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The Military Hardware

US Military Seeks Hypersonic Weaponry 332

Posted by kdawson
from the what-was-that-noise dept.
Dr. Eggman writes "In an interview with the Star-Telegram, the Air Force's chief scientist, Mark Lewis, talks about the USAF's latest research direction. The service is working on hypersonic missile and bombers for the purposes of reconnaissance and attack. In response to Chinese and Russian anti-satellite developments, the Air Force plans to develop weapons capable of sustained travel at Mach 6 to allow them to deploy against and take out anti-satellite launch sites before the enemy can fire their missiles. Furthermore, should the US spy satellite network be brought down, the Mach 6 recon flight systems would be capable of filling in. Air Force officials hope to deploy a new interim bomber by 2018, followed by a more advanced, and possibly unmanned, bomber in 2035." We've discussed on a number of occasions the scramjet technology that would power such vehicles.
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US Military Seeks Hypersonic Weaponry

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Funny, Pynchon in his Gravity's Rainbow [amazon.com] frequently made the point that the V-2 was an especially inhumane weapon because, falling faster than the speed of sound, it killed you before you even knew it was coming.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ykant (318168)
      Funny, that seems rather the most humane possible way of obliterating someone. After all, as you said, they don't even know it's coming. I might call it the least *sporting*, though...
    • What happened to lasers? With those, you get killed at the speed of light.
      Now we're only going for a bit faster then the speed of sound?

      Someone's losing fucking ground here.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by khallow (566160)
      Uh, I didn't know there was a humane way to kill people with military hardware. I must know more.
    • by CodeBuster (516420) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:59PM (#22398232)
      I think that you have it exactly backwards. For example, one of the primary goals of the Geneva conventions, other than laying out the rules for treatment of POWs, was to ensure that only weapons which deliver a quick and certain death, with the minimal amount of suffering, were used in warfare between signatories. This is why weapons such as the crossbow and others not deemed lethal enough were banned because they caused more agonizing deaths too frequently to justify their use in the face of better available weaponry (i.e. the only reason they would be chosen over a standard rifle would be to increase the suffering of the enemy which was not a valid reason under the agreement).
    • by greyhueofdoubt (1159527) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @06:21PM (#22399470) Homepage Journal
      How is that different from any other way of dying in modern warfare?

      Bullets, bombs, missiles, grenades, lasers, modern cannons, etc.: You will be dead before you know what's coming.

      Arrows, poison gas, mortars, knives, crowbars, flames, etc.: You may have a split second or so to understand what is about to happen to you. Then you die.

      No fair calling out radar or other sophisticated sensing systems, here. You could know that a V2 was coming through intel or visually or through crude radar even during WWII. You didn't have much time, no, but RF signals travel much faster than a V2. Even then: If you are the target coordinate of pretty much any modern weapon, you are on the fast track to fine-pink-mist-ification.

      War is hell. Nothing can change that. Killing has become our most efficient national product. From the standpoint of a potential victim, I think I'd rather be instantly killed than mortally wounded so that I can spend a few days in agony before I die and my blood and organs are infected beyond use to anyone else.

        Frankly, I don't want to see the V2 or missile or bomb coming for me. I want either an early warning system that would allow me enough time to have a chance of survival (like we have already, the phalanx or CIWS- it has saved my ass); or else I want to go from a state of stupefied boredom to dead in the time it takes a fast explosive shockwave to dissociate my neurons.

      There, I said it. Call me a coward, but I've actually dealt with the whole idea of staring death in the eye, and it is over-rated.

      -b
      • by SETIGuy (33768) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @09:31PM (#22401338) Homepage

        Bullets, bombs, missiles, grenades, lasers, modern cannons, etc.: You will be dead before you know what's coming.
        Actually, the bullets from small arms are designed to wound a large fraction of those they hit rather than kill them. That's one reason military rounds are typically full metal jacket rather than soft point. Soft point bullets expand or fragment upon impact and deposit more of their energy in the body. Military rounds are often designed to pass through the body with little expansion.

        There is a logical reason for this. If you instantly kill an enemy soldier, you've removed one soldier from the battlefield. If you wound an enemy soldier, you've removed the wounded soldier and the two who are carrying him to safety from the battlefield and also terrified anyone within earshot. You've also increased the number of vehicles needed to carry the wounded, the number of hospitals, doctors and nurses required, and the overall cost of the battle. It's cold, heartless logic, but logic none the less.

  • by explosivejared (1186049) <.hagan.jared. .at. .gmail.com.> on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @02:09PM (#22395430)
    I don't get it. If the government has a secret database of information on everyone in the world, including enemy personnel, and they have black, stealth helicopters waiting to attack anywhere in the world at a moment's notice, why all the nonsense about hypersonic attack craft?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mr2cents (323101)
      Because The military industry think they can sell it to congress. And I have to admit, they have come up with a nice threat to make it sellable.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Well since you and the mods have replied seriously to what was a light-hearted joke, I'll respond seriously to you. Having a potent strike capability that nigh instantaneous (as in a few hours) is pretty handy to have for merits that are obvious. I don't buy the whole satellite warfare line. Once we start blowing up satellites, then the orbitals become unusable. So barring a mad scientist destroy the world scenario, I don't believe satellite warfare is a real threat. It would be like poisoning a well that y
        • by qbzzt (11136) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:23PM (#22397568)
          So barring a mad scientist destroy the world scenario, I don't believe satellite warfare is a real threat. It would be like poisoning a well that you drink from as well as the enemy.

          If you're about to lose a war, you do what it takes to survive and ignore the long term consequences. Life without satellites is better than life without life.
    • by eln (21727) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @03:05PM (#22396200) Homepage
      Because, there is a government agency called the WCGI (Wicked Cool Gadgets Initiative) which is responsible for developing kickass technology for the military. The charter of this agency is simply to "develop the most awesome, wicked cool gadgets possible". If they can come up with something that sounds really sweet, they'll put money into developing it regardless of whether or not anyone needs it. If the tech is cool enough, the military will find some way to use it.
  • Aurora? (Score:2, Interesting)

    Is the Aurora [wikipedia.org] finally coming out of the shadows?
  • It's hysterical (Score:5, Insightful)

    by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @02:11PM (#22395456)
    Seeing the picture of the prototype being dropped from a 50 year-old B-52. And the design is 60 years old! They just don't build 'em like that anymore.
  • HVM (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Missing_dc (1074809) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @02:12PM (#22395462)
    Didn't we develope Hyper Velocity Missiles back in the early 80s? No payload, they killed by traveling at mach8. I wanted one as a kid.
    • by TransEurope (889206) <eniac@@@uni-koblenz...de> on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @02:26PM (#22395630)
      The device was called "Pluto VSLAM".

      http://www.designation-systems.net/dusrm/app4/slam.html [designation-systems.net]

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Pluto [wikipedia.org]

      It's from the 1950/60s. What a naive and stupid era.
  • Wasting resources? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bogaboga (793279)
    I wish I could say that this is not wasting resources, but it is. All these plans would not be that necessary if the USA kept out of other countries' business. But we will not leave them alone.

    There are greater threats to USA's security than these mach 6 planes will address. Things like terror are far worse. Imagine six 9-11's on our [critical] infrastructure.

    These plans also assume that Russia and China are sitting idle. Once again, we shall be surprised just like we were when Russia put into service, a n

    • by StaticEngine (135635) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @02:16PM (#22395510) Homepage
      Imagine six 9-11's on our [critical] infrastructure.
      Wait, do you want me to imagine 5466, or -12?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      On one hand you state that this research would not be necessary if the USA kept out of other countries' business, yet then you also make mention that it would be a mistake to assume Russia and China are sitting idle. It would be a mistake to assume that if we suddenly stopped interfering with other countries' business that China and Russia would immediately cease development of capabilities to match and exceed our own.

      The real trick is to keep the arms race from switching into a 100 yard dash from the inde
      • by vertinox (846076)
        It would be a mistake to assume that if we suddenly stopped interfering with other countries' business that China and Russia would immediately cease development of capabilities to match and exceed our own.

        I think the point is that China and Russia would just pay someone thousands of dollars to get secrets on the ground than to build billion dollar spy systems. With an open society, its much easier to gain information by moles and informants that it was for the US to get info on closed nations like China and
    • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @02:30PM (#22395676)
      Imagine six 9-11's

      I tried to, but I couldn't figure out what part of the pentagon the 6th would hit.
      • by peragrin (659227)
        The court yard in the center to take out the underground bunker.

      • by vux984 (928602)
        I tried to, but I couldn't figure out what part of the pentagon the 6th would hit.

        Surely there is a fountain or statue or at least some decorative flowers in the middle?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bigdavex (155746)

      Things like terror are far worse. Imagine six 9-11's on our [critical] infrastructure.

      The 9-11 attacks were horrible for the people actually involved, but they're really, really small compared to a nuke going off in a city. Terrorism is bad, but it's not a threat to our nation's survival.

    • by Ogive17 (691899)
      Wait, you start out by stating this is a waste because the US creates our own problems by sticking our nose where it doesn't belong... but then you infer that Russia and China are developing sophisticated weaponry that would make our current defenses useless.

      Should we or shouldn't we continue to pursue higher-tech weaponry?

      Sounds to me like just a veiled attempt to bash the current administration to karma whore.
    • Military expenditures are definitely out of whack, but I personally like reaping the benefits of having a high tech and very powerful military. You're mistaking interventionism and the one percent doctrine for keeping a well maintained military. The ideology behind the current military engagements we are involved in are harmful. Keeping our military in the lead isn't.

      I'm all for strategic withdrawals from several places all over the world and a reduction of martial intervention, but just because we haven'
    • "All these plans would not be that necessary if the USA kept out of other countries' business. But we will not leave them alone."

      And you really believe this statement? Wow.
    • "All these plans would not be that necessary if the USA kept out of other countries' business."

      And just exactly how is that supposed to happen? How the fuck is the LARGEST ECONOMY IN THE WORLD supposed to "keep out of other countries' business"?

      "But we will not leave them alone."

      Again, how the fuck is that supposed to happen? The US withdraws totally and walls itself off from civilization? Total isolationism? Not only is that not possible, it doesn't do anything about the fact that the US has resources
      • I take it you have something against Chris Crocker deciding our foreign policy?
      • by aepervius (535155) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @03:14PM (#22396348)
        Quote : "How the fuck is the LARGEST ECONOMY IN THE WORLD supposed to "keep out of other countries' business"?

        There is a difference between being the largest economy of the world, and the largest bully. Nothing in being the largest economy of the world force you to have a big army, and a big nuclear arsenal beyond what is necessary for retaliation, and certainly nothing force you to invade other country which never heard of you, and nothing force you to blackmail other country against producing cheaping anti aids drug (a pet peeve of me, international treaty allow it for emergency situation but the US blackmail a lot of country against doing this, or even retaliate). The fact is that the US seems to be quite trigger happy and forget what diplomacy is. If it was not the case, you would not have so-unhappy-ally and falling out with decades old ally. In case you don't remember you had a lot of support a few years ago before you decided to squander it into what i would call bullying Iraq. Nobody ask you to be isolationist. But sometimes, sometimes, it would be nice if you could leave people which are not disturbing you alone in their own FUCKING country. And I am not even speaking of Irak alone. Nicaragua. Chile. Panama. And so on. You are part of the world, but most of the time your extern politic amount to "do whatever we say or we crush you, crush you so bad you won't believe it".

        Remember kids, respecting others [person,country] goes into a long way to get respect back. Bullying other make you a nice target. And spitting on your friend make you look like an idiot.
      • by Bobzibub (20561)
        OK, then let us keep the discussion to the article.
        I think you misunderstand the thesis. It is that you can get involved, but just don't be a bunch of dicks.

        The US appears to be building a new generation of unnecessary first-strike weaponry. Currently, China and Russia are not your enemy, but these new weapons will require immense funding on both sides, as Russia, China and their satellites will have to reciprocate. They have to reciprocate because you're scaring the bejesus out of them with this capabil
    • by Dr. Eggman (932300) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @02:39PM (#22395824)
      Aircraft capable of sustained speeds of Mach 6 doesn't just have to have military purposes. This research could be applicable well beyond, in space exploration and more. As a launch veichle, a reusable hypersonic design is one of NASA's prime goals. Materials capable of withstanding the forces present at Mach 6, and even more so, for sustained periods of time could bring great advances in material sciences and result in stronger commercial airplanes, enhance the durability of electronics, or at the very least provide materials more capable of dealing with extreme friction. Military spending just happens to be one of the easier ways to get approval for a range of applicable technologies.
    • by inviolet (797804)

      I wish I could say that this is not wasting resources, but it is. All these plans would not be that necessary if the USA kept out of other countries' business. But we will not leave them alone.

      All countries meddle with each other to the extent they are able, for their own interests. It's the nature of humans, tribes, and limited resources.

      A more relevant question is: how much meddling would they do in our country, if we lost our military dominance?

      The entire world is presently blossoming in Pax American

    • by RDW (41497)
      'There are greater threats to USA's security than these mach 6 planes will address. Things like terror are far worse. Imagine six 9-11's on our [critical] infrastructure.'

      Here in the UK, we're already (controversially) deploying hypersonic weapons against the most dangerous enemies of our society:

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7240180.stm [bbc.co.uk]

    • Terrorism is not, and has never been, a significant threat to our national security.

      It's been a horrible nuisance, an indirect threat to our civil liberties, and a tragedy for all those affected directly by the attacks, but the only thing that "changed after september 11th" is that everyone got fricking paranoid.

      It's only take 18 years for the western world to forget that a world with a single global military power is not a natural or sustainable state of affairs. I am still much more worried about a rising
    • by CFTM (513264)
      Terrorism is terrible; innocent civilians who have nothing to do with macropolitics are killed to make a point to the entrenched power.

      But the truth is, we now live in a world where dealing with terrorism is "The Price to do business". Everything has its costs, some are nasty and no one wants to pay but bill collectors come anyways. You can't stop them from coming, you can't change the ideological mindset of irrational individuals but you can accept that this is something that will occur as long as their
    • by LWATCDR (28044)
      "All these plans would not be that necessary if the USA kept out of other countries' business. But we will not leave them alone."
      The USA tried that. It was called isolationism. The result was WWII. The funny thing is that other countries don't want the USA out of their business. When things where bad in the Balkans, people kept asking where was the USA? When a disaster hits people ask where is the USA?
    • by Bombula (670389)
      And projecting 27 years out? I call BS on this whole thing as a PR stunt. Two possibilities: chest thumping, or paving the way for something already well into the works and nearing completion. In the case of the former, it would just be part of the ongoing campaign to drum up support for war funding using a combination of fear and flash-in-a-pan technobabble. In the case of the latter, these planes and missles either already exist or will within just a few years, in which case this is simply prep for fu
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Charcharodon (611187)
      Six 9-11's, for fuck sake more people kill themselves driving to work every year than the terorrist could do in 10 years. Wake me when something interesting happens.

      Last time I checked Russia already had a nuclear capable missile with independent, multiple warheads.....twenty-five years ago.

      And also last time I checked we only fuck with other countries when it is our business, Iraq our business (cleaning up the mess from GW 1), Iran yep still our business (damn revolutionaries kicked out our puppet gov

  • I for one would like to welcome our new HYPERSONIC overlords...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Dr. Eggman (932300)
      Well I don't! He ruins my world-domination schemes enough without going into super form, let alone hyper!
  • In response to Chinese and Russian anti-satellite developments, the Air Force plans to develop weapons capable of sustained travel at Mach 6 to allow them to deploy against and take out anti-satellite launch sites before the enemy can fire their missiles.

    Ah yes, the Picard Maneuver.
  • It may just be me and my youth speaking, but planning out 28 years seems a little...risky. Who knows what the hell is going to happen tomorrow, let alone 28 years from now. Does anyone remember thinking "Tomorrow is going to suck" on 9/10/01? PLUS...what about technology advancements? I seriously doubt that in 28 years "stealth" will mean the same thing it does today. How can we plan out 28 years like this? (Serious question...looking for insight from someone with more experience).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)


      It's how military R&D works. We're using stuff now that was developed what...20 or so years ago, if not more in many cases? The life cycle of this stuff is a lonnnnnnnng time (a combination of your standard red tape and just the time it really does take to properly push out this kinda stuff).

      'Course, this often causes R&D to be fighting the last war. They're developing advanced technology that would be nice now, but not always useful for the next brand of warfare.
    • by quanticle (843097)

      Long term planning is unfeasible when working against fast-moving threats like Al Quaeda, but it is feasible when working against other established world powers (like China) that have long term plans of their own. It'd be awfully shortsighted to specialize on counter-insurgency and abandon conventional weapons and tactics completely.

    • by Bryansix (761547)
      What the hell do you need stealth for when traveling at Mach 6?
    • by RobBebop (947356)

      The modern military has REALLY LONG lead times. They are developing technology to counter technology that is in development by other countries. And besides, schedules to run the armed forces tend to extend out as far as they can.

      The timeline of (a) 3-5 years of Requirements and Specification, (b) 2 years for Design, (c) 2 years of Implementation, (d) 2 years of Testing, and (e) 20-25 years of Maintenance is not unheard of.

      In fact, during the seemingly huge 9 to 11 year development lifecycle there are

    • I seriously doubt that the next major conflict will take 28 years to develop, especially reading between the lines of events in the last 5 years. Most likely not within 10 years, but I doubt that it will take as long as 20 years plus. Access to energy and raw materials is slowly becoming an issue for certain large (would-be) superpowers, a financial crisis is still looming around the corner and a renewed arms race is in the making. Not recipes for a better world. Planning this technology with a time-span o
    • Does anyone remember thinking "Tomorrow is going to suck" on 9/10/01?

      I was, if only because I would be teaching in the morning instead of the night. But seriously, get over the "9/11 was an unexpected" issues you have. No, I'm not one of those conspiracy theorists who blames the government. The video clips on everyone's favorite documentaries only show 13 seconds from tower to heap of rubble, but it was nearly a decade from the time the first terrorist bomb detonated there.

  • Excuse me. Make that a frinkin' shark's head.
  • Spending billions more on another cold war while the world literally burns under our feet. Is this the best that human beings can do?
    • while the world literally burns under our feet
      The world is NOT literally burning under our feet. Is this kind of hysterical hyperbole the best that human beings can do?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by blincoln (592401)
        The world is NOT literally burning under our feet. Is this kind of hysterical hyperbole the best that human beings can do?

        You must have missed Lord Dread initiating phase IV of project New Order.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @02:25PM (#22395618) Journal
    All these pie in the sky projects are simple ways of creating high paying white collar jobs in the home districts of powerful senators. The real serious immediate threat facing America is the possibility of a terrorist group smuggling in a low grade weapon, nuclear, biological or chemical into the country and detonating it. These hypersonic toys do nothing to protect us against such threats. But border security customs security and port security creates lots and lots of blue collar jobs at the ports and borders. Not at the home district of "bridge to nowhere" pork barrel Senators.

    Regan talked about welfare queens. These hypersonic engineers are the new welfare queens.

    • 'All these pie in the sky projects are simple ways of creating high paying white collar jobs in the home districts of powerful senators. The real serious immediate threat facing America is the possibility of a terrorist group smuggling in a low grade weapon, nuclear, biological or chemical into the country and detonating it. These hypersonic toys do nothing to protect us against such threats. But border security customs security and port security creates lots and lots of blue collar jobs at the ports and bo
    • by aaarrrgggh (9205)
      This might actually be the only time in my life where I have defended military spending, but here goes:
      -The US military is about technological superiority over opponents rather than force size. Technology is a "force multiplier."
      -When your opponent nullifies your force multiplier you have to maintain par strategically.
      -Military strategy is more about winning the war than the battle, right or wrong. It isn't about protecting people but protecting the viability of the nation. Individuals can be sacrificed.
    • by noewun (591275) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:15PM (#22397400) Journal

      The real serious immediate threat facing America is the possibility of a terrorist group smuggling in a low grade weapon, nuclear, biological or chemical into the country and detonating it.

      Actually, the chance of any of those happening is slight because of the technology required to create them. Nuclear and biological weapons, in particular, require a technological infrastructure which terrorists groups--especially the modern, non-state, distributed groups--don't have and, frankly, don't want. The insurgents in Iraq are doing fine with nothing more complicated than explosives, detonators, cel phones and RPGs. Even 9/11 was a decidedly low tech attack: hot building with big, flammable thing. Modern terrorism is about sascading system failures, and you don't need a nuke to do that. Look at the steadily declining amount of electricity available to the residents of Bagdhad to see how you can paralyze an entire city with nothing more than simple explosives and carefully chosen targets.

      The real issue here is the Air Force's refusal to acknowledge that its force structure is out of step with the threats we're facing now. The Air Force wants more and more F-22s, even though the F-22 hasn't been near Iraq and Afghanistan and it won't go near them, as it's payload and loiter time are too small for close air support, which is all our pilots and aviators are doing over there. Air Force brass also continues to give short shrift to the A-10, even though it's uniquely suited to the present, and potential future, conflicts.

      Take a look at the Air Force budget request for the next budget and you'll see it's stuffed full of shit we don't need. Meanwhile things we do need, like more airlift capacity, more tankers, etc., are being ignored because they don't go Mach 2. All of the services are having to adapt to the current realities. The Air Force is doing the worst job.

      The other side of the issue is that the procurement system is completely broken, but that's a whole 'nother thread.

      Regan talked about welfare queens.

      And he was telling a lie [washingtonmonthly.com] and continued to tell even when called on it. If you want to do some research you will find that, before Welfare "Reform", the average stay on welfare was 1.9 years. Only about 5% of welfare recipients were on welfare for more than 5 years. It was actually one of the most efficient and effective social programs this country has ever undertaken.

      That said, I do agree with you that the broken procurement system has enabled corporate welfare of the worst kind.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by merreborn (853723)

      All these pie in the sky projects are simple ways of creating high paying white collar jobs in the home districts of powerful senators.

      On the other hand, cutting edge military technology is what allowed us to roll over most of Iraq in a matter of weeks. Had we stopped research during the last major conflict, we'd be going in with 1970's era technology, and American fatalities would have been much higher than the 1000s.

      What's more, modern research focuses on reducing civilian casualties. The weapons of yes

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Xest (935314)
      I'm not convinced nuclear terrorism really is a threat, a nuclear strike on US soil would result in a nuclear response by the US and even people as nutty as Osama know that whilst they've been able to hide from conventional forces they can't hide from a nuclear retaliation.

      Russia is heading further and further towards it's cold war state with it's assassination of Litvinenko on British soil, it's incursion into Japanese airspace, it's buzzing of US aircraft carrier in the pacific, silencing of opposition pa
  • by mo (2873) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @02:27PM (#22395642)
    27 years is a long time to project for technology.
    For example, Ray Kurzweil bet $10,000 [longbets.org] that computers will have passed the turing test by 2029.
    Even if you think Kurzweil is an optimistic hack, 27 years is 18 iterations of Moore's law. If that continues, we'll have computers with 200,000 cores and 32 petabyte hard drives by 2035.
    I'm not saying that will happen, my point is just that it's probably not prudent to make such long-term plans wrt defense technology, because it's quite likely that technological advancements will make most of your plans obsolete by the time you get that far out.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Who's going to pay for this, other than the Chinese? I doubt they'll enjoy seeing the continued armament of the USA against Chinese interests being funded with Chinese credits.
  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @02:30PM (#22395694)
    and their deterrent power shouldn't be downplayed.

    But amidst news of new systems a lot of folks forget that the greater part of U.S. strength is so-called "soft power." Economic strength, alliances, energy security, cultural strength, and good-old fashioned good will are examples.

    They are harder to develop but are also harder to fight and confer an immeasurable advantage. Building hypersonic weapons is a good thing, but it's a lot easier for your geopolitical competitors to steal the plans and copy it than it is for them to steal your alliances or international good will.

    Sources of soft power aren't usually included in defense planning because areas like economic policy and cultural strength appertain variously to non-military departments or even the private sector. But they should be, because our competitors (like China) are.

    That said, the United States has a lot of work to do to restore the soft power that eight years of the Bush administration has squandered. Let's hope the next administration is more astute and capable.
  • "Thompson defined 'time-sensitive assets' as 'something that if you don't hit right now it will be gone if you come back later.' He cited, as one example, a ballistic missile preparing to launch against the United States."

    There are a few problems with this:

    1. If we can indeed detect a missile preparing to launch, can we accurately project where it's being pointed at? I can see a situation where we hit a missile we thought was aimed at us, but wasn't. "oops!, my bad"

    2. Most likely these hypersonic v
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by coredog64 (1001648)
      1) There's no way to tell exactly where it's going until it gets there. If you know that country A has missile B with range X you can guess at where its going. However, anywhere North Korea wants to send a missile is probably someplace we don't want it to go.

      2) No fallout. Worst case you're looking at a small scale cleanup job that needs doing on a military base.

      3) Just ask GWB how well preemptive attacks work out for the US's world image ;)

      4) Not really. The additional weight required to achieve th
      • by inviolet (797804)

        3) Just ask GWB how well preemptive attacks work out for the US's world image ;)

        You misunderstand the nature of other countries' grumbling. You'll get it when you finally understand how deep human self-interest goes. Their grumbling is an attempt to soften us back up. You'll know we're getting shafted when everyone likes us and speaks fondly of us.

        To put it another way... Our total cost of self-defense is lowest when other countries consider us dangerously erratic and unfashionably violent.

  • I wonder if the US is the only one trying to get better military armaments? From the posts so far, one would think the US was the only one building weapons.

    Whether or not this particular technology is good to pursue isn't the point of my post, but the idea of developing arms in general.

    No one wants another cold war, but no one wants to suddenly be under the military might of China, either, do they? I'm sure all of us slashdotters would love to have the Chinese version of the Internet.

    [sarcasm] But of c

  • Just remember, defense is always cheaper than offense (with the possible exception of nuclear weapons). Once this is done, and billions of dollars of taxpayer's money gets spent on the project, Russians will come up with a countermeasure that shoots it down at 1/100th of the cost, and sell it to everyone else.
    • by aslagle (441969)
      Really? Defense is *always* cheaper?

      Does SDI mean anything to you? How about the English longbow? I would submit to you that, if anything, defense is always *more expensive*.

      Middle ages: Castles (expensive) / Trebuchets (relatively cheap)
      Agincourt: Knights (expensive) / English longbow (relatively cheap)
      pre-WWII: Battleships (expensive) / Land-based bombers (comparatively cheap)
  • Is it reasonable to assume that a large scale space war using high-explosive satellite killing missiles could cause a cascade failure of not just spy sats - but all sats (or a large portion of them)? The ISS is apparently the most heavily shileded spacecraft in orbit, and it can only handle hypervelocity impacts of 1cm in size or smaller. A bunch of spy satellite bits whizzing around might be kind of hard to manuver away from. I imagine it might take weeks or years for the full effects of a massive sat war
  • > to allow them to deploy against and take out anti-satellite launch sites before the enemy can fire their missiles.

    Which would require the device and/or operators to known it's going to happen so far ahead of time that not even the attacker knows for sure yet. Mach 6 would still take hours to get from the US to any major missile launching sites elsewhere. An anti-sat capable solid fueled platform could get from storage to flight in under an hour, far less if it's stored on its launcher.

    The US anti-sat m
  • Here's a neat clip [popularmechanics.com] of the predecessor of the X-51 hypersonic missile's scramjet engine being test fired, too bad it doesn't have sound but it's still neat.
  • Furthermore, should the US spy satellite network be brought down, the Mach 6 recon flight systems would be capable of filling in.

    What about if their GPS network is brought down?
  • by TheHawke (237817) <{rchapin} {at} {pelicancoast.net}> on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:51PM (#22398080)
    The legendary SR-71 Blackbird, her kid brother the YF-12A interceptor, and the flexible, quick-shooting ASAT weapon. Why go faster? Hypersonic aircraft would run into even tighter restrictions flying in domestic airspace, fuel constraints, not to mention the logistics if the aircraft's requirements are so exotic it requires highly trained crews to maintain it.
    "Kelly" Johnson, the father of the U-2/TR-1 and the Blackbirds, came up with a kinetic energy weapon that used no explosive in it. Dropped from 100,000 feet from a Blackbird bomber, the one ton device would have the kinetic energy of a large container freighter hitting at terminal velocity. No explosives whatsoever, just pure momentum. Couple that with a GPS guidance system and you'll have your own man-made meteorite that'll flatten whole city blocks from the impact alone, with pin-point accuracy.
  • We're back in 1960. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Derling Whirvish (636322) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @07:22PM (#22400202) Journal
    We're about to elect a fairly fresh Democrat Senator after an eight-year Republican administration and resurrect hypersonic jets (the X-15) and supersonic bombers (the XB-70). Will British music, long hair, and brightly colored clothes be next?
  • Lasers? (Score:3, Informative)

    by flyingfsck (986395) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @10:10PM (#22401604)
    Laser weapons are faster than mach 6 for sure.

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