2006/08/28

The ICBM - An Essential Tool In The War On Terror?

Reuters -
Rumsfeld, after that closed-door meeting, said the
Pentagon was considering a plan to replace the nuclear warheads on some intercontinental ballistic missiles with conventional weapons, a move that would make the missiles less lethal and therefore more conceivable for politicians to use in preemptive strikes against terrorist groups.
Does anyone else find this strange? I mean...what is an ICMB? Well basically it's a big, expensive, high thrust, rocket designed to carry large, heavy payloads. Why would anyone want to use these things for conventional explosives? And contrary to what Mr. Rumsfeld says in the Reuters article, ICBMs are not easy to retarget. Ballistic trajectories require a lot of calculation, and unlike cruise missiles, ICBMs don't do well at in flight correction--something to do with plummeting to earth from the upper atmosphere, I think.

So what's the deal here? Is this all just bluster? Does Rumsfeld figure that, in the name of cost savings, we ought to use the cold war leftovers that we have? Perhaps he thinks that we ought to make common cause with the one other nation that has thousands of similar weapons?

I guess that when what you've got are ballistic missiles, every enemy looks like a godless commie!

18 Comments:

I guess they are getting too tired of having to actually fly over the countries to bomb them. If you shoot a missile from 5,000 miles away, it's more like playing a video game--you never have to see the rubble and the bodies. Killing without guilt.
For pete's sake.

Using ICBMs to target RPG-wielding guerrilla fighters is like trying to swat a mosquito with a sledgehammer. What the hell is he trying to do?

Oh wait, I forgot, he's trying to ignite Armageddon. Yay.
Sothis, but still...why not just use cruise missiles? Sure they can't go 5000 miles but 2500? Probably. Easy to retarget too, not like an ICBM.

Lukku, that's sort of what I was getting at: When all you've got is a hammer... I leaning toward the, "Well we've got 'em, might as well do something with them," theory.
Maybe he is just trying to get support to continue the outdated cold war military contracts by suggesting that these obsolete weapons can be used on terrorists.
If we use them up, we have to buy more, thereby pleasing the defense contractors at Raytheon.
Lew, you and the Praguetwin are probably right. It's an angle that I hadn't even thought of, and as always it has the simple advantage of being a, "follow the money" sort of connection.
So you did, and with a better firecracker! Life sucks without p/shop :(
Frankly, I think it's a penile sort of thing with him. He always wanted to have the biggest.
WTF? That is all I can think of to say. This is so stinky on so many levels. Do they ever stop thinking of ways to kill others? Do they ever stop thinking about ways to make money killing others?
Cartledge... I live and die by Photoshop.

Mary, indeed! Check out the girth on that...I think it's a "Peacemaker" (?), "Peacekeeper" (?). (Actual name of the missile.)

Karena, I think you could have stopped at "...ways to make money...". The killing others part is not relevant.
Raytheon is changing its name to "Missles 'R Us".
It's called a Peacekeeper, and is not retargetable at all. It carries its targetting information inside of it. Once it's launched, there's no changing anything. It carries ten nuclear warheads inside that nose cone. I worked at that very missile silo that you have in the picture there back in the 1980's.
PT, I'm sure that some of the more modern missiles can be retargeted, but the trajectories still have to be calculated--so...nothing happens quickly, much less in flight.

You worked at a silo? Military? Civilian contractor?
I worked at Vandenberg Air Force Base (pictured in your post) for four years while I was enlisted in the Air Force. The Peacekeeper missile pictured there is our most advanced ICBM.
They are retargetable pre-launch, but once they leave the hole, there's no changing anything.
Kvatch, the answer is rather more mundane, I think. When they start bombing Iran, they want to take out a few places that have been extremely fortified. For that, the US has openly started talking about nuclear bunker busters. That's gone down pretty badly, both nationally and internationally. So now they are talking about using ICBMs with huge (HUGE) payloads, which would have an additional kinetic impact (something to do with that falling down from the stratosphere).

Two things can happen:
1. they can use the non-nuclear ICBM in stead of the nuclear bunker busters. Yeah, progress...
2. they can use an ICBM with a smaller payload and claim it was non-nuclear. The nuclear debris will prove that the facility targeted was a nuclear research facility with weapon-grade material.

They could even combine the two - a nuclear bunker buster dropped by plane and a non-nuclear ICBM.

This isn't rocket science ;).
PT, Vandenberg! That's a little history that I wasn't expecting but cool nonetheless.

Endorendeil...welcome. Way not rocket science. Conventional payload with kinetic uumphhhh seems to me to be the right interpretation, but I'm still mystified as to why Rumsfeld said something so stupid in his speech.
I like Endorendil's take on this. Very plausible.

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