SIOP

Let’s do a bit of not so long ago history. If you were paying attention in the sixties and seventies you may have heard the word SIOP. Well, not really a word, it’s an acronym for Single Integrated Operating Plan. Sounds pretty innocuous really, like how New Tork intended how to coordinate 5 bus companies or something.

It’s not, It was the cookbook for the end of the world, at least as we know it. It was the United States plan for nuclear war (and to win that war) against the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.

The most fearsome plan in man’s long history of military plans, except perhaps the mirror image plan written in the Kremlin Within a day, it would have turned the Soviet Union into a smoking radiating ruin, and perhaps the US and Canada as well.

But it wasn’t all bombers and submarines and ICBMs. It was a real military plan, made by some of the smartest officers that the US Air Force and Navy could find, not to mention brilliant civilians.

One of the perhaps important things was reconnaissance, both before the strikes and battle damage assessment. That was the job of the Blackbird, the SR 71. The plane that flew so high, it’s pilots wore astronaut wings, so fast that it really was faster than a speeding bullet. So amazing that its performance records, now decades after it went to the boneyard, are still classified.

Here, from The Thin Pinstriped Line is what part of its job was.

Striking the Soviets – the role of the SR71 in the SIOP

SIOP – a simple acronym whose four letters referred to the innocuous sounding ‘Single Integrated Operational Plan’ (LINK). Had this plan ever been delivered then it would have heralded the most violent conflict in human history, as the United States delivered a nuclear attack onto an opponent. A masterpiece of analysis and data, crunching numbers, images and assessments to produce a coherent war plan that enabled the USA to overwhelm an opponent.

The plan began in the 1950s as the US sought ways to fight a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, and represented a coherent effort to work out the best manner to employ the nuclear arsenal appropriately. Simply put it identified which targets needed to be hit by what type of weapon, and in what sequencing order to overwhelm the Soviet Union, China and other allies in a single strike. In its initial format it would have seen over 3200 weapons delivered across Eurasia, and had it gone to plan, the attack would likely have killed over 285 million people in a single day.

This initial overwhelming brute force attack was quickly revised in 1962 into a more nuanced strategy of nuclear escalation, allowing the President to approve a variety of strikes against different targets from the Soviets own missile fields to command centres to finally all out general war. In various forms and policy evolution the SIOP continued until 2002 when it was replaced by a different plan.

This grim introduction is necessary to consider the role of the SR71 Blackbird and A12 reconnaissance aircraft in providing timely warning to policy makers during the build up to a general war. As was discussed in Part 1 of this series, these aircraft were to play a vital part in informing military planners about the state of the world.

Documents held on the US national archives (LINK) to the history of the CIA Office of Special Activities have cast light on this critical role, and how for a considerable period the SR71/A12 force played a critical part in informing the US authorities. This second article is about this role, the challenges it faced and the problems policy makers had with it.

Wartime Role

During the mid 1960s as the US introduced the SR71 platform to service, a considerable amount of planning work was done to work out how many aircraft would have been needed to meet the various requirements its users had. This work was carried out to ensure that sufficient aircraft were purchased to meet any conceivable need throughout the service life of the aircraft.

This work was complicated by the fact that there were two entirely separate platforms to consider -the SR71 and the A12. The A12 was a civilian (e.g. CIA) manned airframe funded and operated by the CIA specialising in photography and also employing supporting unmanned drones. The SR71 was a military manned aircraft intended to collect intelligence across a variety of spectrums and firmly under USAF control.

As budget cuts hit in this period, considerable work was done to assess how to rationalise two very similar airframe types and deliver continuing capability. The CIA files show how options papers were staffed, incredibly similar to those familiar to many long suffering staff officers today, looking at different options, costs and capabilities for the force.

Officials concluded that there were four main roles for the force:

  • Strategic Reconnaissance in Peacetime – general targets across the globe
  • Force Mobilisation Reconnaissance  -general targets in China and India
  • Reconnaissance for a general war crisis – against Soviet / Chinese
  • SIOP Reconnaissance – against Soviet Union ahead of delivery of the SIOP.

Keep reading Striking the Soviets – the role of the SR71 in the SIOP. Lot’s more fascinating stuff and very well presented.

About NEO
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

6 Responses to SIOP

  1. the unit says:

    From my local paper.
    “It was not uncommon at night to fly in a westerly direction and have the sun come up,” Kinego told the News Journal, adding that “it doesn’t come up like it does here, with the slow, rising ball of light and all the rays. … It just kind of came up and then you flew some more and it just went down.”
    https://www.businessinsider.com/retired-sr-71-pilot-describes-what-its-like-to-fly-the-blackbird-2018-8

    Liked by 1 person

  2. the unit says:

    There are words and there are acronyms. One that comes to mind that is monosemic as to meaning is…snowflake…and, well another… democrat…and by gosh an acronym… S.T.U.P.I.D., all the above, one and the same. 🙂
    I’ve quit reading news and blog comments because all that people do is call each other names.
    You “pole dancer”, you NEO! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. the unit says:

    Guess what? Starting tomorrow “the unit” aka Coop,boy adult originally from MS, now FL panhandle 45 years (Lower Alabama), will be blog commenting as new first time granddad at age 76 taking into consideration the future of his 10 day old, healthy, granddaughter Sophia of U.S. and Central American heritage.
    I think all these years of commenting and ‘tooning before that I did that was always fair and balanced…and truthful…well, better watch out now. I might succumb to a bit of feelings. 🙂
    Never forgetting though, honor, duty, and the American Way (Mission), nation of laws.
    See ya again soon I think. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.