Based on a review of the open literature and applying basic physical and engineering principles, I conclude that such a system seems to be feasible. Close-order-of-magnitude estimates indicate that:
the warhead would be in the range of TBD kilotons total yield;
the missile would mass on the close order of TBD tonnes, and
the marginal cost would be TBD million per shot.
A system on the smaller end of this range could probably be accommodated in an existing form factor such as a TBD. This concept satisfactorily addresses all the concerns listed above, sidesteps the need for a skin-skin kill, and is worthy of further detailed study. I also conclude, as a matter of policy, that if such defensive weapons are developed, they should only be used in extremis in order to preserve the nuclear firebreak which has held since 1945.
NOTE 10JUL2003: Due to recent developments supporting the points above, this paper is being rewritten and will be presented publicly on 16 July 2003. It will be published on the Web that day.
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.
I thank all the people who assisted in the development of this concept, known and unknown. All mistakes are my responsibility.
[Austerman1991] Austerman, Wayne R. Program 437: The Air Force's First Antisatellite System, (Air Force Space Command, Office of History: April 1991)
[Chun2000] Chun, LTC C.K.S. Shooting Down a "Star": Program 437 the US Nuclear ASAT System and Present Day Copycat Killers, (Air Def.Univ., 2000)
[CRS1984] Civiak, Robert L. Nuclear Explosions in Space: The Threat of EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse), CRS Issue Brief #MB82221, updated 12/03/84, (Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress: 1984)
[Grecz&1987] Grecz N, Brannon RB, Killgore G., Radiation sterilization of surgical instruments with a consideration of metal shielding on sterilization efficiency, American Journal of Infectious Control 1987 Jun;15(3):101-6
[Laning1947] Laning, Capt. Caleb B., Heinlein, Lt. Robert A., Flight into the Future, Colliers 10Aug1947 pp.18-35
[Pincus2003] Pincus, Walter, Pentegon Pursues Nuclear Earth Penetrator, Washington Post 07Mar2003 p.A25
[Pincus2003] Pincus, Walter, U.S. Explores Developing Low-Yield Nuclear Weapons, Washington Post 20Feb2003 p.A9
[Ridenour1946] Ridenour, Louis N., Pilot Lights of the Apocalypse: A Playlet in One Act, Fortune Jan1946
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