Tags: Super | Missiles

Super Missiles

Wednesday, 04 June 2003 12:00 AM

Pentagon planners are seeking new weapons to rapidly strike targets around the globe within minutes. Some of these new weapons are being quietly fielded inside former Cold War systems that are slated for retirement due to strategic arms agreements with Russia.

The U.S. Air Force is currently evaluating the conversion of some Minuteman III strategic missiles from a nuclear role to a conventional precision-strike capacity.

The Minuteman missile has been the mainstay of the U.S. land-based leg of nuclear long-range missiles since the 1960s. Each of the solid-fueled missiles is capable of delivering up to three nuclear warheads within 300 feet of an intended target anywhere on Earth within 30 minutes from its launch from silos in America.

The Minuteman Elite program, although focused primarily on updating a small number of the nuclear-armed versions, has options that would allow Pentagon planners to use the intercontinental missiles as conventionally armed fast-reaction space forces.

The proposed conversion would replace Minuteman nuclear warheads with precision-guided conventional warheads that could strike targets within a one-meter-square area. Other options include a special "Common Aero Vehicle" shell that could deliver from space-penetrating warheads, small-diameter bombs and cruise missiles, or even unmanned aerial reconnaissance drones.

In fact, the new warheads may be so accurate that they may not even need explosives to be effective. Some of the new Minuteman conventional warheads may be no more than a block of concrete. The Minuteman missile can deliver bombs at nearly 15,000 miles an hour, so fast that a block of concrete could destroy an entire building, bunker or underground facility without causing damage to nearby civilian areas.

The Navy has also started a similar study program to evaluate the modification of nuclear-armed Trident missiles with highly accurate conventional warheads to strike targets. The Navy missile option is part of a planned refit of some Ohio-class submarines from their nuclear role into tactical missile boats.

The Navy had to face a hard choice between mothballing several Ohio missile submarines or refitting them because of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia. Instead of destroying up to four nuclear submarines, the Navy has decided to keep the Ohio class as conventional missile attack boats.

The USS Ohio (SSBN-726) has already started its conversion into a conventional missile attack platform. The Ohio entered the Puget Sound shipyard in November 2002 for a 36-month refueling and refit to convert her into a guided-missile submarine.

The refit program replaces the 24 Trident missile tubes with over 100 vertical-launch Tomahawk missiles. The Ohio is expected to re-enter service in 2007. The USS Florida, USS Georgia and USS Michigan are also scheduled to become conventional missile attack subs.

The Navy may, however, leave one or two conventionally armed Trident missiles onboard each of the converted Ohio-class submarines. The objective would be to use the Trident missiles as a quick-reaction force that could strike targets thousands of miles away with little or no warning.

The conversion of nuclear weapons into conventional systems is considered to be only the beginning of a new series of missiles that can reach targets up to 1,000 miles away within seconds. Both the Navy and the Air Force are also working on new high-speed cruise missiles, or hypersonic missiles.

The U.S. Air Force is working with NASA to develop the X-43C hypersonic demonstrator. The unmanned X plane is slated to fly as fast as Mach 7, or up to seven times the speed of sound, while testing a revolutionary new jet engine called the scramjet.

The Air Force is proposing to add several tests of the hypersonic X plane in an effort to develop scramjet engines for missiles, strike and reconnaissance spacecraft. The new engines could power advanced weapons into space and over a target anywhere on Earth within minutes of its launch.

The Air Force is planning to follow the X-43C tests with a new scramjet-powered vehicle of its own. The proposed 26-feet-long, 4,000-pound test missile would be air dropped by a B-52 over the Pacific Ocean, fly a series of pre-planned tests and then be allowed to plummet into the sea at the end of its mission. The USAF test missile is expected to also fly at speeds up to Mach 7.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy is currently building its own hypersonic missile, with testing scheduled to begin in 2006. The Navy vehicle is similar in size and weight to the Air Force test flyer, but it is to be vertically launched from a standard ship-sized missile tube.

The Navy missile system also differs from the Air Force in aerodynamic design. The USAF vehicle is a wedge shaped delta-winged flyer with its scoop-like air intake located underneath the nose. The Navy system is more of a conventional tube-shaped missile with short tail fins, and its air scoop is located at the front.

Unlike the Air Force test vehicle, the Navy missile is expected to be a weapons demonstrator because it does not rely on the exotic scramjet propulsion system. This will allow the Navy to modify the vehicle to carry warheads in a short period of time.

While the Navy's hypersonic missile is not expected to be as fast as the Air Force system, it is designed to reach targets hundreds of miles away at speeds in excess of Mach 6.

The objective of the Navy program is to design and build a high-speed missile to team with the subsonic Tomahawk for deep-strike and rapid-response attacks from any surface ship or submarine. The Navy hopes to field over 2,000 of the new hypersonic missiles in the next decade.


The American Freedom Network with NewsMax contributor Dr. James Hirsen on Friday, 6/06/03, at 11 a.m. Eastern time. Show information at http://www.amerifree.com.

The Jerry Hughes show on Friday, 6/06/03, at 3 p.m. Eastern time. Show information at http://www.cilamerica.com.

The Phil Paleologos "American Breakfast" show on Tuesday, 6/10/03, the Langer Broadcast Network, at 8 a.m. Eastern time. Show information at www.dinershow.com.

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Pentagon planners are seeking new weapons to rapidly strike targets around the globe within minutes.Some of these new weapons are being quietly fielded inside former Cold War systems that are slated for retirement due to strategic arms agreements with Russia. The U.S. Air...
Wednesday, 04 June 2003 12:00 AM
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