A Cardboard Castle? An Inside History of the Warsaw Pact, 1955-1991

By Vojtech Mastny; Malcolm Byrne | Go to book overview

Document No. 38: Study of Special Features of a Surprise
Outbreak of War Prepared for the Hungarian Military,
February 22–23, 1966

This document is rare among the publicly available materials dealing with the possi- ble consequences of a Western nuclear strike. Its unusual aspect is in the admission that there is really no defense against such a strike. The text does not say this outright but clearly indicates there is no realistic possibility of defense. The authors of the study predict that Western-launched Polaris missiles would reach Hungary in 8–10 minutes. Some 20–30 minutes later, tactical air force strikes would ensue, followed some six hours later by strategic bombers taking off from the United States. Local air defenses, particularly fighter aircraft flying at twice the speed of sound, would be partially suc- cessful but unable entirely to repel such a large-scale assault.

"…"

With the simultaneous launching of air and space-based attacks, the first manifestation over Hungarian air space may be of Polaris-type ballistic missiles, 8–10 minutes after their launching from submarines patrolling in the Mediterranean. Some 20–30 minutes later—after take-off—strike forces of tactical aircraft (belonging to the 4th and 5th Allied Tactical Air Headquarters) and 1.5–2 hours later, tactical bombers located in Europe (Spain) may reach the borders of the country. Some 6–8 hours after take-off, we can expect strikes by strategic bombers taking off from United States territory and the return of the tactical aircraft participating in the action.

"…"

Our air-defense forces (airborne missile defense units and fighter planes) will be able to destroy the enemy's means of air attack, flying at 1.7–2 times the speed of sound, from altitudes of 500 m and lower up to 27,000 m, at any time of year or day.

Radar units will be able to detect the means of air attack at 60–70 km distance from the country's borders at altitudes of 500 m, and at 200–250 km at altitudes of 16,000 m. This detection potential (assuming 960 km/h as the cruising speed) means that air targets are detected about 4 minutes before they reach the borders of the country if they are flying at low altitudes, and 13–15 minutes beforehand at high altitudes.

"…"

Detection of intercontinental ballistic missiles by the reconnaissance facilities of the Unified Air-defense Headquarters will probably take place 25 minutes before impact, in case of a trajectory of about 10,000 km. At this time, there may still be 9–10 minutes left before the launching of Polaris-type missiles and the take-off of tactical aircraft. The Polaris can be expected to appear 17–20 minutes later (counting 8–10 minutes flying time). Some 10–15 minutes after impact, NATO tactical aircraft will

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