One idea it’s exploring: the construction of a sprawling network of underground subway tunnels to shuttle the missiles around like a mobile doomsday train. As one does. As first reported by Inside Defense, the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center will award several study contracts next month worth up to $3 million each to research the idea. A broad agency announcement from the Air Force describes the hair-raising concept, intended to keep the weapons secure through 2075, as a system of tunnels where nuclear missiles are shuttled around on rails or some undefined “trackless” system. The advantage of the world’s deadliest subway: During an atomic holocaust, mobile missiles are harder for an adversary to target than a static silo.
In 1976, Congress, concerned over this mutual vulnerability, passed a bill blocking money for any new ICBM that would be based in a fixed silo. Over the next couple of years, the Air Force proposed 40 different plans to make the MX missiles mobile, so the Soviets would have a harder time hitting them. The ideas included flying them around on C-5 cargo planes, shuttling them in railroad cars, trucking them down highways, and moving them through tunnels from one silo to another as in an elaborate shell game. In September 1979, President Jimmy Carter approved the shell-game concept. His plan called for 200 MX missiles, each flitting back and forth among 23 silos. The idea was that the Soviets would have to fire 23 warheads to ensure hitting a single MX – 4,600 warheads to get them all – a task so onerous they wouldnt bother. The debate took off at full throttle and stayed there for a decade.
- Detailed Photos Of Cold War Missile Sites: Opposing Superpowers, Same Terror (wired.com)
- North Korea claims nuclear missiles ‘on standby’ (whas11.com)