What if North Korea launches a missile at the US or allied territory? The threat is looming large and the world watches these developments with fear.
It would be interesting to analyse what would happen if Kim Jong Un decides to fire a missile at the US.
Dr. Bruce Blair, nuclear security expert and also co-founder of Global Zero explains what would happen in the event of such a scenario. Here is Dr. Blair's take as narrated to OneIndia.
"If North Korea launches a missile aimed at the US or allied territory, the fiery hot plume of the booster would be detected within one minute by US satellites equipped with heat detectors. This detection would initiate the early stage of the missile defense and the nuclear retaliation protocols. Missile defense units in Alaska and California as well as abroad on allied territory (South Korea and Japan) and U.S. (Aegis) destroyers would be quickly notified. Simultaneously, the emergency conference involving the head of Strategic Command (near Omaha), the President and his top advisors would begin.
"Within a few minutes, two key ground radar sites in Alaska (one at the end of the Aleutian chain and one in Clear, Alaska) would detect and analyze the missile path, providing further cueing information to the missile defense units which would begin to prepare to launch their interceptors designed to hit the missile in the middle of its trajectory (the late 'up' phase and the early 'down' phase) and the terminal reentry phase in some cases. The US missile interceptors based in Alaska and California are assessed to have a 25 percent chance of a head-on collision with the attacking missile, but most experts believe the true performance to be much lower.
Within those same few minutes, the path of the missile would be confirmed. If it threatens North America, the protocol for nuclear or non-nuclear retaliation would continue and a presidential decision on retaliation rendered within a few additional minutes. Prior to the decision, the entire US military would be alerted and their readiness raised two notches to a level known as Defense Condition Two. (The only previous time this level has been reached was during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.) Upon receipt of this notice, US forces would begin their preparations for retaliation and wait for the launch order.
But during this emergency conference, two other emergency plans would be initiated.
One is known as Continuity of Government. Its purpose is to ensure the safe evacuation of the president and other key government leaders as well as members of the Congress and many senior bureaucrats whose job is to ensure that the government continues to run under national direction. The only time that this plan has ever been initiated was on September 11, 2001, when the president has whisked away to Air Force bases in Louisiana and Nebraska.
If the President was located at the White House, he would have only a few minutes to race from his blast-proof emergency operations center under the east wing to his helicopter on the south lawn and fly to a rendezvous base outside of Washington (e.g. Pennsylvania) where he would board his Doomsday Plane, a militarized Boeing 747 possessing all the launch codes and the communications gear needed to send orders directly to the submarines, underground missile crews, and bomber crews.
The other plan concerns homeland security, which would initiate civil defense plans (which has greatly atrophied since the end of the Cold War). The population would be warned by radio and TV with a special tone and from wailing sirens locally to shelter in place or at local emergency shelters. From an evacuation site, the president would probably try to address the nation on available commercial and other channels such as the emergency broadcast network (the way President Bush did on 9/11) and the national guard and other protection and policing functions would be activated.
Assuming a single or small nuclear missile strike (as is very likely if the attack came from North Korea), the civil defense effort would resemble a cross between Hurricane Katrina and Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. First responders would be on the front lines. Nuclear radiation and contamination would greatly complicate the rescue and recovery effort, and in all likelihood would overwhelm the few hospital units equipped to handle radiation sickness.