12 FEBRUARY 1960, Page 5

Tac tical Weapons HAT,' Sir John Slessor asked in his broad-

ate • Cast A new decade for defence, 'is a tactical flue weapon? Is a missile with a range of 200 ,r " 600 miles a tactical weapon?' This, surely, is 1 question that ought to be disposed of once and al there is no such thing as a tactical atomic reeaP,l : (30, to anybody who happens to be at the th:eilving end. There is a chance, a faint chance, tit"' if a war broke out at the periphery between _.e great powers with conventional weapons, it nmightbe contained, at least for the few hours eessary for the Government at the centre to take charge and to negotiate a cease fire. But the moment atomic weapons of any kind are used anywhere, the world will be lucky if it escapes destruction. An atomic shell fired by a gun could, in theory, have a destructive capacity no bigger than that of conventional shells; but inevitably, if it was ever used, bigger and better atomic shells, or bombs, would be used in retaliation; and there is no point at which 'tactical' ends and 'strategic' begins. Consequently, the temptation for both sides would be to use the most powerful nuclear weapon available. The idea of a tactical atomic weapon for use in limited wars is probably the most dangerous of all defence delusions; Sir John is right when he says that it is one which some really clear and fundamental thinking by the Chef S of Staff is called for—but he might also have added that really clear and fundamental thinking by the Government, and indeed by all Governments, is even more necessary.