Why Is It Almost Impossible To Intercept A Nuclear Missile?


Bharatwa Editor

. 2 min read


Since the advent of nuclear missiles, lots of countries have been getting some for themselves as a means of defense against enemy countries. Testing these nuclear missiles always reignites interests and debate on the feasibility of nuclear missile defense systems.

It is necessary to note that countries like the United States have formidable missile defense systems to intercept enemy missiles. Programs designed to stop these missiles are expensive; it is due to the fact that intercepting objects from space can be really difficult.

How do Nuclear Missiles Operate?

Defense systems against nuclear missiles have networks to track radars and interceptor launchers. When a defense system detects the launch of a nuclear missile, the radars track the missile trajectory, fire an interceptor to intercept it, and prepare more interceptors to intercept other missiles if the first one misses. This tactic is called “Shoot-look-shoot”, where the defense body simply shoots lots of interceptors hoping to kill.

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Furthermore, modern defense systems use interceptor missiles; these interceptor missiles carry “kinetic kill vehicles”. These defense machines are non-explosive but specially designed to destroy incoming missiles by crashing into them. The systems are designed to work perfectly and none of them can operate without the other. Nuclear missiles are also incorporated to work in a way that it can intercept enemy missiles during its flight path.

There are ground-based sensors that are limited by the curvature of the earth and this is what makes drone and satellite-based infrared sensors appealing to complement the Pentagon’s network of missile warning sensors.

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Using the United States missile an example, the midcourse missile defense system in operation is the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system that is based in Alaska and California, and the SM-3 Block II missile interceptor aboard the U.S. Also, taking a look at North Korea, this country has recently launched a nuclear missile attack and the first one was the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) in which the US has deployed in South Korea. 

This missile (THAAD) is designed to shoot down nuclear missiles that have been launched into space. The second is a relevant system which is called the Patriot PAC 3 – it is designed to provide late terminal interception after the strike has re-entered the atmosphere.

What all these systems have in common is that they are missile defense systems, designed to provide protection against short, medium, and intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

Intercontinental nuclear missiles such as the one tested by North Korea recently flies too high and fast for these defense systems to engage with. Nuclear missiles such as the Aegis was used to shoot down a malfunctioning spy satellite in 2008 – although, it has never been used against a real nuclear missile target. The only system that can shoot down an intercontinental missile is the GMD (Ground-based Midcourse Defense).

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