We Were Right To Fear That Weapon D+24 (2 August 1987) 1648-2015 Zulu

1648– On Nightwatch President Reagan is placed in contact with Chebrikov and Dolgikh in the Lenin Hills. They speak for eighteen minutes. The topics discussed have never been confirmed by either the Russian or US governments. Nor have any of the three men involved ever revealed the matters discussed and agreements reached at this time. Historians have spent the last thirty-five years trying to solve the mystery without success. Yet it is clear that whatever was discussed paved the way for what was to come.

1654– The Joint Chiefs on board Nightwatch adjourn from the conference room as the conversation begins. That was a political matter best left to the politicians. Besides, there was work to do. From the communications center on board the command plane, as well as two other locations, the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued new orders and received status updates from multiple combatant commands. A greater number of SAC bombers and tankers were arriving at their positive control points. TACAMO aircraft were moving into position over the Atlantic and Pacific to communicate with the US Navy’s ballistic missile submarine force. Preparations continued on aircraft carriers and attack submarines as the race to prepare and position US nuclear assets continued on.

1711– In Moscow, Vladimir Dolgikh and Viktor Chebrikov were making their own preparations. Allies around Moscow, as well as outside of the city were contacted and given instructions. Rally points were established, and plans finalized. Marshal Akhromeyev was conducting his own necessary duties, contacting a host of commanders in multiple commands and TVDs. Voyska PVO was the main priority.  “You know, we could be shooting at each other in the streets next week,” Chebrikov pointed out to his co-conspirator. It was true. Despite the present situation, the KGB Chairman and Dolgikh came from considerably different political wings of the Party. “You might be correct Viktor Mikhailovich,” the progressive Dolgikh admitted somberly. “But if we fail tonight, then none of us will even be alive next week.”

1715– Reagan lays out the plan to his advisers and other senior members of the US government. His next call is to Great Britain and he briefs Prime Minister Thatcher on what is to come.

1723– Chebrikov contacts Romanov at the Kremlin and informs him that he and Dolgikh will surrender themselves and their supporters in person at the Kremlin at 1755 hours Zulu.

1730– Marshal Snetkov informs Marshal Akhromeyev that Western TVD nuclear capable forces are now under his full control.

1733– On Nightwatch, President Reagan once again goes through the authentication procedures and issues orders for the limited release of nuclear weapons in six minutes time.

1739– Three Pershing II missiles are fired within three seconds of each other from positions southeast of Hof, West Germany.

1746-Approximately seven minutes and thirty seconds later the first warhead explodes at ground level of its assigned target inside the Kremlin compound. In the next one hundred-twenty seconds the other two Pershing IIs hit their targets: Another point in the Kremlin compound and the KGB Headquarters building at Lubyanka, less than 2 km from the Kremlin. Payload on each of the three warheads was uniform: 0.3 kilotons.

1750– The low-yield detonations in the center of Moscow failed to trigger any of the alleged Dead-Hand systems which some experts feared Soviet leadership had in its possession. In any event, in the post-war years no evidence of a Dead-Hand system ever came about and the entire concept is now regarded as science-fiction.

1751– No communications or electronic transmissions were sent to the Strategic Rocket Forces or the ballistic missile submarines in the minutes before or after the detonation of the US warheads on the Kremlin and KGB headquarters. Chebrikov and Dolgikh’s men start moving into Moscow from three separate directions.

1815– The tension on board Nightwatch had become almost unbearable at the moment the Pershing IIs were launched. Satellites confirmed the successful impacts of the warheads at or near their intended targets. Following the detonations, Moscow went dark. No communications or contact with the opposition leaders or from Romanov. It remained unclear whether the decapitation strike was successful or not, but with every minute that went by without NORAD declaring a Missile Warning, hope grew.

1837– A radio transmission from Western TVD’s wartime headquarters to Brussels requests a meeting between SACEUR and Marshal Snetkov be arranged for 0600 the following morning.

2000– Vladimir Dolgikh and Viktor Chebrikov reach President Reagan onboard Nightwatch and inform the US leader that the Pershing II strikes were successful. No one has emerged from either the Kremlin grounds or Lubyanka. Damage was surprisingly limited, although the early estimate of deaths in and around the Kremlin is 9,000 and expected to climb. The Soviet leaders promise a situation update by 2200 Zulu. More time is needed before they can say with confidence that their hold on power is consolidated. Dolgikh tells Reagan that once the new Soviet government is in place, a ceasefire can go into place followed by more formal negotiations. Before signing off, Chebrikov compliments Reagan on his decision to select the Pershing II as the instrument of decapitation.  “We were right to fear that weapon like we did,” he concluded. “It performed far beyond our nightmares.”

Author’s Note: Much of D+24 is now over but there are still a handful of loose ends to tie up. The remainder can be tied up into a final narrative on Wednesday. As far as this section goes, a timeline was the only way to go. I simply did not have the time to do it all as a narrative. That would’ve taken a week at least. But as I mentioned earlier in August, I will double back to discuss some events from D+24 beginning after Labor Day weekend, as well as much more. In fact, with only a week left until my deadline date I’ll put together a schedule for posts through the next week and then I’ll do the same for the post-Labor Day week.

58 Replies to “We Were Right To Fear That Weapon D+24 (2 August 1987) 1648-2015 Zulu”

  1. Of course, I had to go run this in NUKEMAP (I bet you did too, but I thought I would share to save others some time). WordPress doesn’t allow screen shots:

    Effect distances for a 300 ton surface burst: Fireball radius: 50 m (0.01 km²) Anything inside the fireball is effectively vaporized.

    Heavy blast damage radius (20 psi): 150 m (0.07 km²)
    concrete buildings are severely damaged or demolished; fatalities approach 100%.

    Mod blast damage radius (5 psi): 310 m (0.3 km²)
    The chances of a fire starting in commercial and residential damage are high, and buildings so damaged are at high risk of spreading fire.

    Thermal radius (3rd degree burns): 340 m (0.36 km²)

    Radiation radius (500 rem): 0.68 km (1.44 km²)
    500 rem ionizing radiation dose; likely fatal, in about 1 month; 15% of survivors will eventually die of cancer as a result of exposure.

    Light blast damage radius (1 psi): 0.79 km (1.95 km²)
    glass windows can be expected to break.

    Fallout naturally is ugly, but not too bad except in a limited area (NUKEMAP minimum fallout calc is 1kt, but since the three were so close, I ran it at the 1kt.

    Fallout contour for 1 rads per hour:
    Maximum downwind cloud distance: 47.7 km
    Maximum width: 4.08 km
    Approximate area affected: 273 km²

    Fallout contour for 10 rads per hour:
    Maximum downwind cloud distance: 27.5 km
    Maximum width: 2.27 km
    Approximate area affected: 119 km²

    Fallout contour for 100 rads per hour:
    Maximum downwind cloud distance: 7.36 km
    Maximum width: 460 m
    Approximate area affected: 21.5 km²

    Liked by 2 people

    1. One option NUKEMAP doesn’t cover, unfortunately, is how a penetrator warhead would act. The burst would be below ground and I never did find out details on how that might affect the damage numbers, etc. But thanks for sharing this and yeah, I’ve spent a lot of time on NUKEMAP recently 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It strikes me that the precision of the Pershing is its weakness, with such a tiny warhead: You really are betting that not only have Chebrikov and Dolgikh accurately ascertained Romanov’s whereabouts, but that Romanov hasn’t opted to move too far away inside the Kremlin at the last second. I might be tempted to dial that yield up a wee bit more, to increase the odds of mission success…

        P.S. Speaking of the Dead Hand system, are you familiar with Hoffman, David, The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy (2010)? I was left with some uncertainty about whether the system Hoffman describes was ever truly activated. But I am more than happy to accept that it wasn’t as a premise for the story. After all, we may never know.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Pershing’s regular warhead is the W85. It’s a variable yield warhead that can give a blast yield of 0.3 kt, 5, 10 or 80 KTs depending on target and other variables. So there’s a variety of yields available. And it was a bet using such a small yield on a target when Romanov’s presence there couldn’t be independently confirmed. But a higher yield will bring about heavier casualties and maybe make it more difficult to turn the war off.

          I am familiar with Hoffman and his work. I’m in the same boat as you. No clue whether the system was real or not. But I left it out of the story just to keep things from dipping into sci-fi possibilities too much.
          We’ll never know, unfortunately. You’re right. Hell of a premise though


      2. Yes, I could only do a ground burst. From a wiki source about the W86, “the study calculated that such an EPW could penetrate 7.2 metres (24 ft) into medium strength rock, 18.7 metres (61 ft) into low strength rock and 115 metres (377 ft) into silt or clay”.
        Based on that, I don’t think that it would have matter much (except perhaps more shock effect), at least in terms of casualties or fallout. Maybe higher intensity fallout closer, due to dogging out more material?
        Incidentally, I forgot to select 3000 (20m)/200 (50m) psi on the options, but since they are inside the fireball, I would say that the point is moot…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I agree. Moot point. Red Square is gone and so is the Kremlin. As well as KGB HQ. But Moscow will survive and be the damage will be repaired eventually.
          And yeah, I think closer in is where the really high intensity fallout will be. Focal point of the debris and all


  2. Sic semper tyrannis.

    Perhaps our alternate timeline Russians will engrave that as an epitaph on whatever marker they commemorate the strikes with.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nah, Bill. They’ll forget after a period of time and probably thirty years after the 1987 war ends, Russia will be at it again. Or maybe 35 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s good to see that the Pershing II was as successful in its original purpose in this universe (though the decapitation was originally meant for the Western TVD, not Moscow) as it, specifically its deployment to West Germany, was in getting rid of intermediate-range missiles in Europe in real life (at least for a couple of decades).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Pershing II did more to end the Cold War than it gets credit for. The Russians were really scared to death of it and believed it could reach Moscow in significant numbers. They could too, just not from where they were initially positioned

      Liked by 1 person

  4. To be honest…

    The time line format worked really well for this on the blog. No seriousness was lost, to my mind, not the level of precarious position the world was in at this time.


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, sir. I’m really glad the timeline worked. And as I said, I’ll fill in some of the detail blanks starting after Labor Day.


  5. Despite it’s success in the story, it is a very sobering end to the madness in this universe and we would do well to do everything possible to never let it come to this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Appreciate the approval 🙂 I really wanted to turn SAC loose, I can’t even begin to tell you. The crews were EWO ready and set to go. Maybe in the next war 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Once you mentioned the time deadlines in the last post, the air strike option was out.
    This time the July 20th plot succeeded. With a little external help.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’ve been lurking and reading your timeline for the last few months, Mike, ever since I stumbled across it. I must say that, having wargamed and read a fair number of WW3 alt-histories from Clancy and Coyle on down, this is among the most plausible I have come across. My only real complaint is the lack of maps! 🙂 (I also learned something new: I did not realize that the W-86 had a theoretical dial-down yield range as low as 0.3 KT.)

    I am still trying to make my mind what I think about this endgame. I certainly see the logic of it. But what a difficult pill – and horrible risk – it would be to swallow for any Soviet leader to place regime termination wholly in American (nuclear) hands. It is also true that war changes people; things that were unthinkable before the war can become thinkable as hearts harden, and circumstances become desperate.

    I also think that the Chebrikov-Dolgikh regime is not likely to be long for this world. Much more than Grigory Romanov has been discredited by this disastrous conflict in the eyes of Soviet, let alone Eastern European, publics. Cutting a deal with Reagan has saved the Soviet Union from nuclear armageddon, but it is unlikely to save it from itself. But it sounds like you have given the postwar some thought, and if the course of the war is anything to judge by, I feel fairly confident that you have something plausible to present on this front, too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, Rich I’m so glad you checked in. Very glad you did and thanks for the very kind words. Being compared to Clancy and Coyle is high praise indeed. I did some research and spoke to a few folks involved with the W86 and the initial plan was to make it a variable yield device all the way down to 0.5 or 0.3 kilotons for surgical strikes that were time sensitive. Granted, the weapon never made it to production, but the option was considered. As for the maps…..yeah, they were my weakness. I tried but could never get them how I wanted.

      It’s definitely a difficult pill to swallow But with the future of the Motherland, and the world placed in Romanov’s hands, there really was little choice. Desperate times and all of that. People never really know how they’ll react until the red lights are flashing and the chips are down.

      I think you’re right, and that’s all I’m going to say about this regime’s future. Even Chebrikov and Dolgikh realize it probably won’t last. Fortunately, the real world final years of the Soviet Union gave some insight on what might happen in the post war period. I’m not going to let it lapse and will cover it carefully. So please, stick around. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. “…there really was little choice. ”

        And I can see that. In the scenario you have presented, I could see how a) it could really be the case that a Pershing II, suddenly moved just barely in range, could be the surest way to take out Romanov, and b) that the coup plotters would make the same calculation.

        Had they had more time to secure their assets, allies, and followers, it might be different. Italy ’43, Germany ’44, the USSR ’91 – they all had *months* to put things together. But here, Chebrikov and Dolgikh were moving with so little time. Stranger things have certainly happened.

        Looking forward to the next updates!

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Great ending. Well worth it. Looking forward to seeing the hot wrap-up with all the details and post-war stuff.

    Were Grigory Romanov’s last words while waiting at the Kremlin for Cherbrikov and Dolgikh to show up and inadvertently looking up, “WTF is that?”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks 🙂 Glad you enjoyed it, and yeah there’s still a lot more to come. Hot wrap up, post Cold War, unit histories and a lot more. The war timeline may be almost wrapped up but the blog will soldier on


    2. I envision him standing outside the entrance to the Arsenal building maybe, smelling victory and then he hears something overhead. Romanov turns to whoever is standing beside him and says, “Comrade, do you hear that?”

      Liked by 1 person

    1. They would and in this case they did but detection came too late. There was no time to react. I plan on filling in the details on this after Labor Day. There were a number of contributing factors as far as detection went

      Liked by 2 people

        1. They didn’t detect until closer to four. The biggest obstacle was getting in touch with Romanov. I will be covering this at some point in the next couple of weeks

          Liked by 2 people

      1. I assumed that you would fill in some details, but the Pershing II was the perfect choice. Limited time to target, and as mentioned previously, the “OG hypersonic weapon”. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The OG Hypersonic Weapon. Perfect description. And I have to agree. Pershing II was the perfect….and only…..choice.


  9. Although it’s perhaps wrong to compare your WW3 to the Russia vs Ukraine conflict, I cannot help wondering whether your WW3 in 1987 wouldn’t have taken as long, if not longer than the war in Ukraine ? ( assuming the two sides adhere to the conventional war option ) Particularly using 1980’s NATO & Soviet era weapons, as somehow I don’t buy the hype of any NATO or Soviet & Warsaw pact blitzkrieg – of 3 to 7 days to the River Rhine and after that, the Channel posts through the Benelux countries within 2 or 3 weeks. Therefore can you envisage a situation where the two sides in your WW3 in 1987, would have become bogged down into some sort of inconclusive stalemate in their fighting; that would lasted for weeks & weeks or months on end back in 1987 ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it definitely could’ve taken as long, if not longer. I never bought the 7 Days to the Rhine and 3 weeks to the Channel scenarios either. Just too much can go wrong.
      For this specific scenario in 1987, let’s assume the Soviets achieved strategic surprise. NATO is nowhere near as ready as they were in WWIII 1987. Therefore, the Russians push farther into Western Europe, NATO absorbs more losses and by the time the Russian steamroller runs out of gas, NATO has nothing on the table for a counteroffensive. So both sides dig in and start to resupply, similar to 1914.
      That’s one possibility.


    1. And the last of the Cold Warriors dies. I think you’re right. Damn shame he’s been villainized in his home country by a large section of the population

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The Russians never accepted their loss of status after the Cold War. It was too bitter of a pill to swallow. You can kind of see the effects of such a traumatic shock to their psyche in their current attempt to take back Ukraine. It makes sense they turned Gorbachev into a scapegoat. Easier than admitting the truth about the rotten state of the Soviet Union.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. I think it did not help that for the average Russian, life was materially *much* worse, much more unstable, in the 1990’s than it had been in the 1980’s and 1970’s.

            Now, we understand pretty well now that Breznhev’s USSR was something of a mirage, and not a terribly sustainable one. (Chernobyl should have been the wakeup call. ) But notwithstanding what defects and delusions there still are in the Russian national character, I think such a massive deterioration in, well, *everything* would be a challenge for any community’s ability to construct an accurate narrative of what it had been through – and who and what was to blame.

            Liked by 2 people

            1. You’re right. It became a major driving force in what came during the first decade of the post-Cold War Era.
              I’d love to see an accurate narrative but agree with you. Constructing it would be a major challenge. Close to impossible

              Liked by 1 person

            1. Pretty good comparison, too. WW1’s aftermath brought on instability in Germany, which led to Hitler’s rise to power and World War II


    1. Thanks so much. I am glad you enjoyed reading. Truth be told, I had a lot of fun with creating the plot for D+24. It was a pain at times but turned out to be worth the effort


  10. Damn Mike, this was incredibly well done. The whole story has been very well done and a fantastic ride, but what an ending! Very well done indeed. Congratulations on this culminating entry! It has certainly been worth the ride for me and the ending was beyond great. My only issue is that it is over. I’ll no longer have WW3 1987 entries to look forward to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much. I’m glad you stuck around through it all. Oh, and its not entirely over yet. There’s still a lot to cover. Unit histories, battle reports, weapon performance, orders of battle, some short story fiction tied to the WWIII ’87 theme. Hope you stick around for some of that.
      But yeah, the actual war entries are wrapped up now. It’s starting to hit home for me. Five plus years of writing and I couldn’t think of a better audience to share it with. You and everyone else who tuned in helped launch my writing career. I’m eternally grateful.

      So with that having been said, don’t go anywhere! 🙂


  11. Wonderful climax Mike – I’ve been wondering the last year or two how things would draw to a close. You’ve done an excellent job here, so thanks! Going to be interesting to see how the threads play out in the other theatres over coming hours and (hopefully!) days…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Luke! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      Yes, even though the war is coming to an end, there’s still a very broken world that needs mending. It will be interesting at the very least

      Liked by 1 person

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