can a nuclear weapon explode if it is shot down in flight?

9 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    I was a Nuclear Weapons Technician in the United States Navy for 12 of my 21 years. The answer to your question is a little more complicated than everyone may think.

    I assume you mean can the nuclear package detonate and have what is referred to as a "nuclear yield" if the weapon is shot down in flight? The answer to this question is decidedly no. All modern nuclear weapons are inherantly "one point safe". As was correctly stated before, certain classified components of the weapon must receive the correct electrical voltage for the nuclear package to arm and fire. This is true at both the strategic (the BIG ones) and the tactical level.

    However, the weapons in use today use fairly large quantities (you guessed it, ...amount is classified) of high explosives such as PETN (Penta Erythrite Tetra Nitrate), PBXN103 and Composition B to initiate the nuclear reaction. If the weapon is involved in some sort of calamity, high order detonation of the HE (High Explosives) package can occur. Specifically if the weapon is involved in a fire and the weapon case is vented (open) to the fire and the high explosives melt and then re-solidify. This mixture (similar in nature to Exudate) is extremely volitile and can explode simply from being breathed upon. This has classically been the biggest threat to firefighting personnel fighting weapons related fires down throughout the years.

    And of course, the other hazard is the ever present radiation in the weapon. The nuclear package is made up of two sub-critical components which give off Alpha and Beta radiation and Gamma rays as they decay. When these components are brought together suddenly, a chain reaction occurs and a nuclear detonation soon follows. Normally, the weapon's casing is sufficient shielding for the Aplha and Beta particles, and Gamma rays have limited travel range. If, however, the weapons case is compromised, that shielding is circumvented and danger of radiation poisoning does exist.

    So you see, it's not a simple yes or no. It greatly depends upon the nature of the conflagration the weapon is involved in. In most cases, no, ...but not in all cases.

    Source(s): AOC(AW/SW), USN(Ret.) 1981 - 2002 GMT/WT (Nuclear Weapons Technician) 1983 - 1995 Proud veteran of the Persian Gulf War
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    To CV59Stor...i really think that only you and I would have any idea what TNT RDX petn dipam comp A B or C does if you don't speak movie talk SEMTEX C4 what would cyclotrimethylene-trinitramine mean to any of them

    Armourer EOD IED Special weapons Retired Warrant Officer British Air Force 37 years

    Answer because a nuclear warhead is so small and well protected that even an other atomic blast would not initiate another atomic device

    if the Aircraft caring the device was shot down and crashed on a concrete runway the case might split open and emit radiation the possibility of an atomic device detonating by accident is about a Billion to 1

    there have been several accounts of Russian and American devices falling from aircraft by accident with no detonations

    all atomic weapons have mechanical electronic safety devices i remember fitting one device where i removed 2 flags with safety devices my officer removed 2 more the pilot removed 2 more before climbing aboard and there usually 6 more safety devices before the bomb can be dropped plus the ability for the Pilot to Jettison the Weapon in Emergency

    Explosive Ordnance Engineer with Atomic weapons Clearance By CIA and MI5

    37 years in Air Force

  • blouir
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    Ok permit's pass the aspect approximately codes wanted and many others and many others. You nonetheless have the last reply of no. Why? Well the isotope of plutonium wanted is known as plutonium-239. This is created while uranium-238 absorbs a neutron and rapidly decays it creates this isotope plus others. Now I have no idea the special creation of a nuclear weapon however, while it is all stated an performed you want a cause. This makes use of both a "gun" or prime explosives which fires a work of fissile Uranium or plutonium on the bombs middle which then reaches significant mass then theirs a huge growth. Unless the bullet manages to pierce the weapon and occurs to be made from plutonium it isn't going to detonate the weapon. Nuclear Weapons are customarily underneath very well shield so the possibilities of anyone capturing it are like zero. Look at WW2...and the ones nuclear guns handiest used a million% of the Uranium to be had....

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    No - to get the nuclear chain reaction to occur isn't easy - things have to be placed just right inside the bomb. If shooting the missile down scrambles the contents of the bomb, it won't go off.

    It is full of conventional explosives, and those might blow up - and then it would spread some nasty nuclear materials over quite an area. But I'm sure you wouldn't see an actual nuclear explosion which is thousands of times more destructive.

  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • 1 decade ago


    You can drop a nuclear weapon from 10 miles up

    And there will not be a nuclear explosion when it hits the ground.

    Now the convential explosives will blow up and scatter uranium over a large area.

    There have to be very specific steps, to make a nuke go off.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    tactical nukes are designed to only detonate electronicaly. they can sit in burning jet fuel for hours on end. you can stick a grenade in the internal workings of it and you wont even scracth the paint

  • 1 decade ago

    No. Only in video games.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    no, mechanism must complete detenation

  • 1 decade ago

    yes .. it will explode .

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.