD answered through the speakerphone.

“The Spanish have been notified,” Weinberger noted. “The prime minister was in Barcelona visiting wounded sailors at a military hospital. He’s moving to a secure location right now and will call soon.”

“If he’s able to,” General Chain put in from Omaha. “EMP from the Madrid detonation is going to play hell with communications across the Iberian Peninsula and parts of western France.”

The next six minutes swept by rapidly. As the clock ticked, Reagan, the Secretary of Defense, Admiral Crowe and the National Security Adviser moved into the battlestaff area. Here the atmosphere was comparable to an OR waiting room with the family of a critically ill patient gathered. The next piece of news to arrive would be bad. Everyone understood this. But how bad would it be?

The answer to that question started to take shape at 1636:43 when the first Soviet warhead detonated 6,000 feet above the Casa de Campo in Madrid, Spain.


18 Replies to “D+18 1621-1640 Zulu 27 July, 1987”

  1. As long as the other warheads didn’t do any digging in Spain, the French might listen to reason and not independently retaliate as they shouldn’t get a dose of fallout.

    If so, I’d let them handle one of the targets. If not, well, are they still technically outside the NATO command structure?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Nice pickup, Steve. But if some fallout does drift into France, they’re going to have to be let in on a retaliatory response I think. Paris has not had a great war so far.

      Their nuclear forces are outside of the NATO command structure. That’s pretty much all that counts. They can launch independently at any given time.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. By launching limited attack, the Soviets have left themselves vulnerable to an unfavorable conflict termination if NATO and the French can maintain a common front. Western strategic forces will able to fully generate, disperse, and hold hazard the USSR. With NATO turning the tide in the conventional conflict and instability amongst the satellites, the US may best served by striking an insignificant target using theater weapons to demonstrate coalition resolve then allowing the conflict to run its course by a return to pre-war borders while highlighting that the strategic force is fully poised to begin operations in the event of alternative choices.

    By this point in the war, the Soviets have been bested by the Tomahawk (and know about GLCM, TLAM-N, and it’s cousin ALCM), have seen F-111s and Tornadoes get through more often than not, and are aware of the capabilities of the strike fleet. They’re also aware of where they lack in relative capabilities. Better to be the man who lost the war than the man who lost the USSR. Negotiate, get the west to stand down, then salvage what you can.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Now it’s Mike’s (damn good, amazing) story, *but* if we step outside the Meta for a moment and consider this as an actual progress of historical events rather than something we know he has a plan for, the time for the Soviets to do the “peace with honor” bullshit was 2 days ago, *before* they turned the keys.

      They’re about to find out how disproportionate a proportional strike is going to feel.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Possible retaliatory targets: The Soviets had a base in the Franz Josef Islands of arctic for Alert. Nizhny Novgorod (military, cultural, 6th largest city) for Madrid.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The major western powers (US, UK, France) may want to push for a harsh peace. After all the Soviets initiated an offensive war against the west which has mostly been fought on western territory. Then they’ve changed the character of the war by introducing nuclear weapons to include use on a population center.

    However, not all NATO or non-nato allied countries may be as keen to “inflict” the harshest terms on the USSR when offered a chance to terminate the conflict. Ending the conflict expeditiously may be preferable for some powers, especially ones which were scenes of ground combat or heavy air strikes. Maintaining unity will be important for NATO during conflict termination to prevent diplomatic or informational disruption by the USSR. That said, the USSR is in a far weaker position vis-a-vis it’s satellites, and terms that allow the USSR to maintain the fiction of a mutually negotiated withdrawal while in reality opening the doors for the eventual succession of some satellites may be the best they can get.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is where coalition and alliance politics can play a definitive role. If NATO cannot remain united, it will benefit the Russians at the negotiating table. But for now, I’m in agreement with you. They’re in a very weak position and at best will emerge from this conflict with far less allies than they entered with


  5. In between class and work, I’ve been keeping up with this series in my spare time. It’s been quite fascinating to say the least- I’d say that it took me around 1 week total to catch up to this point. The details seem significantly more researched than any 198x “Cold War gone hot” scenario I’ve personally seen on the web. The thing I’d liken the most to this is the Kidd Incident, a similar narrative regarding confrontation between two world superpowers. I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of it as well. Regardless, keep up the good work!

    – A young fan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m really grateful that you’ve taken time between classes and work to keep up with this blog. I know how valuable that time is. Thanks so much.
      I have heard of the Kidd Incident and spent a few nights reading it in full. I’m actually trying to get in touch with the author because I have questions and compliments on his work.


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