Northeast Atlanta Gaming

August 7, 2010

Tactical Nuclear Warheads in the AIW context

Filed under: Games,Tactical,Weapons — foodnearsnellville @ 3:53 pm
Tags: ,

When I was between high school and university and in a high school enrichment program, one of my lab instructors was a former SP artillery jock, who was assigned to a post near the border with East Germany. When asked what he would have done if the Soviets invaded, his comment was that his first shot would be a ranging shot, and his second would be a nuke. That was mid 1970s, and the comment has stayed with me a long time. Though I love conventional NATO scenarios in a gaming context, the odds that a totally realistic 1970s “war” between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces would remain conventional is about zero.

In the book, “M109 155mm Self Propelled Howitzer 1960-2005”, the authors mention a nuclear warhead for the artillery piece, the M454 AFAP, which had a 100 ton yield warhead (1). 100 ton? So what are the effects of a 100 ton warhead? How would anyone figure that out? Turns out with a little help from the Wikipedia, it’s not as hard as it might first appear.

To quote reference 3:

This is because the intensity of the blast effects drops off with the third power of distance from the explosion, while the intensity of radiation effects drops off with the second power of range.

This means we’re dealing with power laws and can use the information in the charts provided in reference 3 to give us a feel for the effects near such an explosion. We know that N = 1/3 in the case of blast effects and N = 1/2 in the case of thermal effects. N for lethal dose and acute radiation syndrome can be calculated in terms of a power law. The Wikipedia chart, using the 1 and 20 kiloton bursts yield N = 0.1868 and N = 0.13534 respectively.

This gives us:

100 ton bomb
Effect Radius
20 PSI 90 meters
5 PSI 280 meters
1 PSI 790 meters
Railway cars tossed and crushed 190 meters
Flammables set on fire 160 meters
3rd degree burns 190 meters
2nd degree burns 250 meters
1st degree burns 350 meters
Lethal dose radiation 520 meters
Acute dose radiation 880 meters

On a Panzerblitz board, I’d say anything in the first hex is gone, and anything in hexes one hex away from the center of the explosion should be destroyed or dispersed. Units two hexes away should roll for dispersion. Units further out would have effects depending on cover and terrain. Being in an urban area or near trees risk falling damage.

One issue not touched on in the table is blindness. Almost any unit that did not know of the blast and was not equipped with the appropriate glassware, and could see the blast should roll for blindness. A blind unit is effectively incapacitated (destroyed) from the standpoint of a short scenario.

1. Zaloga, Steven and Bryan, Tony, “M109 155mm Self-Propelled Howitzer 1960-2005”, Osprey 2005, p 17.
2. “Nuclear Weapon Yield”, Wikipedia entry. url:, Accessed August 7, 2010.
3. “Effects of Nuclear Explosions”, Wikipedia entry. url, Accessed August 7, 2010.
4. “General Principles of Nuclear Explosions”, Trinity Atomic Web Site. url:, Accessed August 7, 2010


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