In a nuclear war, most likely nuclear targets are the US ICBM sites, command and control centers, nuclear facilities and strategic bomber force or bases where strategic bombers are stationed, because the attacker certainly does not want to be destroyed by the retaliatory strikes of American ICBMs and nuclear-armed bombers. They will also attack nuclear-armed submarines (SSBNs) and submarine bases to cripple and destroy the sea-based leg of the American nuclear force.
The logic is– If the United States cannot respond with nuclear weapons then the attacker will win the war. Therefore, an enemy must attack and destroy American nuclear missiles, bomber facilities and SSBN fleets. After destroying nuclear forces, they will focus their nuclear weapons towards American conventional military sites and installations.
Population centers, cities and industrial bases are considered counter-value targets, so they would not get any benefits by destroying those targets. The enemy will attack counter-value targets if they want to destroy America completely. It would be a logical conclusion for an attacker to hold counter-value targets as hostages to get technology, resources, and other benefits from the United States.
To prevent such a scenario the United States maintains a robust nuclear second-strike capability. According to Schwartz, at any given time, the US has four to five nuclear-armed submarines “on hard alert, in their patrol areas, awaiting orders for launch.” Locations of those submarines are kept secret even from the top-ranking officials of the United States Navy and military.
Md. Aslam Hossain is a part-time senior editor of The Geopolitics. He is also an entrepreneur. He has earned his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in International Relations. His focus is on geopolitics and security.