When nuclear weapons are shot down, why do they not detonate?


When nuclear weapons are shot down, why do they not detonate?

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In order to get a high order nuclear reaction a series of events has to occur at very precise timings. When a bomb is damaged that timing can’t occur correctly so there won’t be a nuclear explosion.

It takes a very specific set of steps to make one detonate. Basically it shoots a plug of uranium into a block of uranium. If you shoot it down that doesn’t happen.

Someone else who isn’t on mobile and eating will explain it in more detail.

Because the majority of nuclear weapons are of a implosion-type.

They have a sphere of nuclear material surrounded by explosives. The explosive need to be detonated all around at the same time so the shock wave compresses the sphere in the middle uniformly. That will not happen if you just start the detonation on one side.

Fat Man that was dropped on Nagasaki had 32 detonators that need to go off at the same time to get a nuclear explosion [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat_Man#Interior](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat_Man#Interior)


The current design triggers the reaction when the bomb is compressed with an electrical power neutron generator outside the explosive. It needs to be activated at the right time to get a full explosion. The first nuclear weapons had an object that was caused by the explosion and matetaial mix and it released neutrons. So even if all explosives are detonated at the same time if they did not happen to be neutrons released from spontaneous fission the bomb could just be the conventional explosives detonating.

It is alos common to boost the fusion state bu relating in a bit of deturerium/tritium gas into the core that is caused. That will change the size of the explosion

There is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variable_yield nuclear weapons where controlling how all of this interaction and the result can be quite large a US B61 bomb have set for 0.3, 5, 10 or 80 kilotons

The result is if you just trigger the conventional explosive with a external exposition you might get no nuclear reaction At worst you get a small amount of energy released from a nuclear reaction.

There is another type of nuclear weapon, the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun-type_fission_weapon You have the material split in two part on either end of a tube and a single explosion push the material from one end to the other and you get a nuclear explosion. That is how https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Boy#Assembly_details was used on Hiurishoma was build. It could be detonated by an external explosion.

That type of warhead is not common because it is bulky have a low max yeld and uses enriched fuel in an inefficient way. This design has been used in a few bomb and artillery shells later but is not common, At least for US weapons non of them are still in use.