IsaacKing avatar
closes Jan 1, 2024
Conditional on at least one nuclear missile being launched by Russia at the USA by the end of 2023, what percentage of warheads will successfully detonate?
21%
chance

There's a lot of speculation about the technological state of Russia's nuclear arsenal, and about what, if any, interception capabilities the USA possesses.

This market will not resolve until the beginning of 2024. If no missiles are launched, it resolves to N/A. If at least one is launched, it resolves to the percentage of warheads that successfully detonate.

Some examples of things that would constitute a successful detonation:

  • The missile detonates off target, but still close enough to cause significant damage to the intended target.

  • The target of the missile is unknown, and it detonates in a location that causes significant damage to infrastructure or human life.

Some examples of things that would not constitute a successful detonation:

  • The missile does not detonate its nuclear payload, but there is still a conventional explosion that causes some damage.

  • The missile detonates in a wildly different location from its intended target. (Even if it did cause significant damage wherever it ended up.)

  • The missile's intended target is unknown, and it detonates in a location that seems highly unlikely to have been its intended target, due to there being nothing relevant there for it to destroy.

Some other clarifications:

  • "The USA" means the 50 US states and Washington DC. It does not include allied countries, US territories, US minor outlying islands, military outposts, or troop deployments.

  • MIRVs count each warhead independently. If one RSM-56 Bulava is launched with 10 warheads on board, and 6 of them successfully detonate, that counts as 10 warheads launched, 60% of which were successful.

  • Bomber-dropped nuclear weapons do not count; only missiles. (ICBMs, SLBMs, hypersonic missiles, etc.)

I expect it will be impossible to know exactly how many warheads were launched, and different sources may disagree on the details. In that case, I will resolve this market to a reasonable estimate based on the information available. If necessary, I may delay resolution by up to 6 months into 2024 in order to wait for more information to be released. I plan to confer extensively with any traders in this market before resolving it, in order to make sure the final percentage is as accurate as possible.

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MichaelBlume avatar

Does this include sub-launched torpedoes?

meefburger avatar

Does a detonation with a very low nuclear yield qualify as "successful"? For example, a 1 kiloton detonation from a missile seems very unlikely to be deliberate.

IsaacKing avatar

Good question. I'm inclined to say that it'd be a judgement call as to whether it seems the yield was high enough that it would be considered a success by the Russians. If it was aimed at a small target and the 1kt yield managed to destroy that target, that counts as successful.