The Cold War. A Hot war in reality. Part 1

The Cold War. A Hot war in reality.  Part 1

I have completed the second novel of my new ‘Cold War’ series. There will be three books in total, covering the hypothetical invasion of West Germany, the Federal Republic of Germany, by the Warsaw Pact in the mid 1980’s. Book 1, ‘The Red Effect’, will encompass the intelligence build up leading to the Warsaw Pact strike against the NATO forces lined up against them. The Black Effect follows on……

The Cold War era started very soon after the end of the second world war, when the communist east, led by the Soviet Union, and the Western world, led by the United States and its NATO allies, faced each across what became known as the ‘Iron Curtain’.


The capital of Germany, Berlin, was divided into four Sectors. The consequence being, that the three Western Allied powers now controlled territory deep within the Soviet Union Zone of Germany.

Over time, the tensions between the four Allied powers increased, eventually resulting in the Berlin blockade in 1948, when the Soviets attempted to starve West Berlin into submission and force the other three Allied powers out. This failed and the Soviets eventually relented, but an ever-increasing number of East Germans fled to the West; between 150,000 and 300,000 a year during 1951-1953. As a consequence restrictions were placed on movement between the divided country. From 1961, the border was closed and Berlin completely encircled, first by barbed wire, then bricks and finally a concrete wall, along with the infamous ‘death strip’.

Access was now restricted between Berlin and the West. A wall, 124 mile miles in length, was placed around the three sectors of West Berlin, cutting off the city from the rest of the world.

The badly damaged Reichstag. Berlin 1945


An Iconic picture of the face-off between the West and the East.  The Cold War starts – October 1961

Another iconic picture of a GDR Border Guard fleeing across the barbed-wire to escape to West -Berlin (1961)

The Reichstag, showing the Berlin Wall in place behind it. – West Berlin 1981.

I shall cover various aspects of the two opposing forces, providing the backdrop and background information my Cold War trilogy.

In 1984/85, the Warsaw Pact was already a significant force, the Soviet Union in particular. For this, and the next Post, I will cover the Soviet and NATO strategic inventory, which was being modernised by both the Warsaw Pact and NATO.

SS-19. In 1984/5, the Soviet Union had some 360 of these ICBM’s (Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles), most of them of the mod. 3 variety, with 6 MIRV’s (Multiple Independently targetable Reentry Vehicles), basically multiple nuclear warheads. 

The SS-19, deployed in 1982, was 27 metres in length, 2.5 metres wide and weighed in excess of 100,000 kilograms. It had a two-stage liquid fuel propulsion system with a PBV (Post-Boost Vehicle for a hot launch) which gave it a range of up to 10,000 kilometres. Mod 3 would carry a 550 kiloton yield (MIRV), whereas the Mod 2, would carry a 5 megaton yield warhead.

Apart from the SS-19’s, the most modern ICBM in their armoury, the Soviet Union had 520 x SS-11, 60 x SS-13, 150 x SS-17 (many being deployed with 4 MIRV’s) and 308 x SS-18 (Being upgraded to carry 10 MIRV’s).


Minuteman III missile inside its Silo, 60 miles from Grand Forks Air Base, late 1980.

NATO too, in particular the United States, modernised their nuclear arsenal in the race to reach a state of ‘mutual assured destruction’. NATOs strategy was dependent on the Soviet Union believing that NATO would respond with an all out, devastating nuclear response to any aggressive moves they might make, whether Nuclear or Conventional. The focus very much on the Iron Curtain hot spot that stretched along the Inner German Border.  There were many incidents that came close to inciting a nuclear exchange.

NATO’s strategic forces (I shall cover bombers and submarines at a later date) were underpinned by the United Staes, United Kingdom and France. The US had 450 x LGM-30F (minuteman II), 550 x LGM-30G with 3 MIRV (minuteman III) and 37 x Titan 2, phasing out by the end of 1987.

A minuteman III missile being launched. An ICBM, with a three-stage power plant, consisting of three solid-propellant rocket motors; first stage – Thiokol; second stage – Aerojet-General; third stage – United Technologies Chemical Systems Division.

With a height of 18 metres, diameter of just under 2 metres it weighed significantly less than the SS-19, at 36,000 kilograms. But it still had a range of over 6,000 miles and could travel at a speed in excess of 15,000 mph, Mach 23! It carried a warhead of  170 kilotons, 350 kilotons or up to 450 kilotons. With three MIRV’s, this was capable of a significant punch.

The British and French nuclear forces were very much submarine and air launched (apart from tactical nuclear weapons), I will cover those at a later date.

There were also the conventional forces lined up along the Inner German Border, the visible barrier between the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR), or better known as West and East Germany. I shall be covering their organisation and equipment over the coming months.


The T-62 might be an old tank, but in the early days it was the mainstay of the Soviet Army.


Weighing in the region of 40 tons, it could still travel at a top speed of nearly 50mph with its V-12, 38 litre engine.


This one, on display in the Bovington Tank Museum,  was captured from the Iraqi forces during the 1991 Gulf War.


Infrared searchlight on the right of the turret, next to the 115mm main gun.


These days the Infrared could easily be detected by modern equipment.


A Soviet T-62 in East Berlin.  – East Berlin, 1984


t-54/55 on parade – East Berlin 1984

Although it can be classed as an insignificant tank, and maybe not even referred to as a Main Battle Tank, when up against T-64’s, T-72’s and T-80’s, it is still very much in use across the world. One thing I would like to point out, in 1984/5, the Soviet Union had 35,000 T-54/55/62’s in service. The British Army at that time had less than a 1,000 MBTs. Quality versus quantity? Would we have had enough ammunition?


HarveyBlack-Red Effect150313

My intention is not to portray a particular message, but just share some of my research and experiences with you.  This is the first of my new ‘Cold War’ series, supporting the writing of my new ‘Cold War’ series of novels, covering the hypothetical invasion of West Germany by the Warsaw Pact in the 80’s. ‘The Red Effect’.

Photographs and Blog are copyrighted to Harvey Black


  1. I am very interested in the cold war period. I was a teenager during the purple rev and the fall of the wall. I feel that Ron Regan is a hugely underrated statesman, due to his almost single handed ending of that period. Will be reading your book soon to study the what ifs.

    1. He was a very strong statesman and took a tough stance against the Soviet Union, particularly after the shooting down of KAL 007. But after Able Archer, a major US/NATO Command Post Exercise, where the Soviet Union initiated Operation Ryan, believing the US was about to launch a preemptive nuclear strike on the USSR, things changed. As a consequence of discovering how close the Soviets came to a launch, Reagan started to back off. I hope you enjoy The Red Effect. HB

  2. Just finished “The Rd Effect” and “The Black Effect”. Engrossing series of books so far. Looking forward to “The Blue Effect”. Any time frame for when Blue will be available? Thanks

    1. Hi John. Glad you enjoyed them both. It was a fascinating period of our history. The Blue Effect will be out in May. As it is the last in the trilogy, it will be longer than TRE and TBE. Thank you for visiting. HB

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