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The Ultimax Group White Paper #1996-3

A Rocket Scientist’s Reaction to Independence Day
by Robert Kennedy, PE


It must be said that this viewer willingly suspended his disbelief and thoroughly enjoyed the show. But, notwithstanding Clarke’s Dictum, ID4 had holes one could fly a rocket through. They are presented below in the same order as they appeared in the movie.
In general, there were two kinds of impossibilities: the first was the premise that the aliens and their technology existed—ship size, material, drive method, telepathy—which one tacitly accepts when one buys the ticket to the movie. But the descriptive numbers, even if fantasy, at least ought to have been internally consistent, not throwaway lines in the dialogue. The second type comprised things taking place in the Earth setting that were either physically impossible, or contrary to known military doctrine and history, or inconsistent with given events and capabilities. Neither errors and omissions nor sloppiness were necessary to entertain the viewer—and it costs no more to write well than it does to write poorly.2
Like much so-called science fiction, filmdom often ignores the full implications of its own plot devices. In particular, the ramifications of the sheer size of the alien ships seem not to have been considered at all. Since real military threat assessors are just as capable of using pocket calculators and reasoning from the evidence of their eyes as anybody reading this article, they would have figured out all the stuff that follows for themselves. Then they’d have become very depressed.


On a quiet July 2nd in the near future, an interstellar ship the size of a moon arrives without warning. Upon entering orbit, it deploys dozens of huge saucers to hover over every major city on Earth. The aliens’ hostility becomes clear the next day when their saucers start systematically destroying cities with powerful beam weapons. The first air-to-air counterattack by the Americans is completely ineffective due to unsuspected, invulnerable force fields. Surviving protagonists, including the President of the United States, a gutsy Marine pilot, and an electronics genius regroup at Area 51 in Nevada, which has been secretly studying an alien fighter stranded here in 1947. They learn the aliens’ true nature from a captive, i.e., they’re implacable nomadic parasites, as well as how to bypass their technology with a computer virus. During a second worldwide counteroffensive against the saucers by Earth’s remaining military forces on July 4, our heroes destroy the mother ship by sneaking a nuclear weapon aboard in the rebuilt fighter. All Earthlings still alive celebrate and smoke cigars.

The Discovery.

HOLE #1. Until the Near Earth Asteroid Survey started up this year, no one, including our own military services, routinely surveilled beyond Earth with radar the way air traffic control does. Their primary concern is what’s happening right here on terra firma. However, the Visitor could not have gone unnoticed for so long. Even without any light reflection, unavoidable occultations as it transited known stars would certainly have alerted one of the world’s numerous amateur stargazers. Assuming it wasn’t cruising through some fictional hyperspace, the perturbation of an extra quarter of a Moon on the rest of the solar system would become known long before the object itself could be imaged. If the Visitor came in at a significant angle to the plane of the ecliptic, the gravitational signature in planetary motions would have been unmistakable. For instance, hovering over Neil Armstrong’s footprint, the interloper’s mass would have raised (or dropped) the tides in the Bay of Fundy an extra ten feet! Tectonic flexing toward the Visitor would touch off numerous earthquakes. Velocity bias would have been induced in every military satellite constellation. Coming from a single source, the culprit should have been quickly triangulated and identified—but perhaps not believed!

HOLE #2. Our Moon’s mass is 8 x 1019 tons, its diameter is about 3500 km, thus its specific density is 3.34 (water = 1). Packing one fourth of Luna’s mass into a ball 550 km across works out to a phenomenal density of 212 g/cc (!) —which would create a gravity gradient steep enough to attract and hold an atmosphere. No material known to exist in a free state is that dense—the densest known is the precious metal osmium, at 22.48. Furthermore, the mother ship wasn’t even close to spherical; it looked like a horseshoe crab with overgrown canines, and was hollow to boot. This configuration means the shell material must be like the degenerate matter inside dwarf stars. Beings who build with such stuff shouldn’t be fooled with, if it were up to us, nor would they need anything from us. (Remember Clarke’s Dictum.) Even small moons are round for a reason; at a certain critical radius, self gravity pulls a body into a ball.3 The nonspherical shape in an object as large as the mother ship indicates unusually (unearthly?) strong construction materials and makes attitude control difficult. The most natural shape for space travel is spherically symmetric because, when not accelerating, no direction is “up”.

HOLE #3. The energy required to change the orbit of an extrasolar minor planet from hyperbolic to Earth capture is literally astronomical (and is left as an exercise for the reader). As said above, beings who control that kind of power could do a lot of other things we can’t even imagine. Or stop.

HOLE #4. What “natural resources” are worth crossing light years of space for? A working terrestrial biosphere simply cannot process the exatons of matter and teratons of energy these beings use just to get around. Their ride actually has more useable living space than Earth. In any case, such interstellar raiders could strip mine the moons, asteroids, and myriads of comets in the outer system for what they need while the inhabitants of the inner system remained ignorant or powerless.

The Arrival.

HOLE #5. What would be the environmental effect of decelerating the landing fleet of saucers inside Earth’s atmosphere? (The mother ship obviously used some other means to decelerate into the solar system, since there was no signature humans could detect.) It was stated that the saucers were 15 miles wide. Having the general proportions of Ritz® crackers, the crown of their turtlebacks appeared to be about one tenth that much high. This works out to about 180 cubic miles of saucer. Leaving aside the Square-Cube Scaling Law—steel isn’t nearly strong enough for a structure this big—and assuming the saucers are built as stoutly as submarines—the strongest vehicle humans make—then by definition they would weigh about as much as an equal volume of sea water, i.e., 800 billion tons. (Now, if they are built the same way as the mother ship, they would weigh 212 times as much—170 trillion tons. In which case, why bother continuing this argument?)
After the initial alert, three dozen or so were reported to be breaking off from the main body. By definition, each of the saucers started at Earth’s escape velocity, 7 miles per second, and had to dump that kinetic energy by aerobraking or some sort of retroreactive system on the leading edge. The descent was clearly under control, so 36 times 1.1 x 1022 calories, i.e. 400 million megatons (Mt) would have been smoothly released into our biosphere in less than an hour. That’s about four times as great as the K-T Event 65 megayears ago which wiped out the dinosaurs and most of everything else.4 Also by comparison, global energy consumption of all kinds for the year 1990 was 255 quadrillion Btu (quads)5, about 6 000 times less. The braking energy would be distributed among (1) truly impressive sonic booms, (2) convective heating and turbulence, (3) ionization and plasma formation, (4) thermal radiation. Though the wide area effects would be bad enough, local effects could be far more severe. Thermal pulse damage would dominate in the early portion of the landing trajectory, shock effects later. The steady state heat radiated by the saucer’s incandescent bottom6 would be orders of magnitude more than enough to ignite everything combustible under it. All the different forms of energy would ultimately degrade into heat, amounting to two megatons for each and every square mile of Earth’s surface. That’s 4000 times the average US daytime insolation7, or 800 times the solar flux8 at the Equator at noon, or enough to heat the entire atmosphere to 600�850°F.9 Most of the carbon on Earth’s surface10 in the form of plants and animals, vehicles and fuel, buildings and people, would catch fire, releasing another eight million megatons worth of heat.11 (Textbook nuclear winter, but insignificant compared to the braking!) Extrapolating from high altitude nuclear tests11, we could also expect four trillion tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx) to be produced as the air itself burns along entry trajectories, scavenging every last molecule of ozone from the protective layer. On the bright side, no one on the surface would live long enough to worry about bad sunburns or urban deconstruction; most of humanity would be dead long before the aliens unleashed their “primary” weapon.
(If that green beam truly was their primary weapon—or do you think that the Locusts would leave the mother ship unarmed? Compared to the collateral damage of landing, the beam is like a backfire during a head on car crash—the real weapon is the saucer itself. In fact, they could have smashed the cities flat by simply landing on them. The only realistic countermeasure would be to turn the aliens’ power on themselves, which is exactly what the clever Earthlings did.)
Again, if the saucers were made of the same stuff as the mother ship’s hull, all these effects would be over 200 times worse, rendering further analysis pointless.

The Countdown.

HOLE #6. Since they are telepathic, which doesn’t require line-of-sight transmission in most science fiction, why do aliens need a global timing signal? Why not onboard clocks? Even without telepathy, the mother ship is large enough to generate an extremely low frequency (ELF) signal similar to what the Navy uses to talk to submarines. A 550 km wave is long enough to wrap around the planet and be picked up by every saucer, just as one hears a teenager’s car stereo around the corner (not to mention the next county). But why do the aliens need to synchronize their attacks, if all they’re doing is blowing up the White House, etc.?12 Given their power, why bother concealing their intentions at all?

HOLE #7. Can anyone imagine getting from midtown Manhattan to the front lawn of the White House in less than six hours at any time, not to mention trying it in the midst of the greatest crisis in history? The story line made it clear that Papa Levinson’s Plymouth was in Manhattan, the streets were jammed, and that he was a slowpoke behind the wheel. Father and son would likely meet the fate of the gridlocked TV producer. Clear sailing all the way to our nation’s capital isn’t correct either on two counts:
(1) What is an outbound route for New York City soon becomes inbound for somebody else like Newark, NJ, just across the river. Or are we to think residents of the Garden State would just sit tight in full view of the saucer?
(2) To facilitate mass evacuation in such an emergency, FEMA policy is to convert all highways to one-way (outbound only). Furthermore, Pennsylvania Avenue’s been closed to all vehicular traffic since the Oklahoma City bombing last year.

The Attack.

HOLE #8. Blast waves propagate according to their intensity—several times the speed of sound at first. But the green energy beam worked more like a hose spouting continuous fire than an atomic explosion. Nevertheless, even at Mach one, people do not outrun them. Furthermore, while objects like cars do get flung around by the dynamic pressure wave near an explosion, the static overpressure wave overtakes it very soon and squashes everything inward. Then the wind arrives.

HOLE #9. The firestorm rushing through Hollywood’s famous (and notoriously over-filmed) Alameda Tunnel would have created a terrific venturi at right angles to the flow which would have sucked just about every particle of air out of the exotic dancer’s13 hiding place. In fact, it would have yanked the three of them right out. Also, in every major tunnel accident in the past, the tunnels became blast furnaces when fuel tanks let go, leaving nothing but slag, vehicles’ radiators (heat transfer works both ways), and shattered tiles.
No palm trees should have been left standing outside, either.

HOLE #10. Although the expanding ring of fire from the aliens’ beam weapon was not millions of degrees as a nuclear fireball would be, still the thermal pulse would have been enough to melt the skin of Air Force One14 as it was taking off. When a gas pipeline burst under a highway in Venezuela several years ago, motorists were charred black 200 meters away just by the infrared15. A very fast jet may outrun a blast wave, but nothing can outrun the speed of light.

The First Terran Counterattack (Air-to-air Combat Phase).

HOLE #11. The saucer would not have been so visible through the smoke pall over LA so soon after the firestorm. On the other hand, standoff weapons don’t depend on radar only. They work just fine in infrared—no need to hold fire until our pilots saw the metallic green of the other guys’ visual apparati. Besides, when we can see the green of their eyes, they can see the whites of ours—or hadn’t anyone thought of that?

HOLE #12. A modern American aircraft carrier fits in a box 200 feet square by 1000 feet long (0.0002 cubic miles), has 4 acres of flight deck, and can launch about 100 combat aircraft in an hour.16 The aliens ought to achieve or exceed that packing fraction since they use energy weapons and some kind of inertialess propulsion, not solid bombs, missiles, and fuel. The aliens could (and did, later) also launch their warcraft all at once in every direction, because when you’ve got antigravity, you don’t need runways. (But if they do, there’s over 100 000 acres available on top plus launching slots in the rim.) Assume just the outer layer of the saucer, say one aircraft carrier thick, is allocated to hangars and fighter support, which leaves 93% of its space available for other purposes, like destroying the Earth. Then, when Marine aviation showed up, the aliens should have been able to scramble well over five million fighters. Per saucer. By comparison, in the mid-1980s, the entire U.S. Marine Corps fielded about 600 combat aircraft of all types. From far away, the egress of alien warbirds would look like smoke plumes. “Target rich environment” understates the situation Our Heroes would face.

HOLE #13. The NASA “worm” logo on Our Hero’s rejection letter has been obsolete for two years.

HOLE #14. The “El Toro” base in the movie didn’t look anything like the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in suburban Orange County. Besides, isn’t El Toro on the BRAC (base realignment and closing) list?

HOLE #15. Regardless of alien force fields, and ignoring autocatalysis which the humans didn’t know about yet, air-to-air missiles like AMRAAMs would make absolutely no impression against such a target, nuclear tipped or not. Tactical nuclear warheads vary from subkiloton (kt) up to tens of kilotons—above that they stop being “tactical”— while the W80 strategic warhead on the air-launched cruise missile (ALCM—used only once in the film, over Houston) yields 200 kt.17 Even old style multimegaton bombs would be relatively useless. How effective could our weapons be?
A kiloton is defined as 1 trillion calories.18 If released evenly as heat, that much energy will boil about 1800 tons of sea water19, or melt three times that much steel20. But the energy of a typical nuclear weapon is released in nanoseconds, and distributed as 50% blast, 35% heat, 5% prompt nuclear radiation, and 10% militarily useless fallout.21, 22 Moreover, the warheads would initially be detonating on the saucer’s surface, where blast couples poorly, rather than in the interior where they would be far more destructive. Large surface bursts in the 1950s excavated about 1 cubic yard of hard rock per ton of yield23, which is probably the best we could expect against unshielded alien materials. Given the scale, under nuclear bombardment saucer structure would behave like strong, dense metallic foam. Therefore, each 10 kt contact burst would blow perhaps 10 000 cubic yards out of a saucer’s hide (a paltry two millionths of a cubic mile).24 Internal shock would damage eight or more times that volume, depending on damping and the speed of sound in the structure. The external air blast would contribute little to the damage. Big bombs are actually less efficient at cratering than little ones, but since a large fireball dwells longer in direct contact with the surface than a small one, high yield weapons may be more effective overall. EMP would also be intensified by direct fireball contact if the hull material were metallic, hence conductive. Alien systems might be discombobulated over a large volume. But the gamma and neutron radiation would only penetrate an insignificant fraction of such a huge structure. In any case, their hulls shield against radiation since the saucers are space ships.
Now, consider that the world’s entire nuclear arsenal is about 10 000 megatons, of which perhaps one third is not in combat readiness at any given time. Furthermore, much of that megatonnage sits atop tactically useless ICBMs. Even if every single one of our bombs and missiles survived the alien attacks, was fired, and got through the defensive shield to its target, a coordinated nuclear attack by all of Earth’s military forces could physically destroy less than two cubic miles, i.e., <1%, and damage less than one tenth of just one saucer. Yet in the story, the Chairman JCS told the President that only 15% of our military strength remained. Assuming other nations fared the same, Earth could destroy less than a quarter of a cubic mile of one saucer. If critical functions other than the primary weapon were decentralized, as they must be given the saucers’ size and mission, then they would be that much harder to kill.25
How many troops could the Locusts muster for a ground assault? Consider that in 1990, 1 488 000 people were living on Manhattan Island26 (28.4 square miles).27 About 3.4 million commute to the central business district.28 Since it has lots of tall buildings and relatively few freeways (compared to LA) we can take the Big Apple as an upper limit for population density in the United States. Blending skyscrapers and subbasements, streets and subways29, together with Central Park, would be the same as covering the whole island with one building, ten stories above grade, one below. This gives us a gross habitable volume under two thirds of a cubic mile, or a population density over seven million people per cubic mile. (An aircraft carrier’s crew density is five times that—and you thought New York was crowded!) Locusts would neither have nor require parks and stock markets, but most New Yorkers don’t need space drives or carry their own breathing air, either (since their primary weapon is their attitude). Given their small stature without those biomechanical suits, as a first approximation we can expect well over one billion aliens on each saucer.30 That’s perhaps fifty billion in the first wave, or ten Locusts for every man, woman, and child on the face of the Earth (prior to the attack). Given superior automation, most of them could be warriors. Since the mother ship appeared to be carpeted with Locust cityscape on the inside, we can extrapolate trillions more aliens there as well.

Turning the Tables (The Return of the Semper Fi).

HOLE #16. Having had the opportunity to examine advanced alien technology at Area 51 for almost 50 years, why would the government still be paying $900 for toilet seats? Why wouldn’t we all be flying to work (living in space, etc.) by now?

HOLE #17. Since the aliens demonstrated the ability to control unwilling humans telepathically, including suppressing autonomous life support functions, why didn’t they simply broadcast a worldwide command to stop breathing?

HOLE #18. Biohazard 4 containment for an extraterrestrial threat shouldn’t even have windows, let alone ones you can shoot through with a sidearm. Besides, if you can shoot in, they can shoot out.

HOLE #19. We know the Locusts had complete control of gravity, since the mother ship wasn’t spinning and their saucers and fighters floated in mid-air. So why were Our Heroes pressed back into their seats at takeoff, and why weren’t they thrown forward when docking (matching velocities) with the mother ship?

HOLE #20. Even though they demonstrated some sort of command autopilot near the mother ship, our “advanced” ETs didn’t bother with IFF. But why would such a hostile race allow one of their frontline fighters that had been missing for fifty years inside the one asset they couldn’t afford to lose? Why didn’t the telepathic aliens detect the presence of human minds when the fighter entered the portal? Given their technology, would a fifty year old craft even look the same to them?

HOLE #21. Although they are very user-friendly, Apple PowerBooks probably are not interoperable with ET control systems. Given the aliens’ telepathy, it is not clear what physical principle they would employ for communications, let alone using ASCII digital code carried by electromagnetic waves. Casting Tom Cruise wouldn’t fix this problem.

HOLE #22. If the Locusts actually had been eavesdropping for 50 years, known exactly where to hit us, and understood English, then they also should have watched War of the Worlds from numerous television broadcasts and thus, been prepared for sneaky Terran tricks like bacteria, computer viruses, or using one Trojan horse to insert another.

HOLE #23. Surely the mother ship could have provided direct fire support from high Earth orbit against those troublemakers in its view, like at Area 51, who hadn’t been killed yet by the saucers. Collateral damage not only wouldn’t have deterred them, it seemed to be one of the Locusts’ military objectives.

HOLE #24. Unless one catalyzed destructive potential already present, it would have been impossible to destroy the mother ship with any H-bomb that exists today. Assuming the ship was a typical metal such as iron, to liquefy/vaporize it as shown would have required a monster twenty trillion megaton weapon (but essentially infinite yield would be required if it was degenerate matter). Since there is no theoretical upper limit to the yield of a thermonuclear device, and bigger bombs do tend to be more efficient, a bomb large enough to do the job might approach the theoretical D-T fusion limit of 80 kilotons per kilogram. The largest warhead the U.S. ever fielded was the nine megaton W53. (The Soviets lit off a much bigger one, but engineering data are unavailable.) Scaling up from that, our Locust Killer must be at least 4 000 yards in diameter by 11 000 yards long, possibly as much as three times that each way. Just building an LK would require a global effort for years. Which we don’t have. Our Heroes would have needed to “boost” an intact saucer just to boost their weapon. Which the Locusts wouldn’t have allowed. Even if antimatter weapons were feasible (all the world’s accelerators together can make a tenth of a gram per year at most) we’d need over 400 million tons of the stuff.
Fortunately for Our Heroes, an interstellar drive that could push one fourth of Earth’s moon across the light years would easily provide enough energy to destroy the mother ship. Although it seems like a long shot to stake planetary survival on a lucky secondary explosion of the power plant (and which one of Our Heroes had a schematic with a big red “X” on it anyway?) humanity really had nothing to lose. The question is, would anyone have wanted to be in the same solar system (not to mention in close orbit) when it went off like a mini-nova, outshining the Sun itself? Assume Mama Locust was at Lunar orbit. Since Luna is about 60 Earth radii away, Earth subtends about 1/7200th of the sky from there. At the instant of destruction, a 550 km shell of just-molten iron would have illuminated the exposed hemisphere with a minimum of 17 megaton-equivalents of light per second. As the fireball expanded over time and radiated its energy to space, Earth would ultimately intercept 1/7200th of the total energy release—three billion megatons—i.e., on the order of thirty Dino Killers. By the inverse square law, the closer the mother ship orbited, the more energy would be received. Estimating the chance of survival on the surface after all that is left as another exercise for the reader.

Postgame Victory Bash (Smash?)

HOLE #25. After cleverly (and literally) hoisting the aliens on their own petard, any survivors (underground and in polar regions) would then have had to deal with the seismic aftereffects of the “victory.” An 800 billion ton saucer falling two miles (guesstimated hovering altitude) has 5.6 x 1018 calories of potential energy, or 5 600 megatons. Which would be converted with high efficiency to ground shock (not smoothly either), resulting in numerous earthquakes no less than 8.6 on the Richter scale. Times thirty six, i.e., shake and bake. These are numbers even tectonic plates would respect; our planet would ring like a bell. There are a few upsides, however. For instance, with present demand, people would not have to dig up a single pebble of mineral ore for the next 100 000 years, let alone recycle one more soda-pop can as the film was constantly reminding us to do. Pitch recycling instead of pitching cans, so to speak. Maybe that giant ringing sound is the empty-beer-can futures market collapsing.
Again, if saucers were made like the mother ship, not only would the quakes be far worse, but the hulk would sink through solid rock as if it were taffy, causing Earthlings to miss out on their salvage bonanzas.

HOLE #26. Delivery via Meteor Express of miscellaneous bits of mother ship could also prove problematic, since it contained a hundred million times the mass of a single saucer. If the bits didn’t burn up on atmospheric entry, surviving suburbanites all over the world could look forward to shoveling five hundred feet of Locust slag from their driveways. (And they could forget their pool filters.) Even if they did burn up, our air and water would soon acquire a distinctly metallic tang. (“Fortified with iron�degenerate matter, whatever—so kiss your teeth good-bye.”) The air would become unbreathable as the planet’s inventory of oxygen gas got used up making Locust fly ash instead. Rather like Los Angeles, but with ferrochemicals on a planetary scale. Gooey alien body parts would have been explosively decompressed and flash frozen into trillions of hypervelocity ice sculptures, posing a traffic hazard for intrepid collectors of celestial curios and Locust objets d’art. On the other hand, the ring which Earth would acquire when the debris settles into stable orbits will ensure beautiful sunsets for the next hundred million years or so. Might even be enough time for a new form of intelligent life to evolve to appreciate them. Perhaps our Fearless Leader ought to have consulted the Ewoks about their experience with this sort of thing first.

Notes and Sources
(After reading, press your browser's back button to return where you left off.)

1. Clarke’s Dictum: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

2. Technical advisor was a Marine 2LT. Only one, and so junior for such a project?

3. rcrit ~ 100 km for most bodies in our solar system.

6. Radiative heat transport view factor from saucer to ground ~1.0

7. USA daytime average, ~200 W/m²

8. Solar constant at Earth orbit, 1353 W/m²

9. Air: cp = 0.241 kcal/kg-K, cv = 0.174 kcal/kg-K [Weast&1979]

10. At an average 1 gram/cm² of fuel on Earth's land surface, Terran surface carbon inventory ~1E12 tonnes

11. DHf CO2 = 94.05 kcal/mole [Weast&1979]

12. By Pierre L’Enfant’s own city plan, center mass of Washington DC is Capitol, not White House.

13. Btw, notice the view from the stripper’s front door at the beginning of the movie? Hard to believe that ecdysis covers a $10K mortgage payment.

14. National policy is dispersal of NCA and Presidential successors, not collocation for convenient targeting.

16. CVN-71 (TR) is 1089 ft L x 252 ft W x 36 ft draft + ~150 ft height; complement = 6072. Island, sponsons, etc. tucked into box.

18. Hc TNT � 820 kcal/kg, but defined as 1E12 cal/kt. [Weast&1979], [Craig&1986]

19. Hv H2O = 539.55 kcal/kg, cp = 1 kcal/kg-K, M.P. = 273K, B.P. = 373K@stp

20. Hf Fe ~ 65 kcal/kg, cp = 0.108 kcal/kg-K, M.P. ~ 1800K, B.P. › 3000K

21. For ground bursts, the energy partition is 65/20/5/10. See Craig, 1986.

24. And scorch lots of Locust paint. The probability of kill in this scenario would be about 1.000001; 1.0 being apportioned to the attackers, and the rest to the alien target.

25. One defense tactic that may work: Deploy surface-to-surface missiles with enhanced radiation warheads (neutron bombs) on fully tracked mobile launchers. Station launcher with bulldozer to clear path in evacuated target city. When saucer arrives, drive launcher under center of saucer. Presumably, defensive shield opens in order for primary weapon to fire out. As beam weapon extends, fire missile into array. Nuclear blast causes no net increase in damage to city.
Alternative: Upon arrival, fire automatic AAA weapons continuously from rooftops to discern shield opening. The instant forward observers see direct hits on hull, trigger high yield ground burst under center. Award CMHs posthumously.
Assault technique that might work: Bore a vertical shaft more than halfway down into a saucer’s hub with multiple tacnukes in succession, then deliver a multimegaton bomb to the bottom of the pit on a heavy cruise missile via a pop-up maneuver. To symbolize the newfound Terran spirit of international fraternalism (and interstellar xenocide), it would be nice to borrow a 20 Mt citybuster from the Russians. Unfortunately, the CEP of an SS-18 Mod 4 isn’t good enough to assure placing the reentry vehicle (RV) in the hole. Furthermore, the upper and lower surfaces are the most difficult to attack as they have the best geometric view factors for defense. The rim is more vulnerable to attack, but also less worthwhile to hit. Defensive fire could be suppressed with single Trident missile launches MIRVing into salvos of warheads every few minutes, staggered to prevent fratricide. The boomers (ballistic missile submarines) could redeploy after each shot before the ponderous saucers could react. The Trident D5 missile also has maneuverable RVs (MaRVs) in case the target tries to dodge.

29. Swerdlow, Joel, “Under New York”, National Geographic, Feb 1997

30. About fifteen billion per saucer if they bunk in shifts as sailors do. Worse yet, U.S. amphibious assault fleets in WWII averaged 9 tons of ship per man, including fire support; at that rate, the aliens could pack a hundred billion shock troops in one saucer in transport mode.

About the Author

Robert Kennedy is president of the Ultimax Group Inc., a corporation distributed across 11 time zones from Moscow to L.A. He speaks enough languages to start bar fights in all of them. Robotics engineer, amateur historian, and jack of all trades, he spent 1994 working for the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Space as ASME's Congressional Fellow. On the Sputnik anniversary in October 1997, he managed to make the Russian evening news. Robert telecommutes from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where he resides with his wife, numerous cats, the occasional horse, and a yard full of trees and Detroit iron.

Update Log

Jul1996; first publish paper
30August2002; samizdat on web.

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