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Aerospace Stealth ICBM

  1. Aug 8, 2012 #1
    I was sitting here thinking today, would it be possible for someone to build a stealth ICBM? It just seems somewhat scary as it would be very easy to build a rocket that could be remotely ignited. Couple that with avionics capable of adjusting the trajectory and stealth material/construction along with a location to launch covertly and it would seem to be a viable terrorist threat?
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  3. Aug 8, 2012 #2


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    It wouldn't really be possible. Launches are already somewhat concealed when fired from a submerged submarine. You may be able to somewhat obscure the launch from radar, but that isn't generally how those are monitored anyway. Once the re-entry vehicle enters the atmosphere, the heat would destroy any normal radar absorbing material and would give away the position anyway. Even if you could make gains, it would like not make a huge difference given that a target already has only a matter of minutes to react anyway. Maybe someone else has some sort of other idea that would work but I can't think of any.
  4. Aug 9, 2012 #3
    Would it be possible to mask the heat signature from the re-entry pod by pumping cryogenic liquid just beneath the surface of the skin of the vehicle to counteract the heat caused by re-entry?
  5. Aug 9, 2012 #4


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    No, the heating has nothing to do with the surface. It is all based on the velocity of the projectile moving through the air. You have such an intense compression of the air behind the shockwaves at re-entry speeds that the air can get hot enough to melt steel. Cryogenic cooling could help cool the surface but it wouldn't fix the cause of the heat.
  6. Aug 9, 2012 #5
    It would surely be possible if the missile were subsonic/ low supersonic and flew within the atmosphere. Realistically, with progress using thrust vectoring, supercruise, electronic counter measures and material advances im sure a prototype exists already. It will not be a true ICBM though. I thought the tomahawk had a stealth concept in the works?
  7. Aug 10, 2012 #6


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    Of course there are early stealth cruise missile, but that isn't the same thing. They rely on drastically different tactics than an ICBM, not to mention move much slower, and actually can benefit from stealth technologies.
  8. Aug 10, 2012 #7


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    A stealth ICBM is technically infeasible, the launch creates a huge thermal signature that is visible even to 40 year old IR surveillance satellites.The track on the booster gives an excellent idea of the target area, even if the warhead can wiggle a little (+/- 100 miles or so).
    Also, an ICBM is useless without the nuclear warhead.
    Terrorists have been trying to get access to nuclear warheads without success for years.
    Why would they risk this precious asset, once obtained, in an unreliable bootleg ICBM when they evidently have plenty of suicide drivers eager to deliver the weapon by truck or boat?
    The stealth ICBM or cruise missile concept seems most applicable in a case such as Iran, where other countries might wish to strike selected facilities, but without openly admitting the fact. Even that seems very far fetched.
  9. Nov 1, 2013 #8
    A stealth ICBM is unnecessary. Nuclear delivery is about strategic roles and the ICBM has always been the unstoppable option, not the first strike option. About half our (as in US) active nuclear warheads are in ballistic submarines, capable of sneaking close enough to provide first strike options to strategic targets or in reverse a revenge strike against a surprise attack. Furthermore, the development of the B-2 was meant to fulfill the first strike option as well, capable of flying well into enemy airspace undetected to drop several nuclear warheads along the way. A stealth ICBM would have one advantage as a tool, and that would be for a first strike high altitude EMP delivery, in which case the re-entry issue would not be as significant a problem and I actually wouldn't be surprised if this exists in limited numbers as a classified weapon.
  10. Nov 6, 2013 #9
    just to make sure I understand,ICBM stands for Inter Continental Ballestic Missile,right?
  11. Nov 6, 2013 #10


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    Correct :smile:
  12. Nov 23, 2013 #11
    A stealth ICBM is only a good idea as the level of counter detection and deterrent mechanism that is deployed by your adversary.

    If your adversary cannot shoot your missiles down, then to make them stealth would be unnecessary.

    However the US and Russia have developed systems that allow them to shoot projectiles, but the hit accuracy is not even close to 80%.

    The basic strategy that has been employed with ICMB's is swarming the enemy with many missiles so that some make it through.

    However as the hit deterrent system improves, the need for stealth ICBM's will become necessary.

    Most deterrent systems use heat generated from engines to detect and lock on to their targets, so heat will be the issue.

    Now as you mentioned if you cooled the missile with cryogenics, there would be some application issues. Such as keeping the cryogenic cool enough while re-entry so that it can stay around to cool the outside.

    Somebody mentioned that the heat from re-entry would be a dead give away, while true, you can employ a chaff method. Once in suborbit the ICBM can deploy materials that burn extremely hot and fall along with the missile.

    The end goal is to confuse the algorithm that the counter missile from your adversary will be using, and will not be able to pinpoint the true object vs the dummy objects and increase your rate of survival.

    But if the end goal is to hide everything to the point that your adversary doesn't even know that anything is coming toward him, then heat will still be a problem. Unless you can achieve an angle of re-entry that is so shallow as to not generate enough heat. Maybe thats possible idk
  13. Jan 25, 2017 #12
    Technically, it could be possible but it would be very expensive and difficult to achieve. Boeing recently patented a plasma shield design. Originally, I thought it was just another piece of junk that humans had invented, but it gave me an idea.
    Check out: the MiG 1.44.
    It is a supersonic soviet aircraft to tackle the US's ATF project. MiG claimed that the aircraft uses a plasma coating to completely hide itself away from anything. Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems find their targets via radar, and since such a large ICBM would definitely be spotted by any satellites. If not, even by naked eye from astronauts in the ISS. There are several ways to tackle this problem:
    1. Make a smaller ICBM:
    Through making a smaller ICBM, it would have a smaller RCS, and therefore have a harder time for the satellites to spot.
    2. DEAL WITH IT!:
    It is an ICBM, and it is truly difficult to intercept. Therefore, why spend millions on dollars trying to avoid the impossible?! ABMs struggle to intercept faster missiles, and simply, continuing on with the ICBM development, a country could easily make a faster ICBM which could not be intercepted. It's like installing stealth devices on a nuclear bomb on a bomber; it is useless!
  14. Jan 25, 2017 #13
    True! But:
    If your target can shoot your missiles down, it would be quite important to develop some sort of stealth tech. Again, there are 2 ways to tackle the problem: Being stealthy and being VERY fast.

    Using cryogenic materials to cool down reentry would not be very appropriate. The reentry heat barely accounts for the reason why ICBMs could be intercepted. Furthermore, it is extremely unnecessary to place giant tanks of cryogenic liquids on tiny tiny MIRVs.

    The heat of reentry would not give the missile away. Since MIRVs are barely the human height, and we still have major issues tracking huge de-orbitted objects on reentry, we should not care about how MIRVs would reveal the missile. Furthermore, ABMs don't work that way. ABMs detonate before the MIRVs are released, and ABMs are not heat-seeking, but are locked on to a target beforehand. You mentioned chaffs, but they are not very heat-resistant, and instantly burn up when contacting the atmosphere at Mach 20. It would leave the MIRVs unprotected for the rest of the time.

    Achieving a shallow re-entry is a VERY DUMB IDEA. ABMs works best at lower altitudes in space, and shallow re-entry means you need a low altitude and a lot of head-butting speed towards the target. ABMs LOVE THAT. Furthermore (the-overuse-of-the-word-furthermore cliché) having a shallow re-entry means more time in the atmosphere, or in other words, more heat, which is the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve there.

    Yeah, sometimes ICBMs backfire.

    Talking about backfire, I saw that nobody realised that ICBMs are remotely-controlled, which means that you can hack an ICBM!
    The feasibility to hack an ICBM is very high, since no expensive missiles would be required to take down an ICBM, you just have to deploy and detonate the MIRVs mid-flight.

    I know, it would cause a massive EMP and stuff, but that will happen as well if you use an ABM. Therefore, having shallow re-entry, stealth coatings, cryogenic cooling and other advanced technology is not enough. You also need to tackle the cyber-technology problem.

    Let's take the 16000 km. R-36 Satan missile for example. It had those fabulous stealth coating, cryogenic cooling and is planned to have a shallow re-entry. Unfortunately, the program itself does not have a firewall. Simply enter a set of commands for the ICBM to continue it's journey, and TA-DA! You saved the day and probably going to make the ICBM hit the ocean instead. YAY. But be careful about the amount of fuel you are dealing with.
  15. Jan 25, 2017 #14


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    As far as I am aware, there are no ICBM's capable of being controlled after launch. The only references to an ICBM being remotely controlled refers to their ability to be remotely controlled in their silos by controlling officers and personnel miles away instead of requiring personnel there on-site at the silo. Once launched, the ICBM is guided purely by its own internal computer systems.

    Not true. Nuclear weapons are next to impossible to detonate by accident thanks to various safety features and the fact that that extreme damage to the warhead usually prevents the explosives from compressing the core of the 1st stage correctly.
  16. Jan 26, 2017 #15
    That is the wrong part. LGM-30, otherwise known as Minuteman is a staged ICBM, which is manually controlled, or through a computer program.

    Fun fact: LGM-30 contributes to most of the ICBMs in US.

    Another part: ABMs use nuclear warheads. Since no ABMs where ever used, we never know any side-effects of detonating a small tactical nuclear device in space in a lofted trajectory. Furthermore, rupturing the MIRVs would easily result in radioactive substances raining down from the sky, which is often not what the enemy wanted.

    Continuing, even if the MIRVs didn't detonate, the computer containing the computer programs would be devastated by the blast wave of the explosion, even if the MIRV had already been released before the ABM hits the main body. Continuing, if the MIRVs continue re-entry after being knocked off course, you would result in large radii contamination or the loss of nuclear devices.
  17. Jan 26, 2017 #16


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    The Minuteman is not manually controlled after launch. All guidance is done by the navigation set, which is given targeting information prior to launch.

    Ah, I see that the Russian A-35 system uses nuclear warheads to take out incoming ICBM's. I was unaware of this.
  18. Jan 26, 2017 #17


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    That's only one system, however. Many (most?) Are kinetic energy based and don't even feature warheads (e.g. THAAD).
  19. Jan 26, 2017 #18


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    That was my understanding as well. My physics teacher actually worked on the guidance set for one of these systems. Very interesting stuff!
  20. Feb 1, 2017 #19
    Kinetic Energy based warheads eg. THAAD have to intercept the missile before it reaches to the top of the ballistic trajectory. For high-flying missiles, only nuclear-tipped ABMs could go that high because it is much lighter than a flying tungsten rod.
  21. Feb 1, 2017 #20
    That is not true either. The Mark 5 nuclear device (which is stronger than our current nuclear devices in terms of tamper strength) often spills out its deadly minerals if crashed. MIRVs are worst. They are designed to sustain atmospheric heating, but not the heat of a nuclear explosion 5 ft. away from it.
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