originally posted by: penroc3
a reply to: 1947boomer
thats funny i thought that was something still being figured of it 2017. I wonder if he was referring to the missile type PGS or aircraft PGS maybe
he let the cat out a little on that one
I think that what these UK sightings and Bob Gates' comments are telling us that the situation is complicated. It's simultaneously true that PGS is
being worked on in 2017 AND true that there was a black program operational around 2010.
As implied in your statement, there are two parallel approaches to hypersonic Strike--air breathing cruise and rocket powered boost glide.
The technology to implement rocket powered boost glide has existed for probably 40 years or more. The technology to implement air breathing cruise in
missiles small enough that they can be produced in quantity is still being worked on.
In order to be useful for most strategic purposes, a PGS platform has to have a minimum range of probably 5000 miles or so. (That's so you can stand
off over international territory and hit targets in central Russia or China.) You can do that with hypersonic gliders on the top of ordinary ballistic
missiles that are no more sophisticated than the AMARV system that was demonstrated back in 1980. The problem is that, in general, the hypersonic
gliders would go after the same target set that ballistic missiles with nuclear weapons would go after, so you would need about the same number of
launchers. To a peer enemy, launching a bunch of hypersonic gliders would look the same as a nuclear first strike.
The last time I worked on a national security study was about 10 or 12 years ago when I was loaned as a subject matter expert part time to DARPA. At
that time we were studying a system that was supposed to deliver a "package" anywhere on the planet on short notice and one of our ground rules was
that we had to use one of the approved launch facilities (like Cape Canaveral, for instance) to avoid looking like a first strike. So that's why we
don't already have PGS hypersonic gliders sitting out in missile silos.
However, the system that the UK investigators describe doesn't have that problem because it is a single stage vehicle and (I believe) fairly short
range (about 2000 miles). It takes off like a conventional jet aircraft, flies out to its initial point, refuels if necessary, lights off its rocket
motors, climbs out of the atmosphere on a parabolic arc, re-enters the atmosphere a few hundred miles down range, pulls up into a glide, over flies
its target, does whatever it's going to do, and then glides to its recovery air field. At no time is this system going to be mistaken for a nuclear
There are also a fairly limited number of places in the world where a system like this would and could be used (you have to have a target country that
is not so big that you can't glide all the way over it and you have to have one or more friendly bases next door). The obvious candidates are (more
or less in order) North Korea, Iran, and perhaps Pakistan.
So I see this system (which I assume is the same one that Gates spilled the beans on) as a fairly specialized system to address particular concerns
(of exactly the kind that we are currently experiencing with NK).