U.S. Eyes Global Strike Capability Within 2 Hours
Jul 1, 6:08 pm ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon is seeking to develop a drone in the next
two decades that could strike any spot on Earth from the continental United
States within two hours.
The so-called Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle, which would be designed to hit targets
about 9,000 miles away, should be available by about 2025. Hypersonic means
traveling at more than five times the speed of sound.
The goal is to demonstrate a system that could carry out prompt "global reach
missions" without using overseas bases, the Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency, the Pentagon's cradle of new technologies, said in a notice released
quietly two weeks ago.
"DARPA and the Air Force share a vision of a new transformational capability that
would provide a means of delivering a substantial payload from the continental
United States to anywhere on Earth in less than two hours," the notice said.
"This capability would free the U.S. military from reliance on forward basing to
enable it to react promptly and decisively to destabilizing or threatening actions
by hostile countries and terrorist organizations," said DARPA, which is jointly
sponsoring the project with the U.S. Air Force.
Some of the system's building blocks should make it possible to launch a "prompt
global strike" from the continental United States as early as about 2010 using
rocket boosters, the draft notice said.
The program envisions a reusable, remotely piloted craft that could take off from
a regular runway with 12,000 pounds (5,443 kg) of bombs and missiles or a new,
rocket-assisted means of delivering such munitions, a draft overview said.
The project is called FALCON, short for Force Application and Launch from CONUS,
or the 48 states, excluding Alaska and Hawaii, that make up the continental
Jan Walker, a DARPA spokeswoman, described the effort as "technology
development and demonstration," as opposed to a plan to build, buy or deploy
such a capability. Any such acquisition plans ultimately hinge on the U.S.
Congress's power of the purse.
The draft notice cited U.S. military operations in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
"While advancements in target identification and precision strike have been
abundantly demonstrated, deficiencies in engaging and defeating time-critical and
high-value, hard and deeply buried targets have also been revealed," it said.
The overview said the United States may find it increasingly difficult to use
overseas bases to react quickly to perceived threats.
DARPA and the Air Force will host a so-called "Industry Day" on July 8 in Arlington,
Virginia, to give contractors interested in the project the big picture, a notice on
DARPA's Web site said.