I wonder what one would call an alarm that is set off when the impact of a (nuclear) missile is imminent.

Air-raid doesn't really fit, for the bombardement is not carried out by planes but rather by a (single) missile.

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    I don't know. In the 1960s they used to talk a lot about the four-minute warning. So if it took us more than four minutes to decide what to call it, it would be too late! – WS2 Jul 6 '15 at 19:14
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    It's a civil-defense siren. – deadrat Jul 6 '15 at 19:22
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    Presumably missiles fly through the air with their explosive payload in much the same way as airplanes do :-) – ScotM Jul 6 '15 at 19:27
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    @Sprottenwels, as you mentioned this is for a work of fiction, and there seems not to be a widely used term for what you're describing, I suggest you consult your own imagination and invent or borrow a term that you feel serves the needs of your story. – Karasinsky Jul 6 '15 at 19:56
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    We have a nuclear power plant nearby, and the sirens are strategically placed atop utility poles in the area. @deadrat is right about the official terminology, but if you've ever been getting the mail out of your mailbox when they go off over your head, you may agree with my nickname: "The 'Holy Shit' Horns". – Oldbag Jul 6 '15 at 20:37

I googled with the search terms warning systems and I could find the following names:

Civil defense Siren

Ballistic Missile Early Warning System

Chrysler Air-raid Siren

Emergency Alert systems

P.S. : These systems do not necessarily sound when missile is launched from a plane. It can very well be from an over-ground unit(lack of a better word here).

Interesting piece of information: I hear that there are now smartphone apps available in Israel which warn people of any incoming missiles, ahead of time just like when we are about to receive a call (check the link given below). I can only imagine the dreading moment if the user put his/her cellphone on silent mode there :-)



It is a Four-minute warning


The four-minute warning was a public alert system conceived by the British Government during the Cold War and operated between 1953 and 1992. The name derived from the approximate length of time from the point at which a Soviet nuclear missile attack against the United Kingdom could be confirmed and the impact of those missiles on their targets.

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