Imagine one night you’re out admiring the starry sky and you spot a shooting star. Then another. And another. And suddenly you realize those aren’t stars- they’re UFOs! And they’re coming for our… well, something.
While the likelihood is miniscule, the threat of alien attack is serious enough that governments around the world- including the United States- all have top secret contingency plans in place for just such an event. But if history has taught us anything about a superior culture making hostile contact with an inferior one, it’s that things don’t usually work out well for the natives. So is there anything we could do to defend the earth against technologically superior alien invaders?
To explore the question, let’s first assume one thing about our alien foes- they don’t want to outright destroy Earth. After all, if total destruction was their goal, then it would be as simple as dropping asteroids on our heads and watching the fireworks from space.
So, the President’s phone rings late one night, waking him from his sleep. NASA has discovered alien ships en route to earth and they don’t look friendly. What now?
The first step in defending Earth would be to decide on a global strategy. Acting on the safe assumption that the aliens find interstellar travel and the invasion of entire worlds to be a very expensive affair in terms of resources and manpower, or… alien power I suppose, we should adopt a strategy of harassment and delay, not unlike that employed by guerrilla forces around the world in our recent history. Odds are that if aliens can cross the stars, our tanks and planes aren’t going to stand up very well to their tanks and planes, so we shouldn’t try. Instead we should focus on making the war as long, painful, and expensive for the aliens as possible, with the ultimate goal of forcing the aliens to reconsider continuing their invasion in face of such a steep cost in lives, finances, and materials.
The first phase of our defense strategy would be to try and deny the local space around earth to the aliens, or at least make it extremely hazardous for them. We can achieve this by triggering what scientists call the ‘Kessler Syndrome’, or when orbital space around a planet is so full of debris that any attempts to enter orbit are extremely hazardous due to the high chance of collision. Currently there are 2,000 satellites in orbit around earth, and an estimated 600,000 pieces of space junk ranging from 1cm to 10cm in size, which destroy one satellite a year. With man made objects reaching speeds of several kilometers a second, even a single flake of paint can strike with enough kinetic energy to do serious damage.
If the aliens don’t shield their landing craft as well as the motherships that cross space at near, or faster than light speed, then it’s likely that a Kessler effect will present an extreme hazard that will hamper or slow their invasion attempts. In order to create a protective shield of space junk around earth, we could simply target our own satellites and destroy them in-place, or if we had enough time, outfit ballistic missiles with fragmentation warheads that would explode into billions of tiny shards. While large pieces of junk would likely be easy for the aliens to track and destroy, it would certainly be difficult and very time-consuming to try and eliminate millions of pieces of space debris the size of a screw.
The next step in our earth defense plan would be to target alien ships during their most vulnerable phase- as they enter the atmosphere. When the American space shuttle reentered Earth’s atmosphere, it experienced incredible heating due to friction with the air, reaching temperatures of up to 21,140 degrees Fahrenheit (11,727 Celsius). As the shuttle transferred its kinetic energy into thermal energy, it created a shockwave directly in front of the craft, and the extreme heat formed a cloud of plasma around the vehicle which prevented radio communications or the use of onboard sensors. It is likely that alien craft would experience a similar phenomenon, presenting an opportune time to strike as they would likely be flying blind and unable to maneuver without tearing themselves to pieces due to their extreme velocity.
The United States, China, and Russia all have experience with anti-ballistic missile technologies as parts of their national missile defense programs. Most of these programs focus on the terminal phase of a missile’s trajectory, as it re-enters, or shortly before it re-enters, the earth’s atmosphere. While many of these programs have spotty success records, the American Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, has displayed very robust capabilities in destroying incoming warheads. This, and similar weapon systems, could be turned on our alien invaders to strike at their landing craft while they are too high up and moving too fast to either detect the interceptors or move out of their way.
But say our artificial Kessler syndrome and our high-altitude interceptors weren’t enough to keep the aliens at bay- what now?
One option would be to prepare ahead of time for the possibility of invasion with a sort of nuclear ‘dead man’s switch’- that is, we would disperse nuclear weapons around the planet and hold ourselves and the aliens hostage. If the aliens are invading, then it’s probable they want this planet to remain habitable, so by threatening the detonation of hundreds of nuclear weapons around the world, we might just be able to deter them; who would want to rule over an irradiated rock plunged into nuclear winter? Not to mention the loss of the alien’s own forces in the subsequent global apocalypse.
If this strategy fails however, our next option would be to do as other human forces have done throughout history and resort to guerrilla warfare. Rather than try and combat the aliens toe-to-toe, we would instead open our military armories up to the civilian population and give weapons, ammunition, and other survival supplies to as many people as possible. Because our cities would be the most obvious and immediate targets, our standing military forces would then be ordered to disperse into the countryside. Military leadership would no longer operate on a national level, instead local forces would join into guerrilla militias and operate under their own prerogative, striking at the alien’s supply, command and control, and resource networks- not dissimilar to strategy employed by stranded American forces after the Japanese seized the Philippines in World War II.
This is also not unlike the strategy employed to great effect against both the United States and the Soviet Union by Afghan Mujahideen. In both wars, the native Afghan militias faced an overwhelmingly technologically superior foe that was better armed and better trained. Both the United States and the Soviet Union initially dominated the majority of the Afghan countryside, and yet in both wars, the world’s two superpowers were forced to eventually retreat. The strategy that led the Afghan Mujahideen to victory against the number one and number two most powerful militaries on earth was the same as that we would employ against aliens- harass and delay the enemy until the economic and political cost of the war is too great to continue.
But would dragging alien invaders into a drawn-out and costly war really be an effective strategy? Considering that aliens would have to replace losses of equipment and soldiers by resupplying from their home planet, while we enjoy the homefield advantage and don’t have to cross interstellar space with our reinforcements, it is a valid tactic that could potentially work. In fact, throughout human history, wars of attrition have been the only tactic ever employed by a technologically inferior foe versus a superior invader, that has ever seen success, as proven in recent centuries by forces in parts of colonial Africa and the Middle East.
Realistically, if aliens have the power to cross the galaxy and wanted our planet, there’s little we could actually do. Whether they bombarded us from space with asteroids and waited out the resulting nuclear winter, or simply bioengineered a super plague that eradicated human life, their technology would almost certainly be too great to resist. However, if we are ever faced with our favorite of science-fiction scenarios, at least we know that we can have a fighting chance of victory.
So,what do you think? Should governments take the threat of alien invasion more seriously? What other ways could we try and resist hostile aliens? Let us know your thoughts in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called What happens at, and what do we know about, Area 51! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!