Can nuclear self destruct codes activate in silos?

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All intercontinental nuclear missiles have self destruct codes? This can work even when it's reaching the destination?

But can the self destruct codes work even while the missiles are in silos so you could in principle detonate all nukes in the United States at the same time. Or do you have to launch all of them right above and let them fall down to where they originated. Is this possible?

Also about the nuclear attache case controlled by the president. How many bits of encyrption do you think it uses? Http uses 128 or 256 bit.

In the event of intentional launch that has cooperation of some generals (let's say they are all pissed off so just want to end it up and bring down everything with them). So the president can in general launch all nuclear missiles or self destruct all nuclear arsenals in the silos?

What year the nuclear attache case concept was first used. How did it evolve over the years? What if (just for sake of discussion), it doesn't work as it's been fried by EMP or bazooka targetted at the balcony so the attache case loses all controls. Does it means no nuclear launch of any kind can occur? Does Putin or Xi also have nuclear attache case?

All these things worry me now especially in the days or weeks ahead. I have a cellar that I'm thinking of fortifying as a nuclear shelter.
 

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  • #2
Drakkith
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All intercontinental nuclear missiles have self destruct codes?
I don't think so. I don't remember ever hearing about self destruct capability for ICBM's in my basic ICBM training.
 
  • #3
berkeman
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But can the self destruct codes work even while the missiles are in silos
You will need to obtain your Secret clearance before we can answer that question here in the open PF forums.

Also, if you were designing the software for those missiles, would you allow that? Most detonation (and self-destruct) mechanisms rely on the weapon having been launched already, for obvious reasons.
 
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  • #4
DaveC426913
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'Self destruct' does not necessarily mean 'detonate'.

I'm not sure whether you mean simply stop working/can't be used or if you mean 'blow up'.

It takes a number of steps to arm a nuclear weapon, and detonating doesn't happen easily.

You might want to elaborate on your requirements.
 
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  • #5
Vanadium 50
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(1) If there were a self-destruct mechanism, nuclear powers would not discuss or describe it in any way in the open media. Why let an adversary know that there exists a way to make one's nuclear arsenal useless?

(2) The Union of Concerned Scientists claims there is no self-destruct mechanism. This can be verified by using an ultra-Top Secret search engine called "Google".
 
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  • #6
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'Self destruct' does not necessarily mean 'detonate'.

I'm not sure whether you mean simply stop working/can't be used or if you mean 'blow up'.
In my moments of panic reading the news lately, i forgot the distinction. But yes I realize now that self destruction simply means the missile blows up without going thermonuclear. So I think my question is whether there are codes where the missiles detonate thermonuclear right inside the facility. Perhaps by jumpering some wires, or entering some codes in the attache case, the nukes can detonate thermonuclear anywhere like in Nevada or Georgia?


It takes a number of steps to arm a nuclear weapon, and detonating doesn't happen easily.

You might want to elaborate on your requirements.
 
  • #7
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'Self destruct' does not necessarily mean 'detonate'.

I'm not sure whether you mean simply stop working/can't be used or if you mean 'blow up'.
]
It takes a number of steps to arm a nuclear weapon, and detonating doesn't happen easily.

You might want to elaborate on your requirements.
In my moments of panic reading the news lately, i forgot the distinction. But yes I realize now that self destruction simply means the missile blows up without going thermonuclear. So I think my question is whether there are codes where the missiles detonate thermonuclear right inside the facility. Perhaps by jumpering some wires, or entering some codes in the attache case, the nukes can detonate thermonuclear anywhere like in Nevada or Georgia?
To add, if the president wants it, there is no way to use hacker to detonate the missiles right inside the silos?

If not possible. If you launch a nuclear missile straight up. Is there a way to let it come down to the exact launch spot, sort of the missile just reverse direction in the atmosphere or maybe it just has to be attracted to gravity and the multiple 50 megaton warheads weight just make it head down right back to Nevada and detonate?
 
  • #8
Drakkith
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To add, if the president wants it, there is no way to use hacker to detonate the missiles right inside the silos?
I am near certain that there are no self-destruct mechanisms aboard ICBM's. They would present another point of failure that could potentially result in a nuclear detonation or radioactive material release if somehow inadvertently triggered. I worked on nuclear cruise missiles in the USAF (AGM86 and AGM129) and I know there were no self-destruct mechanisms aboard our cruise missiles. The missile doesn't even have the capability to communicate with anyone or anything once launched. I suspect that ICBM's are the same.

If not possible. If you launch a nuclear missile straight up. Is there a way to let it come down to the exact launch spot, sort of the missile just reverse direction in the atmosphere or maybe it just has to be attracted to gravity and the multiple 50 megaton warheads weight just make it head down right back to Nevada and detonate?
No. The missiles are pre-loaded with their target coordinates prior to launch and are fully autonomous once launched. They are not programmed to do the maneuver you're talking about.

Note that ICBM's are not connected to the internet. They are connected to their support facilities via secured, EMP hardened communications systems using hard-lines that are continuously monitored and would need to be physically tapped by an outsider to communicate with the missiles. Good luck with that.

So I think my question is whether there are codes where the missiles detonate thermonuclear right inside the facility. Perhaps by jumpering some wires, or entering some codes in the attache case, the nukes can detonate thermonuclear anywhere like in Nevada or Georgia?
No, there should be no way for this to happen. The arming of the warhead takes place after launch after multiple checks are done by the guidance and computer systems to ensure the missile is actually on target. There shouldn't even be any power applied to the warhead prior to launch, and if ICBM's are anything like the cruise missiles I worked on then there should be a physical device, like an arming pin, that is pulled away at launch to allow for power and communications to the warhead.
 
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I am near certain that there are no self-destruct mechanisms aboard ICBM's. They would present another point of failure that could potentially result in a nuclear detonation or radioactive material release if somehow inadvertently triggered. I worked on nuclear cruise missiles in the USAF (AGM86 and AGM129) and I know there were no self-destruct mechanisms aboard our cruise missiles. The missile doesn't even have the capability to communicate with anyone or anything once launched. I suspect that ICBM's are the same.
There was this movie I watched about nukes being launched within the United States. I forgot the title. He blackmailed the government and told them to transfer certain billions. Then he pressed self destruct code just before the nukes about to detonate at a state. So this is fiction. And in reality when missiles are launched, no way to stop them.

If an electronically incomplete missile has no target (or a delta rocket outfitted with nukes) and was just launched straight 90 degree up to the atmosphere. After the fuel was used up, and it already got up above the atmosphere. When it re-entered, would the nukes fall down to the same launching spot or would it move? how much would it move?


No. The missiles are pre-loaded with their target coordinates prior to launch and are fully autonomous once launched. They are not programmed to do the maneuver you're talking about.

Note that ICBM's are not connected to the internet. They are connected to their support facilities via secured, EMP hardened communications systems using hard-lines that are continuously monitored and would need to be physically tapped by an outsider to communicate with the missiles. Good luck with that.



No, there should be no way for this to happen. The arming of the warhead takes place after launch after multiple checks are done by the guidance and computer systems to ensure the missile is actually on target. There shouldn't even be any power applied to the warhead prior to launch, and if ICBM's are anything like the cruise missiles I worked on then there should be a physical device, like an arming pin, that is pulled away at launch to allow for power and communications to the warhead.
 
  • #10
PeterDonis
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There was this movie I watched
You should not be taking movies to be accurate sources of information regarding, well, just about anything. Certainly not this topic.
 
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  • #11
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Can an ICBM or Intercontinental Ballistic Missile be made to target close for example from California to New Jersey or can it only work intercontinental?
 
  • #12
Drakkith
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If an electronically incomplete missile has no target (or a delta rocket outfitted with nukes) and was just launched straight 90 degree up to the atmosphere. After the fuel was used up, and it already got up above the atmosphere. When it re-entered, would the nukes fall down to the same launching spot or would it move? how much would it move?
Potentially dozens of miles depending on wind conditions and other factors. But in this case the rocket's upper stage and warheads would probably slam back down into the atmosphere so hard that they would be ripped apart and the debris spread out over a large area.

Can an ICBM or Intercontinental Ballistic Missile be made to target close for example from California to New Jersey or can it only work intercontinental?
A few can, but most have a minimum range of more than the roughly 4000 km from Cali to NJ.
 
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@jake jot Don't worry about movies, 99% are unrealistic,

Someone else here might correct me if I go wrong but from what I know there is indeed a series of "mechanisms" that are used to arm and detonate a nuclear bomb. To understand this it helps to understand a little of how a nuclear bomb works.
In all nuke weapons both fission and also fusion aka Hydrogen bomb the primary thing that always explodes first is the fission bomb (for complicated reasons that you might learn later on if you wish).
Now this fission bomb aka the original A-Bomb is in most cases an implosion device which means that in order to achieve criticality aka the moment when uncontrolled chain reaction starts place it needs to "IMPLODE" as the name says. This is nothing more than just a spherical material with gaps that is brought together fast enough.

This bringing together is accomplished by the use of special high explosives, ordinary chemical explosives that "implode" the bomb material. Now these explosives conveniently for scientists are controlled by high voltage electrical pulses. So the bomb has an elaborate electrical scheme inside which controls this impulse supplied to the charges, because once the impulse is given to the explosives there is no turning back, everything goes BOOM in nanoseconds time.
So the safety fence here is the electrical impulse because other things like physical shocks etc are not capable of setting the bomb off.
The bomb has a power storage inside of it and in the electrical scheme there are various sensors incorporated which ARM or DISARM the mechanism that supplies the impulse to the chemical explosives.
One of those sensors is an altimeter that measures the air pressure to know how high up the rocket has flown,
Other sensors measure acceleration of the bomb/rocket.
They are set such that they won't allow for a detonation to occur near land and definitely not in silo.


In fact in order for those sensors to even start working the bomb must be armed by personnel before missile launch or plane drop off.
Truth be told there were at least 2 or more cases when a bomber suffered a crash and the bombs dropped from height and crashed into ground yet there was no nuclear explosion. The reason for that was that the crucial safety part of the bomb - the electrical impulse part was not set into action, in other words the electricity was "switched off" so the bombs only fell and experienced shock and mechanical failure.
 
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PS. @jake jot , for close range bombs usually air to air or other missiles are used with smaller bombs as their payload, the large ICBM's that are mounted in silo's work by flying high up in the air at an angle and then dropping off the bomb, this trajectory is pre planned so that the bomb as it is dropped off starts to fall back to earth, the way it finds it's target is ... well it doesn't the trajectory of the rocket as it flew up was what determined where the bomb will fall.

I'm not an expert on this and maybe in an rare accident situation it could be possible for the ICBM to fly straight up, then the bomb would fall back rather close to the launch site but normally these types of rocket's are used for great distances


PS. check out this article.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1980_Damascus_Titan_missile_explosion


Oh and as @Drakkith already mentioned I think ICBM's are one of the few things that are not exactly connected to the internet... so that rules out external hacker intervention. They actually still employ real people sitting at the base, the target for the specific ICBM is pre programmed in memory, but to set the rocket off the guys at the base must receive a special message by a secure channel (what kind of channel someone knows? )


but all in all I suggest watching less cable news and reading more science articles about your topics of interest
 
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Ok. So in the event of a civil war in USA. The only way to launch nukes to say Delaware from California (or WA) is by strategic nuclear bombers (or even drones). Are these also controlled from the president attache case. Or independent action?

Also in case of World War 3 say in year 2035. What happened if the white house was nuked first and the attache case vaporized. How will they activate or launch the nuclear missiles to say China or Russia? If they can still launch then what is the purpose of the attache case (which I imagined is opened a lot of time now from maybe temptation).
 
  • #16
berkeman
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(Thread moved from the Nuclear Engineering forum to the SciFi/Fantasy forum. Lordy.)
 
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  • #17
Drakkith
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Ok. So in the event of a civil war in USA. The only way to launch nukes to say Delaware from California (or WA) is by strategic nuclear bombers (or even drones). Are these also controlled from the president attache case. Or independent action?

Also in case of World War 3 say in year 2035. What happened if the white house was nuked first and the attache case vaporized. How will they activate or launch the nuclear missiles to say China or Russia? If they can still launch then what is the purpose of the attache case (which I imagined is opened a lot of time now from maybe temptation).
There's more than one case. There are at least 3. One with the President, one with the VP, and one stored elsewhere.
 
  • #18
berkeman
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There's more than one case. There are at least 3. One with the President, one with the VP, and one stored elsewhere.
Not to mention the one that you "borrowed" from the AF and "forgot" to return. But we won't go into that... :wink:
 
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  • #19
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Since this is now in the sci-fi/fantasy forum, can you give some movies where there was actual launch and detonations of the nuclear weapons? Especially one where the multiple warheads spread just befor re-entry? I don't know if it's The Day After? or James Bond movies, but we have personalities now that hates china and the US, and have the will to do it.
 
  • #20
berkeman
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but we have personalities now that hates china and the US, and have the will to do it.
Say what?
 
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  • #22
berkeman
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Starting the theme music from the movie "Jaws"...
 
  • #23
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The movie WarGames goes into this scenario and even shows a faked event at the start of the movie that pretty realistic.

Some other related incidents were described by the History Guy on Youtube:
- the Damascus Missile Incident
- the false incoming missiles incident (ala WarGames)
- the lost bomb incident (plane jetisons bomb but cant find it)

Russia had its share of these too:
- false sataellite incoming missile
- defection of a ship ala Hunt for Red October except it was a ship racing toward Sweden
- lost sub and US attempt to recover its nuclear missiles (Howard Hughes Glomar Explorer)

Lastly, it was learned last year that launch codes have kept on floppy disk since the 1970's and is just now getting updated:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdof...0s-floppy-disks-controlling-nuclear-missiles/
 
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  • #24
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but we have personalities now that hates china and the US, and have the will to do it
Possibly this means more than one person, such as North Korea's illustrious leader and our very own POTUS? Not sure the CCP has any intent to nuke their favorite customer, that would just ruin their economy 🤦‍♂️
 
  • #25
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Possibly this means more than one person, such as North Korea's illustrious leader and our very own POTUS? Not sure the CCP has any intent to nuke their favorite customer, that would just ruin their economy 🤦‍♂️
We have so many nukes in the planet because of so much division and the concept of MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction).

But let's NOT talk about personalities as it can get into politics and topics not allowed at PF. And conspiracy theories are a big no no. Of course.

Let's just discuss the technical aspects and movies.

What happened if all nuclear attache cases in the white house are disabled? Can't the silos launch manually? Do they have attache cases too in Russia, China, France or they launch manually?
 

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