Russia was very careful and very slow as they entered Crimea. They knew they were being watched from Space and the U.S. could, with a few days warning, attack Russian forces surreptitiously with stealth cruise missiles. They could come from bombers based in the US or re-positioned guided missile destroyers. With modern space-based weapons, the U.S. could shorten the response from a few days to a few hours.
How about from the U.S. perspective; What are the worries of our combat senior Civilians and Generals? Are they Large Armies? Large Navies? Big Air Forces?
No, it’s nuclear weapons from Iran or North Korea, hypersonic weapons from China or Russia, Electro-Magnetic Pulse weapons that shut down our satellites and cyberwarfare that knocks out our communications and infrastructure. All of these weapons and capabilities either fly, or go through, Space. On both sides, leaders are fearful of high speed or high-altitude attacks.
Pretending that Space is a war free zone is naïve and invites a Pearl Harbor.
President Trump, since assuming office, has learned a lot in a short period of time from his daily military briefings. He’s been listening to the worries of his generals and it didn’t take long for him to fully grasp how intimately tied, and totally dependent, they, and our entire society, is with Space.
Why do they worry about these Space systems? It’s because they all know that Space systems are critical to their operations in land, sea and air and Space is the fastest way that any military can be hit.
We have only one treaty limitation. Article IV of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits weapons of mass destruction. Conventional weapons are not forbidden.
If we were to develop Space Attack, what would a “space drone” be like, how would we use them, how would they work, what is the technology of speed?
Like all new capabilities, the smart way to develop them is to use a lot of old technology with only a small part that is actually new. This significantly reduces the risk of the effort. Recognizing that evolution is life, the key would be leveraging “Commercial Off the Shelf” (COTS) or currently operational technology to deliver this capability at the speed of Now.
The mission description is the first step. We would want to be able to put a conventional 250 lb smart bomb on target within 4 hours of request for special targets that require prompt global strike. A specific example would be a country invading another country unexpectedly and the National Command Authority wanted to provide immediate support to stop any excursion, land, sea, air or space in its tracks.
With the mission defined, we could determine the orbits and the components to execute the mission. This would require, to hold costs down, and these are estimates only, 6 sets of 10 bombs on orbit, through 12 orbital planes. That would be 720 bombs on 72 busses.
The conventional 250-lb bombs could initially be carried inside of a reentry vehicle developed and flight tested by Sandia Laboratories called the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon. If they could easily be released at subsonic speeds, we might use the modern Small Diameter Bomb II.
If we want this to simply be a hypersonic flight to the ground, we may just put the munition inside with a proper arming mechanism. There would be required a very small rocket modification to allow the bomb to separate from the platform and slow down to reenter the atmosphere. The vehicle would use conventional nuclear weapon attack navigation with GPS to improve accuracy.
The entire platform would be launched to orbit by a commercially developed reusable rocket and the weapons specialists on earth would need battle software in order to target and release the weapons.
Eventually the components of these systems would be replaced by upgraded components that, over time, would increase the capability and decrease the cost.
This capability, most of what’s components are available to several countries, is a real capability. Whether the U.S. does it, or others do it, space deployed conventional weapons will be reality in a very short time. This will probably be driven by soon to be operational Chinese hypersonic weapons.
This capability could make Space a complete warfighting domain that can provide direct non-nuclear combat support. With this, the president could now have capabilities that would be globally unique and virtually unstoppable by any country.