Submitted by Wide-Escape-5618 t3_zalvi1 in Futurology

Some of my friends at Northrop Grumman say that “nuke-stopping” technologies are getting pretty advanced. I’m just wondering if you believe there will be a point where we can easily stop multiple nukes at once. For example, space lasers that can shoot down 100 nukes per minute or something ridiculous of that nature.



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DanielNoWrite t1_iymaf30 wrote

Possible? Sure.

Likely? Absolutely not.

Reliably intercepting even existing ICBMs is a ridiculously difficult engineering challenge. The damn things are travelling at 4 or 5 miles/second through space, they can fragment into multiple independent reentry vehicles complete with decoys. Stopping even one is a challenge, even when we know in advance it will be launched. Stopping a full attack is crazy.

Added to this, if the technology somehow was developed to stop ICBMs, there are plenty of other delivery systems existing or in development..

It's likely that offense will have the advantage over defense for the foreseeable future, and even if that changes, the cost of a single bomb getting through is so high, no one will ever willingly to bet on their interception systems.


patryuji t1_iymfg69 wrote

Right now, the best case defense is likely to try to detonate a nuclear weapon in air that will envelope the maximum number of incoming ICBMs to render them inoperable. So long as it is more than a few miles overhead, it should not injure anyone on the ground (this was tested several decades ago).


EDIT: Since I made a somewhat less than credible claim, I realized I should edit this to add a link to support said claim:


UniversalMomentum t1_iymrb63 wrote

The US has 4 major layers of ICBM defense. Mid-course interception appears to have the highest probability at up to 80% if a mid-course shot is available.

>The most reliable defense against ballistic missile attack is the U.S.’s Aegis Ballistic Defense (Fig. 2). The Aegis RADAR is manufactured by Lockheed Martin and integrated with the broader Command and Control and weapon systems aboard Aegis Class destroyers. The Aegis system is also available in land-based systems. The Aegis system is designed to combat short- and medium-range ballistic missiles through use of RADAR tracking and interceptor launch. The Aegis system has an approximately 80% intercept success rate.

Here is a good article explaining the different phases of Boost, Mid-Course and Terminal and a quick summary on systems design for each phase.


ghandi_loves_nukes t1_iynv39w wrote

Once direct energy weapons reach the multi-megwatt output ballistic missiles will become less of a threat. The Navy has already integrated a 250kw direct energy weapon with Aegis & had deployed them in the fleet.


frobelmust t1_iyq3870 wrote

orbital laser pinpoint defence network can do it. in fact, the mirror side of the dyson sphere tech (which is only 10 years away), is a saturation level of hundreds of thousands of instant kill lasers on the inside of the dyson sphere. powered off the sunlight and battery arrays, point defense orbital lasers can destroy any quantity of icbms at launch, land , air or ocean. It guarantees peace on earth and the end of crime. These laser arrays can also instantly slay any criminal or dictator on sight.


niboras t1_iymg3bd wrote

You mean like missile command? Do they have to use a roller ball to target?


ghandi_loves_nukes t1_iynv72w wrote

Hell to the no for track balls, the operators always spill soda or energy drinks in the.


phileo t1_iymrruf wrote

Nuke nukes with nukes. Got it!


CotyledonTomen t1_iyo7tdq wrote

Wont that still spread fallout through air currents? I dont know if thats better, but isnt that what would happen?


patryuji t1_iyocp57 wrote

Check out the story I linked.

TLDR: with an air explosion you don't really get fallout because there isn't much matter (dirt, trees, asphalt, concrete, etc) to irradiate and spread during the explosion.


CotyledonTomen t1_iyofena wrote

Right but it says many died of cancer with 1 bomb, and nuclear war is a whole lot of bombs.


patryuji t1_iyozvmm wrote

Yes, many died of cancer (including others involved in the Nevada test sites).

Then again, 2 died in their 80s, 1 at 71, 1 at 63 and potentially 2 others are still alive and in their 80s (one of the 2 being the camera man).

Sounds like better odds than actually getting hit with a nuclear weapon.


reflect-the-sun t1_iymhb94 wrote

No offence, but you're talking about tech from the 60s and 70s (50-60 years ago) and attempting to answer this question based on very limited knowledge of what has been in development since then, 99% of which is classified. The most modern solution we know of is the MKV, which hasn't been heard of since it was 'cancelled' in 2008.

You can bet your balls that the USA has multiple layers of defences against foreign missile attacks far beyond our comprehension.

Edit; I'm definitely not American, but that's just how it is.


DanielNoWrite t1_iymo911 wrote

...that really isn't how it is.

The engineering challenges are well known, the tests and success rate is documented as it's not possible to keep secret. I am American and my masters is in military development. We do not have a magical ballistic missile shield hiding up our sleeves.


Guzikk t1_iyovx0z wrote

I was working on military simulations, mainly predicting ballistic trajectories using ML models during my CS degree. It was fun, and I thought these simulations were easily replicable in real-life scenarios.

3 years later I had a conversation with my friend that is working on this subject on a daily basis, for one of the Israeli companies that build such systems (not RADS). He explained why - even in 50 years - we wouldn't be able to create a 100% accurate anti-missle defense system.


UniversalMomentum t1_iyn8ej7 wrote

We have 4 layers of ICBM defense. AEGIS should have a decent intercept rate. Sure you can overwhelm it, but it should shoot down a quite a few missiles. A masters degree doesn't mean you've kept your info updated, it just means at one point in your life you got a degree and at face value you're just some rando on the internet making claims without providing proof.


[deleted] t1_iymtdbd wrote



TheDrummerMB t1_iyn00n4 wrote

>AEGIS should have a decent intercept rate. Sure you can overwhelm it, but it should shoot down a quite a few missiles

lol think you just proved their point


DanielNoWrite t1_iyn6j15 wrote

I'm aware of the various missile defense systems we've developed. None have demonstrated a consistent ability to shoot down ICBMs.

We've had more luck with short and medium range defense, but that's not really what we're talking about here.

With ICBMs, you either have to shoot it down during boost, which means you more or less have to be on station waiting for the launch, or you have to shoot it down midcourse, when it's going 15,000mph a hundred miles above the planet.

They talk about terminal defense, but I'll believe that when I see it.

The closest thing we have to a real defense capability is the GMD, which claims a "50% success rate" against individually launched missiles, with advanced preparation and warning, and a couple more caveats besides. It's nothing close to a real world demonstration. At best it's a last ditch Hail-Mary strategy.

The simple fact is that it's really, really hard to shoot down something moving that fast. A bullet is standing still by comparison. And even if we could that doesn't solve for hypersonic cruise missiles, stealth bombers, or any of a half dozen other deployment strategies.

If we did develop truly reliable ballistic missile defense, it would probably be a bad thing, as our adversaries would presumably not be too far behind, and we'd enter a world in which nukes could be deployed through other means without the risk of being immediately blanketed by ICBMs in response.


reflect-the-sun t1_iympevy wrote

I respect your answer regardless of your background, but now you have information that I can use to demonstrate my point.

Based on your knowledge, how long would it take to fire a Russian nuke from the moment the order is received?


DanielNoWrite t1_iyn7kvc wrote

I don't know offhand, and the actual tested time may even be classified, but for context the number typically given with for American missiles is under five minutes between the president issuing the order and the missile leaving the silo.

From there, it depends on whether the missile was land based or launched from a sub, but for land based missiles it'll be hitting it's target perhaps half an hour later, and significantly shorter if it's launched by a sub offshore.


reflect-the-sun t1_iyndruv wrote

So if you can infiltrate comms then you've got a 30-minute heads-up on the launch. From the situation in Ukraine it's clear the USA and her Allies already have access to Russian comms on the battlefield and within the Russian govt so we can assume they'll know when a launch order is given.

Considering the USA has wide-angle video surveillance satellites with a 10cm resolution and AI processing they likely know everything that's happening at each launch site, and they'd have them pre-targeted, including Russian subs that they're tracking 24/7.

Finally, all they need is a weapons delivery system to target one of these launch sites and fire upon it within the 30-minute launch period. Better still, fire at it as the launch is taking place and take advantage of collateral damage to the launch site.

Furthermore, I am sure the Russians are aware of this potential threat to their launch sites. If you watch this clip, you'll see that the missile is on a mobile launcher and features a complex launch function to minimise static positioning with a short launch time-period and rapid acceleration. It would also explain why Russian is developing terror weapons like this.

If the USA can destroy air-gapped centrifuges in Iran for making uranium you can bet your balls they can target and neutralise nuclear-capable missiles for threatening their country.


DanielNoWrite t1_iynh5wz wrote

I mean no disrespect, but this simply doesn't reflect reality.

You begin by casually assuming penetration of Russian communications is so absolute we'd know of a launch order, based on our abilities to monitor battlefield communications and track the mass mobilization of the hundreds of thousands of troops?

Then you seem to misunderstand that "30 minutes" is the time until the missile hits Washington DC, not the time until the launch, and frankly it wouldn't make much difference even if that were the case.

Also, we somehow have the ability to hit all their launch sites before they even fire?

Also, we're tracking all Russian subs 24/7?

Then you compare all of this to cyber-sabotage of Iranian centrifuges. Which isn't at all related and also hasn't stopped Iran's nuclear program.

The US has amazing capabilities, but it's not magic. There is zero chance we would be able to prevent or even significantly mitigate a nuclear attack were it to occur.

If North Korea happens to launch a single missile our way, we might be able to stop it, but I wouldn't count on it. A country like Russia launching an attack would be the end of the world for everyone.


Crafty_Mix_1935 t1_iymjppp wrote

Not to mention the independent war heads can maneuver in route. I don't think the public can handle this information. Look at the mass hysteria in the 50's and 60's.


[deleted] t1_iymlqc1 wrote



DanielNoWrite t1_iymoz4g wrote

There is really no comparison between a medium range cruise missile and a an ICBM, they're entirely different problems.

Shooting down a cruise missile is a lot like shooting down a plane. Intercepting an ICBM is like swatting a meteor from the sky.


[deleted] t1_iymqqxu wrote



DanielNoWrite t1_iyn80zo wrote

My point was not that it's the same, it was simply that cruise missiles and short/medium range ballistic missiles are routinely intercepted by the same or similar systems used to shoot down planes.

This is very different from what is required to deal with an ICBM.


cabur t1_iynkskd wrote

Defense always lags behind offense. This is demonstrated by the time period of….forever?


Ipearman96 t1_iyogkpn wrote

You could argue that world war 1 the machine gun meant that defense was higher than offense, of course then the tank was invented which combined with infiltration tactics helped offense regain some of it's capabilities. You could also argue that the later parts of the us civil war defense was stronger than offense. The battle of cold harbor is a pretty good point in this direction as perhaps is the battle of the crater though that one can be blamed on poor coordination. However coordination is one of the hardest things for offense to get right especially pre radio.


StreetSmartsGaming t1_iymuz40 wrote

The other issue is they've been stockpiling these fucking things for 70 years. If someone launches a nuclear strike its not going to be just one. It's going to be hundreds or thousands at once. Especially if you have some sort of defense system likely to get some or most of them.

Theres a reason they call it mutually assured destruction.


SGTWhiteKY t1_iynz7c7 wrote

No one has added new weapons in a while. And much of all countries nuclear stockpile is dated, and much of it is nonfunctional. Hell, Russia has been taking nuclear warheads out of cruise missiles for use in their current conflict.


Epyon214 t1_iyp2a4g wrote

It's the kind of thing I'd bet on and test on myself to show how confident I was in my shield technology, almost like how people who believe in their bullet proof vests might volunteer to be shot while wearing it.

The key is you then have to make nukes not only ineffective but a liability, if you want to get rid of them all. If the location of a nuke is known there are things that can target it, and potentially cause it to detonate.


WolfOfBelial t1_iyq4m54 wrote

In 20-30 years lasers will be able to stop most physical targets. Germany is already testing laser system that stops mortar rounds in the air.


TheLianeonProject t1_iymaehx wrote

The nature of these offensive and defensive weapons is that they are an endless cat-and-mouse game.

So no, the moment nuke defense tech comes online, someone will figure out a means around it.


maverickmark25 t1_iym9hwu wrote

Being able to shoot down all nukes might sound like a great thing but it’s actually extremely destabilizing for the system. It makes mutually assured destruction irrelevant. This makes all other nuclear powers feel extremely vulnerable which will lead to a proliferation of more weapons.


Ancalagon_TheWhite t1_iyme8pv wrote

The US and Soviet Union actually made a treaty to restrict the number of anti ballistic missile systems to 2 each. This was to stop either side believing they could survive any nuclear warm


-Spin- t1_iymtjnm wrote

It really doesn’t make “MAD” irrelevant. Generally it’s much easier and cheap to build an ICBM than it is to shoot one down. So if your opponent can shoot down 100 ICBMs, you just send 200. This is the reason why the US and Russia have and have had so giant stores of warheads.


maverickmark25 t1_iymxvl6 wrote

I mean I agree it potentially wouldn’t make MAD irrelevant. What you just said is exactly my point. It is destabilizing to the assumptions nuclear powers operate under. Meaning countries would likely do what you suggest build more weapons due to their feeling of insecurity.


UniversalMomentum t1_iymuxb3 wrote

Mutual assured destruction was never real. Nukes don't blow up a large enough area for that to have ever worked and modern nukes are mostly fusion explosions so the radiation is actually far more limited than you imagine. Fallout is mostly not radioactive and doesn't kill many people and loses intensity very fast, almost everybody dies just from the explosion, so for mutual assured destruction you have to blanket impractically large areas with explosion and it's probably safe to say nobody ever really had that many nukes. Nuclear fallout from a power plant last much longer as we saw in Chernobyl vs Hiroshima. Radiation release also does not scale well with megatons so larger nukes are still not likely to cause mass fallout casualties. Basically the fireball just gets bigger and the radiation release is similar because it relies on fallout as the radiation itself is fairy short range and has to absorb into matter to be spread.

Even the area of the epicenter would be livable again in 1-5 years because a nuclear explosion is just a FLASH of fission and a bigger flash of Fusion. It's not like a sustained reaction that produces tons of radiation, it's mostly just a massive thermal energy release.

In Hiroshima there wasn't even a detectable raise in birth defects, people who died from radiation at those who were close enough to get exposed directly and live through the blast (not likely but possible) and those who stayed around and breathed in the worst of the fallout/ran back into the epicenter. The total long term results of all the radiation was a 10% cancer increase in the survivors of the blast, but only the survivors.

Sooo for mutual assured destruction you have to blanket the area in explosion just like conventional war, except the nuke warhead is much small/lighter for the size of explosion it creates, that's the real danger of nukes. It's just so much power release in a package you can shoot a long distance because it has super high energy density.


John-florencio t1_iymz337 wrote

Explode every major cities and I can tell you that the country is wrecked for many years to come.


grundar t1_iyn60df wrote

> Mutual assured destruction was never real.

Published research says otherwise.

That paper predicts global mass starvation from a nuclear exchange involving 250 smallish warheads, mostly from reduced agricultural output caused by reduced sunlight caused by massive soot emissions from burning cities.

Given that the USA and Russia still have 40x that many warheads between them even after arms reductions, mutual assured destruction was -- and is -- a realistic concern.


SGTWhiteKY t1_iynzl8x wrote

People often think MAD means that every life in the planet will cease. This is false. It is that every major country will fail. There would absolutely be survivors, maybe even a thriving world again. But the destruction of the governments involved in a nuclear exchange is assured.


maverickmark25 t1_iyn0h4m wrote

Can you cite some reliable literature that supports these claims?


[deleted] t1_iyn3dhi wrote



danteheehaw t1_iyno6um wrote

Plenty of nations saw relative levels of destruction in the world wars. Things bounce back rather quickly.


ovirt001 t1_iymddgg wrote

Eventually. It would be in the US' best interest to keep that a secret since knowledge of it would be extremely destabilizing. Russia and China would panic if they knew such a thing existed and act (even more) irrationally.

Granted that's assuming such a system does not already exist. The "Star Wars" program from the 80s was officially cancelled but the work continued into the 2000s from what we know of Lockheed Martin's MKV-L:
Also worth mention is that the cadence of missile defense tests is not what one would expect from a country trying to fully test the system. It's possible a high failure rate is reported to reassure international opponents.


UniversalMomentum t1_iymv5cq wrote

We put out stats saying AEGIS has a 80% intercept rate for it's intended use cases.. aka when you are in the mid-course path and have a launcher in range.

Ppl just don't stay updated on things that never happen so we pay no attention to ICBM defense in general.


Rogermcfarley t1_iymgpnv wrote

Once we have the technology to stop nukes there will be biological warfare via nano cloud drones. There will never be an absolute way to stop humanity destroying itself. If climate change doesn't get us we'll get us for certain, just a matter of time.


arisalexis t1_iymqeln wrote

only ASI can save us


Rogermcfarley t1_iyn5p47 wrote

That's something that is unknown. The current machine learning models it's already and has been for quite a few years unknown how the algorithms are working and it's also unknown how the data is being used by the models.

At some point the singularity will happen and then it's predicted things change in ways we can't predict or maybe even control. Currently not at AGI level yet so ASI is some way off. Anyway Two papers on YouTube shows the almost weekly progress of machine learning. Currently I don't know of any artificial intelligence that is ratified as intelligent so currently I refer to it as machine learning.


LouSanous t1_iymq9tj wrote

Well, the 20mm automatic cannons that intercept missiles fire projectiles at 3600fps.

Hypersonic missiles fly at something like 11,250fps.

There really isn't a reliable way to shoot them down right now and, even if there were, they can just be launched in numbers that overwhelm the defenses.


SavingsBookkeeper697 t1_iyo7631 wrote

I wonder if the iron dome can stop a hypersonic missile


LouSanous t1_iyo8mo0 wrote

I doubt it. The Iron Done missiles fly at mach 2.2.

Hypersonics are mach 10.


zenfalc t1_iyoc5nq wrote

And likely overstated for effectiveness. Accuracy at that speed is tough, and neither Russia or China can boast our accuracy at more conventional speeds.

Frankly with that kind of relative velocity we could probably hit it with silly string and kill the guidance. Or heavy duty aluminum foil chaff


LouSanous t1_iyof8ij wrote

The Pentagon has sounded the alarm many times that the US lacks effective ways of dealing with hypersonic weapons.

I'm not an expert on these weapons, but I am an expert in electrical engineering and from what I can see, the US is far behind in this area.

The good news is that it really doesn't matter unless the US attempts to start a war with China or Russia as neither of them have shown any interest in engaging the US intentionally.


zenfalc t1_iyoxari wrote

No one who likes their toys wants to start a war with us. Which is a good thing, but also a little sad


Kalibos t1_iymash2 wrote

I have heard it said that the defense community has always - since nukes started being put on missiles - greatly exaggerated the effectiveness of nuclear defense capabilities to the general population.


sector3011 t1_iymbm4w wrote

"friends at Northrop Grumman"

I don't doubt u can intercept a dozen warheads from one missile but 100 missiles with 10 warheads each? Thats 1000 warheads at once. Nope. Plus u can't effectively defend nukes used as EMP bombs at the first wave anyway.


danteheehaw t1_iynp4c8 wrote

Overcoming EMP is actually fairly easy. A lot of us weapons systems are designed to withstand them.


TheRoadsMustRoll t1_iynfry2 wrote

>...friends at Northrop Grumman say that “nuke-stopping” technologies are getting pretty advanced.
> lasers that can shoot down 100 nukes per minute...

but the guy at the cargo port unloading a shipping container with a bomb inside isn't flying through space.

the end to all war and conflict: civil diplomacy. not technologically advanced but smart as fuck.


Surur t1_iym9wvv wrote

I doubt any nuclear shield can do much against boomers close to the coast. If Russia wanted to destroy New York and LA I doubt any shield would be able to stop them.


Return2S3NDER t1_iymuk6a wrote

It's been rumored that poor maintenance practices in the Russian fleet are causing serious problems with how quiet their subs are as a whole and therefore how effectively they are shadowed. Wouldn't want to gamble on it though.


GOU_NoMoreMrNiceGuy t1_iymaw2j wrote

no. arms races usually don't stop dead. they evolve.


UniversalMomentum t1_iymve5b wrote

In this case I think energy weapons will provide better defense than force projection. You will be able to defend at near the speed of light within X amount of miles, but you will only be able to project massive force through vastly slower moving missiles.

So the physics does suggest eventually nukes become less important/dangerous as faster but more limited range defense becomes more viable.

Sure people will make counter-measures for energy weapons, but because the fundamental laws of the universe appears on the side of shorter ranger super fast weapons being possible, but not super fast longer range weapons being possible there is a big opening there for missile defense to outstrip missiles.

A similar thing happened to bombers. You can make them stealth and all, but ICBMs made huge armies of bombers much less practical and they never overcame that problem. SAMs also makes projecting air force a lot harder because basically missiles are a lot easier and cheaper to make than high end jets.

Another option will be stealth missiles, but the speed of electromagnetism will always work against those options and eventually probably overcome them. Just like now it's hard to launch a nuke and not have alarms go off, the problems of needing massive energy release to accelerate mass quickly will keep working against missiles vs energy weapons.

We just can't see this yet because energy weapons are immature.


varnell_hill t1_iymdfyf wrote

> For example, space lasers that can shoot down 100 nukes per minute or something ridiculous of that nature.

That’s a good start but you would also be able to shoot down multiple nukes from different sources. For example, you’d have a whole lot more time to neutralize an ICBM leaving x country’s mainland than you do a submarine launched missile right off the coast. Or a strategic bomber that penetrated your air defenses.

In my mind (and I am far from an expert), but the laser part is easy because that tech is already pretty mature. Though, keeping it sustained in space is another issue entirely because such a system would use a LOT of power.

The real problem becomes reliably tracking that many warheads at once and having the laser defense systems postured to make the kill shot. We’re talking multiple space vehicles and the requisite early warning and targeting systems working in unison to make that happen.

I suppose it’s possible, but I don’t see it happening any time soon.


AnotherDreamer1024 t1_iymhn0y wrote

No system is 100% effective. No system.

I also have worked on ballistic missile defense systems and they all have weaknesses.

So when one goes from a probability of hit (Ph) of 50% to 55%, then yes, it's an excellent improvement, but it's still 50%'ish.

Even if the probability of a kill (Pk) is 100%, it's that pesky Ph that does one in.

i.e. If I hit it, it's dead. It's the hitting part that's hard.


Phssthp0kThePak t1_iymlx61 wrote

How does the calculation change if the ABM is nuclear too? Politically we are relying on kinetic kill which seems way harder.


zenfalc t1_iyodw5j wrote

It isn't actually, but that's because we're relying on direct hits. Place a warhead with tungsten "sand", a claymore like explosive, and a decent gimbal, in the cone, and just get close. The kinetic differential should make that extremely effective at disabling hardware across a radius of a dozen meters or so. Nuke is disabled if not shattered, and cheaply to boot.


Still_Difference5461 t1_iymkirx wrote

Absolutely not because even if a single nuke gets through then it’s a catastrophe with a death toll in the tens of millions of lives


ConfirmedCynic t1_iymoj8x wrote

I recall reading about a Russian statement that they could wipe out US coastal areas simply by detonating weapons underwater, causing destructive wave action.


Advanced-Payment-358 t1_iyms1y5 wrote

I remember reading multiple threads about this subject and it was concluded that you'd need practically all the nukes humanity has ever produced to actually make an effective tsunami. The earthquakes that create tsunamis will first of all create a permanent change in volume, while nukes create a void, that will very quickly collapse, or if it bursts the ocean's surface, most of the energy is dissipated upwards. Also, the energy released even in small earthquakes is determined in gigatons or even teratons of energy.


UniversalMomentum t1_iympu22 wrote

I would think eventually energy weapons will almost entirely invalidate ICBMs as being all that useful because you can shoot a missile down at the speed of light, but you can never a warhead/any significant mass at the speed of light. There is a top end of the weapons speed that favors defense a lot more than force projection and eventually target should be good enough to shoot down almost anything since all non energy weapons are essentially moving in slow motion compared to electromagnetic radiation aka light.


This_one_taken_yet_ t1_iymswte wrote

Probably would have to build each defense array it's own nuclear power plant for all the energy that will take.


Advanced-Payment-358 t1_iymqwvz wrote

Possible? Yes, with technological advancements.

Expensive? Extremely.

Options like ultra-high velocity kinetic launchers and directed energy weapons deployed in both space and ground could be capable of intercepting high number of vehicles.

As aid, US will not publish any of the technology it manages to keep secret, because in case shit gets real, it can give huge advantage. Not only that, but best way to slow down arms race is to not create need to develop new weapon systems, and appearing seemingly weak is beneficial in this context.


-Spin- t1_iymsmla wrote

Not likely. It will probably continue to be much much cheaper to build a nuke than it will be to shoot it down.


Juls7243 t1_iymt1bv wrote

Doubt it.

The main issue is that you have to block ALL the nukes - a 95% success rate is still a failure.

If a country launches 50 Missiles, each with 8 warheads…. That’s 400 deadly explosions


Heap_Good_Firewater t1_iymtu4w wrote

There is a constant game of leap frog. There may be brief periods where missile defense systems have the upper hand, but there will never be permanent safety from incoming missiles. “Pretty advanced” isn’t good enough.

Maybe we should try to build a system that could reliably stop a small attack from North Korea or Iran, but trying to counter Russian or Chinese attacks would be ruinously expensive and could still be overcome by alternative delivery methods (shipping containers, etc.).

Problems facing missile defense systems:

  • Easy and relatively cheap to accompany real warheads with decoys
  • If we stopped 90% of Russian or Chinese warheads in a full-scale attack (currently we might get 5%) society is still effectively toast
  • Hypersonic missiles are becoming smarter, more numerous and faster along with missile defense systems
  • Missile defense capabilities are limited by treaty (I think)


Trygolds t1_iymuab0 wrote

Even if you can knock them down and the miss their target they can still be made to go off. The weapons would do immeasurable damage to the world.


zenfalc t1_iyoefi0 wrote

Only if they hit land, and successfully detonate. It's actually a trick to get fusion to work


Squadala1337 t1_iymv4u2 wrote

Nah, destroying is always gonna be vastly easier than protecting. These systems you mentioned are ultimately untested in the case of a real nuclear attack and will be far from waterproof.


tdacct t1_iymwxk6 wrote

My favorite conspiracy theory is that Starlink is actually an ICBM defense system. With enough low earth orbit satellites with high power lasers on board, traveling in the right direction, they should be able to destroy the ICBM's at apogee. Since the satellites are already LEO, the missiles at apogee won't have that much difference in velocity, they just need to be traveling in a roughly similar orbit. As I recall, those long distance sub-orbital flights are just shy of the same delta-V as full LEO. Of course, space is a big place, and the satellites will need to do orbital correction to provide an intercept close enough to get within laser range.


imnotsoho t1_iymy6kz wrote

There was a book from the early 1960s, either "Fail Safe" or "Red Alert." US and USSR are the brink of nuclear war. When final talks came to ultimatums the Soviets revealed that they knew no one would win a nuclear war so they did not plan to launch warheads. All of their nukes were in the Ural Mountains and they would just detonate them in place. Nuclear winter would kill everyone within a year.


Voc0 t1_iyn199g wrote

Not very realistic, but I remember a story by Isaac Asimov about a guy that went crazy from developing a shield for nuclear weapons, as it meant stoping the, supposedly planned, end of humanity.


jacky4566 t1_iyn1gc1 wrote

Your talking specifically about ICBM but what about just driving a truck downtown New York with a bomb, or dropping it from a regular old B-29 bomber with escorts, or 100 people with dirty backpack bombs...

Humans are pretty good at killing each other if we want too.


zenfalc t1_iyoev4t wrote

Getting a bomb in probably wouldn't be a cakewalk. That bomber would need a miracle to get in. And organizing 100 people like that would also be a neat trick. All are possible, not sure they're plausible


Bishop120 t1_iyn5sfk wrote

It will always be easier to destroy than to create. Stopping multiple nukes at once isnt so much the issue. Stopping hundreds of missile launches that are coming simultaneously from multiple land, sea, and air launched sources is.

There are land based ICBMs which are launched and then have to cross around the world out in space to get to their targets which satellites could in theory have an easy time intercepting.. just a matter of money and time on that. Submarine launched missiles are harder to intercept as they can be both short and long range and short ranged do not get high enough for satellites to intercept so you need ground based defense systems which again isnt hard but needs lots of money invested. Finally you have air launched systems. There are stealth bombers with traditional gravity bombs (weapons that just fall and aren't launched) and air launched cruise missiles which can fly hundreds to thousands of miles to hit their targets.

Theres an old saying in the nuclear community... close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and thermo nuclear weapons. Many of these weapons dont need to actually hit any specific target. Exploding close enough can do enough collateral damage to not matter. For example.. a nuclear weapon exploding in the atmosphere can cause and EMP shockwave over an area relative to how high it was detonated. High enough in the atmosphere can have country wide effects as well as shutting down satellites.

Any explosion can cause radioactive waste contamination.. enough to be a major hassle but not beyond recovery. Several hundred or thousand explosions can cause a nuclear winter that could push humanity to an extinction level.

Nuclear weapons exist now for "MAD at MAD" reasons... Mutually Assured Deterrence at Mutually Assured Destruction. All the nuclear powers have essentially agreed (whether formally in writing or merely through diplomatic channels) that there is no "limited use" nuclear options. Any use will be met via full outright use. Any first strike use will be met with a last resort overwhelming use. This is why US, Russia, and China dont just have a few hundred weapons but several thousand (4k+).

Lastly.. many governments which had or pursued nukes and gave them up have had subsequent wars and or toppled governments. Libya, Iraq, Ukraine to name the big ones.


tadrinth t1_iyn83ha wrote

I don't think it's very likely. All of the obvious improvements to our ability to shoot down missiles carrying nukes have equally obvious counters. Lasers don't work well on highly reflective surfaces, and hitting a missile with another missile is intrinsically difficult due to the speeds involved.

There might be partial defenses possibly between nations of different sizes. If a small country only has a single or a small handful of missiles, that can probably be defended against by a much larger country with an advanced defense. But an equally sized country can probably fire enough decoys to overwhelm any defense.

And this is all assuming the nukes are being delivered by missiles. Smuggling nukes in and then setting them off requires a completely different set of defenses, and I think the advantage lies with the attacker here as well.


Fonky_Fesh t1_iyn9m9c wrote

Dirty bombs and ever smaller tactical nuclear weapons will be the bigger threats of the future, not bombastic, easily detectable ICBM launches in my opinion


datfixinboy t1_iynb8bz wrote

If we can create the nuclear scrubbing tech from Ghost in the shell than sure.


throwawayamd14 t1_iynbep5 wrote

The answer to this is that as of today there is not anything that is cable to stopping a nuclear strike in existence or in development.


Boaroboros t1_iynbvls wrote

IMO, there is one thinkable reason that the technology of nuclear missile defense becomes stronger than the offensive technology and that is when the offensive technology becomes redundant due to the development of a new and more dangerous weapon system.


MrZwink t1_iynfakc wrote

Nuclear will always remain a threat. With new ways to defend new ways to deliver will be invented. Drone delivered dirty bombs perhaps? Hypersonic missiles?


AppleDrops t1_iynglv0 wrote

Doesn't Russia have that detonate them in the sea and cause a mega tsunami thing?

I guess you'd have to be able to stop that too.


zenfalc t1_iyofidv wrote

Physics protects against that. Tsunamis take a massive volumetric shift to happen, and the total planetary arsenal would barely do the job


AppleDrops t1_iyomvii wrote

so they're bullshitting when they say that? Interesting. I've read it in a few articles.


zenfalc t1_iyowzjq wrote

Oh yeah. You might swamp a beach, but only at relatively close range. Maybe a few miles offshore and favorable geography you could flood downtown. Also, 100MT is going to be a huge warhead. Like, front end of a sub huge. Look up Tsar Bomba if you get bored


floating_crowbar t1_iynopk3 wrote

a Maginot line in space, what could go wrong.
The problem is that if only a few nukes get through.


NotAnotherEmpire t1_iynu51b wrote

It's very easy to fry a space installation if you're already willing to fight a nuclear war.


Plastic_Vanilla_ t1_iynz7je wrote

As the defense systems evolve, so do the delivery systems.

MAD deterrence is here to stay. There just won’t ever be a time unless energy to upkeep becomes impossible where we won’t be living in a world that is on edge of destruction.


saveyboy t1_iyoeu34 wrote

Have you played Fallout new Vegas. Even if you shoot lots of them down even a few sneaking through will mess up your picnic. Even if they manage to nerf nukes there will be new weapons to deal with.


Afternoon_Jumpy t1_iyohpxk wrote

Yes lasers are changing a lot of things. Ground and sea based AA batteries will be able to eliminate aircraft instantly in non-over the horizon situations. Low radar cross section (stealth) requirement will drive the need to have small aircraft with AI pilots flying low for attack and over land and sea lasers will be required to support air superiority.

The limit will be targeting and radar but I think the fundamental rules of the warspace are going to change dramatically as they become prevalent. Imagine even using a powerful laser rifle from the ground... No need to lead the aircraft simply line it up and hit it due to the speed of wave energy.

For ICBMs lasers are limited still to line of sight but they can be placed on satellites and ground batteries and eliminate ICBMs the moment they come over the curvature of the earth. So yes I think lasers are going to redefine strategy with nuclear weapons. Stealthy delivery vehicles travelling at much greater speeds will be required, it's going to be much different once lasers are fully matured as a technology.


Zoidbergslicense t1_iyoprfg wrote

You could load 5 on a semi in Mexico and maybe 1 would get caught at the border.


DiamondsJims t1_iypayz5 wrote

That's circular in a way. Nuclear weapons are useful for attackcking bases of operation for militaries.

What could make explosives useless?

Something might make war "obsolete" in a twisted, black mirror, twilight zone kind of way.

Did you have anything in mind?


N3KIO t1_iypkpx3 wrote

Its not the actual explosion that kills, sure its bad, but not as bad like nuclear fallout.

A nuclear cloud that gets distributed by wind into the atmosphere over a very large area of the planet, polluting and killing everything in its path.

Basically its very bad for everyone, no matter who fires it.

If a nuke gets fired, the other side has no choice and fire theirs.

There is no winners in that kind of war, its basically a game over scenario.


Not_Legal_Advice_Pod t1_iypmzdk wrote

Technology is an endless game of cat and mouse. But... If you imagine a carrier battle group and you ask "is there a way to create a missile defence system so that the carrier is protected?" The answer is yes, but every few years we will have an 'oh shit' moment where the other side comes up with something new and we have to counter it in a hurry. However, you keep a few extra carriers in your back pocket and we should be able to protect them from a strategic perspective.

However, can you do that without losing some support ships? No.

When it comes to nuclear war you can't just say it is ok if Washington survives. A single major US city getting nuked is totally unacceptable and it is hard to imagine any foreign policy situation that would justify that happening in exchange for some "win" abroad.

What missile defence is about is out-spending the little guys. North Korea, Iran, (hell even Russia), could easily find themselves in a situation where they simply cannot afford to keep playing the game to have nuclear arsenals that represent a credible threat to the USA. China's different. So even though the system could be defeated, you can make it cost trillions of dollars to be able to do so.


YareSekiro t1_iyq201a wrote

It's possible, but I am not sure if that is the future we want. Imagine the main nuclear nations suddenly have this ability, I would bet a full scale war would break immediately once any of the nations have such an ability to fully intercept nuclear weapons. Even worse, if it's one sided then it means one country will start nuking their enemies without any repercussion. The only reason cold war didn't turn into WW3 in the 60s and 70s is because MAD.


Dan4676 t1_iyqdken wrote

Yes,thank you, all the nonnuked Countries should collaborate on this


cheaptissueburlap t1_iyqfzxa wrote

Can you ask him to elaborate? Coz until then this post is rather useless


Black_RL t1_iyqpo8t wrote

Cat and mouse game.

We need to open wormholes that will return the attack to the attackers.


chasonreddit t1_iyramm6 wrote

I gotta throw some cold water on this. Everyone seems to think of nuclear weapons as requiring intercontinental or hyperson delivery.

Remember, close only counts in horseshoes and atom bombs.

Let's just hypothesize a bad actor with medium supply of megaton warheads.

You put a couple on a private Learjet (cheaper than a cruise missile with delivery system) and trigger it on final approach to your target airport. Airburst.

You put a several on fishing trawlers that slide into harbor towns.

Maybe you put one in a pig (a cleaning device for international running natural gas pipelines.)

You bury a couple in garbage barges full of metal for recycling or some such.

I don't mean to be giving bad guys a lesson here, but it's ridiculously easy to do to any country that does not have iron curtain type borders (USA anyone?)


LastofU509 t1_iyrxiyw wrote

no. impossible. the laws of thermodynamics are not negotiable


LastofU509 t1_iyrxyew wrote

anyway whats the point of nukes when you can have biological weapons? LOL


alecs_stan t1_iytcawl wrote

No. You could hide them in just about anything. ICMB's are not the only way to launch a nuke.


[deleted] t1_iymay5a wrote

A significant part of nuclear defense is missile warning and tracking satellites. If an adversary takes those out, it becomes much more difficult to intercept in time.


ChrisARippel t1_iymd9yx wrote

Even if we developed the capacity to shoot down current ICBMs, do you think adversaries would not find another way to deliver them?


CaptainObvious t1_iymdtjz wrote

This is silly, too many delivery methods.

ICBM, regular missiles, dropped from a plane, in a vehicle, StS missile from a submarine, etc etc etc.


[deleted] t1_iymeh2e wrote



Advanced-Payment-358 t1_iymsjaw wrote

Nukes need a very precise detonation cycle to go off, there is zero chance of nuke going off no matter what you shoot it with, as long as it itself does not produce energy densities that can ignite a fusion reaction.


housebird350 t1_iymf23l wrote

Nope. There will always be countermeasures. You might be able to stop an attack from smaller nuclear countries like North Korea or Iran if they develope a nuclear warhead and they can only produce 15 or 20 of them....but like Russia or China who have submarines to bring those warheads to just offshore, launch nukes and hundreds of decoys simultaneously or even develop stealth technology, hyper-sonic weapons that can reach their target before we could react or even a reactive armor coating similar to tank armor that can fend off the laser.....


Advanced-Payment-358 t1_iymsvar wrote

It's a cat and mouse game forever, but it only needs to create an effective enough deterrence the enemy faces a second strike retaliation problem. So you can nuke your adversary and get some warheads through, but the adversary can turn you into full glass desert with zero chance of survival. You know, there are more convenient methods to commit a suicide.


bdd6911 t1_iymfcct wrote

What a great question. And now I’m writing an additional useless sentence because the mods want me to be extra wordy!


softclone t1_iymzesz wrote

new russian sub launches a torpedo drone with an underwater range of 10000km and 100 megaton yield - triggers an unstoppable tsunami just off the coast. AFAIK there is no counter currently available


buckcheds t1_iynf6us wrote

Need a LOT more than 100Mt to cause an “unstoppable” tsunami — think millions of megatons.


musicofspheres1 t1_iynm7t7 wrote

Once quantum computers are more accessible in 10 years any person or group could hack into any system


neekthefreak t1_iymb1eg wrote

nuke is an old technology, why invest in nukes when you may engineer a virus that target a specific group of people? look at what corona did without proven human improvement behind and now immagine that you could control targets


Advanced-Payment-358 t1_iyms7e7 wrote

Lol that's basically what orcs claimed was happening in Ukraine. "Murricans were developing a virus in Ukraine that kills only ruskies omg invade asap".


neekthefreak t1_iyou883 wrote

you do not need any special action to make a russian sick, you just need to contain his appetite for destruction before he drink his life away


Glittering-Carpenter t1_iynitlf wrote

Yes and with our current government, they wouldn’t even question where the virus came from


Karolus2001 t1_iymb6t8 wrote

You dont completely solve a fired nuke by shooting it down lol.

Even if military will just switch to smaller, harder to shoot nuke. We likely wont see it unless sad old guys in suits call another arms race but theres no good reason why nuclear energy cant become new gunpowder and take over entire military if it continues to develop at this pace. Lets just pray humanitarianism wont regress to pre WW2.


mlhender t1_iymbqun wrote

The next world war will be fought online. In fact if anyone can champion true quantum computing, and own it, they have a massive advantage over the rest of the world.


HToTD t1_iymfamm wrote

Yep, imagine their faces when we brick the quantum particles in their missiles. You can't not be connected.