I'm trying to setup a non-real scenario that doesn't break suspension of disbelief too much past the original idea. But so long as things keep consistency it should be fine.

So you are flying a fighter plane of sorts (could be current tech, you could opt to choose future tech or old tech for your answer if you believe it's not possible otherwise/believe it is). And suddenly you see/are informed of a ground to air rocket launch from an enemy, towards you of course.

Now instead of a single or a couple rockets headed towards you, you get "enough missiles to blot the sun" heading towards you non stop (or at least an extended period of time), and I want you to fly through.

In case the description is too open still, then let's go with 30 streams of rockets firing twice a second (60 rockets a second then) and firing non stop for a whole minute, the rockets don't spread much and seem to keep formation, and as such will fly in a long growing blob like a snake/bee swarm of sorts.

Try to remain IRL tech, but you can use your fantasy if you have a cool idea. For example the idea of a mass of missiles being launched for a single plane is a bit fantastic already. They would probably spread wide to cover as much volume as possible anyway.

I first assume you'd want to fly in a pattern that eases dodging them, you want to fly through, but it may/not be smarter to dodge to the side a bit, so long as you don't do a u-turn and tail it it's ok. Missiles, at least current tech, should have great capabilities hitting you. So they could be made lower tech (to make up for their extreme quantity) in order for you to have a slightly better chance. You could also have a futuristic jet that can actually dodge current missiles if there is no other way around it.

Second idea would be shooting them down, with current tech you got bullets and rockets, with old tech just bullets, future tech you can have anything. Regardless, if you could get one of them to explode, would there be a chain reaction all the way to the launchers? I would assume yes, but I'm not an expert on that, do warheads arm right on launch? or before impact? would an unarmed warhead explode anyway from an explosion next to it? Would the propellant ignite regardless of the warheads and cause big enough explosions for a chain reaction?

In case a chain reaction is unlikely, would the initial explosion disable all missiles on its radius so that you could survive as long as you could keep the explosions going?

Third idea would be turning "invisible" somehow, current missiles search in several spectrums so I assume that's not possible, but older tech? Perhaps they are cheaper rockets or leftovers from past wars. Also since its a mass of missiles I have to assume they don't use their own recon system because they'll be obscured by the missiles in front (or the ones to the side when turning), and instead receive vectors from the missiles at the front or a ground station. Perhaps a way to kill comms briefly would work.

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    $\begingroup$ What kind of missile are you specifically looking for an answer to? Everything from rocks to Hellfire are considered missiles in the broadest sense of the word. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 3:50
  • $\begingroup$ i leave specifics open so you can maneuver, but yeah i mentioned fighter (plane/jet) so more hellfire than rocks (although ground to air) $\endgroup$
    – gia
    Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 4:08
  • $\begingroup$ Instead of man-made missiles, I recommend you set your scenario in an alien planet where it rains molten lead and pours sulfuric droplets. There is also lightning storm so prevailing that dwarf anything we can ever imagine... each lightning strike is so devastating that it literally tears the fabric of space and time. The iron dust storm is confusing all the electronic sensors on board and the intense ionizing radiation flooding the entire planet would ensure life as we know it would be impossible. The surfaces of the planet are covered with live volcanoes and geysers. Nature 1 human 0. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 4:18
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    $\begingroup$ Well an annoying insect called the mosquito does that all the time when it sometimes is seen out during rains it basically is dodging missiles very very effectively $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 15:10
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    $\begingroup$ The big challenge to suspension of disbelief I'm seeing is in how launching so many missiles is at all a cost effective strategy. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 3:22

11 Answers 11


If there are that many missiles close together, it might be worthwhile to see if there is some way to create a cascade failure.

A counter missile delivering an EMP pulse might knock out enough guidance systems that many of the missiles in the EMP cone fly into each other or fall out of the sky, creating a clear path for your airplane. In an extreme scenario, where the enemy missiles have nuclear warheads, you could launch a neutron bomb and cripple the enemy warheads, with the blast effect punching the physical hole through the missile cloud.

Trying to mess with the conventional warheads or fuel of incoming missiles to make them explode needs a special gadget: If your airplane mounted a megawatt laser with a very fast tracking system and focusing mirror (think of the 747 Airborne Laser Lab fully developed), then the energy of the laser beam might ignite the fuel or detonate the warheads, throwing out clouds of debris which the other missiles fly into, causing them to crash or explode as well.

  • $\begingroup$ Would conventional bullets or a single rocket fired from your ship, with incredible accuracy or luck be able to ignite the propellant or the warhead itself? would the resulting explosion be able to cascade? after all the rockets are flying in a tight pack, or do rockets have countermeasures for that, if you dont know its fine $\endgroup$
    – gia
    Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 17:53
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    $\begingroup$ A bullet based system like the US Navy's CIWS would generally tear an incoming missile apart. The amount of energy imparted would not be enough to detonate the warhead or ignite the fuel unless you got a very lucky shot to hit the missile at just the right spot. Lasers deliver much more energy, focused to a much smaller area and usually delivered over a very short time interval, which is more likely to cause an explosion. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 2:28
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    $\begingroup$ For modern missiles an EMP pulse would knock out the detonation mechanism as well as the guidance mechanism. While the missiles might collide they would not explode against each other. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented May 27, 2017 at 21:36

Would an unarmed warhead explode anyway from an explosion next to it?

Since anti-ballistic missiles exist this is possible in principle. It can be explained in two ways.

(1) The first explosion ignites the payload of the second missile, triggering premature explosion.

(2) The first explosion causes the guidance system of the second to register a target and self-detonate.

For early types of missiles (1) is your best bet. The missile is essentially a gas tank linked to a sparkplug. The spark can equally be supplied by an explosion outside. I'm sure the missile's less sophisticated casing makes that easier. (2) cannot occur because the guidance system only works to aim the missile downwards and measure the distance traveled. The missile does not care if it encounters something before then.

For modern types of missiles (2) is more likely. The ignition mechanism is more protected and probably more nuanced. It might even break rather than detonate if subjected to an external blast. Modern missiles can track moving targets, and they detonate before making physical contact. The tracking software might register even an indirect blast from the first missile as having reached the target, and go off on its own volition.

Modern missiles detonate before making physical contact:

I cannot stress this enough: This is the main barrier to a 'rain of missiles'. If the missiles get too close to each other they will simply detonate whether or not something is flying through them. You could decide these missiles don't track that kind of way of course, but that would make them pretty ineffective anti-aircraft weapons.

There are also kinetic missiles that don't explode at all. But those are designed to counter other missiles which follow predictable trajectories. They wouldn't work against fighters that change direction to dodge.


There is a classic situation similar to this that we see all the time in films, books, etc. Generally, fly somewhere they can't follow. In space, it's usually an asteroid belt, while in aircraft you dive under a bridge. through a narrow canyon, or somewhere similar. The idea is that you are able to take a route that's only just big enough for you and as a result anything that's just heading directly for you hits the obstacle instead.


Implosion missile

Your plane fires a missile that causes implosion at the target point. Many missiles are forced to crash into each other. Others would be pushed away by the explosion of these missiles. You may need to fire couple of them to open a corridor but would work without hand waving.


Use an infosec attack: hack their software to make them steer themselves in the direction you want (i.e. to avoid the incoming plane). For bonus irony/cliche points, turn the missiles back to hit the place that launched them.


With current tech, this is not possible.

India has been using their Shaurya missiles since 2011. Those missiles can reach Mach 7.5 even in low altitudes. They can also carry various payloads, including nuclear. If you are flying towards one of these at Mach 1, your relative speed will be around a third of the Space Shuttle's reentry speed. If you are 700 km away from them, they'll clear that space in 5-6 seconds; they will be exploding before any counter measures of yours can start working and you will fly though the blast, knocking your plane out of the sky.

And that's just India. China has already shown how they can successfully destroy satellites with missiles; that involves maneuverability and precision on much higher scales.

In the 21st century, the best countermeadure against missiles for aircraft is to not be there.


Your question implies true missiles, which are guided to go after a target. This is opposed to rockets, which are unguided. I point this out because it is unheard of to launch that many missiles, because they are typically far too expensive to be wasteful with. Doing this with rockets is more reasonable. Doing it with bullets is common.

As for whether you can fly through them? Well, I'll put it this way. A F-22 can be loaded out with 6-14 AIM-120: 6 in the internal bays plus 8 more on pylons if stealth is not an issue. This is considered sufficient to enter a hostile region and combat enemy aircraft who are trying to shoot you down. Your barrage fires 5-10 times that many every second. I can guarantee you that if a small number of missiles offers a reasonable probability of kill, your aircraft is hosed facing 100 or 1000 times that many, especially if it is getting close enough where "fly through a rain of missiles" is an accurate phrasing.

As for fratricide issues, I'm assuming your opponent didn't go down to the Home Despot and buy whatever missiles were in the bargain bin. If they're firing missiles in this rapid fire (belt fed?) manner, they've picked missiles which have acceptable fratricide behaviors. Militaries are not known for slitting their own throat by buying several billion dollars in missiles rather than buying millions of dollars worth of them and avoiding the fratricide issues.

As for stealth? Well, if they actually put up a wall, there's no use for stealth. It doesn't help to be invisible when your opponent literally puts up a brick wall for you to run into. They don't need to see at that point. However, if there's a bit more airspace between them, you'll find that radar still functions in that environment. For one thing, radar is astonishingly good at filtering out objects by velocity. Relative velocity comes across as a Doppler shift, which is very easy to detect. Your pilot is the only object coming towards the missiles. All of the missiles are all going roughly the same direction.


So... there are a lot of good valid answers here but i'll look at it another way.

For this section lets ignore the missiles will attempt to detonate when in proximity to your Character's Aircraft, or at least the engine exhaust in case of heatseaking.

Anti Aircraft Missiles are Go-Onto Target systems or GOT systems, this means they are guided to their target, this is different from Ballistic or Rockets, both of which fire in a single direction then either exploded or fall in an arc onto their target

In every Go-Onto-Target system there are three subsystems:

  • Target tracker
  • Missile tracker
  • Guidance computer

The way these three subsystems are distributed between the missile and the launcher result in two different categories:

  • Remote Control Guidance: The guidance computer is on the launcher. The target tracker is also placed on the launching platform.
  • Homing Guidance: The guidance computers are in the missile and in the target tracker.

I think if there is going to be 60 missiles per second in the air for X amount of time each, then its unlikely that ground based guidance would be able to effectively track each missile while Radar would bounce off the missiles in front off, behind, above below or to the sides of the tracked missile. Very quickly the Missile Tracker would lose the ability to effectively track the missile when surrounded by so many other objects.

So its more likely that the missiles will be Homing Guidance with on board guidance systems. why is this important? because Homing Missiles are "easier" to counter than Remote Control Guidance

But is it possible to fly through a swarm of missiles?

Missiles leave a cone of disturbed air behind them, which means control surfaces are less effective, so the onboard systems on modern missiles will usually aim to have maximm control until closer to the target, so they would spread out a little, these gaps "could" end up being big enough to fly through but then it wouldnn't really "block out the sun" so basically we need to "make a hole"

But I want to fly through a swarm of missiles?

If your fighter was flying at say 600mph (slow for a fighterjet) and the missles were going at 600mph (very slow for a missile) in the other direction then they'd meet at 1200mph, even if the missile didn't explode the damage done due to kinetic energy would likely irreparably damage the plane.

"Please!!! I REALLY want to fly through the swarm

Fine, I guess if your plane was nimble enough then its possible that you could but only if there was a straight line through them and also very very lucky, any turning inside the swarm would require superhuman reflexes.

So how do we make a hole?

That's simple, that many Homing missiles flying so close together just bank in any direction and when the missiles correct their courses all slightly different from each other they crash together, most likely one or two would have their control surfaces damaged which would put them drastically of course colliding with each other again damaging more and more until they just start exploding all over the place.

Oh you don't want that... ok, then start with current anti missile defense systems, or countermeasures, in jets this is flares, most AAM are heat-seeking and they go after the hot engines, the flares burn hotter than the engines so the missiles go after that, but this would be best if the missiles were fired "after" the plane has flown past... as the flares only burn hot enough to fool the missiles for a few moments.

You may ask why am i going towards them and not having them follow me? well its simple, i can't fly though a swarm that's flying past me can I?

So so you need to fire something ahead of your plane to knock out the missiles ahead of you... fire some missiles of your own, they can be set to explode after a certain distance. which would at least damage the missiles directly ahead of you and hopefully make a hole.

What about using a Shield?

No i don't mean the Star Trek Energy kind, i mean shield your plane with something from the missiles, like a bridge, canyon wall, building, hopes and dreams... it s possible, the only problem with them is that the plane tends not to just hide behind them for very long so you'd need to find a lot of bridges etc to take out all the missiles, and again this works a lot better if they are following the plane instead of heading straight for it.

Hmm... EMP? that might work, the problem is that you need to fire this continually around you out to a sufficient distance as to take out the missiles and not have them be in your way either, and EMP Generators take time to charge and then send out the P in EMP, a pulse, not a continual signal. which is what you'd need...

So Shielding yourself probably wouldn't work..., neither would countermeasures... neither realistically would just flying straight through... and neither would EMPs... bugger! For these reasons you need a lot of luck and a big enough hole already... maybe launch a missile or two and then start praying... did i mention how much luck you would need?


Not really possible... but then again neither is that many missiles being fired at you in the first place so go for gold


Bootleg turn. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bootleg_turn

bootleg turn

A bootleg turn is a driving maneuver intended to reverse the direction of travel of a forward-moving automobile by 180 degrees in a minimum amount of time while staying within the width of a two-lane road. This maneuver is also known as a smuggler's turn, powerslide, or simply a bootlegger

1: Accelerate towards the missiles. Get going fast.

2: Perform bootleg turn in your jet right before the first missiles hit. Your jet can do this because it is awesome. You continue into the missiles, backwards.

3: Turn jets back on as you are flying backwards. The expanding cloud of gas behind you will blow missles laterally and they will miss you on all sides. You are also decelerating because of this.

4: Once all missiles pass you (they will come close!), you will have stopped and might be starting free fall. Missiles that have missed you will turn towards the direction you were and try to return. The cloud of missiles will all try to come back along the same line. It will be crowded there.


Launching so many missiles is quite odd. Missiles are not cheap, they take effort to craft, take up no small amount of space, etc...

A guided missile using current technology (or even somewhat older tech) is more than capable of locking onto, catching up to, and causing serious inconvenience to your plane.

So why are they launching so many?

  1. You are not the target, you are between the missiles and the target.
    • Maintain your course heading and speed, do not engage any counter-measures.
    • Change your underwear, it will be quite scary.
  2. The missiles are unguided, there are no more effective anti-air defenses available. This smells of desperation.
    • Fire your own missile directly at the pack, follow in its wake.
    • Any short range targeting on those missiles will likely lock-on to the missile you just fired.
    • Otherwise your missile will lock onto theirs and explode clearing a flight path.
    • You may want to fire more than one missile with a delay between each.
    • Follow up by using forward mounted machine guns (if your fortunate enough to have them).
    • Once through the pack, deploy any flak or rear-mounted anti-missile ordinance, should one missile lock-on, turn around, and track you.

It will look scary close, or heroic certainty depending on what you want the outcome to be.


Go into virtual 'reverse'

Turn around and match speed with the missiles. Reduce speed slightly so that they are overtaking you slowly. In effect you are now reversing through the onslaught but with plenty of time to react. Of course this requires a mirror or you turning to look behind you or maybe your plane has cameras to show if another fighter is on your tail.. It also requires the co-ordination to 'reverse' a plane but of course fighter pilots are selected for this sort of ability.


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