The Pentagon's new missile program is expensive, unnecessary, and insanely dangerous

bengalraider

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Global Strikeout​
The Pentagon's new missile program is expensive, unnecessary, and insanely dangerous.​
BY JOSEPH CIRINCIONE | APRIL 23, 2010

New weapons systems should always meet three requirements: They should be feasible, needed, and affordable. The proposed Prompt Global Strike program, which according to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been "embraced by the new administration," does not meet any. Using intercontinental ballistic missiles to hurl conventional warheads at caves is a truly bad idea. It would use technology that doesn't work for a capability the United States doesn't need at a cost it can't afford. Oh, and it could also start a nuclear war.

The plan is to build new weapons that can hit a target half a world away in under an hour. Defense contractors concerned about the shrinking market for long-range missiles began promoting this to George W. Bush's Defense Department, where it was rejected as unworkable. Now, as they take steps to reduce the U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons, Obama defense officials are resurrecting it.

Would such a system even work? The diagram of the concept is almost a Rube Goldberg scheme: an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches and releases a space plane that glides through the atmosphere and flies to strike area where it drops a bomb on target. A more complete schematic would include other necessary features like a heat shield that would try to stop the glider from melting on re-entry as it screams in much faster than the space shuttle. Proponents of the program say it will rely on "cutting-edge technology." (Read: "We don't know how to do it.")

It is not that America hasn't tried. This program is basically another version of the now discredited "space plane" -- a pipe dream that, as nonproliferation analyst Dennis Gormley notes, the United States has been chasing for decades. In 2001, President Ronald Reagan's former missile-defense chief, Henry Cooper, told a congressional panel that, after three decades of work and $4 billion in development, the U.S. program had only produced "one crashed vehicle, a hangar queen, some drop-test articles, and static displays." Now the contractors have repackaged the idea and are re-peddling it to the Pentagon.

But does the United States need this capability? No. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which the United States would use this weapon. The Pentagon has better weapons in its arsenal that, if updated, could accomplish long-range strikes. Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright favors using modern, precision-guided conventional munitions to replace nuclear weapons now assigned to such missions. He's right.

The United States is currently fighting two wars against enemies with no air defenses, planes, or ships. The terrorists and insurgents on the other side are effectively handled by ground forces, tactical air forces, and, increasingly, drones. Drones are already deployed, and they can track and kill fleeting targets. Why would the U.S. military need to launch a missile from California to deliver a bomb to a cave in Afghanistan, when it already has drones on bases, ready to drop a bomb within minutes?

For the global strike scheme to work, it would require unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to track fleeting targets and relay information to the space plane. Without the intelligence the military would not know what to shoot the missile at, nor be able to hit it. But if the drones are already on the target, who needs an ICBM? If the Pentagon needs more ordnance on targets, it can further develop and deploy the longer-range UAVs it already has, such as the Global Hawk.

Then there is the unpleasant matter of the bill. The Global Strike Program could be the most expensive bomb America has ever built. There are no accurate cost estimates for the program, largely because the technology is unproven. Even if the program comes in at a bargain price of $10 billion and fields 10 missiles -- which is about what is under consideration -- each missile with its tiny payload could easily go over $1 billion each. By comparison, the MX missile program cost approximately $30 billion (in 2010 dollars) for 50 deployed missiles, but each one carried 10 nuclear warheads.

At a time when Congress and the public are railing against deficit spending, is this really the time to start new, untested programs that will siphon funds away from true military needs? Let's be honest. U.S. soldiers do not need this capability, especially at a time when they could use better armor in battle and better health care when they return home.

Finally, the reason Bush officials abandoned this idea was that they realized Russian concerns about the weapon were true: How would another country know if the ICBM launch they detected was conventional or nuclear? They wouldn't. There is no sure way around this problem.

As Noah Shachtman's at Wired's Danger Room blog notes, although the United States needs more capability against terrorist targets, "relying on conventional ICBMs to do the job, and risking a nuclear showdown, is just plain crazy." There are better, cheaper ways to give U.S. troops the weapons they need.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articl...trikeout?print=yes&hidecomments=yes&page=full
 

BunBunCake

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Let me also include to the heading "stupid", "ignorant", and "WASTEFUL".

The United States doesn't need this. With thousands of ICBM's, an AF with 5,000+ Aircraft, A navy with 15 Aircraft Carriers, submarines, and one of the largest armies in the world. I don't see a threat that could match the might of our Armed Forces. People with some knowledge know that this system will not be 'low-cost' as stated by various sources. It's stupid to think, such a technology would come in 'low-cost'. The missiles the US produces are already expensive enough, and we would be expecting this to be even more costly.

Our defense budget is already high enough. $700 billion on government projects could mean creating millions of jobs, which the country needs now. I can understand if the government is working on this project during the COLD WAR. But in 2010, there is no conflict like that, and the most important thing should be the economy.

Creating this technology would also lead to an imbalance in the world. One country controlling space is scary, especially since no other country in the world has, nor is willing to spend money to develop space technologies (in this scale for defense)

The United States is putting the existence of the world in danger by developing such technologies.

Americans all over the United States must protest against such things!
 

Vinod2070

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Sounds really crazy! A billion dollars to destroy a $8 tent s they used to say. Only it used to be the $1 million Tomahawks.

The only logical targets for such missiles will be not powerful states (that would fire back) but non state or weak enemies with no capability to strike back. They are better neutralized using the drones and hellfires as the article states.

Scary that the most powerful country in the world can make such decisions.
 

Armand2REP

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If you are going to use an ICBM, just arm it with conventional warheads... duh

I don't think this is seriously being considered. Their research is focused on hypersonic missiles for this purpose.
 

bengalraider

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If you are going to use an ICBM, just arm it with conventional warheads... duh

I don't think this is seriously being considered. Their research is focused on hypersonic missiles for this purpose.
Actually the pentagon already tested their super conventional strike weapon read below

From The Times
April 24, 2010
Launch of secret US space ship masks even more secret launch of new weapon
Michael Evans, Pentagon Correspondent
The X-37B sits on top of an Atlas V rocket

The X-37B sits on top of an Atlas V rocket

Somewhere above earth is America's latest spaceship, a 30ft craft so classified that the Pentagon will not divulge its mission nor how much it cost to build.

The mysterious X37B, launched successfully by the US Air Force from Cape Canaveral on Thursday, using an Atlas V rocket, looks like a mini-Space Shuttle — but its mission is top secret.

It is officially described as an orbital test vehicle. However, one of its potential uses appears to be to launch a surge of small satellites during periods of high international tension. This would enable America to have eyes and ears orbiting above any potential troublespot in the world.

The X37B can stay in orbit for up to 270 days, whereas the Shuttle can last only 16 days. This will provide the US with the ability to carry out experiments for long periods, including the testing of new laser weapon systems. This would bring accusations that the launch of X37B, and a second vehicle planned for later this year, could lead to the militarisation of space.

US defence officials, who would not say how much the project had cost, insisted, however, that it was "just an updated version of the Space Shuttle activities".

Thursday's launch was more about testing the craft, a new generation of silica tile and a wealth of other advances that make the Shuttle look like yesterday's space technology.

Nasa's X37B programme began in 1999 and ran until September 2004 when it was transferred to the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency before being taken over by the US Air Force.

The flight of the X37B is being managed by the US Air Force Space Command's 3rd Space Experimental Squadron.

"This bird has been through all of the shake, rattle and roll, the vibration tests, the acoustic tests that any spacecraft would go through," said Gary Payton, Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space Programmes.

With all the focus on the launch of the secret X37B, another space launch by a Minotaur IV rocket from Vandenberg Air Force base in California received less attention.

It was carrying the prototype of a new weapon that can hit any target around the world in less than an hour.

The Prompt Global Strike is designed as the conventional weapon of the future. It could hit Osama bin Laden's cave, an Iranian nuclear site or a North Korean missile with a huge conventional warhead.


http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/ne...le7106714.ece?print=yes&randnum=1272206882968
 

sandeepdg

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As stated, these conventional warhead armed missiles are gonna pack the localized power of a nuclear weapon, I think they are intended to slowly lessen the number of nuke armed ICBMs in American inventory. The new nuclear deal signed with the Russians to bring down the number of nuke ICBMs, I think also includes a clause by the Russians that says that in the future American will have to replace one N-ICBM for each oh the Prompt Global Strike missiles that they are gonna field.
 

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