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The Military Science

US Army Completes First Test Flight of Mach 6 Weapon 230

Posted by Soulskill
from the for-warmaking-on-the-go dept.
Stirling Newberry writes "In a terse press release, the U.S. Department of Defense announced the first test of the the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon, which launches on a staged rocket and then glides to its target, in a manner similar to the Space Shuttle's re-entry. Earlier, ABC News posted a story with a video animation of the concept. Over at DefenseTech, they argue that the trajectory being different from an ICBM is meant to show that it is not a first strike device, but even the commenters don't think that explanation flies. The speed of deployment and the ability to strike targets without going high enough to be seen by many advance warning radars makes it a precision surprise attack weapon, a kind of super-cruise-missile for surprise, asymmetric attacks."
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US Army Completes First Test Flight of Mach 6 Weapon

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  • WOW (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, 2011 @10:19AM (#38098474)

    We can spend billions of dollars for useless weapons, but can't bother to spend the necessary money to keep our infrastructure from crumbling. What a fine use of our tax dollars!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, 2011 @10:20AM (#38098490)

    I don't get it. Element of surprise is is a war tactician's wet dream.... Sun Tzu and all that jazz.

    Besides, a sniper on the rooftop could be a first strike too, you know.

  • by f8l_0e (775982) on Friday November 18, 2011 @10:26AM (#38098572)
    They may not have been surprised by the counterstrike, but I'm sure they were surprised with the scale.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, 2011 @10:28AM (#38098604)

    The summary was off, as usual. It is clear that this it not a NUCLEAR first-strike weapon. The idea obviously being it won't scream ICBM and, presumably, if you were going to launch a nuclear first strike, it wouldn't be started with just one or two of these. Sure, if you want to take out the leadership of, say, Iraq, at the start of a war, you could consider it first strike, but that's not the concern.

  • Re:Stealth rockets (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday November 18, 2011 @10:34AM (#38098680) Journal
    As long as people are willing to lend you money, you have funds...
  • by Chrisq (894406) on Friday November 18, 2011 @10:42AM (#38098770)

    The summary was off, as usual. It is clear that this it not a NUCLEAR first-strike weapon. The idea obviously being it won't scream ICBM and, presumably, if you were going to launch a nuclear first strike, it wouldn't be started with just one or two of these. Sure, if you want to take out the leadership of, say, Iraq, at the start of a war, you could consider it first strike, but that's not the concern.

    I can see the theory. In a world where rogue states have ICBMs if the Russians see one of these heading over they can say "Ah that's just our friends the Americans taking out some Afghans, not an Iranian loony attacking us". It only works if the countries trust each other - and know that the Americans wouldn't put a nuclear warhead in one and aim it at Russia.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday November 18, 2011 @10:43AM (#38098780) Journal

    I don't see how my side having the capability to make "surprise, asymmetric attacks" could be considered a bad thing on its own.

    It's a cold war thing: The theory is that, as long as you have two or more nuclear powers who potentially would like to see the others enjoy a dose of thermonuclear holocaust; but definitely don't want one themselves, the situation is stable so long as two rules hold:

    1. Launching a nuclear delivery vehicle is visible and attributable.

    2. It is not possible to neutralize(either through surprise strike on launch sites, or through anti-missile defenses that actually work) another party's nuclear delivery capability.

    If those two hold, everybody just announces that they are far to nice to perform a first strike; but they will second-strike like a crazy motherfucker if anybody tries anything funny. You then keep your finger on the button and stare nervously at one another for the indefinite future, which is expensive and hard on the nerves; but has so far kept global thermonuclear war to a minimum.

    Any time somebody starts working on a system that upsets these two conditions, people start to get a touch twitchy.

  • by Dishevel (1105119) on Friday November 18, 2011 @10:46AM (#38098832)

    The thing about "Wack A Mole" is that your success depends almost solely on speed.
    The thing about this missile is its SPEED.

    This is not a big hammer it is a really fast hammer.

    Exactly the type of thing you want for "Wack A Mole".

    Sorry if these facts screwed up your trite cool sounding anti government post.
    But I really think you do still need some more coffee.

  • Re:Stealth rockets (Score:4, Insightful)

    by flaming error (1041742) on Friday November 18, 2011 @10:59AM (#38099050) Journal

    The USA just opened a new military base ... in Australia. Nobody even knows how many foreign bases the USA has, but we have them in at least 130 foreign countries

    If you focus on just two things in the world, the distribution of wealth, and the distribution of military power, you may conclude like I that the US is a de facto empire, and that the world's wealth is migrating to a de facto plutocracy. I can't prove that those two situations are related, but it seems more likely they are, than not.

    Being amazed that the debt-bound USA is still developing weapons systems is like being amazed a thirsty pit bull still pisses on trees.

  • by zill (1690130) on Friday November 18, 2011 @10:59AM (#38099056)
    I'm sorry I don't follow your logic. What's stopping these from becoming nuclear armed? Absolutely nothing.
  • Re:WOW (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:01AM (#38099090)

    We can spend billions of dollars for useless weapons, but can't bother to spend the necessary money to keep our infrastructure from crumbling. What a fine use of our tax dollars!

    Presumably that's because the defense contractors that make these toys are traded on Wall Street, but most of the companies that fix rusty bridges and patch up potholes aren't.

  • Re:Stealth rockets (Score:5, Insightful)

    by berashith (222128) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:03AM (#38099136)

    these may get seized, but I imagine part of having them is that we can give them to our creditors very quickly, delivery free of charge, in less than an hour!

  • Re:Stealth rockets (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:05AM (#38099174) Journal

    "If you owe a country a billion dollars, you have a problem;
    If you owe a country a trillion dollars, they have a problem"
    -Jon Stewart

  • by Richard_at_work (517087) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .ecirpdrahcir.> on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:12AM (#38099270)

    We don't know what payload this weapon will be certified for - with cruise missiles such as the Tomahawk being certified for both the nuclear strike role and the conventional strike role, you cannot rule out the nuclear role for this weapon.

    And indeed, this would be the perfect weapon for initiating a nuclear war - launch and strike the opposing forces command structure before they are aware (as you note), just as the plan was with the B-2 Spirit - but much quicker. With this weapon you could strike a target deep within Russia, with a nuclear payload, in the same time as an ICBM could - except the opposing force doesn't get the warning they do with an ICBM.

    Launch your leadership strikes, and the moment they hit, launch your infrastructure strikes while the opposing force is headless and flailing.

    So I really wouldn't discount this as a nuclear first strike weapon, not at all.

  • by Nadaka (224565) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:18AM (#38099352)

    One problem with the US is that we have a fundamentalist christian faction that is OK with, and even eager to receive a bit of thermonuclear holocaust. For some reason, many of them are drawn to careers in the USAF, particularly the Strategic Air Command. My father was one.

  • by Eunuchswear (210685) on Friday November 18, 2011 @12:07PM (#38100042) Journal

    And indeed, this would be the perfect weapon for initiating a nuclear war - launch and strike the opposing forces command structure before they are aware (as you note), just as the plan was with the B-2 Spirit - but much quicker.

    And of course that lead to the USSR developing headless launch capabilities which, if it wasn't for Stanislav Petrov would have killed us all.

  • by bolthole (122186) on Friday November 18, 2011 @12:33PM (#38100410) Journal
    The whole "M.A.D." thing.. only works, if your counterpart, is NOT "mad". However, the strategies correctly judged that it was only a matter of time before some mad dictator got their hands on an ICBM. If you're not prepared beforehand, you're screwed. Better to be prepared before you "need" it.
  • Re:Stealth rockets (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater&gmail,com> on Friday November 18, 2011 @01:18PM (#38100964) Homepage

    The USA just opened a new military base ... in Australia. Nobody even knows how many foreign bases the USA has, but we have them in at least 130 foreign countries.

    Well, there's a pretty thorough list on Wikipedia - found trivially by googling "number of US overseas bases". But really, the US only has bases worthy of the name (I.E. supports significant operational or support capability) in only a dozen or so countries. The vast majority of US military installations overseas are nothing more than offices for military attache's or liason officers. That those looking to find reasons to complain are unaware of the difference is unsurprising.
     

    If you focus on just two things in the world, the distribution of wealth, and the distribution of military power, you may conclude like I that the US is a de facto empire

    In other words, so long as you disregard the things that actually define an empire - the US is an empire.
     

    Being amazed that the debt-bound USA is still developing weapons systems is like being amazed a thirsty pit bull still pisses on trees.

    No, being amazed that this activity is still going one is like being amazed that debt bound private individual still eats and buys clothes. I.E. it's supremely ignorant. Just because somebody or someone is in debt doesn't meant that normal activities cease.

  • by aintnostranger (1811098) on Friday November 18, 2011 @01:27PM (#38101080)

    Historically, the USA has not 'struck first. Especially in the 20th century. They have waited until they or their allies had been attacked. Veitnam war - the French were fighting there for over a decade before

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. The french were long gone from vietnam when the US got into it. Unless you want to consider attacking anyone who ever had a war with an ally not a first strike, in which case, almost any nation would be fair play. Why not invade Spain? They've had wars with England our ally! Why not invade England? They've had wars with France our ally! etc... etc... Besides, you say "allies were attacked" . Where the french attacked in indochina? Wouldn't it be more accurate to say they were resisted?

    Iraq war was a continuation of the Gulf War part 1 see above

    WTF???? a continuation? what's that? a decade later? in which international accord is that NOT a new war?? btw, the US didn't formally declare war. If any other nation other than the US had done it, their leaders would have been prosecuted as war criminals for "fighting a war of agression", same charge was used against nazi leaders. what about Grenada 1983? Panama 1989? Dominican Republic 1965? Honduras 1912? Bay of Pigs?

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Friday November 18, 2011 @02:10PM (#38101664) Journal

    While this thing might be very good for evading a country's terminal defenses (like Patriot missile batteries), there isn't any indication whatsoever that this weapon would be any more stealthy; it still uses staged launch vehicles.

    A country doesn't know it is being attacked when warheads start appearing in the skies above it, it (or at least the great powers) know it is being attacked when it sees the missiles coming out of their silos (or out of the ocean from subs). Then in the 5-30 minutes it's got, it decides whether it is a false alarm. I guess if tensions are really bad and it is SURE that this is an actual attack, it will "launch on warning" that is launch before the attacking missiles start exploding. Otherwise it'll just ride things out (that's why ground missiles are in hardened silos, bombers are aloft in time of crisis and subs are at sea) and wait to see what the "fallout" is (groan) before counter-attacking.

    What does this hypersonic warhead do to a great power other than (as I said) possibly evading terminal defenses? Nothing except get to the target slower than a ballistic missile. The launch had already been detected by infra-red sensors in orbiting satellites and the coarse trajectory already tracked by long-range radar (remember NORAD?). Since no country has a good ABM system (even the U.S. only has one capable of knocking down a few primitive missiles from rogue nations), a hypervelocity MANEUVERABLE warhead would provide no additional benefit. It would get there slower, cost more and carry less.

    For possible REAL applications think of it as a conventional weapons system of uncommon speed. (You can look at my post about marrying it with MOPs).

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