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The Military Government

How Quickly Will the Latest Arms Race Accelerate? 197

Posted by timothy
from the speed-of-an-uttered-uh-oh dept.
First time accepted submitter tranquilidad writes "Russia was concerned enough about the U.S. development of a Prompt Global Strike (PGS) capability in 2010 that they included restrictions in the New Start treaty (previously discussed on Slashdot). It now appears that China has entered the game with their 'Ultra-High Speed Missile Vehicle.' While some in the Russian press may question whether fears of the PGS are 'rational' it appears that the race is on to develop the fastest weapons delivery system. The hypersonic arms race is focused on 'precise targeting, very rapid delivery of weapons, and greater survivability against missile and space defenses' with delivery systems traveling between Mach 5 and Mach 10 after being launched from 'near space.'"
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How Quickly Will the Latest Arms Race Accelerate?

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  • Pointless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Akratist (1080775) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @01:18PM (#45952881)
    Or, every nation building new nuclear weapons could maybe scrap the idea and work on space exploration, fusion power, renewable food production, anagathics, or a hundred other good ideas that might actually be of some use instead of a one-time "End it all in case of national butthurt" button.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      America, the most powerful military force in the world, runs on butthurt. Without butthurt how would we play the victim of worldwide terrorism instead of...

      the financier.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        We have three countries running on that. Don't forget that China wants its empire back and some revenge at Europe due to the Opium Wars and some avenging for Japan's occupation. Russia wants the USSR back where it had most of the world in an iron grip.

        Of course, China is smart... once they get into space, they can just shoot metal rods from orbit... which land with so much kinetic energy that a nuke isn't necessary to level a city.

    • But these are intercontinental missiles.
      Much of the R&D of these new designs can be used by the space agencies.
      a Mach 10 missile that can launch from the US and hit any where in the world in minutes... Could mean a faster way to launch rockets into space and achieve faster space speeds, meaning you could take a year off from the trip to Mars.

      R&D is a good thing, even if its intentions are not noble, but we expand our knowledge, and hopefully the good uses will outweigh the bad uses in time.

      • Re:Pointless (Score:4, Informative)

        by Immerman (2627577) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @04:29PM (#45956405)

        Actually, not really. Going fast is easy - it's going stably hypersonic that's hard, and that's only a relevant concept while inside an atmosphere, not in space. About the only weapon-oriented research that would be applicable to space travel are fuels with higher specific impulse, and point-defense systems that can vaporize incoming debris as easily as RPGs. And force-fields I suppose, but it seems like we're going to need to develop some completely new scientific principles before those become a viable research option.

        The trip to Mars is slow not because the rockets aren't strong enough, but because the fuel is too heavy to carry the quantity you'd need to get to Mars quickly. And in general as the specific impulse (newton-seconds per kg) of a propulsion system increases, the absolute thrust (Newtons) tends to decrease, making the sort of propulsion systems you'd want for interplanetary transport utterly unsuitable for rapid-deployment missiles. Witness ion drives, the best propulsion system we have for interplanetary rocketry - for a given mass of drive and fuel they can accelerate to *much* higher speeds than chemical rockets, but it takes much longer to get there. That's a winning combination when you're talking about having to cover the millions or billions of miles between planets, but the Eart is only a few thousand miles around - interplanetary drives will barely even be getting warmed up in that time scale. Even a hundredfold increase in absolute thrust - enough to make the entire solar system readily accessible to manned exploration on a timescale of months, would still be insufficient to even get a rocket off the ground - .1G acceleration for weeks on end will get you to insane speeds, but only if you don't have ten times that force keeping you in place.

        Moreover, the single biggest cost of surface-to-orbit rocketry, the one area where missile technology is more likely to be applicable, is in the cost of the rocket itself (>90% by some estimates), making reusable rockets the watchword of the day, a concept utterly inapplicable to a system designed to explode as violently as possible at it's destination. As for the potential of cheaper disposable tech, getting to orbital altitude and back down again takes only a few percentage of the amount of energy it takes to actually reach orbital velocity once at altitude - if powered by magical massless pixie dust the missile would still have to be over ten times larger to reach orbit, add the diminishing returns of real-world fuel and you're likely talking at least 20-50x larger. And that's just to deliver the same tiny warhead - thanks to those diminishing returns on fuel delivering a useful payload of 10x the mass is going to take considerably more than 10x the rocket. It's not impossible that we might make some missile-based advances in rocketry that will scale to orbital rockets 500x as large, but it's unlikely they'll hold a candle to the advances that 1/100th of the funding would have returned on actual surface-to-orbit rocketry research.

        • by Reziac (43301) *

          How long would it take to get to Mars if one could snag the 'go fast' required quantity of fuel out of space as one went?

          • by Immerman (2627577)

            Ah %$#@!, after carefully doing the math and typing out all the details and I accidentally hit the back button. The high points were:

            It depends entirely on the acceleration of your engine. A Hellfire missile hits about 10Gs peak acceleration, if our magic rocket could keep that up indefinitely (and avoid liquifying it's occupants), then it would take only about 13 hours to reach Mars, assuming we spent the second half of the trip slowing down again so we don't arrive as a post-impact fine mist. Doing so t

            • by Reziac (43301) *

              Ah, thanks. That really puts it in perspective!

              So it sounds like (assuming some magical energy source) about 1200kwh per kg would be a decent compromise, 3-4 weeks in transit being not so onerous. Even 54 days in cramped but modern comfort doesn't sound bad compared to back-when ocean crossings.

              • by Immerman (2627577)

                Almost, but things don't scale linearly.
                Basically for a given voyage energy requirements scale linearly with acceleration (Energy = mass * acceleration * distance)
                while travel time scales with the inverse square root of acceleration. ( time = 2 * sqrt(distance) / sqrt(acceleration)
                rearranging the second we can get
                . acceleration = 4*distance / time^2
                which we can combine with the first to get the time-versus-energy equation
                . Energy = mass * [ 4*distance / time^2 ] * distance
                or
                . Energy = 4 * mass * distanc

                • by Reziac (43301) *

                  Ah, okay, I see... so it's feasible enough, if only there's some reason to GO there.

                  I'm wondering what might be on Mars that has enough value to propel someone to do it. (Now that we don't have the Cold War driving it.)

    • Re:Pointless (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @01:47PM (#45953381)

      Or, every nation building new nuclear weapons could maybe scrap the idea and work on space exploration, fusion power, renewable food production, anagathics, or a hundred other good ideas that might actually be of some use instead of a one-time "End it all in case of national butthurt" button.

      Probably 97% of humans agree with you. The problem we all face is the persistent 3% that does not.

      • Re:Pointless (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Ravaldy (2621787) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @02:25PM (#45954097)

        Yes, 97% of readers (including me) agree but when actually in the decision making seat it's different. What I mean is that defending what we already have is more important than advancement. We always work hard to protect what we have. A good example of this is insurance. We buy insurance on the most ridiculous things because we fear losing in the end. The reality is that statistically you probably would come out a winner if you didn't buy insurance or extended warranties. It's just what we do.

        My 2 cents.

      • No. 97% of the humans you talk to on a regular basis agree with the parent post. Millions and millions of people who vote do not. The members of Congress who oppose funds for space exploration and fusion power get reelected by those people.

    • work on space exploration, fusion power, renewable food production,

      You know what's even worse than working on developing weapon systems? Working on 90 years old weapon systems.

      Aircraft carriers were state of the art during WWII, today they are as obsolete as the USS Arizona was in 1941.

      What's the point is spending hundreds of billions of dollars in building sitting ducks that can be taken out by a single hypersonic missile?

      • The Gerald R Ford construction cost was 12.8 billion.

        While it would be a sitting duck in nuclear war between superpowers it wouldn't matter, because everything else would die too.

      • by gtall (79522)

        Hmmm....when did the Taliban or Saddam take out any U.S. aircraft carriers? Someone is not forwarding me the memos and I'm getting fairly pissed about it.

        • by jelizondo (183861)

          Just remember the H.M.S. Sheffield [wikipedia.org]. Big boats are indeed sitting ducks, they don't move fast enough to evade an incoming missile / torpedo and are unable to shoot them down. They can't run and they can't hide.

      • Aircraft carriers can project power and control airspace. Hypersonic missiles can't.

      • What's the point is spending hundreds of billions of dollars in building sitting ducks that can be taken out by a single hypersonic missile?

        Because the people you target with carriers don't have hypersonic missiles. The people with hypersonic missiles get threatened with MAD.

      • by TheLink (130905)
        1) Aircraft carriers near your target country halfway across the world are much better for offense than airbases in your own country.
        2) As long as Russia has nukes you do NOT want to use nukes. You do not want to even look like you are launching ICBMs. So what are your options if you want to attack another country?

        So for a country that wishes to "project power" aka attack other countries, aircraft carriers are a requirement.

        They are stupid for defense. Plenty of other things are better bang for buck for def
      • Even if true, how many nations out there have hypersonic cruise missiles?

        This whole mentality of "it's obsolete because one of our potential enemies has something to counter it" is very much obsolete itself. Militaries of many countries these days are actually adopting new prop-driven assault aircraft based off WW2-era designs, because they are effective enough against Taliban and the like, can operate from very rough airstrips, and are cheap and easy to maintain. Are they obsolete? Not really, since they'r

    • by tomhath (637240)
      It would be nice if we could figure out a way for everyone to just get along. Unfortunately we live in the real world. China's butt is still hurting from what happened during WWII [wikipedia.org]. Would you leave your country open to something like that happening again?
      • by gtall (79522)

        Correction, the Chinese Communist Party, after sitting out WWII and letting Chiang Kai-Shek and his army do the fighting, is using WWII for nationalist fervor because the Party has no good reason to exist and the Party members know it....unless you count living like a leach on the Chinese people and funneling profits for state-owned companies into their pockets and accepting any and all graft in support of their continual protection rackets.

        • by Immerman (2627577)

          Hey, sounds like they've got a lot in common with the US and EU governments! Why are we worried about fighting again?

          Oh right, the best part about being king is crushing any other leaches that might challenge your position and then taking their stuff as spoils of war.

    • by jader3rd (2222716)

      Or, every nation building new nuclear weapons could maybe scrap the idea and work on space exploration, fusion power, renewable food production, anagathics, or a hundred other good ideas that might actually be of some use instead of a one-time "End it all in case of national butthurt" button.

      Great idea, then my country with our nuclear weapons can come it and steal your advancements.

    • by onyxruby (118189)

      Of course your conveniently forgetting the largest period of relative peace the world has ever known came about because of nuclear weapons hanging over peoples heads. I'm fairly certain the cost of another world war would pretty quickly outweigh the costs of nuclear arms.

      Let's not forget that tens of millions were killed in world wars before nuclear weapons were around and countless millions that have been slaughtered with conventional arms. I know it kills your hyperbole, but reality is like that.

    • Re:Pointless (Score:4, Informative)

      by daem0n1x (748565) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @02:51PM (#45954589)

      Forget it.

      Boys like to compete with each other by comparing dick sizes. This is just the grown up version of it. Big boys playing with their big dicks of mass destruction.

      • by TeknoHog (164938)
        The scientists' version of this cockfight is, of course, the Large Hardon Collider. Also don't forget Formula One Grand Pricks.
        • by daem0n1x (748565)

          But those are useful and don't kill people (well, F1 kills one from time to time, but they know their risks).

    • by s122604 (1018036)
      Peaceful science is for fagz
    • by grumpyman (849537)
      There's no need to build arm unless, some other bigger nation actually does come in and "liberate" your country (and your resources).
  • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @01:24PM (#45952979)

    Rapid delivery of lots of money into giant contracting company's pockets.

    • by Gothmolly (148874)

      Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.

      You need some way of draining excess capital and manpower if you want to stay on top of your population.

    • by pablo_max (626328) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @02:06PM (#45953715)

      In the USA that would, without question be true.
      Remember, President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned the U.S. about the "military–industrial complex" in his farewell address. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military%E2%80%93industrial_complex [wikipedia.org]
      And, just as he foretold, it has come to pass.
      The internal economic situation in China however, is different. I do much work in China and have a lot of close friends there. Several are actually pretty high up in the PRC Army. There is certainly corruption, but it is a different kind. This is more of the bribes kind which is common in the east.
      As I heard from my friends, regarding new weapons, someone will think of something that they want and say to such and such department...build this thing now and do not fail to build it.
      There is a strange mix of capitalistic and communistic economic policies at play and so it is hard to gauge cost overruns like in the west. In any case, weapons development is not about filling the pockets of your brother in-law but about fulfilling the request from the military. Now, if you are in charge of the project, that is not to say your brother in-law does not now have a good chance to fill his pockets.

    • by gtall (79522)

      Not really, nukes are cheap, and an armada of these weapons would be cheap as well. The expensive part of the U.S. military is the personnel. Large companies cannot exist on DoD dime, they are too big. The smaller ones won't be developing these kinds of weapons. The U.S. military structure passed you by about 30 years ago.

  • by fredrated (639554) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @01:29PM (#45953049) Journal

    Collective insanity? Is there no defense for that?

  • When Vermont Attacks (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @01:30PM (#45953065) Homepage Journal

    Who here believes that Vermont would maintain a huge hypersonic nuclear missile delivery system?

    The danger to human society is these huge nation-states. The only rational thing to do is to reduce the size of these states to the point where they don't pose such risks. Yeah, that's a hard planet-wide challenge, and we have a few of them to contend with, but articles like these show that there's still far too much effort going into the wrong projects.

    It might take more courage to make these required changes than currently exists within humanity.

    • The only rational thing to do is to reduce the size of these states to the point where they don't pose such risks.

      Then we could have hundreds of little wars, like we had in the Middle Ages and Wars of Religion - think of the fun if Vermont and New Hampshire went to war, while California was busy conquering Oregon, And New York trying to annex Jersey.

      Extend that all over the world, and we could have great fun adding to the history books...

      • Then we could have hundreds of little wars, like we had in the Middle Ages and Wars of Religion - think of the fun if Vermont and New Hampshire went to war, while California was busy conquering Oregon, And New York trying to annex Jersey.

        Yes, just look at all the little wars going on all over Europe - why Switzerland is massing its forces on the border of Liechtenstein as we speak!

        Seriously, though, the only reasons nations go to war are economic calamity or power-aspirations of the government. The more s

    • And how exactly are you going to enforce that? Even assuming you could wave a magic wand in the air and make it happen tomorrow, as soon as a few of those small states realize that they can gang up and steamroll over others together, you basically have your large empire back.

      Indeed, what you describe has existed historically in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire, and elsewhere in similar circumstances. And, in all cases, those small states were eventually unified into something bigger. Heck, all the

  • by xtal (49134) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @01:38PM (#45953215)

    Nobody remembers the cold war, except the old fogies. I'm an old fogie now, I guess.

    Look kids - every day there are thousands of nuclear missiles aimed at cities in an uneasy truce to ensure that our governments maintain control. It's easy to pretend power doesn't matter, but let's be clear: Power is everything, and the power of the western world is enforced under threat of nuclear annihilation if we're messed with.

    That's never going to change, and it's better to accept it and deal with it than pretend China and the USA and Russia will one day magically extinguish Prometheus' flames.

    I hope they enjoyed the time not worrying about the bomb. As global energy resources (OIL) get tight, you'll see more of this type of thing starting up until the war is on again.

    How'd that line go? Oh yeah. Judgement Day is inevitable.

    • The annual number of people died from war nosedived directly as a result of MAD.

      Nuclear weapons are what ended WWII.

      Oil production hasn't even peaked yet. Why are you already talking about a decline?
  • by Frans Faase (648933) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @01:40PM (#45953229) Homepage
    Why this arms race? There can only be one reason: access to natural resources. Some natural resources (such as cheap fossile fuels) are on the decline, and China wants to keeps ite growing population happy, otherwise those in power might lose their position. The other superpowers also want to keep their positions. Cheap natural resources (ranging from water to fossile fuels to rare earth metals) are an essential fact for a healthy economy.
  • 'I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.'
                                                                                                    ---Albert Einstein

  • Yay, another Cold War! Now we can rebuild our economy!

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Yay, another Cold War! Now we can rebuild our economy!

      Let's borrow money from the Russians to do it with, they're the only suckers who we haven't borrowed 2 trillion dollars from, yet.

    • Amish style perhaps.

      Let me clue you and everyone else on slashdot. Everything critical to modern civilization depends on the ICs (microchip). EMPs from a thermonuclear bomb makes recovery next to impossible. I say that because unlike a hurricane where it can take 1/4 to 1 year to cleanup and resume like normal, the effects of an EMP are permanent and indiscriminate. After most people die off within the first few weeks of due to little access of fresh water (pumps are down, reserves used up, fights over bott

  • by lagomorpha2 (1376475) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @02:03PM (#45953649)

    Poor 3dfx, "hypersonic GLIDE vehicle" would have been a much better name than Voodoo 3.

  • The 3rd Straight of Taiwan crisis put a giant butthurt on China.

    I would say a LARGE part of their military build has to do with preventing any such humiliation like that from happening again.

    Think of what people in the US would be doing if something like that happened off the shores of North America.

  • by paiute (550198) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @03:27PM (#45955325)
    What is the time now that a nation has to decide if incoming ICBMs are real or a computer or sensor glitch? Because you have to launch before the other guy's warheads go off among your silos or make an EMP over your head - use them or lose them.

    http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/near-launching-of-russian-nukes [history.com]

    Now what if everyone has the new fast weapons which cut your decision time from minutes to seconds?

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