Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I've consulted several sources on the technical aspects of nuclear torpedoes at the time of the Cuban missile crisis (Cold War Submarines by Norman Polmar & K J Moore; Reflections on the Cuban Missile Crisis by Raymond L Garthoff; Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces edited by Pavel Podvig).

There were six Foxtrot class assault submarines in the crisis area at the time, each carrying one nuclear warhead (and 21 conventional torpedoes). It is not specified whether the torpedoes were the nuclear torpedo T-5 or the ASB-30 warhead which could be fitted onto a conventional torpedo, both deployed at the time. The T-5 had reportedly a 10 kiloton yield. In order to fire a nuclear device, central command authorization was necessary. And effectively the submarine had to surface to fire the nuclear weapon.

The primary aim of the US forces vis-à-vis the Soviet submarines was to individuate them and force them to surface. A week-long pursuit was engaged between the adversaries until all Soviet units were surfaced and identified. Since the two powers were effectively acting out a war game because both parties had no intention of starting hostilities, both actors in the field resorted to ploys that would not have been used in a real-case war. The depth charges used by the Americans were deliberately off target and of low potential, while the cat-and-mouse manoeuvres of the Foxtrots were unduly "noisy" by real war criteria.

Indeed nerves may have been frayed at times and conceivably there was more potential for a dangerous accident. A possible explanation for the Arkhipov- Savistky episode may have been to mount the nuclear torpedo to expedite usage once the Foxtrot surfaced on the off chance authorization came through. The rest is hype, whether from the media or some of the more glamorous actors in the drama.

Both parties had to save face on the stage for domestic and political reasons by taking home a victory. Khrushchev tacitly got the Jupiter missiles removed in Turkey after a while and a confidential pledge that the US would never invade Cuba. The Americans got the Russian missiles out of Cuba. A fair enough exchange.

An amusing note was Kennedy's misgivings on blockade protocol and international procedure. He was worried about what language(s) were to be used and if Russian were necessary, were there any Russian-speaking hands on board American vessels. In order to allay his fears, a direct line was set up between himself and the commander of operations.

I want to reassure Katrin that there were some damned good minds on both sides of the fence.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Sep 27th, 2013 at 06:20:57 PM EST
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