Bill Todd -- Jones: A Novel of the Early Cold War
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 Chapter 40

The Big Simulation

The school year in Cincinnati having ended, Jones moved to Washington for the summer. He and Heike had still not arrived at any formal arrangement, the ideas of engagement and marriage remaining a bit scary. When pressed on the matter by Debbie, the secretary that she liked best, Heike responded that they were "engaged to be engaged, or perhaps engaged to be engaged to be engaged." Debbie looked a little uncertain, but smiled encouragingly.

The upshot was that Jones had to find a separate place, and, having driven from Cincinnati in his old station wagon with the rowboat sticking out the back, the first priority was to find a place where the whole arrangement could live. The apartment he found, in a house on Rosedale Avenue in Bethesda, had a suitable driveway and parking space, but was guaranteed to be over a hundred degrees a good deal of the time. However, almost no buildings but the movie houses were air-conditioned, and even Heike's much nicer apartment was hardly cooler.

With his doctorate, and Heike's on the way, they were beginning to get job offers, some in better climates. But, since it was impossible to nudge defense policy from, say, California, they agreed to remain in Washington.

JOAD wasn't air-conditioned. The people there, not familiar with the extent of the air-conditioning needed to cool the big computer at CASP, didn't know what they were missing. Heike and Jones certainly didn't tell them, but Went dropped the odd remark.

Having completed the JOAD atomic missile attack simulation (which was safely buried), they now had under way one simulation for CASP, the air war and atomic exchange with the Soviet Union, and one for JOAD, the attack submarine model. This latter was mostly being developed by Han, but they chose the cooler days to come to JOAD and work with him. One of their lesser, but still well-kept, secrets was how little time it took to construct a simulation. Han and Heike, using certain abbreviations, could put together something that looked like months of work in a few hours. Jones would expand those abbreviations into the octal code which a secretary could translate into the binary machine language.

In the case of the simulated atomic air attack on the Soviet Union, the most critical issue, as in the case of any logical exercise, consisted in deciding and stating the premises. In a simulation of this sort, the most important of these premises assigned probabilities to certain basic events. They drew partly on what they had learned from Colonel Scott at SAC, but they set aside some of his more obvious biases. In the end, there was, as there would be in any such enterprise, a lot of hopefully informed guesswork.

There was hesitancy on the part of both Jones and Heike to actually put down on paper, much less into the computer, the values on which so much might depend. But, after lunch on one amazingly hot day, Jones wrote down ".6" as the basic probability of radar interception of a single American plane crossing into Soviet territory. Heike congratulated him on his daring, and he replied,

"It's my birthday, so I thought I might be lucky."

Heike, delighted, embraced him. On withdrawing, she said,

"It never occurred to me that you had a birthday."

A little later, General Smith, passing by the open door, said,

"I thought I heard a celebration in here. Anything good happened?"

Heike replied,

"Jones just stated the probability of interception by Soviet radar."

She then showed him the slip of paper. General Smith laughed and replied,

"It sounds all right to me. Of course, LeMay may put it at .1 or less."

Heike replied,

"In the final version, we'll lower the value, but make up for it by giving the radar more chances to intercept."

"I guess you and Jones can always find some way of making things come out the way you want them."

Jones came close to nodding as the general drifted away.

Introducing apparent sophistication into what was really a guessing game, they varied the basic probability for different stretches of the border. The radar certainly wouldn't be equally efficient in all areas, and they lowered it in the less civilized ones. As Heike said,

"Mongols are very good at shooting arrows over the tails of their horses at their enemies, but they'll have trouble with radar screens."

The radar in the area of the Lapps was similarly downgraded, but the Latvians were judged to be good on radar blips because of the exquisite embroidery produced in their country. Jones asked,

"What if SAC questions these variations?"

"General LeMay told us that, due to the Soviet commissar system, their defenses will be stronger in politically sensitive areas. In this respect, we're only deferring to his judgment."

Jones smiled, and Heike continued,

"Apart from that, we'll say that our estimates are derived from intelligence sources which cannot be revealed at this time."

In any case, the probability of nterception grew to as much as .9 by the time that the plane had penetrated to the Soviet heartland. The corresponding probabilities for a force of 100 aircraft started at .8 and rose to .99

Having detected an intruder, what was the probability of its being shot down by the very large Soviet fighter force? There wasn't enough information about Soviet fighters to construct a small scale fighter v. bomber simulation, but there were lots of statistics from the second world war. While the B-50 was virtually the B-29 of that war, the fighters were now jet fighters. They might not be as well- flown as the Japanese ones, and there might not be any Soviet counterparts of Saburo Sakai, but the great advantage of speed and fire-power would have to make a B-50 a fairly dead duck. Depending on the ratio of attacking fighters, the probability of an immediate shoot-down varied from .7 to .95. If the B-50 should survive, it would have to run the gauntlet of more such attacks, depending on the depth of penetration.

These figures varied slightly when one considered the B- 36 instead of the B-50. The cruising speed of the B-36 was actually lower than that of the B-50, just over 200mph, and its huge size made it even easier to spot and identify. The B-36 did have a much more formidable defensive armament, but even that might be reduced to save weight for long-range missions. The fighters would still have a tremendous advantage, and an unescorted bomber, no matter how big, could still have its engines shot to pieces and its fuel tanks, no matter how self-sealing, set on fire. Thus, the probabilities would be only slightly better for the B-36s.

Conventional bomber strategy dictated massing the attacking force in a single stream for penetration, and then dividing it to attack various targets. For better or worse, neither Heike nor Jones had heard anyone say anything at all about departing from that strategy. Indeed, Colonel Scott had said something about bombers "fighting their way through, as they did over Germany." Jones had not reminded him that the distances, and chances of interception, would be ten times as great. Nor that the Soviet fighter force would be much more numerous. Indeed, a bomber stream would be attacked by increasing numbers of fighters as re-inforcements were brought to bear.

This was something they could simulate, and they quickly put together a little mock-up of a special case of the simulation to come. Using some typical starting assumptions, they had it running within the hour. Initial results suggested that, once such an attack was spotted, the probability of shooting down 95% of the attackers in the first 150 miles of penetration was about .85. In some cases, no bombers at all reached their targets.

If, on the other hand, three hundred attackers penetrated in widely scattered places at different altitudes, well over a hundred could be expected to cross the border. A dozen or two could be expected to destroy their targets. A dozen or more atomic bombs knocking out as many cities or bases would be a big deal, but it wouldn't destroy the Soviet Union. Heike pointed out,

"If the bombers that penetrate are B-36s carrying two or three atomic bombs each, and at least attempting to bomb several targets, some twenty five targets could conceivably be destroyed."

"That might make even Stalin think twice. It's a useful deterrent to attack, but, remember the problem of the tanker pilots. Even if some bombers made it to friendly bases, there wouldn't be enough tankers left to support a second strike."

Heike concluded,

"It'd just be the start of world war three. Both sides would bomb each other sporadically as they slowly produced atomic weapons, but, for the most part, the conventional arms would go at it in the same way as before."

Jones leaned back in his chair and said,

"In philosophy, it's an old trick to begin a debate by seeming to agree with your opponent. You toss a few compliments his way and accept his conclusions, relative to only one thing. Then, after showing that his work all rests on that one premise, you proceed to destroy the premise."

"So our simulation of the attack should show good prospects of success with enough B-36s and bombs?"

"Yes. Assuming two hundred and fifty B-36s and fifty B-50s, that's some eight hundred bombs."

"So we advertize the SAC position pretending we don't know that there are only you-know-how-many hundred bombs."

Jones held up three fingers, and replied,

"When it then gets to the top table where they're all cleared to know how many bombs we have, General Smith can destroy any idea of an actual SAC attack by naming the number."

"So we have to seem to be giving LeMay the game before we take it away. That sounds very dangerous, Jones."

"If it works, SAC would be used to threaten Stalin, but there'd never be an attack. As far as that goes, our people might be able to give Stalin the impression that we have all the bombs we need."

"That number's a prime target for Soviet espionage. Stalin may already have the true figure."

Having decided to take a break for dinner, the familiar question of where to eat arose. Heike said,

"The food at the gabby woman's restaurant is better, but I don't feel like coping with the gabby woman."

"The Howard Johnson's is usually as silent as a morgue, but that yellow gravy is so awful."

"Besides, these places are all boiling hot. Let's go to the market and bring food back here where its cool."

Returning with a bag full, Heike remarked,

"There's an odd thing about Virginia. The restaurants are awful, but the food in the stores is the same as evrywhere else."

"That's because Virginians only go out to celebrate. They then eat stuff that would kill them if they ate it every day."

As it happened, General Smith had also returned. As he said,

"My wife's visiting her mother, and the house is impossibly hot. It was either go to a movie or come here. I hate movies."

Heike replied,

"I used to go to movies on some hot aftrnoons. If you use earplugs and just watch the changing patterns of color on the screen, it's not so bad. It's usually the script that's embarrassingly trite."

"That's too heroic a course for me."

When they discovered that General Smith hadn't eaten, Heike insisted on making him a sandwich from their ample ingrediants.

The talk inevitably turned to the simulation, and they went over its basic structure. Finally, Jones said,

"We may be able to give you an ace in the hole, general."

They did not explicitly mention the number of bombs, but, when Jones said that eight hundred would be required to make an attack a reasonable possibility, General Smith looked considerably relieved. He then said,

"It's the civilian political leadership which must eventually decide whether to attack the Soviet Union. We need to keep it simple. We can say either that we don't have enough bombers, or that they can't get through, or that we don't have enough bombs. They're in fact inter-related, but the last seems the simplest."

Jones replied,

"After all, they're easy to count."

"There's no way we can stop LeMay and the forces behind him from making a strong case. But we can keep saying that the time isn't right. Even when we have more bombs, we can still say that we don't have enough."

Heike replied,

"SAC will claim that ninety per cent of the bombers will get through, and that that would be enough."

"Yes, but no one outside of SAC will believe them. We should be able to make it clear to almost everyone else that there's no reasonable chance for one of LeMay's beat-to-the-draw attacks for several years. By that time, it'll be a whole new ball game."

"I hope it's a better ball game."

"So do I. But, whatever it is, I can still make my argument that even a fairly successful atomic attack wouldn't destroy a deployed Red Army and keep it from overrunning western Europe."

After a moment, General Smith mused,

"We're in an awkward situation. We have to convince the potential enemy that we can successfully attack while, at the same time, persuading our own people that we can't.

Bill Todd -- Jones: A Novel of the Early Cold War
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