Asteroid Affirmative

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Scenario: Miscalculation

Accidents inevitable without asteroid detection: can be mistaken as a missile strike or nuclear detonation, sparking nuclear conflict.

Correll ‘3 (national security consultant, former U.S. Air Force space project, PhD in physics from University of Texas, “National Security Implications of the Asteroid Threat” 2/4/03,, AG)

In addition to the damage an asteroid impact could cause directly, some researchers have suggested another danger: a small asteroid could be mistaken for a missile strike and precipitate a nuclear conflict. The United States military currently has technology to differentiate between missile attacks, nuclear detonations and asteroid explosions, but many less advanced nations do not. It would seem to be in our nation's best interest to pursue some course of action to prevent the accidental nuclear reprisal by one country against a neighbor based on the mistaken perception that an asteroid impact was a nuclear attack. Could a warning and reporting system be put in place to prevent such a disaster? Before answering this question, it is important to understand the technical, organizational, and diplomatic issues involved.

Nuclear war from miscalc highly probable due to hair-trigger launch policies and failing warning systems – specific to asteroids.

Moore 07 (Carol, anti-nuclear political activist, “Is World Nuclear War Inevitable?” November 2007) JM

Needless to say, the possibility of accidental nuclear war between the United States and Russia increases in an atmosphere of threats and counter-threats, especially relating to specific incidents or ongoing wars -- and especially given Russia's broken down radar and satellite early warning system which cover only a part of Russia's 11 time zones at any one time. Computer and radar glitches, misinterpreted missile launches, unexpected large asteroid explosions -- not to mention a nuclear detonation of unknown origin on either nation -- could lead to a nuclear exchange between the U.S. and Russia. Both nations have only a few short minutes to decide if a real attack is under-way. Launch on Warning "Hair Trigger" Alert The U.S. and Russia both have a nuclear policy of “launch on warning”--a "hair-trigger" alert system. This means that less than 15 minutes after detecting a missile attack -- real or false -- through radar and satellite early warning systems these nation's militaries must launch their 5,000 on-alert nuclear weapons or possibly loose them to a first strike by the other side. And of this 15 minutes, only two or three minutes are allowed for actual deliberation by the Presidents of the United States or Russia. Barely time to get a phone call through on their "red telephones." See a relevant video.


Accidental launch/miscalc leads to full-scale nuclear war.

Rosenberg 06 [staff writer“Experts Warn of Accidental Atomic War”]

A Pentagon project to modify its deadliest nuclear missile for use as a conventional weapon against targets such as North Korea and Iran could unwittingly spark an atomic war, two weapons experts warned Thursday. Russian military officers might misconstrue a submarine-launched conventional D5 intercontinental ballistic missile and conclude that Russia is under nuclear attack, said Ted Postol, a physicist and professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Pavel Podvig, a physicist and weapons specialist at Stanford. "Any launch of a long-range nonnuclear armed sea or land ballistic missile will cause an automated alert of the Russian early warning system," Postol told reporters. The triggering of an alert wouldn't necessarily precipitate a retaliatory hail of Russian nuclear missiles, Postol said. Nevertheless, he said, "there can be no doubt that such an alert will greatly increase the chances of a nuclear accident involving strategic nuclear forces." Podvig said launching conventional versions of a missile from a submarine that normally carries nuclear ICBMs "expands the possibility for a misunderstanding so widely that it is hard to contemplate." Mixing conventional and nuclear D5s on a U.S. Trident submarine "would be very dangerous," Podvig said, because the Russians have no way of discriminating between the two types of missiles once they are launched. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the project would increase the danger of accidental nuclear war. "The media and expert circles are already discussing plans to use intercontinental ballistic missiles to carry nonnuclear warheads," he said in May. "The launch of such a missile could ... provoke a full-scale counterattack using strategic nuclear forces." Accidental nuclear war is not so far-fetched. In 1995, Russia initially interpreted the launch of a Norwegian scientific rocket as the onset of a U.S. nuclear attack. Then-President Boris Yeltsin activated his "nuclear briefcase" in the first stages of preparation to launch a retaliatory strike before the mistake was discovered. The United States and Russia have acknowledged the possibility that Russia's equipment might mistakenly conclude the United States was attacking with nuclear missiles. In 1998, the two countries agreed to set up a joint radar center in Moscow operated by U.S. and Russian forces to supplement Russia's aging equipment and reduce the threat of accidental war. But the center has yet to open. A major technical problem exacerbates the risk of using the D5 as a conventional weapon: the decaying state of Russia's nuclear forces. Russia's nuclear missiles are tethered to early warning radars that have been in decline since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. And Russia, unlike the United States, lacks sufficient satellites to supplement the radars and confirm whether missile launches are truly under way or are false alarms. The scenario that worries Postol, Podvig and other weapons experts is what might happen if the United States and North Korea come to blows and a conventional D5 is launched against a target there from a submerged Trident submarine. Depending on the sub's location, the flying time to Russia could be under 15 minutes so the Russians would have little time to confirm the trajectory -- using decaying equipment -- before deciding to launch a nuclear strike on the United States.

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