Jeffrey LewisICBM Basing Modes

There is a healthy debate about how much a new ICBM will cost the US Air Force.  One question is whether to base the new missile in silos or consider something more … exotic.

Jeffrey and Aaron take a light-hearted look at basing modes discussed during 1980s when the American defense community last confronted this question.

We argue about our favorite silly basing modes from ICBM BASING OPTIONS: A SUMMARY OF MAJOR STUDIES TO DEFINE A SURVIVABLE BASING CONCEPT FOR ICBMS (December 1980.) You should totally print it out and follow along.


  1. Vilhelm S. (History)

    After checking Google Maps, I’m happy to report that the Mount Rushmore memorial does indeed face south. 🙂

  2. Cthippo (History)

    You mentioned in a previous podcast that the President has the sole authority to launch a nuclear strike. Is this actually the case? Isn’t there a requirement for a second official to concur?

    I’d like to suggest a podcast on how the command and control system would likely respond to being ordered to launch a first strike in the absence of a threat. The hypothetical hete is that Trump gets mad at country X for insulting him and orders a nuclear strike. Would the command and control system carry out the order or would they tell him to get stuffed?

    Much ink (pixels?) has been spilled on command and control under attack, but no one has discussed how and if it would work in a first strike in the absence of an attack.

    If you live in Monterrey and are not playing in the ocean on a regular basis, that should be a crime.

  3. J_kies (History)

    A first strike is essentially a de facto declaration of war and outside the authorities of the Commander in Chief. In theory that should be an illegal order and as the military swears loyalty to the Constitution grounds exist for it to be ignored.

    The Presidential authorities are nominally tied to responding to an apparent or actual attack by others.

    Monterey has really cold Pacific ocean water due to the Alaskan current; that fog doesn’t just happen by magic, natives prefer wetsuits for most times of the year.

  4. Gregory Matteson (History)

    Thinking about the “silo” launch video and tour that the Iranians showed recently, I have a notion that they read the .pdf .

  5. Cameron (History)

    I’ve always wondered if the fake Sand Pit silos would have animatronic ant lions placed at the bottom. It’s what I’d suggest at 3am after an afternoon of bad government coffee and DC cocktails. Other than military spending in sparsely populated states, why do we want to keep these things?