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April 26, 2005

Death From Above: Pentagon Plans Space-Delivery of Ordnance

Taking the very, very high ground:

The Pentagon is working to develop a suborbital space capsule within the next five years that would be launched from the United States and could deliver conventional weapons anywhere in the world within two hours, defense officials said.

This year, the Falcon program will test a launcher for its Common Aero Vehicle (CAV), an unmanned maneuverable spacecraft that would travel at five times the speed of sound and could carry 1,000 pounds of munitions, intelligence sensors or other payloads. Among the system's strengths is that commanders could order a CAV -- an unpowered glide vehicle -- not to release its payload if they decided not to follow through with an attack.

The first-generation CAV, expected to be ready by 2010, will have "an incredible capability to provide the warfighter with a global reach capability against high payoff targets," Gen. Lance W. Lord, commander of Air Force Space Command, told the House Armed Services Committee last Wednesday.

Within the next three years, the Falcon program hopes to enter a second stage of the effort: flight-testing two versions of a reusable hypersonic cruise vehicle, sometimes referred to as a space plane, that could travel a suborbital path, about 100,000 feet high, carrying a CAV anywhere in the world. Unlike a missile, the vehicle could return to its base after releasing the CAV to deliver bombs or intelligence sensors.

Let me repeat the most important part of that passage: the commander of the Air Force Space Command is named General Lance Lord.

If you put that in a script, they'd laugh at you.

Anyway, expect a lot of whining about the symbolism of arming the heavens. There aren't any caribou up there as far as I know, but the whiners are just big on whining about change, generally. They don't want oil rigs where they haven't been before nor cool-ass space-bombs where eagles fear to tread.

They say conservatives pine for the mores of the 50's... but many liberals seem to pine for the technology and military capabilities of the 50's. Which strikes me as pretty stupid.

And there's my shallow, kneejerk & repetitive political commentary for all you troglodytes and rightwing nutbags.

Thanks to CraigC.

Background/New Details From a Confidential Pentagon Source...


On whether a CAV launch looks like a nuke launch, and the usefulness of the system:

The CAV doesn't look like a nuke, unless you're stupid. Plus, the fixed site thing is important-- hell, we can even have foreign observers watch our launches. It won't matter too much if the bad guys have warning, [as that warning will be thirty minutes or so].

As for the target set, yes, the CAV is an expensive way to hit targets. But it's a *fast* way to hit targets. And sometimes fast is more important than cheap. The example we commonly use is the air strike against Saddam that opened the Iraq War in 2003. Even with an incredibly fast decision loop, that still took us a few hours to execute. CAV would've gotten there a lot sooner, which is the whole point.


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posted by Ace at 12:11 AM

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