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Key Issues Nuclear Weapons History Cold War Strategy The Triad Doctorine

The Triad Doctrine

The Triad Doctrine resulted from conceptual differentiation of Flexible Response. The Triad Doctrine distinguishes a strategic triad: Inter-continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), and strategic bombers. The idea of the Triad Doctrine was that each should be able independently to impose unacceptable damage on the Soviet Union. If two legs were destroyed the third could retaliate.

Strategic bombers were vulnerable unless air-borne, but they can be recalled. ICBMs were more

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secure, but hardened silos couldn't withstand a direct hit by an incoming nuclear missile. SLBMs were more secure, but are not as precise as ICBMs and difficult to communicate with.

A further differentiation of the Triad Docrine occured with considerations of counter-value vs. counter-force strategy .

Sources : John Lewis Gaddis, Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security (Oxford University Press, 1982).