Warning: The following article is what i consider to be “fun”, at least sometimes. So, enjoy the ride, but don’t take it at face value.
So among all the news there was one item generally laughed about – that the Russian Airforce was send out to heroically intercept the asteroid. Of course they couldn’t … or could they?
An asteroid is, after all, nothing but an object on a purely ballistic trajectory – just like an ICBM. It just so happens to be rather fast. (About two to four times as fast.) Russia not only developed systems to intercept ICBMs and satellites, but it put them back into service about 4 years ago. While the S400 seems to be capable enough, I haven’t found any S400 stationed anywhere near the trajectory of the asteroid. But there is a MiG-31 based system and a Russian airbase equipped with MiG-31 airplanes 450 km south of Chelyabinsk, perfectly situated to intercept the asteroid without anybody in Chelyabinsk noticing.
The asteroid would have to be picked up using radar. As any self-respecting conspiracy theorist will tell you, they won’t tell you about it if they did. It is at all not impossible, just very unlikely. Satellites are routinely surveyed using radar. The asteroid in question would be larger than a typical satellite in a geostationary orbit (about 36,000km away) and there would have been the chance to detect it further out, perhaps as much as 100,000km away. At 30km/s this would give you a warning time of about one hour.
Ignoring the fact that there is not much reason for Russia to have ICBM interceptors ready to scramble within minutes in 2013, there is no reason not to assume that 15 minutes before impact a couple of MiG-31 “Foxhounds” were up in the air, using their top speed of 1km/s to give an extra boost to their ASAT missles. Guided by radar designed to pick up ballistic missles at several hundred km distance, they should be capable of picking up the much larger asteroid a few thousand km away – giving them two precious minutes to intercept the asteroid at an altitude of 300-400km.
What we do know for sure is, it didn’t work. It might as well never have happened.