The date is Christmas Eve, 2019, and deep
in the heart of Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado, technicians working at the North American
Aerospace Defense Command- otherwise known as NORAD- track the flight of a Russian rocket
launch. In accordance with international regulations,
the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, formally announced the launch weeks before, and filed
a flight path with the UN. The launch is a curious one, as the launch
trajectory doesn’t follow the typical equatorial or polar orbital trajectories of most spacecraft. The Russians claim that the rocket contains
a probe which will use the highly eccentric orbit to rendezvous with a medium-sized asteroid
flying past the earth a few million miles away, itself on a highly eccentric orbit. The math checks out, and thus as NORAD tracks
the launch entering space above the US, there is no reason for alarm. Nonetheless, American space and ground-based
imaging assets still track the curious Russian probe. The rocket seems to be smaller than anticipated
for the launching of a deep space probe, but the Russians claim that their probe is powered
by an ion engine, which doesn’t require much fuel. Some inside of the American aerospace and
defense sector are suspicious that the launch is actually a new secret Russian military
satellite, and thus NORAD is ordered to track its trajectory carefully and detect if any
sub-vehicles are released from the main body of the spacecraft as it reaches orbit. The Russian spacecraft reaches a point in
its orbit over the middle of the United States when suddenly the numerous electronic eyes
and ears following its flight go blind all at once. At first NORAD technicians believe that there
must be some computer error within NORAD’s systems itself, as the command post is not
receiving any data from over a dozen of the surveillance platforms it had been using. In fact, several other assets have apparently
gone off line as well, including satellites and ground-based communications and tracking
stations. Then, an icy cold chill grips the men deep
inside their bunker at NORAD. A secret global surveillance network of space-based
sensors begins to phone home, and the news they are reporting are terrifying. This sensor system dates back to the nineteen
seventies, and have only one job: monitor the entire surface of the earth from very
high orbits and detect the telltale flash and heat of a nuclear explosion. Originally designed to help enforce the Nuclear
Test-Ban Treaty, which prohibited the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, outer
space or underwater, this space surveillance network was left in operation to help prevent
rogue states from testing weapons in remote areas of the world. Now the decades old system is calling home,
and the news are troubling: a major nuclear detonation has been detected directly over
the heart of the United States. Several hundred miles above the US, a nuclear
flash briefly creates a second sun and lights up the sky above much of the United States. Simultaneously, a titanic electromagnetic
pulse sweeps over the entire nation, burning out power and communications systems across
the entirety of the US and most of Mexico and Canada. Power transformers are blown and the electricity
across most of the nation is shut down permanently. Cities go dark all across the US. Radio and satellite communications equipment
across the nation is destroyed by the electromagnetic pulse, and only a few pieces of military equipment
specifically hardened against EMP pulses survives. In space above the US, the blast destroys
dozens of satellites, knocking out communication relay networks that connect the world. The EMP blast reaches further out, and manages
to destroy many more satellites- though luckily more modern satellites have been hardened
against the effects of the sun and are shielded from the EMP blast. In the span of a few short seconds, the United
States has been sent back to the industrial age. It will take weeks to restore cross-country
communications, and months to begin to bring back the power to major cities. It’ll be years, perhaps as much as a decade,
before the American electrical grid is fully repaired. Millions will die in time, and yet this was
just the opening shot of World War III. NORAD is itself shielded from the effects
of an EMP pulse, and immediately it uses an old, but still reliable, communications network
to send Emergency Action Messages across the country. These messages reach several important American
military bases, and in moments men and women scramble to respond to the Russian attack. Everybody knows what’s next, and it is vitally
important that the nation restore its ability to respond to this attack as quickly as possible. Deep in the heart of Russia, giant concrete
doors are already yawning open. Klaxons and warning signals sound out across
a Russian plain broken up only by the dozens of missile silos buried deep beneath its dirt. With a fiery roar, each missile lifts up into
the sky one by one. At NORAD, a surviving satellite sends a missile
launch warning. The President has been warned over an emergency
relay system, but communications all across the US are severely hampered by the EMP attack. Nobody, not even the President can reach the
rest of the United States’ nuclear alert forces to order a retaliatory attack, let alone command
the US military at large. At Travis Air Force Base in California, and
Patuxent River in Maryland, flight and support crew rush from their alert station to a huge,
egg-white painted aircraft. Ground crew rush to complete the few preparations
needed to get this aircraft into the air, and within minutes the big plane is already
lumbering down the runway. This plane carries no bombs, no missiles,
no weapons of any kind- and yet as the two aircraft on opposite sides of the country
finally take to the air, they have now become the most dangerous weapons on the face of
the planet. The E-6 Mercuries immediately make for a cruising
altitude around fifty thousand feet. Each plane is manned by two pilots and three
engineers, along with a battle staff of nine. Amongst the airborne battle staff is a General
officer, and if communications with the President or any other member of the nation’s Nuclear
Command Authority can’t be established, each General can assume full command of the United
States’ military- to include its nuclear forces. The E-6 is outfitted with a vast array of
extremely powerful, jam-resistant, and EMP hardened communications gears. Antennas ring the aircraft, and in moments
it has linked up with the nation’s emergency airborne command and control aircraft- a fleet
of similar planes who’s job is to create an airborne communications relay system across
the United States and beyond. With ground-based comms down, and the US’s
space network severely affected, this fleet of aircraft now provide a direct-link communications
network, relaying signals off each other and to their final destination. Shortly after the E-6’s reach cruising altitude
though, news comes in of a second nuclear detonation in Washington DC. This was a ground-based blast, and both crews
realize that the Russians have struck at the nation’s capital with a small nuclear weapon
that was likely smuggled into the US. The explosion has eliminated nearly all of
the upper-level command and control structure of the US government- and yet, the mission
of each E-6 is unaffected by the attempt to decapitate the US military and government. Assuming command, the general officer aboard
the E-6 currently flying a few dozen miles off the east coast of the United States immediately
re-establishes communications with the US’s ground-based missile forces. Using a system of Very High Frequency and
Super High Frequency antennas, the E-6 is able to alert launch control officers deep
in their bunkers to prepare their missiles for launch. The communications system affords so much
control over the US’s land-based ICBMs, that the general now in command of the United State’s
nuclear forces is able to reprogram the targets to several of the missiles. A second command instructs the United States
Air Force to immediately being launches of its space-resilience program, and in minutes
converted ICBMS kept at the ready are rocketing into the sky. Shortly after, the payload fairing on each
of the converted ICBMs splits open, releasing a swarm of micro satellites which have been
boosted into orbit around the earth. The micro-satellites immediately re-establish
the US’s space communications and intelligence network, and start feeding data directly to
each E-6 Mercury currently in flight. Now the general aboard the east coast’s E-6
is finally able to communicate with US military forces abroad and with America’s allies. Within seconds the world at large is aware
of the attack on the United States, and NATO makes preparations for war. US forces abroad prepare for the war that
will immediately follow the end of the world. From the rear of each E-6, an antenna is released
and then dropped to trail behind the aircraft. With five miles of wiring, the very low frequency
antenna at the end of the wire now hangs twenty six thousand feet below and behind the aircraft,
and immediately establishes communications with the US’s submarine fleet. Emergency Action Messages are relayed to American
ballistic missile submarines, and the captains of individual boats race to make their missiles
ready for launch. It is now fifteen minutes after the EMP attack,
and space-based sensors along with a few surviving ground-tracking stations confirm dozens of
Russian nuclear warheads in their mid-course trajectories. Ballistic missile interceptors based on the
west coast of the United States boost into the air, launching from their silos in Alaska,
California, and Washington. Thanks to data links provided by the E-6 Mercuries,
the interceptors are able to close in on Russian warheads- though unfortunately they manage
a measly kill ratio that knocks only a few handful of the dozens of incoming nuclear
warheads out of the sky. The next line of defense is the US Navy, and
with targeting data relayed via the E-6’s network capabilities, American destroyers
on the West Coast and in the Arctic fire off a salvo of SM-3 missiles. Intercepting the incoming warheads in their
final trajectories, the Navy fares a little better than the Air Force’s ballistic missile
interceptors, and another handful of warheads are knocked out of the sky by the SM-3s. Now the crew of each E-6 aircraft braces itself. There is nothing left to do but wait for the
inevitable. Luckily, they don’t have to wait long. A minute after the Navy’s last-ditch effort
to intercept the incoming warheads, the first nuclear strikes rock the West Coast of the
United States. Miraculously, Los Angeles suffers only a glancing
blow, some of the warheads aimed at it intercepted in-flight. San Francisco and San Diego however are obliterated,
each taking multiple direct hits. Thirty seconds later, the nuclear detonations
spread east, reaching Colorado, Nevada, and Wyoming. NORAD is rocked by a near-miss, but survives
intact. The nuclear missile fields in Montana and
the Dakotas are obliterated by multiple strikes- though their own missiles have already been
launched. Two minutes after the first impact, New York,
Atlanta, and Philadelphia are wiped off the map. Washington, already rocked by a small ground-based
nuclear weapon, is struck again for good measure. Three minutes after the first detonations,
the US is silent. Most of its major cities have been reduced
to rubble, over a hundred million are already dead. America’s military command structure survives
however, and the crews of the in-flight E-6s watch on monitors as the first American nuclear
strikes devastate Russia. The first to strike back are America’s ballistic
missile submarines, and their missiles devastate Russia’s seaboard cities. A few minutes later, American ICBMS rain down
extinction in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Vladivostok. The first phase of World War III is over,
but the war itself has only just begun. The E-6 aircraft link up with America’s airborne
emergency communications network and its space assets to coordinate the military response
by the US’s overseas forces. Many overseas American bases have been struck
in the nuclear attack, but the ability to quickly restore communications afforded by
the E-6s means that many other forces manage to disperse in time to avoid destruction. Now the E-6s relay orders around the globe
to all surviving US and NATO forces, who prepare for an assault into Russia in order to ensure
that World War III does not have a follow-up nuclear exchange. Should the US to have a back-up system in
case of sneak attack by a foreign adversary? What do you think the war that follows a full
nuclear exchange would look like? Tell us in the comments! Now go watch “What If There Was A Nuclear
War Between The US And Russia?” As always, don’t forget to Like, Share, and
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