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Not completely cool

How cool is this, says Alan Forrester without any question mark.

The United States is planning to build an unmanned hypersonic aircraft capable of striking any target in the world within two hours.

I know what he means, but I would prefer a question mark in there somewhere. Talk about power projection.

It appears that the philosophy is a development of the “shock and awe” tactics developed for the Iraq war.

According to Darpa: “The intent is to hold adversary vital interests at risk at all times, counter anti-access threats, serve as a halt-phase shock force and conduct suppression of enemy air-defence and lethal strike missions as part of integrated strategic campaigns in the 21st Century.”

In other words the United States will be able, using aircraft based on its own territory, to strike at individual targets without warning and without the need for foreign bases.

The whole project goes under the acronym Falcon – Force Application and Launch from the Continental United States.

The military journal Jane’s Defence Weekly, which broke the story in its latest edition, says that as well as this futuristic plan, the research agency also proposes a shorter term (by 2010) weapons system.

What I have in mind is the Antoine Clarke question. Imagine the button for this gadget on the desk of your least favourite President of the United States of, say, the last twenty years. Think Bill Clinton, wanting to divert attention from his latest sordid and very public grilling about his sex life, with the power to make big (but cheap) bangs anywhere on earth with a guarantee of no American body bags and timed to the second.

I’m starting to feel about Bush the way I now feel about Thatcher. She massively strengthened the British state, and its general habit of doing what it likes despite all criticism, for purposes (getting the state a bit more out of the British economy than it had been) that I approved of, and was then ousted and replaced by a very different political tendency. Now Bush is doing the same with the US state, to do other things I approve of.

And Bush too will eventually be toppled, if only by the inexorable force of the US Constitution that will only allow him eight years at the wheel. In a decade from now, when the Democrats have got their act together and when they get to own the White House for another decade, the world will be ruled by armed social workers for whom global gun control will be only the start. (Show us your banking records or bangs in two hours.) Bush will never get to play with this new toy. His successors will.

That’s “how cool” this is.

25 comments to Not completely cool

  • Julian Morrison

    When the various militaristic cheerleader folks here see snazzy gadgets like this, mybe they should think about one being used to bomb some small state that’s become “too libertarian” for a socialist in the Prez’s chair. President Hillary, for example.

  • zack mollusc

    Am I stupid to think that this is feasible today simply by replacing the nuclear warheads of say, a minuteman, with one or more jdam type munitions?
    The flight time of an icbm has to be less than 2 hours, surely?

  • Phil Bradley

    While I found Bill Clinton mostly harmless in the immortal words of the HGG, I find the idea of president Hilary Clinton creepy.

    There is talk about Condoleeza Rice on the Bush ticket in 2004. That might line her up for president Rice in 2008. She’s not a lawyer and I understand she is well regarded in Silicon Valley! – http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/ricebio.html

    She’d get my vote, except I’m not an American.

  • A_t

    Wouldn’t that be horribly expensive though?

    Like, ICBM’s are the equivalent of launching a rocket into space; surely more costly than flying somewhere conventionally, even at ridiculous speeds. Plus, presumably this plane can be reused. Yer average ICBM on the other hand, is a bit f***ed after it’s been deployed once.

  • Cydonia

    Brian and Julian are right.

    This is exactly why supporting Statist means to bring about apparently good ends is a risky strategy. It’s fine as long as you approve of the ends, but eventually the time comes …..

    Usually it is much better to stick to principle, even if it means that once in a while a short term gain to liberty may have to be sacrificed.


  • Tony H

    The rest of might also end up a bit f****d after Hillary (or whoever) launched a conventional-munitions ICBM at someone she disapproved of. I mean, the radar signature of a ballistic missile is rather distinctive, and might provoke lots of button-pressing in countries whose ICBMs still had just the old-fashioned warheads that destroy whole cities – especially if it seemd to be coming their way.
    I can’t help thinking of the 1950s when air forces everywhere including the RAF were predicting the imminent demise of manned aircraft, in favour of missiles and gizmos like “Falcon”.

  • S. Weasel

    This gadget doesn’t strike me as hugely more powerful or sophisticated (or threatening) than stuff we have now. We could currently accomplish the same ends by different means.

    A whole literary industry grew up around the possibility that some psycho future president would push the Big Button. I really can’t get all that exercised about some psycho future president pushing the little button.

  • Julian Morrison

    No president pushes the Big Button, because it’s big.

    Plenty of presidents will push the little button, because hey, it’s little. They aready do; think “aspirin factory in Sudan”, for example.

  • John J. Coupal

    Brian, your comments appear correct.

    From 1992-2000, the playground in the US was run by the children. The bullies had free rein. September 11 was a normal consequence.

    Now, the playground has adult supervision. But, the time will come when the American public will again feel safe enough to elect democrats to important positions.

  • S. Weasel

    Julian: but exactly. What will this do that’s worse than what we dropped on that aspirin factory? We’ve just been bombing Baghdad from planes that took off from and returned to the States. I don’t see the paradigm shift in this new dingus.

    It’s like getting exercised about “assault” weapons because they’re ugly and scary, but being okay with more ordinary-looking weapons that shoot the same ammo at the same rate.

    Call me when we’ve perfected the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator.

  • LibertyBelle

    Phil Bradley – Fascinating as the notion of the formidable Condoleezza as Prez is, it won’t happen. She has never stood for a single elective office. She has never got herself elected to anything and, once elected, never had to learn to wheel and deal with the opposition – a subtle line of work at which her boss is a past master. She’s a brilliant, brilliant woman and I find her quite intriguing, but she won’t run for president.

    It will, however, be interesting to see what she does next. An ambassadorship maybe? Head of a conservative think tank such as the Hudson Institute? Or maybe run for governor of her home state. She’d be a shoo-in just about anywhere.

  • zack mollusc

    Just to respond to the expense of icbms, surely the expensive bit was the h-bomb and its associated guidance? You don’t need to spend so much on inertial guidance because you don’t need the accuracy with gps terminal guiding. The rest of the thing is just a big firework that doesn’t need the fuel to fly back or the exotic materials to fly hypersonic for long periods. Got to be cheaper than a SuperValkyrieAurora.
    Granted, the icbm may be tracked, but by who, and what are they going to do to stop it?

  • Scott Cattanach

    From 1992-2000, the playground in the US was run by the children. The bullies had free rein. September 11 was a normal consequence.

    Now, the playground has adult supervision.

    Has the world sunk so low that Shrub can pass for an adult?

  • S. Weasel

    Has political discourse sunk so low that wordplay on someone’s name can pass for insightful commentary?

  • Phil Bradley

    LibertyBelle, I’ll defer to your knowledge of America politics. None-the-less we can still dream and I like the idea of Bush going into 2004 with enough political capital to take a risk on Condoleezza that I think would pay-off handsomely, and also mess big-time with the odious, creepy, devoid of almost everything except ambition, Hilary C.

  • Scott Cattanach

    Has political discourse sunk so low that wordplay on someone’s name can pass for insightful commentary?

  • Bolie Williams IV

    While it’s useful to talk about how future technological changes will affect society, it’s rarely useful to talk about whether new technologies should be developed. I am firmly in favor of the US continuing to develop new military technology so that we can stay in the lead. If we stop developing new weapon systems because they are “too dangerous” than someone else will develop them and we’ll find ourselves at the wrong end of a bigger gun.

    Bolie IV

  • Scott Cattanach

    If we let govt control technology (even to supposedly prevent it from being weaponized), weapons will be the only result. Govts will build new and uglier weapons no matter what, the rest of us will just lose out on any peaceful application of new technology (or any ability to understand it and defend ourselves from govt weapons).

  • Liberty Belle

    Phil Bradley – I’m with you, and we can dream, can’t we? But there’s no way Condie would be chosen to stand by the Reps. She has no experience in bruising political battles – not even schoolboard level. This indicates that, despite being a shining intellect (or maybe because of it), she’s not interested in elective office. She’s never been on the hustings fighting her corner, meaning, this route never appealed to her. For sure, she’s always gotten anything she set her mind to. So, the question remains: what will she do next? I think she’s an enigmatic and fascinating character.

  • SL

    Scott Catannach wrote:

    “Govts will build new and uglier weapons no matter what, the rest of us will just lose out on any peaceful application of new technology ”

    Don’t these go hand-in-hand?

  • I am VERY much in favor of these systems. In they end they are not that different from an ICBM (90 min flight time to any target on earth 30-45 minutes to most intesting targets , Pyongyang , Paris, Dublin) .

    Even more important is the fact that the delivery system will be part of a future Reuasble Launch Vehicle system that will reduce launch costs from $10,000 a pound to low earth orbit to $300 or less. Opening the space frontier to all those who are ready to get the hell off this bureaucratized planet (provided we solve the Rad problem.)

    Do we really want to be stuck on the same planet as the French and the Guardian’s readership FOREVER.

  • Tony H

    Interesting set of hatreds you have, spacer. Let’s see, the N.Koreans eat dogs (they can’t eat too many of ’em in my view), the French eat lots of cheese – rightly so, they make the best cheeses in the world – but what the hell do the Irish eat that might have upset you – babies or something? As for Guardian readers, you could always add the Faringdon Road to your target list for obliteration.

  • Almost all North Koreans would be happy to have a Dog to eat. I feel sorry for them but I still want to be able to hit them. As for the french . Il n’y a aucune raison de les traiter commes des amis. Ils nous hai et je leur rends la monnaie. Same for the Guardian readers.

    As for the Irish ( ah me sacred grandma O Brian) It’s always fun to rattle their cages, doesn’t happen enough.

    Which goes to my main point, who the hell wants to live on the same planet as these folks?

  • The U.S. will continue to with the development of this and other weapons because we don’t ever want to fall behind again. In fact, we don’t want anyone even near us. That was made policy when Bush took office and I’m pleased.

    As for the potential abuse, the aspirin factory in the Sudan is the perfect example. It’s already been done, now the time will be reduced to two hours. That’s all.

    The real benefit is not having to cut deals — very expensive deals as our negotiations with Turkey proved, though thankfully they failed. We saved about $25 billion when those talks fell through.

  • SF Guy

    If we are so foolish as to elect HRC, a hypersonic strike force is the least of America’s troubles.

    I like this plan. It’s my tax dollars hard at work, and it’s something America will need as it continues to pursue WW4 against the Islamofascists and their EU allies. (half-joking)

    The US must maintain military supremacy, period. (At the same time, we must maintain all other forms of supremacy, too, of course. Fortunately, that’s not too hard for us.) Anything that increases our speed and flexibility and decreases our reliance on others is good to first approximation, in my book.

    “Montana to Mecca in 90 minutes.”