Home > Uncategorized > More than one way to deliver a nuke

More than one way to deliver a nuke

November 21, 2008

BBC has a wonderful animated graphic explaining how the US missile defense system is supposed to work.  It is an inspiring exercise in optimism.

First the missile (which is assumed to be ballistic) is nailed on radar the moment it clears the cloud cover.  This tracking is aided by space-based radar, ‘early-warning’ radar, and x-band radar, plus infrared signatures of launch.  The type, speed, and size of the missile is known before it finishes clearing the cloud cover.

Radars send their information to the battle command center, which calculates the best point of interception based on trajectory, range, and speed of both missile and interceptor. The system intelligently ignores decoys launched by the missile.

“Flight path is plotted and information is sent to the ground-based interceptor” which are readied for launch.  Multiple interceptors may be needed if the first ones miss. The ‘kill vehicle’ is steered into collision with the missile. Iconic orbital explosion graphics ensue and the day is saved.  But questions remain:

  • Is the missile even visible to radar?

  • Does it fly in a predictably ballistic path, or does it steer somewhat randomly, perhaps using flight algorithms from starlings or other small birds?
  • How many missiles does the enemy have?
  • What if those decoys were not decoys, but in fact MIRVs?
  • What if it’s a stealth cruise missile launched from a ship and moving fifty feet above the water?
  • Will these interceptors work better than their prototypes? 
  • Will the weapon be delivered by ballistic missile, or by Federal Express marked “Diesel parts”?

That last part is important.  We have all kinds of nifty new technologies to x-ray shipping containers.  This happens after it is already in-harbor. How difficult would it be to set up the nuke to simply go off when it is hit with x-rays?  Or when the crate is opened for inspection.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. November 22, 2008 at 00:24 | #1

    It seems this missile defense system is protecting us from Cold War type worries. Which just makes no fucking sense.

  2. David
    November 22, 2008 at 06:34 | #2

    Some of your points are not well thought out. The system is designed against a rogue state with limited resources Such a state is not likely to be able to radar-proof a missile, certainly not while its engines are running. Steering randomly in space takes lots of fuel. Will the interceptors work? you could ask the same about the attackers.

  3. November 22, 2008 at 09:52 | #3

    The whole “missile defense” thing is basically a boondoggle to keep money flowing to defense contractors, imho.

    A close look at how our defense establishment is run will quickly disabuse one of the notion that dinosaurs are extinct.

  4. November 22, 2008 at 11:15 | #4

    David:  Compared to the money spent and to be spent on missle defense (aka Roonie Ray-gun’s “Star Wars” ,) how much money is spent on diplomacy and development to eliminate rogue states?

    Given the very small number of rogue states, this looks like a bad unvestment to me.  Just another way of saying what Gerry said:

    Dinosaurs still rule the earth.

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