Can nuclear attack be stopped?

Stopping an atomic weapon is theoretically possible, experts say, but in reality it is a huge challenge. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has raised fear of nuclear weapons to a level not seen since the Cold War. The second, and most viable, option is to intercept the missile during its longest flight path in space. An advantage of that approach is that because most U.S.

UU. The enemies are in the western Pacific, everyone is likely to program their missiles to take a path above the poles, which means that only one ground interceptor could be placed in Alaska and probably protect the entire country. From the impossible dream of a space shield, missile defense has arrived on Earth. But will it work? They were about to find out if the Missile Defense Agency could stop an intercontinental ballistic missile by shooting it down with an interceptor missile.

This would be the first test of an interceptor launched as if the country were responding to a real attack on its homeland. Previous interceptors fired from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean; this would be launched from California. The target rocket had been fired by U, S. On the screens of the Administrative Information Center, a red line, advancing south from Alaska to the west coast of the United States, represented his position.

The trajectory of the target missile was similar to the trajectory that a Taep'o-dong 2 long-range missile launched from North Korea could follow. The difference, of course, was that if the September test failed, the target launched by the Kodiak would jump harmlessly across the Baja California peninsula. The anti-missile system, that is, by order of President George W. Bush, which unfolds as it develops, is a complex network of layered defenses, each of which points to a separate missile threat.

Some are designed to thwart missiles as they rise from the platform (the pre-impulse phase), while others are designed to destroy them as they descend towards the target (the terminal phase). The flight time between the two phases is called “half travel”. Intermediate defenses are the only ones currently used against long-range threats, such as ICBMs. The focal point of the agency's September test of its ground-based medium-course defense system was the interceptor missile, launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

According to the plan, it would exit the Earth's atmosphere and launch an infrared search projectile called a “vehicle of death” that would collide with the target somewhere in the Pacific. Watching the progression of the red line through the screen in the information center, Air Force Lieutenant General Henry “Trey Obering”, director of the Missile Defense Agency, had something to prove, besides the ability to hit a bullet with a bullet. With this test, his agency was trying to redeem itself for a series of failures that had called into question its competence. The lack of mid-course interceptions in the MDA program also suggested that the technology was not mature enough to handle the task.

Since starting in 1997, midway defense test flights have had mixed results. Between October 1999 and July 2001, three of the five interception tests had been successfully completed. But there had been a four-year hiatus in interception launches midway through the course, and it only failed when they were restarted. The last time the missiles flew, in December 2002, the death vehicle did not separate from the interceptor carrying it.

Two years of work followed, during which Obering took over the Missile Defense Agency. Raytheon Company engineers cleaned up the design and began production of the killing vehicles at its Tucson, Arizona facility. Orbital Sciences Corporation, the manufacturer of the interceptor in Dulles, Virginia, had programmed the rocket to the tolerances of a satellite launcher. When some status reports failed to reach the interceptor's flight control computer, it aborted the launch as if there was an expensive satellite on board.

The problem was addressed by writing a new line of computer code. After that, even the most staunch supporters of the missile defense plan promoted by President George W. A Republican congressman from Alaska, Terry Everett, then chair of the subcommittee that oversees missile defense, stated that he and his fellow members “were disgusted by the failures, because to be honest with you, it didn't seem to be brain science. IF THE UNITED STATES is attacked, plans require interceptor missiles at Air Force bases in Vandenberg and Fort Greely in Alaska to roar out of holes in the ground to the margins of space, where they would release 155-pound vehicles.

An attack would first be detected by U, S. Defense Support Program satellites, which detect infrared radiation from enemy missiles leaving their launch pads. The first generation of this system was launched in the 1970s, but improvements to the new satellites have brought modern capabilities to the space imaging system. Satellites would tell terrestrial radars where to look in the sky to find enemy rockets after their engines burned out.

Ground-based radars that would one day be augmented with sophisticated ground and space sensors would transmit tracking coordinates to U, S. Strategic Command control rooms in Alaska and Colorado, where members of a specially trained Army brigade would pull the trigger on interceptor missiles. Computers would feed target data to interceptor missiles through fiber optic cables and satellites. These initial “weapons” task plans must arrive before missiles shoot out of their holes so that their nozzles can point at incoming warheads.

Assuming that interceptor missiles reach the air before the deadline, information from ground-based radars will provide interceptors with updated information on the location of targets as they rise to reach them. As the distance approaches, interceptors will release their killer vehicles. By then, enemy missiles will have dissolved in a hail of objects heading towards the United States at about 15,000 miles per hour. Inside that cloud of warheads, Mylar's inflated decoy balloons, molded and painted to look like real warheads, could distract killer vehicles, if not for the guidance given by their infrared eyes and small thrusters.

If all goes well, each killer vehicle will collide with an incoming warhead at about 18,000 miles per hour. During the pause between launches, the missile agency put engineers and software experts to work installing new computer processors and software to allow cold war radar to track objects more accurately. Similar work is underway at the Fylingdale early warning radar facility in England, allowing it to track missiles that could be launched westward from Iran. New offshore platforms will complement early warning radars.

The more eyes available, the better, planners say. Improvements to the Beale radar were just one of the many technical objectives of the September test. An underlying objective was to restore trust in the missile agency itself. Obering's reputation was based on the 55-foot-long missile crossing the Pacific, receiving guidance (expected) from radar at Beale.

Through an audio link, Obering was able to hear the joyful reaction inside the fire control room at Schriever Air Force Base, near Colorado Springs. ALTHOUGH OBERING TOLD REPORTERS that the test showed that the United States now had a “good chance of shooting down a North Korean missile,” Marine Corps General James E. Strategic Command, the man responsible for defending the United States against a missile attack, sounds less convinced of the chances of real-world success. Some interested observers of the ground-based mid-course defense test give the system an even lower chance of success.

Philip Coyle, 72, a former nuclear weapons designer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, is now an advisor to the Center for Defense Information, a left-wing think tank in Washington, D. In August 2000, as assistant secretary of defense for testing and evaluation at the Pentagon, Coyle advised President Bill Clinton not to develop or place ground interceptors that would eventually become the centerpiece of Bush's proposed missile defense plan. In Coyle's view, there are too many unanswered questions about system readiness. He points to the lack of evidence against countermeasures, delays in advanced radar designed to differentiate decoys from warheads, and the small number of test successes as evidence that the system being developed could not handle a real-world threat.

“Sending lone target missiles into the air as targets and successfully intercepting them gives the American public and policymakers dangerously false confidence in the system,” he adds. In fact, with so many elements of the missile defense system still under development, the successful September test represented only the simplest of threats: a single missile without decoys or countermeasures. Previous MDA tests used spoofing, including balloons in the 2002 tests and specially designed parts that, after detaching from the missile, mimicked the shapes and temperatures of the warheads. Coyle and other critics say decoys are too easy to discern from simulated warheads, negating positive results.

Coyle's real goal is not just the technological flaws of the system, but the entire strategic justification of missile defense. Success, he argues, could be more dangerous than failure. Obering himself agrees that the system he is sending will not have “operational capacity” until it can handle multiple missiles. But a “rudimentary capacity”, in the Pentagon language, is the first step towards an operating system.

Obering says the rudimentary existing system could now bring down a nuclear bomb if it comes alone. If SBX works as advertised, it could make Obering's life a lot easier. In early January, the huge radar headed north to show that it would be able to operate during the famous harsh winters along the Aleutian Islands, which are in the likely path of a North Korean missile. Another headache has been negotiating the location rights of fixed radars and deciding where they should be built based on intelligence on future threats.

New Eyes on Space Could Solve Grassroots Problems. Two prototypes of Northrop Grumman-built Space Monitoring and Monitoring System satellites to be launched in November. These could pave the way for a constellation of infrared tracking satellites that would provide near-global coverage. STOP A NUCLEAR BOMB? The answer, due to limitations in testing, seems to be that no one will know until the threat arrives.

Missile defense advocates and developers applauded September's success in a single 23-minute test. Weapons testers often require hundreds of hours of operation before a war tool is placed in the hands of soldiers, pilots, or sailors. Missile tests have shown that the smallest detail that goes wrong can derail even a well-planned launch. Testing can be a difficult problem to solve.

That leaves the military in the position of not knowing how the system will work until they are asked to act. Only if nuclear warheads rush toward the United States will the question finally be answered, with millions of lives at stake. In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan said he was uncomfortable with mutually assured destruction (that is, the idea that both the United States and Russia had enough nuclear weapons to destroy each other in the event of a nuclear war) as the only protection against the U. But given how far computers, drones and laser technologies have come since the Cold War era, one might think that advanced technology could deter a nuclear weapons threat.

In fact, while the international community is slapping Russia with a series of restrictions and sanctions, it is difficult not to jump into the worst nuclear scenario, particularly given that Russia has the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world. As such, any interceptor missile that hits a nuclear missile is highly unlikely to cause a nuclear explosion. With tensions brewing between the United States and North Korea, highlighted by a flurry of nuclear missile tests and words of struggle by both countries, the possibility of nuclear war seems closer than it has been in years, experts say. And locking the electronic components of nuclear warheads with something like an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) probably wouldn't work; the weapons are designed to be robust enough to survive the EMP effects of other nearby nuclear weapons, Grego said.

So, when these anti-ballistic missiles hit nuclear missiles in the air, do the latter explode and cause a nuclear explosion?. Laura Grego, Stanton Nuclear Safety Fellow at MIT Nuclear Safety and Policy Laboratory, told Salon. . .

Bradford Tutwiler
Bradford Tutwiler

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