Time-Critical Strike Capability and the Conventional Strategic Missile

An interesting Department of Defense publication from last month just crossed my inbox – Time Critical Conventional Strike from Strategic Standoff is a study by the Defense Science Board which examines the technology, tactics, and planning issues surrounding the United States’ ability to strike targets around the world, on short notice.

It’s fascinating reading, and presents a lot of interesting suggestions that, I suspect, pretty strongly challenge the “conventional wisdom” surrounding the military’s global reach. High-speed, long-range weapons? Not so useful. High-yield explosive weapons? Too much collateral damage, among other problems. Little, but very accurate weapons (like the Small Diameter Bomb)? The way of the future. Special Forces? Under-appreciated, under-utilized, and under-supported where rapid-response capability is concerned.

However, I found something potentially even more interesting, buried in an appendix…

You’ve probably heard the controversy about plans to develop a new, conventional-explosive warhead for submarine-launched Trident missiles; the whole thing would give the military a much better “global reach”, but there’s a very real issue that third-parties – like Russia, to name but one example – would have no way of differentiating between the launch of a Trident with a conventional warhead, and the launch of one with a nuclear warhead. Since assuming every launch is conventional is a fairly bad defense policy, this is a fairly large stumbling block. The Pentagon argues that the speed of the weapon means that it’s launch can be delayed until after “other nations who might be in a position to detect the [Conventional Trident Modification]’s launch and/or trajectory” had been notified, yet still be employed in a time-sensitive manner. The jury is still out on that one…

Well, this new report mentions the Trident project – but it also mentions something similar which is news to me – the Conventional Strategic Missile program, which apparently aims to turn LG-118A Peacekeeper ICBMs (also once known as “MX Missiles”), all of which have been decommissioned, into something called the Conventional Strategic Missile:

As near as I can tell, this new report is the first public mention of this idea. It’s novel, I’ll give it that, and it would seem to have far fewer potential issues than the Conventional Trident Modification (CTM) program. I wonder why it’s received so little publicity?


Published in: Geekiness, General | on May 20th, 2009| 4 Comments »

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  1. On 5/20/2009 at 8:11 pm SA Said:

    I think it is more often referred to as the Conventional Strike Missile. The general subject was addressed lately by the Congressional Research Service here.

  2. On 5/21/2009 at 2:09 pm Jfraser Said:

    Also might be termed the “Prompt Global Strike,” see this article from 2007:

  3. On 5/21/2009 at 2:28 pm Nemo Said:

    I hadn’t seen the Peacekeeper mentioned before in this context, but I’d evidently missed the CRS report. Doh. I find it interesting, though, they’re scaling back their ambitions as time goes on – first it was replace the ICBM payload with an UAV, use the ICBM to put an armed UAV into place near a target, then have the UAV strike the target with precision munitions; then it was replace the ICBM’s (nuclear) MIRVs with conventional warheads; now it’s apparently replace the MIRV warheads with… concrete, I guess… and turn them into purely-kinetic weapons.

    Just what sort of high-value target we’re intending to hit with a notional one-tonne kinetic weapon with an accuracy of ten meters, well, that’s another story entirely. Maybe in some theoretical future conflict against a conventional military force who’ve deployed air-defense systems into residential neighborhoods, or somesuch, and where allied commanders are squeamish about collateral damage.

    IMO, we ought to just replace the MIRV warheads with paint – non-toxic, water-soluble paint, of course. Want to make a point about your global reach without killing anyone or putting big whopping holes in things? Hello, world’s largest paintball round…

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