Land-based ICBM launch silos are destroyed, nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines have been found and neutralized, nuclear-capable aircraft cannot get over enemy airspace and the continental U.S. is suffering a catastrophic nuclear weapons attack.
It’s quite a scenario, however unlikely, but not impossible.
It might seem as though there might be few or even no options to retaliate against the attacker to assure mutual destruction or simply halt the attack.
These types of contingencies point precisely to the reason why the U.S. nuclear triad exists. It is specifically constructed to ensure a decisive retaliatory strike. Such an ability, drawing upon nuclear-armed aircraft, land-based ICBMs and submarine-launched nuclear weapons, guarantees a massive response, thereby keeping the peace. The U.S. nuclear triad has been effective for decades.
What if, as posited, there did not appear to be a way to launch nuclear weapons because all existing modes of nuclear attack and command and control were destroyed or neutralized? Would the U.S. be doomed to cataclysmic destruction?
Maybe not. The U.S. Air Force and Navy just tested an aircraft-mounted ICBM launcher able to fire off a massive nuclear attack … from the air, using a technology called the Airborne Launch Control System.