The opening scene of Terminator 2 shows terminators going after humans via machine-to-human combat instead of using weapons of mass destruction.

Skynet could have dropped any number of weapons on human populations.

  • atom bombs (if any were left after Judgment Day)
  • chemical weapons (e.g. - white phosphor, mustard gas, nerve agents, VX, sarin, tabun, etc... ad nauseum)
  • biological weapons (e.g. - antrax, ricin, mycotoxins, herbicides, etc... ad nauseum)
  • radiological weapons (dropping highly radioactive materials near humans)

Some of these weapons are somewhat easy to make once you have the materials. Some are very hard to make, but Skynet might have found the chemical or biological weapons after Judgment Day.

But radiological weapons should be very easy for Skynet to make. For example, the radioactive isotope, Cobalt-60, is used so widely in current technology, that Skynet could simply raid all the hospitals in any city it finds and use that to make a radiological bomb. Or Skynet could simply collect radioactive dust off the streets of nuked cities and then spray the hot dust on places with humans. Ground zero of each city should be coated with Cesium-137. Another option is to locate the dry cask storage locations near atomic power plants.

Why does Skynet send terminators to kill humans in combat instead of using weapons of mass destruction? This seems like a far less efficient use of resources than merely nuking the humans, coating their settlements with radioactive fallout, or simply dropping canisters of white phosphor.

  • Is there anything in the Terminator franchise that says Skynet did use these?
  • It certainly knew what nukes could do, but did it not know what bio, chemical, and radiological materials could do?
  • Even if it did know about such weapons, did it not know how to make them?
  • Or did not have access to materials even if it did know how?

Please provide canon based answers.

  • 1
    Your average terrorist is going to have a field day after Skynet nukes us all!
    – RichS
    Jan 22, 2018 at 7:27
  • 1
    Weapons of mass destruction rely on there bring a massive population or massive infrastructure to destroy. Do ya see any of that? If there was an open human city, sure, nuke away, but all I see are fortified bunkers.
    – Radhil
    Jan 23, 2018 at 0:03

2 Answers 2


In "Alpine Fields" (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, episode 2x12), Skynet experimented with a disease that initially had a 99.5% fatality rate among its human victims.

The Resistance soon developed a successful treatment for the infection. It's possible that the relative ease with which humans countered this type of attack could have led Skynet to rely on proven search-and-destroy methods.


Skynet may still have had access to weapons of mass destruction... After all, the first few movies establish that when Skynet became sentient and aware, it knew humans were the enemy (before they could pull the plug), and initiated a nuclear launch against the enemies of America knowing that other countries would retaliate. This wiped out a large number of the world's population, considering large cities were targeted. Many more died due to starvation and disease.

The remaining humans were scattered enough that it would take too many nukes to take out the remaining humans. Not efficient at all. Plus, I'm sure Skynet didn't know where the humans were, so them foot soldiers, and other craft like hunter killers were likely called upon to scout out survivors. If found, it seemed more better use of resources to also have its machines on foot and air kill them. And it's possible some humans may have been hunkered down (in bunkers, forts, underground, etc.), reducing the effectiveness of nukes. Last but not least, human survivors have long fled areas that have been nuclear blasted.

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