Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Making Mad Max a Reality Programme

Since both Formula 1 and V8 Supercars have defected to Foxtel - which I can't afford, thankyou very much - I can't really keep up this blog's original mandate and cover those two racing series anymore. I don't blame James Warburton or Bernie Ecclestone personally, it's the broader trend of money being upwardly mobile that gets me. Aiming for max eyeballs on the screen only works as long as those eyeballs have access to wallets that might be opened to the sponsors who pay for the teams and the TV scheduling alike; if the money is restricted to a smaller segment of the populace, it only makes sense to follow it. Eventually when all the money is in the hands of a sociopathic few it will inevitably trigger a Paris 1789-type response, but that's beyond the scope of this blog. Suffice to say if I had the income I would absolutely get Foxtel and treat myself not just to V8s and F1 but IndyCar, NASCAR and Le Mans as well.

But I can't, so I hate it. In the meantime, I'm broadening the focus of this blog, opening it to whatever the hell is on my mind this week. It will also be updated on a shameless when-I-feel-like it basis. So, with the pleasantries out of the way, let's nuke Melbourne.

A few days ago I re-read an old triptych of essays called Nuclear Warfare 101. These essays (guess what they're about?) are a good primer for anybody who's at all interested in such things, because the author was once part of "The Business," as they call it, planning genuine no-bullshit world-ending nuclear strikes. I highly recommend just reading the text I linked above, since all I'm doing is applying a few of its principles.

In particular, I remember on first reading I was intrigued that, "...we don't target cities at all per se. We target things, some of which happen to be in cities." That seems perfectly obvious to me now, today, but to a kid raised on T2 that was an eye-opener. And my last reading got me thinking what targets might exist inside Australia's cities. I chose Melbourne because I used to live there and know the layout reasonably well, and because a good chunk of it is absolutely dead flat (unlike Sydney, a 19th Century ants nest built in the cracks of a mountain range by the sea), which makes visualising the blast easier. For this I'll be using Nukemap 2.42, which has gotten way better since the days of Nukemap Classic and even comes with a 3D version for Google Earth!

Before we begin, I'd like to say a big hello to whichever overworked/underpaid member of the AFP is currently checking this blog, and reassure you that I don't have access to nuclear devices of any kind and would have no desire to use them if I did. All the information I'll be using is publicly available and easy to Google, so I'm not spilling security secrets either (as far as I know). This is just a gedankenexperiment, nothing more.

Got that? Cool, let's get cracking.

The scenario as I imagine it is an invasion of Australia from the north, which is, let's face it, where any invasion is going to come from. No I don't think it'll be Indonesia, thanks for asking. Yes, I know they're impoverished, overpopulated and sitting only 200km off the coast, but the TNI is geared towards terrorising their own people more than ours. Barring a major shake-up to their leadership and/or national character, I don't see them becoming a strategic threat in the near future, despite the dreams of groups like Jemaah Islamiya. In any case I'll be using U.S. devices only, because as two-fifths of the ANZUS treaty they're our allies and it'll avoid libelous remarks (and the U.S. is pretty invasion-happy anyway, amirite?).

So: as part of their invasion, the  Bad Guys want to render Melbourne - the largest, most populous city in the country, with the busiest port and a solid industrial base - non-functional. How does one go about shutting down Melbourne with a few well-placed miniature suns?

I started by looking up the most obvious targets - military installations, especially joint U.S.-Australian ones - and was a bit stunned to find a site called AusSurvivalists has a list of the Top 40 Australian Strategic Targets, which includes everything from Pine Gap to the Lithgow Small Arms Factory and, you'll notice, the exact latitude and longitude for each. Man, I can't believe a list like this is actually legal, but there you are: forty juicy targets oughta prime the pump nicely.

But very quickly I discovered that as far as military targets go, there kind of aren't any in Melbourne proper. The nearest air force base is RAAF East Sale, but that's only a training base with little actual combat hardware. There's the mooring for HMAS Cerberus, but we'll be getting to that when we attack the port. Puckapunyal, home of the army's School of Armour, School of Artillery and School of Ordnance seems like a pukka target, but it's about 100km north of the city proper and beyond the scope of this blog. Apart from that there's a few bits and pieces (Simpson Barracks, home of the Defence Force School of Music, anyone?) and the Victoria Barracks, which is heritage-listed and absolutely gorgeous by the standards of military architecture. I doubt the Bad Guys will give five-eighths of a fuck about preserving our cultural heritage, but as a target it's a bit small for a nuke, and anyway most of the people in there are better kept alive: "Killing the only people who can surrender is not terribly bright," as it says (yes, slaughtering the grunts and keeping the pigs in command alive is enshrined in policy now).

But that doesn't mean we're out of strategically promising targets. Among the Top 40 are every major oil refinery in the country, one of which is owned by Mobil and located right there on the beach at Altona. For some reason though they didn't count the Shell refinery at Geelong, but as a servo attendant I can promise you it matters. I had the privilege of working in north Melbourne a few years ago when someone opened the wrong valve there and shandied up a few million litres of diesel; we had no choice but to hang signs on our pumps and apologise to the panicking tradies and truckies. It was almost four days before diesel crept back into our city. So taking out either of those refineries would cause a major disruption to the fuel supply. Hit both and you'd bring the southern half of Australia - the bit with the Ford and Holden assembly plants, where every other knob on the road has a Haitch-Ess-Vee or Eff-Pee-Vee - to a screeching halt.

So let's hit both of those right now: airburst W-76s, 100 kilotons each.

That should do it. Those fractionating towers are now plasma, along with half a square kilometre of other Mobil property. The residential parts of Altona are gone; the West Gate Freeway is probably still there, but any cars riding it have probably been blown off the road. Nukemap guesstimates about 105,000 casualties, including nearly 22,000 deaths. Anyone within 4.4km and unprotected now has third-degree burns, although that mightn't be so bad as Nukemap cheerfully tells us such burns, "are often painless because they destroy the pain nerves." Oh, good.

The refinery strikes are a good start - at the very least they should trigger the Mad Max fantasies all those HSV and FPV owners secretly nurse - but we have even bigger fish to fry. If you really want to cripple a country, you need to take out its airports. Next stop, Tullamarine.

This will be a jittery experience for me because if we miss we're going to destroy Calder Park Raceway, of which I have very fond memories. To take down Tullamarine you can't just flatten the radar and departure lounge, either; the RAAF will just move in and make the place their own regardless. To really cramp their style we're going to have to use a groundburst to dig a big fat hole in those nice smooth runways. That means a large device, because blast at ground level won't travel as far as it will from up high. So we'll also use a bigger nuke, a W-87 currently deployed on the Minuteman III - yield 350 kilotons.

It's hard to see, but most of Tullamarine is contained in that red circle, which delineates blast pressure above 20psi, enough to demolish even concrete buildings. Nukemap claims another three-and-a-half thousand deaths, but that seems very conservative to me; depending on the time of day the airport could contain 10,000 warm bodies all by itself. More importantly, both runways are under the yellow circle outlining the fireball itself, which just dug a crater 260 metres across (which, since the weapon has a 200m CEP, is easily big enough), putting both runways out of action permanently. Calder Park is also just barely outside the 100% chance-of-third-degree-burn range, so people inside the Thunderdome might be okay; unfortunately, you'd basically have to be at Flemington to get off with zero chance of burns, and we're also about to have our first run-in with the F-word: fallout.
Fallout is caused (mostly) by debris from the ground being sucked into the fireball, irradiated and spewed out of the top," says the expert. "This radioactive plume coalesces in the atmosphere and falls back to earth. It's a mix of isotopes of varying half lives. The most vicious of these isotopes have short half lives and are gone in a few hours (usually before the fallout makes it back to the ground). The milder ones can hang around for millennia but their effects are tolerable (speaking relatively again). The really dangerous ones are those that have a half life of between 5 and 6 years - these are long-lived enough to be seriously contaminating and hot enough to be dangerous. The worst is cobalt.
And by digging a big hole, a groundburst creates huge amounts of fallout, and if you follow the plume you'll notice a lot of it has just landed in Greenvale Reservoir. Everyone in Greenvale and Roxburgh Park who's still alive will be buying bottled water for the next decade. Or pouring it on their burns.

Last but not least, the really crucial part - the port of Melbourne, on the banks of the Yarra near Swanson. The busiest port in the country. If you want to prevent the ADF getting any resupply, this has to be a priority target. But more than that, I'm intrigued by what the guru had to say about targeting railway lines:

The first shot at targeting will be stunningly disappointing so you play games with warhead types and yields and with burst locations until you get as many of target set as you can. Take that marshalling yard; sounds easy doesn't it? Believe me railway marshalling yards are a whirling son of a bitch to take down. They are virtually invulnerable to airbursts; we have to groundburst a blast directly on the yard. 800 yards outside and you might as well not have bothered. The problem is those yards are not that big. So now we have a problem called CEP. This stands for Circle of Equal Probability (NOT Circular Error Probable which is a totally meaningless term invented by those of the intrepid birdmen). This is a measure of the accuracy of the missile and is the radius of the circle that will contain half the missiles aimed at the center of the circle. That means that half the inbounds will fall outside that circle. Now we have a second concept; the radius of total destruction, the radius within which everything is destroyed. Its astonishingly small; for a 100 kt groundburst its about 800 yards (now see where the marshalling yard came from).. Now if the RTD exceeds the CEP we're probably OK, if it doesn't (and in most cases it doesn't) we've got problems.

I'm in the mood for a challenge, so let's aim our device not at the port itself, but the set of railway lines just to the north: that's how all the containers get out of the city, so a lucky hit here will cut the lines and leave the containers stranded. If we manage to damage the port facilities and take out the cranes at well, that'll just be icing on the cake. So let's groundburst a mid-range W-80 right there on the lines, 150 kilotons.

Oh yeah. Those railway lines are gone; from the looks of it about half the port itself would be inside the fireball, and the rest would be halfway to Tasmania by now. Even better, the city CBD with things like the Queen Victoria Market is located outside the blast radius, meaning a lot of it probably survived (albeit with the world's most epic glazier bill). The downside is, the wind in this part of the world tends to blow northeast off the Bass Strait, so...


...Yeah, we just gave the northern suburbs a deep-tissue tan as well. Epping, Mill Park, South Morang, Greensborough and Hurstbridge will be inhabitable for several years at least, even if you manage to fight off the mutants who now live there. A lot of the dust fell into the Dandenong ranges too, where it'll get into every nook and cranny and probably stay there forever. Worst of all?

The Kerrigans won't be visiting Bonnie Doon anytime soon. Might as well sell your holiday home Darryl, schedule a weekend there and you're dreamin'.

Total casualties? Nukemap comes up with a minimum 51,000 deaths (which could easily double, depending on the breaks), and 210,000 to a flat half a million injured. But for that price  we've managed to ruin Melbourne as an entity and turned it into Australia's biggest welfare slum. Which, considering all the Sun-reading, rort-raging, right-wing members of Rupert Murdoch's zombie army who who call the place home, serves 'em right.

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