The Evolving Role of Biological Weapons

Article Submitted to Army Chemical Review (2007) by Reid Kirby


istorically, the role of biological weapons has been in parity with nuclear weapons, undergoing a succession of dynamic compromises. Interest in biological weapons initially started an extension of chemical weapons, being a logistically favorable alternative to nuclear weapons. An abnormous belief is that interest in biological weapons wanes after acquiring nuclear weapons. This was not the case in the Cold War with United States efforts. The role continued during a period of nuclear scarcity as an augment to the nuclear arsenal. Once there was a super adequacy of nuclear weapons, the role of biological weapons evolved to find exclusive utility in Large Area Coverage (LAC) and Controlled Temporary Incapacitation (CTI). Also a third exclusive role had existed throughout the program.

Behind the nebulous term “covert” is a third role of biological weapons, spanning from the off-target aerial spray attack to the dirty tricks of sabotage and espionage. What unifies this third role is the utility of biological weapons to avoid attributing an attack to an event or opponent; hereafter termed Low Observable Attribution (LOA). This one role exploits the principle of surprise, verging on perfidy, and therefore produces the most fear in policy makers over the possibility of anonymous strategic biological attacks that escape retaliation.

Figure 1. Posological spectrum of United States military chemicals, toxins, and biologicals of the Second World War.

Extension (1942 – 1944)
When nations began to establish serious undertakings to develop biological weapons after the First World War, the programs were an extension of chemical weapons technology. Biological weapons follow the same posological theorem as chemical weapons, only with greater agent potency (Figure 1). Likewise, the purpose of biological weapons retained the same intent of producing mass casualties, denial of terrain, and degrading performance.

Alternative (1945)
During the Second World War, the Allied biological program was distinctly separate from the effort to develop nuclear weapons. The program often vied for the same scientists, though for sake of secrecy it never shared such resources. At a time when feasibility of nuclear weapons was still questionable, policy makers familiar with both programs were rest assured that biological weapons provided a logistically reasonable alternative should the nation fail to build a nuclear weapon (Figure 2).

ed later by Navy research in 1950 on the biological effects of radiation. As early as June 1946 the United States created a war plan for nuclear strikes on the Soviet Union. Policy analysts foresaw an inevitable conflict between Great Briton and the Soviet Union, and United States forces were too small to hold back a massive invasion of Soviet forces through Western Europe and the Middle East. The plan, PINCHER, required 50 nuclear weapons on 20 Soviet cities to destroy 90% of Soviet aircraft and armor industries, and 65% oil refineries. The target list gradually grew over the years in keeping with the number of weapons in the arsenal. Many believed the required number of weapons to keep the Soviet Union in check was in the thousands. Under President Harry Truman, the number of nuclear weapons in the arsenal was an extreme secret – even the military establishment was unaware of the number of nuclear weapons available for war plans until late 1947. The actual number was underwhelming (figure 3). At the time of PINCHER there was only 11 nuclear weapons in the arsenal - a period of nuclear scarcity existed. After the Soviet Union detonated its first nuclear weapon in 1949, the United States issued NSC-68, a policy study that predicted the Soviet Union to have

Figure 2. Comparative fire paower of different strategic bombardment sorties (1945 - 1951). Just as the Second World War ended, the United States was on the cusp of a biological capability with 500-lb clusters of Mark I 4-lb biological bomblets and the M47A2 100-lb biological bomb with anthrax. Though British had selected several cities for retaliatory biological strikes against Germany, there was no biological capability to support such plans. The Army Air Force did not have the organizational support to conduct biological operations, and the weapons never entered production.

Augment (1946 – 1954)
At the time of operations CROSSROADS, the 1946 nuclear field trials at Bikini Atoll on naval vessels, the military establishment recognized biological weapons would have a synergistic effect if used in combination with nuclear weapons; an idea support-

Figure 3. Scarcity of strategic nuclear weapons promoted biological weapons as an augment.

200 nuclear weapons by 1954, and delivery of half this number would devastate the United States. The Joint Chiefs of Staff made a biological warfare capability a high priority, and the Air Force put them in the same organizational level as nuclear weapons. The Air Force acquired 500-lb clusters of the M114 4-lb biological bomblet with brucellosis from the Chemical Corps. This was an interim item for strategic attack against Soviet cities to augment the nuclear arsenal.

tion from such a devise would affect an area of 80 - 200 square miles; serious-to-lethal fallout covering 50,000 square miles. The impact on national policy thinking was dramatic. The Chemical Corps at one time advertised biological weapons as capable of covering the width of a continent. The claim resulted from a series of large-scale field trials with simulants that when extrapolated with the infective dose and aerobiology of military biologicals indicated the feasibility of neutralizing targets tens to hundreds of thousands of square miles in size. A 1952 field trial with simulants demonstrated the technical feasibility of covering tens of thousands of square miles with a theoretically infective aerosol. The implications of this field trial went practically unnoticed until 1957 when the United States and Great Briton simultaneously and independently investigated the LAC concept. The British were dissatisfied with weather conditions while planning biological field trials with simulants in southern England in 1957. They therefore decided on conducting the trials as operational exercises every six weeks regardless of weather in September 1958. These exercises indicated spray attacks 100 – 300 miles long could readily produce 50% casualties 100 – 150 miles downwind; an employment concept for an off-target attack, only requiring a mean wind profile predictable within 45 degrees to target. The Chemical Corps conducted operation LAC (Large Area Coverage) in 1957 – 1958. It was the largest series of open-air experiments of its kind, measuring coverage over the conterminous United

Interest in biological weapons waned significantly once the number of nuclear weapons in the inventory could saturate potential targets. The Eisenhower administration started developing a Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) to coordinate nuclear delivery systems. The first comprehensive plan, SIOP-62, envisioned delivering 3,200 nuclear weapons against the 1,060 targets throughout the Sino-Soviet block in a preemptive attack, and 1,706 nuclear weapons against 725 targets in retaliation. This change in strategic nuclear planning produced an over-kill making strategic biological weapons almost irrelevant. The role biological weapons would adopt exploited areas other weapon systems were incapable of achieving: LAC, CTI, and LOA.

Large Area Coverage (1958 – 1969)
Seeking a new edge after the Soviet Union detonated its first nuclear weapon the United States initiated a program to build a hydrogen bomb. When a nuclear weapon designer asked General Curtis LeMay for his requirements for a nuclear weapon design, LeMay retorted “Why don’t you guys make a bomb to blow up all of Russia.” The deterrent concept of the Cold War embraced total destruction of the enemy. The United States detonated its largest nuclear devise (15 Mt) during operation CASTLE BRAVO in 1954 at Bikini Atoll. Not only did the devise have almost three times its designed yield of 6 Mt, its fallout traveled off course over an area far more extensive than originally estimated (Figure 4). If used in a combat, significant thermal and blast destruc-

Figure 4. The 15 Mt CASTLE BRAVO burst in 1954 asserted the strategic importance of radiological fallout.

States east of the Rocky Mountains. C-119 Fly Boxcars flew along tracks 1,400 miles long spraying 5,000 lbs of simulants over the Midwest. Samplers detected aerosols from these trials as far away as 1,200 miles. In theory operation LAC demonstrated that a biological sortie spraying 4,000 lbs of a biological could produce 50% casualties over a 100,000 square mile target. A single fighter sortie with a nominal armament of spray tanks was capable of covering 25,000 to 50,000 square miles with a similar casualty rate (Figure 5). LAC was a major change in employment concept, and even applied to on-target attacks with biological bomblets. Strategic Air Command’s initial biological capability had a coverage of 30 square miles per a medium bomber sortie. When self-dispersing bomblets were developed, this could increase to about 100 square miles per a medium bomber sortie. By the mid-1960’s improvements in biological bomblet design and delivery systems meant a single B-52 with an expanded SUU-24/A dispenser (Figure 6) and flettner rotar bomblets could cover an area over 10,000 square miles. Putting this in perspective, the 120 square mile city of Kiev required 40 nuclear weapons, or two to five B-52 sorties. The LAC conFigure 6. The SUU-24/A Bomblet Dispenser gave SAC a true strategic biological capability. cept meant biological weapons could surpass nuclear weapons in casualty potential, without precisely locating concealed or hardened targets.

Controlled Temporary Incapacitation (1947 – 1969)
After the Second World War, many officers believed strategic bombing was a mistake, only with the United States having to rebuild Germany and Japan after the war. The Air Chemical Officer, Brigadier General Edward Montgomery stated in September 1947: “If it were possible to develop an agent with a very widespread effect and a persistency of effect of weeks or months, the possibility of imposing our will on an enemy by political or military seizure of strategic and vital localities, personalities, or facilities, might be entirely feasible. The nation which can develop the atom bomb should be capable of developing such a non-lethal running mate.” Major General Carl A. Brandt, Air Force Deputy Director of Requirements, outlined the Air Force’s position on biological weapons in October 1948 as requiring a biological that produced either temporary or permanent incapacitation that minimized postwar problems.

Figure 5. Hypothetical spray attack with Q fever (OU) in preperation of an amphibious assault based after coverage data from a field trail with simulants.

Though the Air Force later changed its position to wanting “killer” biologicals for strategic attack in 1952, the Chemical Corps continued to recognize the importance of incapacitants. The 1958 Duer Reeves Committee urged the military establishment to adopt chemical biological warfare, particularly non-lethal agents and those that circumvent protective masks. A year later Defense Research & Engineering director Dr. Herbert York endorsed the findings. By this time, the Chemical Corps was investing three-forth of its research and development budget on incapacitants. At the 435th National Security Council meeting,

18 February 1960, Dr. York presented the concept of CTI, relying on an array of chemicals and biologicals. A 10,000-lb ballistic missile was capable of incapacitating a target over a square mile in size, roughly equivalent to the effect of a tactical nuclear weapon. Unlike nuclear weapons, the effects produced casualties with a controlled rate and duration of action without death or permanent debility. Furthermore, unlike tactical nuclear weapons, such a concept would not result in destruction of material, or hamper mobility from blown-down physical obstacles. Hypothetically, Figure 7 illustrates CTI in the defense of South Vietnam against a massive invasion from North Vietnam by integrating with maneuver. United States forces would withdraw to the Tourane perimeter, and South Vietnamese forces to the Saigon perimeter. Simultaneous B-47 raids with biological bomblet dispensers would strike positions in North Vietnam and around the defending perimeters. Then, United States and South Vietnamese forces would break out during the first week when Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis (NU) would effectively neutralize North Vietnamese forces in the south, and then converge on North Vietnam a week later as bovine brucellosis (AB) began to neutralize forces defending Hanoi.

Low Observable Attribution (1944 – 1975)
The United States Navy made a simulated large-scale attack on San Francisco in September 1950. The attack went completely unnoticed by the public. Several miles offshore, a surface vessel made a lumbering spray attack using 130 gallons of stimulant. Another part of the trials involved Underwater Demolition Teams infiltrating the dockyards and emplaced biological aerosol generators. Another concept tested around the same time was the E-4 marine mine; a submarine delivered mine that would surface at a preset time, generate a biological aerosol, then scuttle itself. The trials demonstrated the peculiar covert nature of biological warfare. The enemy would not know that there was an attack until days later with the arrival of casualties, and even then may lack sufficient evidence to locate the source.

Figure 7. Hypothetical defense of South Vietnam using Venezuelan Equine Enchephalitis (NU) and bovine brucellosis (AB).

The covert nature of biological warfare transcends its uses, from bio-crimes through bio-operations (Figure 8). LOA supplies operational security and surprise. In the case of bio-crimes, bio-espionage, and bio-sabotage, LOA extends into desired anonymity, making an attack indistinguishable from an act of nature rather than a specific opponent. Putting aside the irrational, purposeful use of biological weapons is never an anomalous or anonymous event. The delay in casualty effects and near nonexistent tangible evidence may confound attribution to a specific event or opponent. In the case of bio-terrorism, ultimately anonymity is counter productive, as it does not assert the destructive power needed to promote their peculiar social-political agenda. Moreover, the planned exploitation of biological weapon effects obviates anonymity in military operations. Figure 5 illustrates a hypothetical off-target spray attack by a stealth aircraft. The target could be a heavily defended beachhead intermixed with civilian communities. Using Q fever (OU), a large number of casualties throughout the region with minimal fatalities (<1%) could be expected. Such an attack employs both LAC and CTI concepts. It also exhibits LOA, where the defenders are unaware of an attack until 14 days later when an amphibious force comes ashore unopposed during a particularly overwhelming outbreak of disease.

Figure 9. E-22 Liquid BW Portable Generator would have provided Special Forces a biological capability.

A study on special biological operations issued in October 1958, the Baldwin Report, stated unequivocally that the United States was vulnerable to covert biological attack. Fort Detrick responded by creating its Special Operations Division (SOD), or the dirty tricks guys. While SOD created the most highly sensitive weapon systems of the United States biological warfare program, the gadgetry was moreor-less tactical and not thought of as a significant contribution to biological capabilities. Nonetheless, SOD did provide the technical support to identify potential risks from LOA, including numerous field trials that demonstrated the vulnerable of critical facilities to covert biological attack. One gadget of unique LOA use was the E-22 (Figure 9). A backpack devise, Special Forces could emplace it upwind of a critical target well outside of the detection of perimeter security. Hypothetically, using an agent like shigella dysentery (Y), a camp fever, could result in an outbreak several days later that would bring the target’s operations to a halt (Figure 10). Such an attack would go without detection, and physical evidence of an attack may well elude investigators.

Figure 8. Spectrum of biological incidences.

Legal & Ethical Restraints
The Geneva Protocol of 1925 was a no first use pledge not to use chemical biological weapons. The Biological Weapons Convention of 1975 was an outright ban on the development, production, stockpiling, and use of biological weapons, including transfer of such weapons to other parties. If nations respect these treaty commitments, then the list of potential biological aggressors is a very small list. Maintaining these proscriptive norms is an essential part of our biological security. Should these proscriptive norms fail, there are three legal/ethical principles that may restrict the use of these weapons: distinction, discrimination, and proportionality.

Distinction is a legal concept requiring openness between combatants. Though military art requires secrecy and deception, distinction draws a line between perfidy and legitimate action. Some will conclude weapons that are inherently covert in nature are treacherous, as the British opined of submarines in the First World War. LOA is an aspect of biological warfare that many may conclude as perfidy by nature. The principle of distinction applies mostly to treachery (e.g., impersonating non-combatants). Therefore, distinguished from legitimate military action, LOA from bio-criminals, bio-espionage agents, bio-terrorists, and bio-saboteurs may be perfidy owing to the manner of conduct.

Figure 10. Hypothetical Special Forces attack on a well guarded facility with shigella dysentery (Y). The principle of discrimination originates under the presumption of lethal force, while CTI entreaties non-lethal force. Some may believe that CTI follows this principle by discriminating non-lethal effects towards non-combatants. The argument is debatable. The term non-lethal is more properly less than lethal, as some fatalities are expected. Not being exempt from the principle of discrimination, CTI requires development of the double effect concept for an ethical justification.

Discrimination requires military actions distinguish between combatants and noncombatants. The belligerents of the Second World War openly bombed civilian population centers, an act that on the surface violates the principle of discrimination. The Allies ultimately legitimated their strategic bombings as justly attacking enemy war industry, and it was a double effect that civilians were part of the carnage. A problem with biological warfare is that while there is a matured acceptance to target enemy war industries, as the ethical norms exist today, it is an ethical lapse to target the civilian workers without physical destruction of these industries themselves.

Proportionality requires offensive force applied not to exceed what is required for attaining the objective. The evidence from field trial data demonstrated biological weapons could effectively cover vast areas. It also demonstrates poor controllability in placement, requiring a disproportionately larger area of coverage to attack an intended target. The LAC role of

biological warfare is most difficult to reconcile under proportionality; seemingly an indiscriminate means of warfare.

Scenarios & Policy
The chemical biological policy of the United States has traditionally been retaliation in kind. The policy changed in 1956 to permit use when ever militarily advantageous. The policy was an incomplete gesture. President Eisenhower stated he changed the policy only to give appropriate prioritization to the chemical biological program to develop a credible retaliatory capability, and did not intended to approve use. On 8 December 1966, the White House Science Advisory Committee wrote a memorandum to President Lyndon Johnson on the use of biological weapons. The memorandum recommended a no first use policy, recognizing that both civilian and military planners could not conceive of a single scenario where the United States would initiate biological warfare. Later, Harvard Professor Metthew Messelson wrote a surprisingly US-centric policy paper in 1968 recommending the United States ratify the Geneva Protocol of 1925. The argument made was essentially about nuclear parity and a counter-productive economy of scale – sponsoring biological warfare developed a technology base that benefited less affluent nations more than the United States. In 1969, President Richard Nixon, after consultation from his national security advisors, announced an end to the United States biological warfare program. The program was dismantled, the weapons destroyed, and the United States ratified the Geneva Protocol of 1925 and ascended to the Biological Weapons Convention of 1975. The history of the biological warfare program reveals the military utility of these weapons in relation to a nascent nuclear arsenal, and the exclusivity of LAC, CTI, and LOA as that arsenal matures. The unproven nature of biological warfare left uncertainties that precluded serious acceptance. The potential

after-effects of biological warfare were too complex. Even the most promising area, CTI, was politically unusable given the anticipation of some fatalities, disproportionately among the young, elderly, and infirmed. While biological warfare invokes fear in many, as political artifacts, its use must be in congruence with the values of the military and political establishments sponsoring their development. The United States program indicates a state-sponsored program can develop militarily effective biological weapons – though scenarios for use were nonexistent. It is unlikely that a scenario for using biological weapons will exist outside of the isolated experiment, following a global nuclear conflict, the terminus of a protracted war of attrition, or the replacement of our current international norms with an intrepid alternative. Reid Kirby is a project manager in St. Louis, Missouri. He has a BS from Lindenwood College in Valuation Science with a minor in Biology, including special studies in behavioral toxicology and biotechnology. Please direct all inquires related to this article to Mr. Reid Kirby EXIMDYNE 2208 Autumn Trace Parkway Wentzville, Missouri 63385 United States +1 314 324 0997

Principles of War: Biological Aspects
Numerous military scholars have conceived their own principles of war. Sun Tzu, Napoleon Bonaparte, Carl Von Clausewitz, and Antoine Henri Jomini are prominent examples. The nine principles of war here have been in use since 1921 by the United States Army. Operations other than war, and the growing influence of maneuverists in military thinking are leading to a revision of these principles. Nonetheless, the principles of war have served as an immutable quality of successful military action, an explication of the learned truths of military art. Biological weapons use does not exist outside of these principles. Though other nations have slightly different principles than the nine here, there is remarkable similarity. These principles reveal the qualities of biological weapons that affect an aggressor’s war planning when incorporating biological weapons.

Direct every military operation toward a clearly defined, decisive, and attainable objective. Biological weapons use is in support of a specific objective, and therefore part of an integrated war plan. The choice of biological weapon is uniquely in congruence with an ultimate objective, and is not the objective within itself.

Seize, retain, and exploit the initiative. Biological weapons use directly reduces defending forces creating a period of debility ripe for exploitation. In the defense, biological weapons use supports successive counter-offenses in a protracted or retreating action. The duration-of-action must be sufficiently long enough to eliminate the risk of the target regrouping, but not so long as to burden exploitation forces with medical management.

Mass the effects of overwhelming combat power at the decisive place and time. The casualties from biological weapons have the net effect of mass, allowing a smaller force to engage the far more populous. The rate-of-action of a biological weapon governs the timing of massing forces.

Economy of Force
Employ all combat power available in the most effective way possible; allocate minimum essential combat power to secondary efforts. Biological weapons used on ill-defined and poorly located targets, reduces the forces necessary to secure an area. Neutralizing potential threats in such areas allows for withdraw of forces to mass in other areas.

Place the enemy in a position of disadvantage through the flexible application of combat power. Biological weapons do not create areas of physical destruction to limit mobility. They do cover a substantially greater area than that targeted that primarily impacts operations downwind to an extent several times greater than chemical weapons. Generally, occupation within 24-hours after the attack is possible with minor precautions. Some biological weapons, using agent-vector combinations or dry-type agents for a secondary aerosol effect, can persist for days to years to render an area unsafe to occupy.

Unity of Command
For every objective, seek unity of command and unity of effort. Due to the characteristic large area covered, employing biological weapons is generally limited to strategic and operational strikes. Proper command and control is rarely participle by units below Corps level, and must be coordinated throughout the area impacted to avoid fratricide.

Never permit the enemy to acquire unexpected advantages. Friendly forces potentially exposed to biological weapons may receive adequate prophylaxis, indoctrination, and notification to avoid inadvertent losses from biological weapons. The need to maintain secrecy to avoid revealing the impending use of biological weapons limits the amount of protective preparation.

Strike the enemy at a time and/or place and in a manner for which he is unprepared. To have an appreciable affect on the battlefield, the target must be susceptible to the biological weapons available. The use of agent mixtures, faints with simulants, and novel biologicals will confound target protective action and responses.

Prepare clear, uncomplicated plans and concise orders to ensure thorough understanding. Biological weapons have inherent complexities that challenge integration into war plans. The storage half-life, freeze-free chilled transportation, an elasticity to wind, humidity, and sunlight, limits employment to situations where these features are suitably predictable so as not to force revision of coordinated military activities.

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