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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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  • by pablo_max (626328) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:16AM (#38098420)

    It is clear that this is not a "first" strike weapon. The summation is correct, it is simply a "surprise" strike weapon. Which is OK, because, hey, who does not like surprises!?

    • by ArcherB (796902)

      It is clear that this is not a "first" strike weapon. The summation is correct, it is simply a "surprise" strike weapon. Which is OK, because, hey, who does not like surprises!?

      This weapon could be first strike, second strike, or any other strike. The US Military is hoping that this is a LAST Strike weapon.

      Still, I say we should invest heavily into Rods from God [wikipedia.org].

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:28AM (#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.

      • by Chrisq (894406) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:42AM (#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.

        • LOL (Score:4, Funny)

          by DarthVain (724186) on Friday November 18, 2011 @02:07PM (#38100848)

          Big difference between becoming a nuclear power and having ICBM capability. Even the USA back in the day had nukes long before being able to create the ICBM delivery system.

          Just look at North Korea and their failures. Making an ICBM isn't easy by any stretch. Actually it was only a few years ago that Iran got caught trying to fake its failed rocket experiments with bad photoshoping... If they are 10 years from nuclear, they are an additional 20 for ICBM technology. It is after all, rocket science... :)

      • by zill (1690130) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:59AM (#38099056)
        I'm sorry I don't follow your logic. What's stopping these from becoming nuclear armed? Absolutely nothing.
      • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Friday November 18, 2011 @12:12PM (#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 Eunuchswear (210685) on Friday November 18, 2011 @01:07PM (#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 jamrock (863246) on Friday November 18, 2011 @02:01PM (#38100788)
          I agree with you completely, and it could get much, much worse for the people who have to defend against these weapons if they are deployed from the launch tubes of attack submarines. Then defenders will be faced with a hypersonic weapon that suddenly pops up thousands of miles closer to an intended target than expected than if they were land based. The warning window will be much smaller, and the direction of attack may be completely unexpected.

          Interestingly, the political value of this weapon system may far outweigh its military utility. Just knowing that the US has these weapons, especially sub-launched versions, will force potential adversaries to rethink their entire defensive strategy, possibly futilely. They'd have to extend their radar coverage and air defenses to all possible avenues of approach to lucrative targets, or relocate those high-value assets, or both, along with the necessary extensions of command and control infrastructure, and swallow the concomitant expense associated with any of those decisions. The very existence of such a system could force an adversary to the realization that a viable defense against it is neither militarily nor economically feasible.
        • by DarthVain (724186)

          to be fair the USA also had infantry fired tactical nuclear weapons...

          You could put anything into it that fits the payload, be it nukes to a bag of tomatoes.

          Anyway if I were another country that had been at odds with the US, I would be ticked. Particularly with the whole, disarmament thing, and no space weapons thing, and hostile actions thing.

          This looks like a mineshaft gap to me.

        • by wisebabo (638845) on Friday November 18, 2011 @03:10PM (#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).

      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        Yep you have got to love this line "but even the commenters don't think that explanation flies."
        Because commenters or such trusted sources.
        The nuclear powers like Russia will know this isn't a nuclear armed ICBM since they will be part of an inspection protocol. Also these are so not "stealthy" to any of the major powers. They launch will have your typical IR bloom and then the rest of the flight will also shine very bright in IR. Space based systems will have no problem seeing these and compared to the fli

      • by Mista2 (1093071)

        And we know it can't carry a nuke just because they said so? What about a chemical weapon? Why do they think this won't lead to another Cuban missile crisis?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      While I suspect that you are joking, 'surprise' is really more 'first-strike' than mere 'first-strike' is.

      Nobody, as yet, has any anti-ICBM interception capabilities that aren't wildly overpriced, oversold, toys; but detecting their approach and performing whatever melodramatic Big Red Button sequence your own launch systems require before they arrive is pretty doable. It's sort of the whole point of 'deterrence' and people keeping their second strike systems nice and shiny.

      To the degree that this de
      • by geekoid (135745)

        NO, surprise is surprise. It can be first strike, or in the middle of a war.

        First strike is about specific tactical and strategic advancement. It's all about announcement of the beginning of violent action.
        While it could be used for that, we have better weaponry in our arsenal.

        And nuclear usage? seriously, we have better delivery for that as well. HOWEVER, nuclear is a deterrent. Having a surprise nuclear weapon is not a deterrent. Even that assumes the payload and certain controls need for a nuclear strike

    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Friday November 18, 2011 @12:10PM (#38099242)

      It is clear that this is not a "first" strike weapon. The summation is correct, it is simply a "surprise" strike weapon. Which is OK, because, hey, who does not like surprises!?

      Like Jesus said, "Do unto others before they do unto you."

  • Stealth rockets (Score:2, Interesting)

    by swinferno (1212408)
    Amazing the USA still has the funds allocated to develop such things
    • Re:Stealth rockets (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:34AM (#38098680) Journal
      As long as people are willing to lend you money, you have funds...
      • ...and people are willing to lend you money, as long as you have the ability to put a nuke anywhere on the planet with a couple of hours. So you see, this *is* part of a sound fiscal policy!
    • by Kronotross (1671418) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:58AM (#38099036)
      We may not have the best healthcare, education, economy, spaceflight resources, elderly care, poverty rates, or political climate, but you better believe we have all of the time, energy, and funding in the world when it comes to bombs. Maybe it's because it's one of the few things at which we're still number one. U S A! U S A! U S A!
    • Re:Stealth rockets (Score:4, Insightful)

      by flaming error (1041742) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:59AM (#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.

      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        by blueg3 (192743)

        Nobody even knows how many foreign bases the USA has

        I'm certain there are people in the US government who know how many foreign bases the US has.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by geekoid (135745)

        If you focus on just two things in the world, then you are an idiot.

      • Only 62 more to go!

        the pope might have an issue...

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

        by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Friday November 18, 2011 @02:18PM (#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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by tokul (682258)

      Amazing the USA still has the funds

      Printing presses still work.

    • by daem0n1x (748565)
      There are always funds available to things that matter: Killing people, specially a shitload of them. Fuck the economy.
  • by Rockoon (1252108) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:17AM (#38098442)
    I don't see how my side having the capability to make "surprise, asymmetric attacks" could be considered a bad thing on its own. Whats the price tag?
    • by rickb928 (945187)

      Don't focus on price, focus on savings. As in lives.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:43AM (#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 Nadaka (224565) on Friday November 18, 2011 @12:18PM (#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 Hentes (2461350)

        Which is why I never understood why does the US put so much energy trying to build a rocket defence system. Do they really want a nuclear war? Or is it just another bluff like SDI?

        This rocket seems somewhat less aggressive, as I don't think it is capable of preventing a retaliation. Even if it manages to destroy the rocket sites, there are nukes on planes, subs and Russia even has nuclear trains.

        • I'm not an expert by any means; but I get the impression that there are a few different camps behind the idea:

          You have the optimists and the true believers(frequently identifiable by the PNAC affiliation on their CV, and/or the ability to use "hyperpower" and "Full Spectrum Dominance" with a straight face, or the belief that the 'uni-polar world' was a permanent condition), who seem to actually think that we can build a fully functional SDI system, at which point we can finally tell the commies to suck i
          • by geekoid (135745)

            Missile bases are about an expanding China. We don't want bases in Iraq because of Iran, we want them there because China will need to expand and acquire resources.

        • by bolthole (122186) on Friday November 18, 2011 @01:33PM (#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.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        You're missing the key piece. Maintain communication between all the actors.

      • by cdrguru (88047)

        Big problem is that neither of these is true today. A bomb on a ship could easily take out any harbor-centric city and would be undetected until it went off. Assuming the ship was some random contract freight carrier there could be no attribution. And there is nothing the US could do about it.

        90% of the "advances" in nuclear weapons since around 1955 have been making them smaller, lighter and more controllable. Dial-a-yield type devices are really tricky. Making a 500kt bomb that is the size of a small

    • Try telling all your friends that you may one day kill them in their sleep.

      • by Pope (17780)

        Well, son, all you need to be is willing to do it. And I'm willing to do it! Plus, I have quiet shoes...

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      If it can ruin mutually assured destruction, some countries might try to prevent mass deployment of it by a preemptive strike. Although I admit that this is very unlikely.

    • by ukemike (956477)

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

      What side is that? The side of the war mongers? The side of death and destruction? The side of global empire by way of threats of devastating violence? The side of the great and merciful God who will wipe out the heretics, pagans, and idolators? Or maybe just the side of the fearful.

      The price tag is violence, death, fear, hatred, massively imbalanced economies, the domination of our democracy by the military-industrial complex, and terrorism. The worst part of the price tag is the fact that when we

  • WOW (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    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!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Black Parrot (19622)

      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.

      • by Bucky24 (1943328)
        I suspect that all rusty bridge and pothole contractors who ARE traded on Wall Street are already over in Iraq repairing the rusty bridges and potholes there.
    • Not useless.
      • 1. This would reduce the intel to strike time from days to hours (missile cruisers would no longer have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to strike a target)
      • 2. It can be launched from within the continental US, which means little or no overseas deployment would be necessary to use it - i.e., no risk to navy personnel.
      • 3. I would not be misinterpreted as an ICBM by Russia, China, et al, because it has a very different trajectory and signature (it is a passive glider for a large portio
  • by Anonymous Coward

    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 G3ckoG33k (647276) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:22AM (#38098518)

    Saab tests hypersonic missile news (http://www.domain-b.com/defence/def_prod/20071228_saab.html)
    28 December 2007
    In an advanced test, Swedish conglomerate Saab, launched three hypersonic missiles to demonstrate controlled flight at extreme speeds. The missile, of which three were built, was test fired at maximum velocity, exceeding Mach 5.5, corresponding to 6500 km/h. Saab Bofors Dynamics, a subsidiary, developed the experimental missile, in a technology programme financed by the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV). The successful test makes Saab the first company to demonstrate that it is possible to manoeuvre missiles at hypersonic speed.

    Don't worry. This is not part of what was sold to China...

  • by StillNeedMoreCoffee (123989) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:30AM (#38098622)

    Another big Wack a Mole hammer. I can never win at Wack a Mole why does the Defense Department think they will be able to?

    • by Dishevel (1105119) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:46AM (#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.

      • by aicrules (819392)
        actually the IDEAL situation is to balance speed with coverage. Just because a whack-a-mole game assumes you have one hammer, doesn't mean it wouldn't be most effective to have a hammer for every hole that hit simultaneously so that you can spam-slam and win. I don't think what I'm saying is at all pro or anti government, but I'll gladly take one side or the other.
      • by rubycodez (864176)
        helpless brown moles who can't retaliate against the defense contractor headquarters and stockholders are the main thing.

        We are not fighting anyone in afghanistan nor iraq who attacked us, they left years ago. Instead we label as "taliban" and "insurgents" any disgruntled resident who doesn't want our version of "democracy at gunpoint"
    • Get a big enough hammer and you can reduce the entire Wack a Mole machine to splinters. Unfortunately in this analogy the machine itself roughly translates to being the entire international community.

    • by tgd (2822)

      Another big Wack a Mole hammer. I can never win at Wack a Mole why does the Defense Department think they will be able to?

      I'm not sure I'd equate anyone else's level of coordination with your lack of it.

      My five year old nephew has no problems with whack-a-mole.

      And I suspect a hypersonic cruise missile would also work effectively against it.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      I win at Whack a mole. Maybe that's because I am faster then you. Hmm, faster the you means I win, I wonder how that could be applied to the current conversation?

  • by ciderbrew (1860166) on Friday November 18, 2011 @11:56AM (#38098988)
    I did a google search for the mph and a lot of results came back. News sites being the most inaccurate I expect. I've seen results between 4,000 & 5000 mph posted. I would take the average at 4,500 mph; but instead I've decided Mach 6 is very fast. Not as fast as light; but still really fast. I've given up until the neutrino faster than light thing gets fixed. It's Friday and two hours until beer o'clock?
  • So, if the booster is big enough, can they use this thing with a MOP as a payload?

    http://news.slashdot.org/story/11/11/17/1445237/boeing-delivers-massive-ordnance-penetrator [slashdot.org]

    A big 30,000 warhead designed to blow up things DEEP underground might even do a better job if delivered at hypersonic speeds, think "rods from god". (It'll have to be redisgned to take the much higher impact speed but that's what engineers are for!) The fact that it is delivered on a (much) more expensive booster is mitigated by the f

    • Oh, I forgot. This, by the way reminds me of what the Nazi's tried to do with the Sanger(?) "skip bomber" which when launched by a sub-orbital V-2 would send a manned (one pilot) space-craft skipping across the upper atmosphere to bomb targets on the other side of the planet.

      Of course since they didn't have guidance technology good enough, it had to be manned, and because thy didn't have big enough boosters it had to be sub-orbital, and because they didn't have THE BOMB it was hardly worth it just to drop

  • I was reading an article at some point in the past few months about a hyper-sonic missile type device. Except this one went up and above the atmosphere. It skimmed across the top layer of the atmosphere like a stone skipping on a lake, then it re-entered when it neared its target.

    It was so fast, that the military who launched it couldn't even track it.

    If the USA military builds and lunches a missile that is so fast that they cannot even track it, I wonder how one defends against it.

    My guess is we'll see mor

  • by example in america, and after our example faltered we lead by decree. it seems we're just leading by military engagement these days.
    the biggest threat to america is not from an attacking foreign power, but that it as a superpower will become irrelevant in the twenty first century.
  • *WHOOSH* (Score:5, Funny)

    by qubex (206736) on Friday November 18, 2011 @12:56PM (#38099870) Homepage

    Finally a slashdot article that doesn’t go *WHOOSH* over my head.

  • by itamblyn (867415) on Friday November 18, 2011 @01:33PM (#38100404) Homepage
    I remember reading several months ago that this was being developed in response to the Al-Qaeda leadership hunting that was going on in Afghanistan. Apparently there were cases where the U.S. had intel (via satellite) about targets, and the only option that would have been fast enough to be useful was nuclear (and therefore was not an option). This weapon allows the U.S. to deploy the equivalent of a conventional aerial strike without the time required for a plane / drone to fly there.
  • by braindrainbahrain (874202) on Friday November 18, 2011 @03:04PM (#38101566)
    Am I the only one that noticed that the ABC News Video [go.com] in the original post has a video of the wrong weapon?

    Said video is an animation of the Falcon HTV-2 [wikipedia.org] which was tested several weeks ago [csmonitor.com].

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