If a nuclear missile, set out to destroy its target, is hit in the air, will a nuclear explosion occur? Let’s look at the answer to this question together.
About 77 years ago; In August 1945, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing 210,000 people.
This marked the beginning of a frightening new era known as the Atomic Age, and the threat of nuclear weapons has not disappeared to this day.
Modern nuclear bombs are so devastating that they can flatten cities in an instant and destroy anything in their path in seconds.
However, there are also anti-ballistic missiles that are believed to be able to destroy such deadly nuclear missiles before they reach their targets.
Have you ever thought about what would actually happen if such an anti-ballistic missile destroyed a nuclear missile in mid-air? Would the splitting of two missiles trigger a nuclear explosion?
To answer these questions, we need to take a look at how nuclear bombs work.
How Nuclear Bombs Work
A nuclear bomb contains weak and strong fundamental forces that hold the nucleus of an atom together, using the energy released when subatomic particles (neutrons and protons) combine or separate.
There are two ways nuclear energy can be released from an atom:
Nuclear fission: The nucleus splits into smaller subatomic particles such as free neutrons or gamma particles, releasing a large amount of energy.
Nuclear fusion: Two or more small subatomic particles combine to form a larger nucleus. This is the same as the sun’s process of generating energy.
To detonate a nuclear bomb, the following steps must be followed very carefully.
When a single free neutron hits the nucleus of a radioactive material atom (for example, Plutonium or Uranium), it releases energy, but a few more neutrons from the core of the target material.
Now, newly split neutrons hit other Plutonium or Uranium nuclei and split them in the same way.
These new nuclei in turn split other nuclei, causing a chain reaction. But this reaction happens very quickly and releases an incredible amount of energy.
The material used in the Hiroshima atomic bomb was Uranium 235, which released a force roughly equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT. The Nagasaki bomb, on the other hand, had a Plutonium core and released a force of about 21,000 TNT in the area it exploded.
What Happens If a Nuclear Missile Is Hit In The Air?
First of all, we need to point out that it is not easy to shoot down a nuclear missile. Such missiles are much faster and have a higher range than other ballistic missiles.
Still, there are some systems that can destroy a nuclear missile before it reaches its target and explodes.
So, Do These Anti-Ballistic Missiles Cause a Nuclear Explosion When They Hit Nuclear Missiles in The Air?
As we mentioned above, for a nuclear bomb to explode, a chain reaction must begin.
Intentionally causing a nuclear explosion is a highly complex process. Therefore, any interceptor missile hitting a nuclear missile is highly unlikely to cause a nuclear explosion.
However, this does not mean that it is safe to detonate a nuclear missile in populated areas.
If an interceptor missile actually destroys a nuclear missile in mid-air, it could cause a plutonium or uranium core to fall to the ground. This causes the radiation to fall on the surface and propagate.
In summary, the successful mid-air drop of a nuclear missile turns a bomb capable of destroying the city into a pure radiation hazard.