The Science of UFO: The Interceptor

The S.H.A.D.O Interceptor is one of the most Iconic designs from UFO.

UFO InterceptorsOriginally designed by Mike Trim and then revised by Derek Meddings. It is a small one seater fighter that forms SHADO’s first line of defence against the alien aggressors. Its most striking feature being the single missile that protrudes from the front of the craft.

When brought up this aspect of the designs generally attracts a lot of criticism, after all, why is there only one, why couldn’t they laden in with missile batteries and machine guns, after all anything goes in space, right?

Personally I find that the original idea for the interceptor is a lot smarter than people think, and is probably one of the most realistic interpretations of a space fighter in sci-fi, allow me to put my “Fake scientist” hat on and explain why…

You only get one shot

The series spends a lot of time pointing out that the Alien’s technology is way ahead of our own, the only real saving grace we have is that our atmosphere hampers their craft forcing them to move slower and disintegrate over time.

In space they have no such problems and can travel far in excess of the speed of light. From when SID detects them, Interceptor pilots literally have minutes to slide into their craft, get airborne and achieve optimal firing position. By then the UFO is nearly out of range.

Because UFO’s move so fast, engaging them normally is pointless, a dogfight would be like trying to chase a jet fighter with a mobility scooter, however by using some maths you can calculate roughly where the UFO will be at a particular time. This way the interceptors fire nuclear missiles (To cover the most area) to intersect with the UFO’s path.

UFO Interceptor missile path


So why not carry a second if it doesn’t work?

Nukes are big and heavy, the added mass would slow the Interceptors down, also if you missed the first time, the UFO’s would already have reached the upper atmosphere and firing nuclear missiles at the Earth would probably spoil someones day.

So why not have more interceptors?

One of the core elements that UFO based itself round was realism, unlike other top secret world protecting organisations like Spectrum or the Terrahawks, stuff costs money and SHADO has very limited resources. Nuclear warheads cost millions, delivering a stack of them to the Moon would cost billions. If they blew their entire stack of warheads on one group of UFO’s then there would be nothing to stop the next set.

The bitter truth is they only send 3 Interceptors because thats probably all they can afford, If they miss a few then thats when Skydiver comes in.

Aren’t you thinking a little too much about this? After all it’s fiction.

Admittedly yes, and having such an unreliable defence system helped contribute to many really good UFO episodes. In fact a lot of the above thinking is ignored in the latter half of the series when the interceptors are seen fighting with the UFO’s in close quarters and magically reloading their missiles. Understandably sometimes science can take a back seat to whats exciting and i’m ok with that.

I do think however that it is nice to put a spotlight on what is a very interesting and for the time, quite different way of thinking in regards to space combat. There are plenty of flaws with it but it really highlights how stretched an organisation like SHADO would be in that kind of situation. For me personally this level of thinking is one of the things that makes UFO unique in regards to similar series.

So what do you reckon?

So what do you guys think? How would you defend the planet in a similar situation.


 Stay up to date, get vouchers, win prizes and more: Subscribe-Now-Button1

Join the mailing list for free!


Written by
Chris Thompson

A freelance Artist and Film-maker based on a not so secret island in the East Atlantic. Grew up up on the Anderson series reruns in the 90s and have always strived to create works that are as interesting and exciting.


Prepare for life on Moonbase Alpha

UFO: The Complete Comic Collection

Related Articles


Thunderbirds Thursday: 5 of the Thunderbird Craft’s Best Moments

As signalled by the series’ iconic countdown which begins each episode, Thunderbirds...


Thunderbirds: Famous First Words!

In preparation for Thunderbirds Day 2023, Brains has been hard at work...

FunSpace: 1999

Space:1999: Mission to Klandra – An A21 News Story

Continued From Previous Story After five days had elapsed with no further...


Stingray: Shattered Illusion – A Gerry Anderson A21 News Story

Continued From Previous Story As the image on the videophone faded, the...