Powered by TypePad

« Editorializing From The Financial Capital Of The World | Main | Fun With Adobe, or, When Is A Redaction Not A Redaction »

April 23, 2010



Rail Gun?

Old Lurker

A small point is that this is probably not a missle, rather the air breathing RAM Jet hypersonic vehicle that has been on the boards and which has been looking for budget money.

The larger point is the usual Obama scam: Install poison pills in programs he does not like, but at the same time back a flawed "even better" idea so as to dodge the political pain. We see it everywhere: dropping the missles in Poland etc for a "cheaper faster more relaible alternative" that somehow escaped that idiot Bush. Or: let's install a new and better insurance overlay to healthcare so existing arrangements can be abrogated, know full well that the new plan will crash and burn soon so he can get the single payer plan he wanted all along.

This story is just another one of those.

So far the muddle and the media let him get away with it.


I'll second that, OL.

In any event re any program this Administration is in charge of, the operative words for me are "what could go wrong?" (Because if it can, it will.)


Is this the student council?
Am I in my home room?
When is Model U. N.?

Anything that is not a naked power grab is so puerile and fanciful that it cannot be successfully parodied. How do you use this on SNL?



I referred to you in my latest at You Too. I finally got the Andy Stern reference. Let me know if you want a different link.


There is a maxim that applies to intercontinental missiles. "One flies, they all fly." This has been tested in wargames with presidents of both parties, and has been demonstrated to be universally true, no matter how you cook the situations.

"Use it or Lose it" rules, and the momentum of the system gets inside the decision loop, frighteningly quickly.

Richard W

Hmmm... under an hour. You mean, like the amount of time for a satellite to swing into and adjusted orbit? Or something the Air Force could launch in a shuttle like unmanned vehicle? I'm just asking...

Mark Buehner

One Ohio class submarine can obliterate 200 enemy cities from safely under the ice cap. Are we seriously worried about preemption? How much rubble do you need to bounce?

Scott M

Anyone assuming that the Bush administration, or any administration, would just go, "ok, well, if the Russians don't want us to have it, we'll just not do it", seems to be somewhere in the neighborhood of naive.

Even if they said that, I'm willing to be there's a black budget project somewhere that just rolled right on ahead. Saying it's land-based may be completely misleading, as is probably the date it's supposed to be operational.

Who knows what that spaceplane thingie (very cool, by the way) is doing? Maybe the whole thing is orbital-based and the Air Force is just getting started.

Pat Patterson

I suspect that the current administration thinks that Hermann Kahn is Ricardo Montalban's younger brother from Star Trek.


Thor's Hammer, a kinetic energy weapon, a steel telephone pole dropped on your head from orbit. This weapon system has been promoted by Dr. Jerry Pournelle, and his conservative cred cannot be brushed aside, for as long as I can remember (late 60s anyway).


Reform by stealth. First get rid of conventional nucs because the new approach is better, then say the new ones have to go because they are too _______ (fill in the blank) and suddenly, Poof! We are no longer a nuclear power. Old Lurker hit it in his post.

Christopher Fotos

There's this


Popular Mechanics

Which launched Thursday, with the Air Force saying it's not a weapon....



X-37 just launched for the first time.

I would love to see a kinetic weapon dropped from orbit...

Makes one think...

Warren Bonesteel

Heh. Russia's SS-27 Topol missile can already do that.

China 'discovered' the same technology a couple of years ago...from the Russians.


Well I don't know about you knuckleheads, but...I'm preserving all my precious body fluids, just in case.

Warren Bonesteel

The term you're looking for is 'hypersonic missile.'

Scuttlebutt claims about the Russian version is that it can hit mach seven or above, from a ground-based, in-atmosphere launch and delivery. iow, it doesn't have to go orbital to reach those speeds.


No problem with it, Jane.


I think Demver's got it: God's Rods. Inert tungsten rods waiting in orbit for a launch signal. Their kinetic energy would do serious damage to just about anything. F


OT: More evidence that Dr Ivins was not responsible for the anthrax attacks on US soil.

Of course, we had the crack FBI investigators on this. And of course, if it wasn't Ivins, we'd return to the first and most likely suspect:The late Saddam Hussein.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/23/us/23anthrax.html?ref=science>Ivins couldn't have done it


very large objects traveling in the range of 15,000-17,000mph are going to set off alarms all over the world, regardless of origin.

Then again, cruise missiles are perfectly capable of carrying nuclear warheads and have been repeatedly used. Surface to surface missiles can accomplish the same thing. There are many conventional options, and all might work in such a manner. We've been working on hypersonics since the 1960's so these would be available as well.There are many delivery options.

The real question is warheads. We have been working on some new very high energy explosives and packages, as well as bunkerbusters that can penetrate several hundred feet before detonation. Whether they can be effective against the Iranian bunkers is currently unknown.

There are people working on these wonderful toys all over the country every day.


you don't need telephone sized kinetic orbiting weapons. Crowbar sized, or anyway 6 foot long by 2 inch diameter, would wreak havoc on anything it hit, and lots of them could pretty much destroy a pretty large area. Plus they're all but impossible to stop [or even dodge if they have chip-based guidance and even minimal maneuvering capacity] even if you see them coming.

Scary stuff, indeed, if you're possibly on the receiving end. NK really, really would be unhappy with this as it would pretty much eliminate its army as a weapon. I don't know about the mullahs.


Hypersonic missle? Guys, there's no atmosphere, hence no hypersonic until you hit about sixty miles. In orbit, you can cover the world. If you're not boosting in atmospheric drag, you can achieve enormous velocities. So think of a bunch of ceramically coated tungsten ball bearings. Orbital shotgun. Impact about twenty seconds after launch. Wipe the vehicle during initial boost. Orbital parameters sufficiently high that you don't have to retarget a satellite, just launch. Solid fuel naturallement. So that about takes care of the ayatollahs and their delivery system. And they launched the X37...interesting? I wonder if this isn't a message to the Russians and Chinese to stop helping N. Korea and Iran, waste of money, since it won't do them any good anyway, and the solution has been sitting on a shelf waiting. It's a response to an enemy who can't be effectively deterred, but has a limited delivery capability. Unfortunately, there's a corollary: you can still deliver by sneaking a weapon in. Now what about that border control?


"...capable of reaching any corner of the earth from the United States in under an hour."

Or perhaps from space?


Perhaps someone read Marc Stiegler's _David's Sling_.


This supposed to be a mach-5 cruise missile.

I could see why the Russians might think we could/would put a nuke on one of these .. and get mighty pissed.

The only upside is that, with these around, they might not think too much about the "ABM" systems ... Oh, it would make them even more pissed.

Barry Soetoro (D-King Of The World!)

The system is comprised of sharks with LASER's on their heads. Trust me I know about these things.

OsamaHusseinIslamObama 2012′
(the terrorist-Uighur-ACORN-media choice)
-It’s never too early to campaign-


The far more likely Adminstration plan is to use the potential of the new strike weapon as a reason for supporting the dismantling of our nuclear deterrent.

Then, they won't build the new weapon.


I love the speculation. Is this like when Clinton shot a missile at some tents the day his girlfriend went to the grand jury?

If the government really wants to be secret about something, can't it launch from the desert and hold the press release pictures?


Nick Tesla--HAARP--Death Ray
factor in Boxing Day

When you really think about it Nuclear Weapons are 1940s Technology. Of course we have something better.

Quilly Mammoth

Actually, the X-37 would be perfect for Pournelle's "crowbars". The whole idea is that such weapons do not fall under SALT II. Pournelle and Niven shows how it is done in "Footfall" where such a weapon system makes quick work of an American Armor Division.


Launch of the X37 with some press (but minimal details) was choreographed to send subtle messages to others; bet on it.


These missiles have another, IMHO more important side. Like ICBMs, their development has alot of civilian possibilities.

Simulations suggest they could be the first really practical spaceplanes, using waverider tech, only now practical due to high-speed computer simulations.

The Shuttle's cost got out of control because they didn't realize how hard and expensive keeping ultrafast planes from burning up in atmosphere would be; Shuttle should've been done as an exploratory X-project before committing the US' manned space future to it. Well, you've gotta wonder if a waverider ramjet shuttle and suborbital planes are possibilities now.

I just hope the President's been briefed on said other possibilities.


was choreographed to send subtle messages to others

Ding, ding, ding!

This is Barry telling the world he has a gun in his pocket and they'd better straighten up RIGHT NOW.

Let's see how many do.

Further, a weapon is only as good as the willingness of the person wielding it to pull the trigger. Waving a gun in someone's face to scare them off is a great way to get shot first.


An hour, huh? Enough time to get to redneck hayseed gun totin' religious wacko tea party middle America? Hmmmmm.


If President Clinton can launch a missile up a camel's posterior, then claim he did everything he could to get bin Laden, I am quite certain that President Obama can do something at least as impressive.

The media will be impressed, anyway. Whatever he does or says.

M. Report

Non-nuclear one hour delivery ?

Demver is right; It is some variation on
an exo-atmospheric sub-orbital kinetic kill
weapon, with a yield roughly equal to the
mass of the projectile (~1 Ton of TNT);
The projectile and the target get turned
into plasma, leaving a nice clean crater,
hot enough to provide an aim point for the
next round; Drill as deep as needed.

I would suggest firing three at a time, and
coating them with ablative phosphors to give
a red, white, and blue tracer effect. :)

_Of_Course_ the Russians, and every other
Nuclear armed Bad Actor on the planet says
they are destabilizing, in an attempt to run
a bluff good enough to frighten the US people
into preventing their deployment:
'Just put down the gun, and then we'll talk.'


US lag way behind Russia, China, and India in supersonic and currently hypersonic cruise missiles, such as Oniks, Granit, C-803, YJ-91, BrahMos, or Shaurya.

Such weapons are the non-symmetric answer to US supercarriers dominance in open sea.

As for X-37, take a look at Russian program at LUN.


The system in question is not the X-37. On the same day that system launched the Air Force launched a Minotaur IV Lite missile (basically an old Peacekeeper ICBM) with an HTV-2 payload (Hypersonic Test Vehicle). The HTV-2 is like a ballistic reentry vehicle with similar flight characteristics of a MaRV or CAV.

We should not so readily dismiss the potential for a weapon like this to target places like Iran or North Korea. I urge everyone to go to the National Academy Press website and download their recent study on conventional prompt global strike.

Tom Billings

The objections to fast non-nuclear strike have been around for decades. While some have been consistently unimaginative in what these technological systems should do, another thread is even more consistent. It is the idea that fast non-nuclear strike is destabilizing.

This ignores, as the current administration attempts to do, the defensive half of the military equation. Whether it is Kostas Tsipis fudging the numbers over space-based ballistic missile defense in the 1980s, or the willingness 8 years later to kill a program making installation of such defenses cheaper, the real fears get hidden in fallacious argument about destabilization.

The next incarnation of military spaceflight after non-nuclear hyper-sonic strike or non-nuclear ICBM strike, or orbital kinetic energy strikes, or orbital BMD is feared to be a US Space Force, to keep others from interfering with the initial capability. *That* is a continuing theme in opposition to these options for strategic strike. A Space Force in the 21st Century will make the US Air Force's present budget look picayune within 20 years of its commencement.

That would exclude the option of taking the US to a fully realized EU-style socialist democratic utopia.

Therefore every step towards it must be fought tooth and nail. Thus, it is not too odd that Gates is not talking about the need for the complementary defensive activities in BMD on orbit. Similarly all are mum on the reactions to those capabilities by others which will culminate in a US Space Force, because the non-nuclear strike and complementary BMD will be opposed
by Space Forces from other countries.

The comments to this entry are closed.