Political Science 378
The Politics of American National Security Policy
Fall, 2013
Assignment 2



This is a group assignment. You will work with the same group as on the first assignment. All members of the group will receive the same grade.

In this assignment, you will evaluate the strategic nuclear weapons inventories of the US and Russia. This information is available through the class website.

In addition to the inventory sheet, you will need to use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the results of the strikes. And you will need to calculate the kill probablities. There are 3 alternatives for this.

Note also that if the name of the spreadsheet after the download is If the spreadsheet appears in your browser, then save it as an Excel spreadsheet (ending in .xls).

Eric Rechlin (a former student in the course) wrote the Java applet; thanks Eric!

The Kill Probability Java applet will appear below in a Java enabled browser.

To use it, enter the Yield of the missile's warhead. When you press the Enter enter, you will jump you to the next field. When you press Enter in the Hardness field, it will automatically calculate everything. If you click on Clear, this will erase all of the information so you can do the calculations for the next type of warhead.

Instructions on using the computer program for this assignment .


(50 points) This problem takes you through a surprise first strike by each superpower on the other's ICBMs with the current U.S. and Russian arsenals. For your calculations, assume: Here is how to set up the attacks:

  1. Each missile can be attacked by 2 and only 2 warheads. Thus, no more than 900 Russian warheads may be used against the 450 US silos, and no more than 300 US warheads may be used against the 150 Russian silos (note: a number of Russian missiles are mobile; assume these missiles cannot be targeted with current technology). If you have more than the maximum number of warheads which may be used in an attack, they cannot be used, period!

  2. Assume that the pair of warheads you will use will come from two different missiles; therefore, the calculation from the kp program which is of interest to you is Pk2, 2 launchers.

  3. Decide which warheads you want to use for the attack. Look over the kp results for each type of warhead to help make this decision.

  4. Determine how many silos each type of warhead could attack. For example, if you had 100 missiles with 4 warheads on each, you could attack 200 enemy silos (100 x 4 = 400 total warheads; using 2 warheads on each silo lets you attack 200 silos). Remember, you can only use one pair of warheads to attack a silo.

  5. Calculate how many enemy silos would be destroyed by each type of attacking warhead. This is determined by multiplying the number of silos attacked by the Pk2, 2 launchers figure you have calculated for a warhead. For example, if you have 100 missiles, each with 4 warheads, and the Pk2, 2 launcher value for that type of missile is .45, then you would expect that of the 200 silos attacked (100 x 4 = 400 total warheads; this is 200 pairs of warheads and therefore 200 silos that can be attacked); the calculation is 200 warhead pairs x .45 kill probability = 90 silos destroyed. It is important to recognize this would mean that you have missed 110 silos in this part of the attack. You cannot "re-attack" these missed silos with other warheads.

  6. Calculate the total number of silos which would be destroyed by each side's attack on the other.

  7. Calculate the total number of attacker's missiles which would remain after an attack.

  8. Looking at the figures described below, decide if each side is capable of undertaking a successful first strike. You should determine the following information:

For a Russian attack on US silos:

  1. number of US ICBMs expected to survive.

  2. number of Russian ICBMs remaining after their first strike against the US.

  3. Using the spreadsheet, total US EMT surviving. Total the EMT of the surviving ICBMs, plus the total EMT of surviving US SLBMs (assume 60 percent of the SLBM force survives -- that the rest were destroyed in port), plus the EMT of surviving bombers (assume that 20 percent of the US bomber force can drop weapons on Russia -- this figure is derived as follows: 30 percent are on alert, 85 percent of that force survives Russian barrage attacks, and 76 percent of that reaches its targets).

For a US attack on Russian silos:

  1. number of Russian ICBMs expected to survive.

  2. number of US ICBMs remaining after their first strike against Russia.

  3. total EMT surviving. Total the EMT of the surviving Russian ICBM force, plus total EMT of surviving Russian SLBMs (assume 20 percent of the SLBM force survives -- that the rest were destroyed in port), plus the EMT of surviving bombers (assume that 10 percent of the Russian force can drop weapons on the US).

Calculations 1 and 2 for each side have something to do with the remaining ability of each side to hit additional silos, and calculation 3 has something to do with the assured destruction capability remaining on each side after a first strike. Note that about 400 EMT is considered sufficient to destroy the urban area of the United States or of Russia.

In so far as nuclear forces are concerned, what do you consider to be winning in a nuclear war? Pick a definition of winning that is based either on counterforce capability (ability to hit hardened targets; the post-attack ICBM balance) or countervalue capability (ability to hit targets of value; the post-attack EMT of the target)? Would you judge either attack a success by this standard?

Some hints on how to do the assignment.

Here is a FAQ on the assignment.

The assignment is pledged. You may not consult class members outside of your group. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Richard J. Stoll
Professor of Political Science
email: stoll At rice DOT edu