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Old 23 Aug 17, 19:43
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information on chemical weapons

long story short had a debate about WMDs and how nukes are inherently worse than any thing that came before and why today and nukes are different than chemical weapons and pre-WWII.

he says super powers will never again face of directly because of nukes i countered with WWI and it's nickname 'war to end all wars', and it's different because nukes could destroy a super power in 30 minutes.

while i acknowledge that a nuke will cause it's devastation much sooner, but say all nuclear missiles, and bombs had their warheads exchanged for gas/chemical warheads and the US and russia engaged in a chemical exchange of the sort feared would occur during the height of the cold war with nukes. my question is would that not result in similar devastation and body counts, maybe not as immediately but over the course of a few days or few weeks, wouldn't a nation be absolutely destroyed if sarin, mustard, and chlorine gas (i don't know what others there are) were launched enmass against military instillations as well as civilian population?

edit
also, in WWII the major nations refrained from use of chemical weapons at least major use as far as i know (outside of nazi gas chambers), so why would we expect modern super powers to immediately go nuclear now?

would a chemical carpet bombing campaign in germany really have had a lesser effect than the nukes in japan?
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  #2  
Old 23 Aug 17, 19:49
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I'm no expert, but I thought chemical weapons can degrade ''quickly'' by the climate..they would dissipate over days
the chemical weapons would not spread out as much as nukes, yes?
..the chemical area can be quarantined--
..where as the nukes have a much larger kill radius with blast, radiation, fire, etc

Last edited by Moulin; 23 Aug 17 at 19:55..
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Old 23 Aug 17, 20:00
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Mustard gas is persistent, not sure how long.

Megatons of nukes vs. tons of chemicals. Not sure there's even a comparison there.
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Old 23 Aug 17, 20:01
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Chemical weapons dissipate rather quickly depending on the type of chemical and weather conditions. The other problem is that it can be difficult to target large areas, delivery methods can have their drawbacks. Nukes are much more lethal and can be delivered faster and further.

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Originally Posted by General_Jacke View Post
long story short had a debate about WMDs and how nukes are inherently worse than any thing that came before and why today and nukes are different than chemical weapons and pre-WWII.

he says super powers will never again face of directly because of nukes i countered with WWI and it's nickname 'war to end all wars', and it's different because nukes could destroy a super power in 30 minutes.

while i acknowledge that a nuke will cause it's devastation much sooner, but say all nuclear missiles, and bombs had their warheads exchanged for gas/chemical warheads and the US and russia engaged in a chemical exchange of the sort feared would occur during the height of the cold war with nukes. my question is would that not result in similar devastation and body counts, maybe not as immediately but over the course of a few days or few weeks, wouldn't a nation be absolutely destroyed if sarin, mustard, and chlorine gas (i don't know what others there are) were launched enmass against military instillations as well as civilian population?
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Old 23 Aug 17, 20:54
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Chemical weapons dissipate rather quickly depending on the type of chemical and weather conditions. The other problem is that it can be difficult to target large areas, delivery methods can have their drawbacks. Nukes are much more lethal and can be delivered faster and further.
They can be delivered faster and farther because we developed them for that purpose, just replace all the current warheads in nuclear weapons with chemical warheads they'll go just as fast and just as far
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Old 23 Aug 17, 21:01
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At that capacity they are NOT effective, sorry.

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They can be delivered faster and farther because we developed them for that purpose, just replace all the current warheads in nuclear weapons with chemical warheads they'll go just as fast and just as far
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Old 23 Aug 17, 22:51
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The volume of a W80 warhead is about half that of your average adult male. With that W80 you can get a 200Kt explosion...about 10 times that of Fat Man or Little Boy. In that same "volume" you couldn't get anywhere near enough of chemical weapon type X to do anywhere near the damage that 200Kt will do.

To do the same amount of damage with chemical weapons that nuclear missiles/bombs would do, you would need tens of thousands of ICBMs. If you were actually going to try what you propose, you would be better off...if you can call it that...using biological weapons. Those would take longer to have an effect, but a thousand ICBMs loaded with some type of biological agents would be as devastating in the long run as nuclear warheads...depending of course on what biological weapons you were using.
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Old 23 Aug 17, 23:17
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From what I've read, one of the most lethal chemicals, sarin, can have a very short shelf life.
Let's take the Honest John Missile as an example, one warhead that was designed contained 356 sarin boomlets, and had a MAE(Mean Area Affect) 0.9 square kilometres in nominal conditions.
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Old 24 Aug 17, 00:43
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Gas as a weapon is highly overrated. The public perception could be called hysterical. Mustard is nasty stuff because it sticks around. Most of the other chemical weapons require you to get a snoot full to really mess you up.
On the whole, the history of chemical weapons shows that weight for weight they kill about a third less people than equal well designed conventional munitions but can cause greater numbers of casualties requiring some degree of treatment.

Chemical weapons work best in confined spaces at high concentrations. Outdoors, on hot, sunny days they work worst. That causes them to disperse the quickest and with low concentrations they aren't very effective.
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Old 24 Aug 17, 05:28
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Mustard gas is persistent, not sure how long.

Megatons of nukes vs. tons of chemicals. Not sure there's even a comparison there.
Depending on local conditions (holes and hollows for the vapour to reliquify in, ambient air temperature etc) up to about 48 hours. Mustard killed more in WW1 than all the other gases but all in all gas was not a major killer - it was a cause of considerable casualties but one should not confuse casualties with deaths. Chlorine was used so widely less because of its lethality than because it was readily available and relatively easy to make. Gas was primarily used increasingly as a means of denying ground to the enemy rather than as a means of killing him. Even the most effective gas mask stopped working after a few hours in gas so if, for example, you wanted to keep the enemy from deploying his artillery at a certain position you swamped it with gas and kept it swamped. Chlorine was useful here if you planned to take and occupy a position later as once you stopped hitting with gas shells it dispersed quickly whereas mustard would deny the position to your own troops as well.

If mass casualties was the aim then nerve gas would be much more effective than any of the WW1 era gases. However germ warfare would very likely be the real WMD
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Old 24 Aug 17, 05:50
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Originally Posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
Gas as a weapon is highly overrated. The public perception could be called hysterical. Mustard is nasty stuff because it sticks around. Most of the other chemical weapons require you to get a snoot full to really mess you up.
On the whole, the history of chemical weapons shows that weight for weight they kill about a third less people than equal well designed conventional munitions but can cause greater numbers of casualties requiring some degree of treatment.

Chemical weapons work best in confined spaces at high concentrations. Outdoors, on hot, sunny days they work worst. That causes them to disperse the quickest and with low concentrations they aren't very effective.
t was less the persistence of mustard that made it dangerous as the fact that you didn't need to breath it to be injured by it - skin contact would cause horrible burns so a gas mask would not of itself provide full protection. Because it wasn't a gas at all but a vapour it could reliquify (which is why it was persistent) creating a thin coating that would burn if touched so, for example, an artillery piece that had been in mustard gas would need decontaminating before it could be used.
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Old 24 Aug 17, 07:16
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Depending on local conditions (holes and hollows for the vapour to reliquify in, ambient air temperature etc) up to about 48 hours. Mustard killed more in WW1 than all the other gases but all in all gas was not a major killer - it was a cause of considerable casualties but one should not confuse casualties with deaths. Chlorine was used so widely less because of its lethality than because it was readily available and relatively easy to make. Gas was primarily used increasingly as a means of denying ground to the enemy rather than as a means of killing him. Even the most effective gas mask stopped working after a few hours in gas so if, for example, you wanted to keep the enemy from deploying his artillery at a certain position you swamped it with gas and kept it swamped. Chlorine was useful here if you planned to take and occupy a position later as once you stopped hitting with gas shells it dispersed quickly whereas mustard would deny the position to your own troops as well.

If mass casualties was the aim then nerve gas would be much more effective than any of the WW1 era gases. However germ warfare would very likely be the real WMD
Mustard gas got a lot of press in WWI, primarily, I think, because "chlorine" was hard to spell.
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Old 24 Aug 17, 09:13
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long story short had a debate about WMDs and how nukes are inherently worse than any thing that came before and why today and nukes are different than chemical weapons and pre-WWII.
This is a very good book on the history of chem/bio weapon development and use.

https://www.amazon.com/Higher-Form-K.../dp/0812966538

Last edited by Nichols; 24 Aug 17 at 09:24..
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Old 24 Aug 17, 09:16
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There's a Green Book on chemical warfare IIRC.
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Old 24 Aug 17, 11:19
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  1. Chemical Warfare by Amos Fries can be found with a google search and down loaded as a PDF. Brig Gen Fries was Head of the US Chemical Warfare Service in WW1 however care should be taken with this account as Fries had an axe to grind and was not above being a mite careless with the facts when it suited him.
  2. Gas Warfare by Edward Farrow is also downloadable as a PDF Farrow was a West Point instructor.
  3. The Chemical Warfare Service Of The United States Army During The Inter-War Period by William Baxter is a thesis from the Texas Tech University also downloadable
  4. Seeking Victory on the Western Front the British Army and Chemical Warfare in World War One by Albert Palazzo - I'm afraid that has to be bought or borrowed.
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