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The British Nuclear ExperienceThe Roles of Beliefs, Culture and Identity$

John Baylis and Kristan Stoddart

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198702023

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198702023.001.0001

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(p.221) Appendix 3 Strategic Strike Planning by Bomber Command, 1962

(p.221) Appendix 3 Strategic Strike Planning by Bomber Command, 1962

The British Nuclear Experience
Oxford University Press

The strategic target policy for Bomber Command is set out in COS (57) 224 which for the case of purely national, unilateral, action states:

‘If the UK should be forced to take unilateral retaliation against the USSR, the target policy of Bomber Command should be to attack the Soviet centres of administration and population. This is the most effective target system for our limited forces’.

1. Plans for the employment of the Medium Bomber Force against this target system are drawn up by Bomber Command. Actual targets are selected according to operational considerations from a priority list, provided by the Air Ministry. Successive plans have changed only in tactics and in variation of the number of cities to be attacked as dictated by developing offensive and defensive capabilities. The current plan provides for attacks on 15 cities. (Thor does not, of course, figure in this plan).

2. Dealing with joint UK/US planning, COS (57) 224, states:-

‘In the event of co-ordinated action with the USAF, the target policy for Bomber Command should be determined solely by considerations of timing, tactics, aircraft performance and weapon availability, subject to the proviso that the combined strike plan should include targets which must be hit in the first strike if the war is to be finished quickly and the damage done to the UK and Western Europe kept as low as possible.’

3. In considering the application of this directive for co-ordinated planning it is most important to take full cognisance of the massive weight of strike resources now available for the ‘combined strike’ referred to in the latter part of the Chiefs of Staff directive, quoted in the immediately preceding paragraph.

4. In this context, the current co-ordinated Plan, effective from 1 August, 1962, provides for attacks by MBF aircraft and/or Thor missiles on:-

16—Cities, as centres of administration and population (and, of course, of control).

44—‘Offensive Capability’ Targets i.e. airfields.

10—‘Defensive Capability’ Targets, e.g. air defence control centres.

28—IRBM’s (Selection of these targets is by mutual agreement between Bomber Command and Strategic Air Command and there can be no suggestion of US authorities arbitrarily imposing targets upon the UK strike force. They have been selected to provide the best operational tactical plan). (p.222)

5. The targets included in current planning fall well within the target systems authorised by the Chiefs of Staff.

6. There has, however, been some change of emphasis between the Bomber Command part in the previous and current co-ordinated plans. The MBF and Thor in the previous plans were directed primarily against cities—48 cities, 6 air defence targets and 3 L.R.A.F. bases. In isolation this could be interpreted as a significant change in the direction of counter-force strategy. However, the co-ordinated plan for all-out retaliation covers the targets previously allotted to Bomber Command. This plan is therefore fully compatible with the Strategic Target Policy which was formulated against the background of the use of massive retaliation and on the assumptions that the Western Powers would not take the initiative and that we would counter actual Soviet aggression.

7. At the same time we know that the Americans have other plans about which we have not been consulted specifically and we are aware that the agreed Bomber Command participation in co-ordinated action would be compatible with all these.

8. There has, however, been no direct suggestion of pre-emptive action in the joint preparation of plans by Bomber Command and SAC. This line has been confirmed in recent discussions between the Ministry of Defence and Mr McNamara.

9. It is none-the-less prudent to have alternate plans; the decision on implementation being clearly a matter for political judgement at the time. Furthermore, should there be disagreement between ourselves and the Americans in the event it would still be possible to direct the Medium Bomber Force to concentrate on centres of administration and population, as in the case of unilateral action, at the same time as the Americans attacked alternative target systems.

10. The co-ordinated plan is re-written once a year, the next revision being due in July, 1963. If there is any change in emphasis which could conflict with the existing COS policy I will, of course, let you know.

Source: TNA, AIR 8/2201, ACAS (ops) to PS VCAS, 5 October 1962.