Message Font: Serif | Sans-Serif
 
No. of Recommendations: 2
A conventional bunker buster can penetrate through a several meters of concrete. Their ability to penetrate comes from their kinetic energy (mass times the squared velocity). Tomahawk cruise missiles, smart bombs and other conventional bunker busters all have a velocity below the speed of sound. So let us use 700mph as the velocity. Its a nice round number and close to the upper limit of the velocity these weapons will have. For penetration lets call it 10 meters. It is at the upper limit but a bunker wont have a hundred meters of concrete above it. Most of it will be soil that even if heavily compacted and filled with rock and gravel will be easier to penetrate that concrete.

Now lets look at a delivery system such as an ICBM. They can easily have a velocity of 15000 MPH. Now lets assume that some DARPA scientist comes up with a way to increase that speed four fold by burning the fuel usual used for delivery of the payload thousands of miles, to one that just goes straight up then does a U-turn and burns on the way down also. Then it releases the reentry vehicle with 4 times the velocity or 16 times the kinetic energy for a rough guess of 160 meters of penetration.

Penetrating a hundred meters or so is quite within our reach given some resourcefulness. Its just a matter of generating enough speed on the way down to the underground target.

The hard part is creating a warhead that can withstand the impact of decelerating from such a high velocity to none in milliseconds. Again I am assuming that they can overcome such challenge.

Lastly there is the fallout. The military believes that their best neutron bombs are safe enough for troops to occupy a city that was bombed just the day before. That coupled with the assumption that it creates a yield 100-200 meters underground gives me the rough guess that the fallout would be minimal. Could detect it from a lab on the other side of the globe? Yes. Is there going to hundreds of thousands suffering from radiation sickness? No.

With this back of envelope calculation I come up with the best possible scenario for using a nuclear bunker buster. The best possible case is a very small (relatively) but accurately placed nuke takes out the target and has collateral damage that does not exceed that of large conventional weapons.

I still say even with this perfect scenario, it would be a very bad idea. Nor do I believe the scenario would be quite as rosy. Perhaps they cant penetrate that far. Perhaps there is more fallout with longer half-lives. Perhaps they over come those hurdles but cannot create a warhead that can survive the impact (and therefore increase the yield to compensate, which increases the fall-out and allows more to fall in the surrounding area instead of being propelled to the upper atmosphere).

I say BAD BAD BAD idea. Could cause WW3 with the world up in arms against the evil US. Could cause less. One thing for certain is the political fallout would be highly negative and make US citizens much less secure.
Print the post  

Announcements

What was Your Dumbest Investment?
Share it with us -- and learn from others' stories of flubs.
When Life Gives You Lemons
We all have had hardships and made poor decisions. The important thing is how we respond and grow. Read the story of a Fool who started from nothing, and looks to gain everything.
Contact Us
Contact Customer Service and other Fool departments here.
Work for Fools?
Winner of the Washingtonian great places to work, and Glassdoor #1 Company to Work For 2015! Have access to all of TMF's online and email products for FREE, and be paid for your contributions to TMF! Click the link and start your Fool career.