Many of the events of Thunderbolt Black, as well as many of the characters' personal histories are a direct result of events that happened in the Third World War, a devastating and world-changing event that ended six years prior to the beginning of the game.
As such, a guide to the war and it's key events is useful, as it would be common knowledge for all of the characters in the game, being comparatively recent in global terms, and the effects still being felt in the current time the game is set in.
Prior to WarEdit
War does not erupt from nothing, and certainly not on the scale seen in the Third World War. It is important to understand the key events leading directly up to the war to understand why it happened, and to place it in the correct framework.
In 1991, the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse. After an unsuccessful campaign in Afghanistan, and facing food shortages and economic stagnation, the communist paradise was about to collapse. The then-premier of the country, Mikhail Gorbachov, was moving to end the Cold War against the west - an unpopular decision with other members of the Communist Party and members of the military.
A coup was staged against Gorbachov, and after troops moved on the Kremlin, and Gorbachov was killed, military control took the country, and in the wake of the Coup, instituted a vast program of reforms of their own, bringing new revenue into the country and strengthening their alliances with other communist states, as well as the supply of weapons and arms to groups around the world.
This was most obvious in the Balkan States war from 1991-1995, and in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War, when the Soviet Union voluntarily supplied arms to the defeated Iraq for rearmament purposes, following the defeat of the Iraqi Army by Allied forces.
In the Yugoslavian wars, the Soviet Union assumed control of the former Socialist states, resulting in tense standoffs with NATO forces.
Tensions rose to a flashpoint following the invasion of Afghanistan in 1996, and a mass mobilisation of the Red Army and Air Force. Due to the harbouring of insurgent training camps in bordering countries, the Soviet Forces conducted airstrikes and combat operations in the neighbouring countries of Iran and Pakistan despite international pressures to cease such operations.
Following the attacks, Pakistan openly declared war agains the Russians, with Iran following suit. Faced with the technologically advanced and numerically superior forces of the Russians, the Iranian and Pakistani forces appealed to their allies for help.
Strategically, Iran and Pakistan are important countries, with large reserves of natural resources. Furthermore, Chinas' close proximity to the conflict lead to reinforcement along their own border with Afghanistan.
Soviet Forces did not back down, and declared that any moves by NATO or Allied Forces would be treated as an interference in domestic policies, and an act of war.
Beginning of the WarEdit
The tense standoff spilled over into outright war when Islamic Extremists bombed Russian Embassies around the world simultaneously on the 1st of May, 1998 - the public holiday known as 'Workers Day' in the USSR.
The attacks were conducted using biological and chemical weapons, as well as conventional explosives, leading to casualties numbering in the hundreds in most Western cities, and greater in less developed parts of the world less able and prepared to cope with the influx of casualties and the resulting damage to infrastructure.
The response was immediate - the USSR launched retaliatory strikes at Iran and Pakistan with full force, including the deployment of limited-yield nuclear weapons on Tehran and Islamabad. Pakistan retaliated with their own Nuclear strikes, and this prompted China into action, due to the nuclear fallout moving across their borders, and they launched an invasion of Russia.
North Korea then moved into action in support of their ally, which bought South Korea into the conflict as well, as the North Koreans moved to seize important resources and facilities from the South. This bought America into the war in support of the South Koreans.
With Pakistan being a major ally of the US, the US forces also moved into action against the USSR forces in Pakistan. This resulted in movements of USSR forces across Europe - and the real war began.
Despite the opening salvoes being nuclear in nature, the majority of the rest of the war stayed quiet. Mutual Disarmament had been a key policy in the 1980's despite the Cold War, and many of the once-thousands of nuclear weapons in wait in Europe had long been replaced with conventional munitions. As such, the war in Europe remained primarily a conventional conflict - however, this didn't stop countries from being drawn in, as efforts were made to strike at strategic targets, such as airbases, radar stations, ports and government buildings to affect the ability of NATO to wage war.
Key targets hit early in the war were bases in Western Europe, and on the Western approaches to Russia, disabling NATO's ability to strike at their relatively unprotected southern flank. Simultaneously, Russian Allies launched offensives in the Continental United States, including an invasion from Cuban Forces, and a coup engineered by Nicuragua in Mexico, as a prelude to a land invasion of the southern US. The Aleutian Islands were also invaded by Russian Forces, as well as missile strikes on the US base in Japan and on Guam.
In retaliation, the USAF used it's B-2 bombers to attack key Russian bases in the Western reaches of Russia, damaging their ability to fight in Europe. This resulted in Russian movements to capture territory in other countries to enable them to continue fighting effectively. With hostile movements against these previously uninvolved countries, more nations were dragged into the conflict.
The war began to grow in ferocity as tension racked up in the Middle East. The flow of refugees from the now-devastated Soviet Satellite states (the 'stans') and from Iran into neighbouring countries drove already fragile economies and governments to breaking points, and stirred always volatile rivalries and long-standing grudges into outright conflict, given the excuse of providing support to either the USSR or NATO and it's allies.
Israel was engaged from three sides as Egypt, Jordan, and Syria all attacked the country, supported by arms and materiel from USSR sources.
In mid-2005 Tel Aviv was consumed by a Nuclear Detonation, the source of which was widely believed to be a ballistic missile fired from Egypt. As retaliation, Israeli Air Force aircraft bombed Cairo with their own weapons, leading to a nuclear escalation in the area, rapidly rendering the majority of the Middle East a glassy wasteland of deadly nuclear fallout.
In Europe, the ground war took on a deadlier turn as the NATO forces regrouped and launched a new wave of attacks. In return, the USSR unleashed chemical weapons against the front lines, although the clouds drifted into civilian occupied areas.
The overthrow in Mexico had been successful, and in Texas and New Mexico, National Guard and Reserve US forces, as well as civilian militias, clashed with combined Cuban and Nicuraguan forces backed by Soviet special forces regiments, while in the North, Canadian forces augmented a US counterattack on USSR forces, successfully driving them back by Christmas.
With forces being driven back across the Aleutian Islands, the US and Canadian forces, well as their allies in the Pacific Rim, began to reinforce themselves for a push across the Pacific, beginning with the rebuilding of Guam's Anderson Airbase, and the expansion of other airbases and facilities in the Pacific and around the Pacific rim.
In order to deny the strategic position for attack to the USA, the USSR launches a nuclear strike on Kadena Air Force Base, and other key bases in Japan in mid 2005.
The remaining Japanese Self-Defence Forces weigh fully into the fight on the side of the allies, and bolstered by reinforcements from Australia, India, and other pacific nations, as well as other allies as diverse as Brazil, Chile and South Africa, launch a combined strike with Chinese forces into Russia in early 2006.
In Europe, NATO and the allies make a push in the early spring of 2006, after a winter of cruise missile attacks and airstrikes on Russian positions and bases. This push is aided by partisan fighters and fleeing elements of the Israeli Defence Forces, as well as their own hastily assembled reserves.
The attack is designed as a feint - the real assault is mounted from Norway and Scandinavia into the North of Russia, by troops equipped with the best equipment available. This succeeds spectacularly, forcing the USSR to launch a limited nuclear strike on the combined US Navy, Royal Navy and French Navy carrier group in the Baltic Sea, denying the use of their aircraft and warships to the battle.
The year closes as in Winter 2006 NATO and the allies launch an assault from orbit using the MJOLNIR orbital bombardment system - a series of twenty foot long tungsten rods dropped from orbit. They strike at multiple times the speed of sound, and impact Moscow and other key military targets in the USSR with the equivalent force of nuclear weapons, but with none of the radioactive fallout.
Faced with widespread devastation, and assaulted on all sides, the USSR fights on in name only, as individual generals seize command of their own forces, and launch fractured counter-assaults throughout the year, staggering the advances of NATO and Allied Forces, while in the Southern US States, the remaining Cuban and Nicuraguan forces are defeated and scattered, and pillage everything in their path of retreat, leading to the sacking of countries such as Guatemala and Panama, or dig in and remain in place, carving out territory for themselves in the remains of those countries, and on the islands around the Carribbean.
Throughout 2007, the remaining Russian Forces attempt either to reunite and strike back at NATO forces, resulting in horrendous costs in manpower through scorched-earth tactics. One group gains control of the orbiting Soviet weapon known only as ICARUS, a staggeringly powerful Laser weapon. Under their control, it is used to incinerate targets in China, The USA, France and The UK, before its' ground control station is disabled by a precision airstrike towards the close of the year.
Other Soviet forces deploy orbital weapons, anti-satellite missiles and manned interceptors to engage the MJOLNIR platforms and other Allied space-based assets, eventually culminating in the first - and so far only - armed engagement in space.
By this point, the economies of all warring states are nearing collapse, natural resources are vastly overstretched, and the swathes of dead and dying land and people are causing problems of their own, as ill health spreads wide, bringing plauges and diseases in it's wake. Unable to keep up the surge in forces, and having lost many of their 'elite' frontline units, and most hi-tech vehicles and machinery through attrition at the front lines, many nations are resorting to unconventional tactics and bringing older equipment and weapons back into use due to necessity.
2008 - The End of the WarEdit
Chinese, Japanese, South Korean, Indian and Australian Forces link up with the US and Canadian forces from the south coast of the USSR in mid-March after a period of re-armament, re-supply and re-organization, commencing their attacks in the spring. They drive through the rest of the USSR in a lightning-fast attack supported by heavy aerial and artillery bombardment. The swift assault eliminates the last holdouts of organised command and control, as in the West, the European and NATO forces launch a last all-out assault with the aim being to capture the largest military complexes and Moscow itself, and link up with the Eastern forces.
Faced with disintegrating leadership as its' corruption and self-serving nature become apparent, the Soviet military splits into in-fighting factions, as loyalist die-hards attempt to rally and organise the men under their command, many of whom desert or flee. Other officers and political figures go rogue, abandoning their posts, or escaping into Russia's vast interior with their men and equipment. Many of them will later surface as bandit-kings, criminal overlords or other personalities of note in the post-war world. Many of Russia's politicians are bought low by their own people, who are sick and tired of being worked hard and betrayed. Others commit suicide rather than face war tribunals. Only a few remain to stand trial and accept the terms of surrender.
The immediate results of the war were that governments could not afford to keep the territory they had gained, due to their massive losses and the conditions at home, with diminished economies, and citizens crying out for a change to their lives and an end to the state of war as a result of the ten-year state of near total war.
Economically, many countries were in a much poorer condition than when the war started, resulted in other nations rising to prominence in their stead, and a redistribution of wealth as many governments were forced to both borrow money, and sell off many of their assets to enable them to remain functional.
Military sizes were also reduced considerably, due to a nature of wanting to avoid a conflict like the one that had just passed, and due to the lack of money to spend on rebuilding large forces. With so many areas of the world still in turmoil - as there were either no governments to rule them, or they were unable to function without assistance from their former allies - Mercenary groups became common, and were equipped with the assets sold off by the governments, and being sold by the new corporations that had risen to prominence following the war and begun providing technologies for rebuilding from the chaos. With many of these corporations establishing offices and facilities in the various regions of the world, they also needed security against the restless and uncertain situation around them, and mercenaries were turned to provide this level of security.
Culturally, there are also many groups of displaced people throughout the world, after so many nations being devastated, and many unique historical, artistic, and cultural places and objects of significance no longer exist. A great diaspora has occurred, leaving the world much more of a cultural mixing pot than before.
The global political situation is also in flux; with so many nations that were formerly the leaders on the world stage left exhausted and broken, and so many trading partners reduced and diminished in stature, new opportunities have to be found, and eyes are turning to different parts of the world for new resources, work forces, and other opportunities.
Equally, many weapons, vehicles, aircraft and more that would have only reached prototyping stages have been mass-produced and are now part of the world at large. More so, many of the weapons that were produced and never used during the last years and months of the war also still exist, and may be waiting. Similarly, the plans for their creation may still be out there, and for sale, as enterprising individuals in areas devastated by the war and left to fend for themselves are picked over by people trying to survive and make a living.
For more info about the Post War - and thus current - world see the World of Thunderbolt Black article.