US Strategic Command is still interested having a so-called prompt global strike weapon by 2015. Global Security Newswire reported yesterday that fielding the notional long-range, non-nuclear weapon system, such as a Minuteman III ICBM armed with a conventional warhead, remains a top priority of the command to deal with scenarios in which there are no other viable options to reach the most important types of time-critical targets such as Osama bin Laden emerging in the open. An important indicator of the maturity of such technology will be DARPA’s upcoming flight tests starting in December of two hypersonic test vehicles over the Pacific Ocean. These HTVs, developed under DARPA’s Falcon program, have similar characteristics to the notional shrouds that would protect a weapons payload en route to the target when carried aboard a conventionally armed MMIII. STRATCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Charles Drey told GSN that “it is prudent to allow” those tests to proceed before committing down the path of any particular prompt global strike system.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.