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As the title suggests, I'm trying to make the bunker viable in the arms race again. Note that does not mean it has to be indestructible.

While some may contend that the bunker will lose the arms race eventually, or that it's better to just burrow deep in the earth. To this, I say: I do not want to take an absolutist position and create a bunker that is 100% indestructible forever.

So what exactly am I asking? I'm simply trying to encourage thoughtful speculation on this question:

"what experimental / theoretical materials could create a really strong fortification?"

Assuming:

  • very high budget
  • known to science, but not necessarily able to synthesize by humans
  • emerging technologies, i.e. nano-technology
  • combat involves: nuclear weapons, smart bombs (bunker busters)
  • Intensity of combat: high intensity (nukes) followed by periods of attrition
  • location, earth depth, asymmetric information, war theory are considered out of scope. The primary focus is on cutting-edge materials (you can use war theory or earth depth, ect to justify your choice of cutting-edge materials of course)

If you are still not quite sure what I mean, let me give a specific example:

Example Answer: Imagine if scientists/engineers could create a 100 meter thick barrier using material from a neutron star (super dense). What resistance would this provide against a nuclear missle? This type of answer is within the scope of the question, because the type of material is known to science, but it has not been synthesized yet. So, in other words, you are free to speculate about the strongest materials (chemical bond or other) in the universe as long as it's not pure fantasy.

Remember, it's just an example answer for clarification purposes. You do not have to conform to it that rigidly. Feel free to use your imagination!

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  • $\begingroup$ All right, now the question can at least be read and understood. A definite improvement. A comment though: the concept of "bunker" is not at all out of the arms race. Sure, if someone throws a nuke at you, then most bunkers will not be able to withstand that, but then the conflict has gone into hyperdrive; Restraint has called it a day, gone home, and is now spooning their partner while weeping quietly, waiting for the world to come to an end. So you need to specify: what type of conflict are we talking about here? Without specifying that, the question is much too broad. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Apr 7 '17 at 11:10
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelK That was a weak point in the post, "viable" is a relative word. Viable against what? To address this, I added a combat section in the assumptions to talk about the weapons and the intensity of fighting. $\endgroup$ – Arash Howaida Apr 7 '17 at 11:18
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    $\begingroup$ By the way, what's the intended purpose of this fortification? Keep VIPs safe against bombardment? Or hold a position against ground forces after the bombardment? (ie, is it like Hitler's bunker or rather something like Eben-Emael) $\endgroup$ – Faerindel Apr 7 '17 at 11:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Faerindel That's a fair question, Presumably, the design/material implications would be different. I can't say that one is more useful for my story than the other. My particular story would have both. Let's just think in terms of the general case as much as possible. You can include a premise if you feel it's too broad. $\endgroup$ – Arash Howaida Apr 7 '17 at 12:39
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Against nukes you just want to get as deep as possible. Against anything kinetic you want a self repairing material. There are several ways to do it. In the Netherlands last year they developed concrete that can heal itself using bacteria.

Concrete cracks, water gets in and activates bacteria to start producing limestone. This seals the cracks. Now this is not a fast system obviously. But it would give you long term strength. A faster system would probably be heat based.

Self healing ceramics with a heat based trigger exist. In the most basic form the stress of fractures causes heat which will trigger the repair mechanism when combined with oxygen. Now this likely can be improved by using external heat like the impact of a shell or bomb.

Now these things won't stop radiation but that's why you burrow underground and probably make a very dense roof. You then support such a structure with self healing materials. You would still need a wide range of utilities depending on how long the bunker needs to function.

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  • $\begingroup$ I tried to make clear that the earth-depth of the bunker is out of the scope of my question, but you did bring a fascinating material to light. self-repairing materials would be perfect for my theoretical bunker of the future. Aside from ceramics, could you envision any other more modern materials using this approach? Perhaps a layer of self repairing graphene? If possible, give a few estimates of thickness of such layers robust enough to survive at least 1 direct hit. Thank you $\endgroup$ – Arash Howaida Apr 6 '17 at 8:15
  • $\begingroup$ Heat based healing relies in the melting point of the materials so metals are difficult. Plastics etc aren't. Graphene I don't know $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Apr 6 '17 at 9:30
  • $\begingroup$ Very interesting answer! Do you have any sources you can cite where one could best start reading about these self healing materials? I'd love to read more about them. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Apr 7 '17 at 11:33
  • $\begingroup$ Just some memories I gathered over the years augmented with some quick Wikipedia work. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-healing_material It has a ton of references, obviously recent given the age of the tech involved. $\endgroup$ – Mormacil Apr 7 '17 at 11:47
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No. Nuclear weapons rely on nuclear energy, while graphene (or any material made out of molecules) rely on chemical bond energy. Unless a material can be made that can get its strength from the nucleus, a nuclear bomb will always be many, many times cheaper than the armour used to defend against it.

However, You don't need to build the armour. You can just go very deep underground. The best example is probably the DUCC (Deep Underground Command Center), which was designed to survive multiple direct hits by tsar-bomba scale weapons. However, due to its cost, it could only hold 50 people. In the near future, nanotechnology could increase the strength of rock, reducing the necessary depth, potentially making it practical.

EDIT:

Since we have not developed any non-molecular structural materials, We can't say much about them. Neutronium is possible, as it will probably reflect photons and just absorb any neutrons.

If you don't have neutronium then reinforced concrete is probably best, possibly with some lead plating on the inside (the lead probably protects against spallation as well as gamma radiation). Reinforced concrete may not be as effective per weight as some other high-tech materials, but it is very cheap. A meter of concrete is better than a centimeter of armour that provides twice the protection but costs four times as much, as you can get more protection out of concrete for the same cost (assuming volume is not an issue). The lead would protect against neutrons that decayed into gamma rays some ways through the concrete.

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  • $\begingroup$ I have never heard of DUCC, what a cool concept. You are right about the cost, very few people would be able to make it. I like your approach, but I ended up rewriting to question to clarify a few things, take a look when you have a chance. $\endgroup$ – Arash Howaida Apr 4 '17 at 7:16
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting update, thanks for addressing the core issue of theoretical materials, which you describe as "non-molecular materials." Conceivably, could we have the best of both worlds if we place a thin layer of something like neutronium on top, then reinforced concrete directly under? $\endgroup$ – Arash Howaida Apr 9 '17 at 7:56
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    $\begingroup$ How thin? The problem is that if the neutronium breaks, you have neutronium pieces, which will go through concrete like butter. $\endgroup$ – DOS4004 Apr 10 '17 at 1:54
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The Purpose of your bunker determines an awful lot about the design (as has been mentioned before)

You could potentially build your bunker not only underground, but under water as well. Get out off the coast a way under a few hundred feet of water. This has the advantage of dealing with radiation from a nuke over the land, even coastal targets. It would help mitigate fallout.

Now, not only should the bunker be under water, but under a bunch of rock as well. It's hard to get sufficient conventional explosive down deep enough to cause enough damage to a bunker. I would think that only a direct hit from a nuke, or maybe an asteroid, would be sufficient to cause enough damage to be a problem. Communication could be by undersea cable to a variety of outposts on the surface, even several hundred miles away. You could mount comms gear in secret to existing offshore oil rigs.

You could use a base like this as a re-supply depot for a fleet of submarines, allowing you to project military power quite a long way, what with long range missile capability.

One major problem with this would be the necessity of secrecy. If the enemy finds where you are, like all fortifications all the way back through time, you are stuck and it will only be a matter of time before they figure out a way around the defenses. It won;t be easy, but war never is.

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I think you're missing the point? Best tool for the job.

You generally have two strains in conflict.

One where you win or lose. One where you make the other guy bleed more than you bleed.

No weapon, soldier, tool, platform, armor, shield...anything.. is perfect, so just drop the word entirely. Drop the concept. I get that you said 'I don't expect.." but fortifications are force multipliers, roadblocks, resource sinks(etc) they are still and always have been 'viable.'

All you've got to be is better at your job than the next guy/tool/vehicle.

As regards bunkers & fortifications..a fortification doesn't need to be even particularly hard to destroy..to be viable.

It doesn't even need to require more planning & expenditure of effort at the point of contact from your enemy as you expended in it's construction & maintenance.

It just needs to force your opponent to make decisions and take risks he'd rather not have to.

Static defenses have never ever been impregnable to any conceivable assault..all they've ever been is investments that require an enemy to invest more than they could afford to bring to bear at that particular moment in time. At best.

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  • $\begingroup$ That's all very true, I don't dispute your points. However, as I pointed out in the post, I'm mainly focused on reality checks for futuristic materials for the bunkers of the future. This way bunkers can be viable maybe more in the absolute sense, rather than the relative sense. As your military/war theory illustrated, viable can be a very relative word. $\endgroup$ – Arash Howaida Apr 8 '17 at 8:41

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