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Deep penetration munitions

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An earth-penetrating weapon EPW is designed to hit the earth at high speed and penetrate into the ground before exploding.

Such weapons can be delivered...

Such weapons can be delivered by short-range missiles or aircraft, and are intended primarily to attack underground targets. An EPW only burrows a few meters into the ground before it explodes. Indeed, the earth slows the warhead so quickly on impact that it cannot penetrate very deeply.

Rather, by exploding just a few meters underground instead of at or above the surface, a much larger fraction of the energy of the explosion is transmitted to the Deep penetration munitions.

The explosion creates a strong seismic shock Deep penetration munitions that propagates and can crush or damage an underground bunker. Even a short penetration distance accomplishes this goal of "coupling" the energy of the explosion to the ground: For example, exploding a kiloton nuclear weapon at a depth of one meter would increase the effective yield by a factor of 20, resulting in underground damage equivalent to that of a kiloton weapon exploded at the surface of the ground.

Nevertheless, even nuclear weapons have limited effectiveness at destroying the deepest or widely separated underground bunkers. For example, an earth penetrating weapon using Deep penetration munitions 1.

Deeper bunkers can be constructed with modern tunneling equipment, and are essentially invulnerable to nuclear attack. A nuclear EPW would also likely be ineffective against underground bunkers containing chemical or biological weapons.

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In fact, the explosion could release active agents into the environment rather than destroy or sterilize them. These lethal agents could kill thousands of unprotected civilian or military personnel in a large area downwind—in addition to expected casualties from radioactive fallout, which could number in the millions. Radioactive Fallout from a Nuclear EPW A commonly held Deep penetration munitions is that an earth-penetrating nuclear weapon can penetrate deep enough so that the nuclear explosion and radiation is contained underground.

This is not the case. Penetration Depth While the penetration depth increases with higher impact velocity, the weapon casing will be Deep penetration munitions the warhead inside—if it strikes the ground at too high a speed.

Stopping power is the ability...

Empirical and theoretical data show that the maximum impact velocity is roughly one kilometer per second and the maximum achievable penetration depth of such a projectile in concrete is roughly feet. Penetration depths will be larger in dry soil than concrete or rock, but one would have to expect that a hardened target would be placed below hard rock or concrete.

Containment Depth The depth at which even a small nuclear weapon must be buried to Deep penetration munitions that it is "contained" —that is, that no radiation is released when it explodes—is much greater than the achievable penetration depth, so that it is impossible to prevent radioactive fallout from a nuclear EPW.

For example, the minimum burial depth to ensure containment at the US Nevada Test Site was empirically determined, and is roughly meters for a one-kiloton explosion and meters for a kiloton explosion.

Moreover, even if sufficient penetration depths could be achieved, Deep penetration munitions explosion would still not be contained since penetrating the earth rather than burying an explosive creates an open shaft through which radiation would leak to the surface.

Deep penetration munitions an EPW will not penetrate enough to be fully contained, it will produce a surface crater when it explodes, and large amounts of radioactive dust and debris from the crater will be ejected into the air and surrounding region. The size of the crater—and the amount of material ejected—will depend on the local ground properties, the depth of the explosion, and the yield of the weapon.

The level of fallout will also depend on the local weather conditions, such as wind and rain. Collateral Damage Because using a nuclear EPW will necessarily result in radioactive fallout, people in the surrounding areas will be killed or have an increased risk of cancer. The size of this area will depend on wind conditions and the size of the nuclear weapon, and the number of people affected will depend on the number and population of cities within the downwind region.

However, the number of deaths could exceed a million, and the number of people with increased cancer risks could exceed 10 million.

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For example, the new nuclear earth penetrator that the United States plans to research would use a 1. According to a simulation Deep penetration munitions software developed for the Pentagon, if one of these weapons were used against the underground nuclear facility in Esfahan, Iran, 3 million people would be killed by radiation within 2 weeks of the explosion, and 35 million people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India would be exposed to increased levels of cancer-causing radiation.

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Even a nuclear-armed earth penetrator would be unlikely to destroy buried stockpiles of chemical or biological Deep penetration munitions. Despite the extremely high temperatures and radiation levels reached very near a nuclear explosion, to destroy or neutralize these agents the warhead would have to detonate very close to the actual containers—nearly inside the same underground room in which canisters of biological or chemical agents were stored. This is highly unlikely given that in most cases the bunker location and underground geometry would not be known Deep penetration munitions any precision.

It would be unlikely in any case that all chemical or biological agents in an underground complex would be stored within a single room. The size of the crater produced would be much larger than the area in which the agents would be destroyed, and would result in the venting and dispersal into the atmosphere of any undestroyed agents inside the crater zone.

Such weapons can be delivered...

Simply blowing up a bunker filled with chemical or biological agents—even using a nuclear weapon—may thus have the undesirable effect of dispersing the agents, rather than destroying them. If dangerous material were already stored deep underground, the most sensible strategy would be to make sure it stays there using conventional means to seal all entrances and exits Deep penetration munitions the facility and keep them sealed until Deep penetration munitions territory can be captured and the agents carefully neutralized.

The United States currently deploys both conventional and nuclear earth-penetrating weapons. Both are dropped from aircraft, and tests have shown they can penetrate six meters of concrete or 30 meters of earth.

Very high accuracy increases the ability of these weapons to destroy shallow hardened targets with known locations such as missile silos but not deeply buried targets.


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