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posted by Fnord666 on Monday June 07, @11:41PM   Printer-friendly
from the speedy-delivery dept.

The Air Force confirmed a strong interest in delivery of cargo around the world—by rockets—during an hourlong conference call with reporters on Friday. Military officials said they were elevating the cargo initiative to become the newest "Vanguard Program," indicating a desire to move the concept from an experimental state into an operational capability.

"This idea has been around since the dawn of spaceflight," said Dr. Greg Spanjers, an Air Force scientist and the Rocket Cargo Program Manager. "It's always been an intriguing idea. We've looked at it about every 10 years, but it's never really made sense. The reason we're doing it now is because it looks like technology may have caught up with a good idea."

Ars first reported about the "Rocket Cargo" program in the Air Force's budget request on Monday. As part of its $200 billion annual budget, the Air Force is seeking $47.9 million to leverage emerging commercial rocket capabilities to launch cargo from one location and land elsewhere on Earth.

During Friday's call, the officials explained what they're looking for in more depth. "Fundamentally, a rocket can get around the world in 90 minutes, and an airplane cannot," Spanjers said.

The US Military is Starting to Get Really Interested in Starship

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  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @09:07AM (5 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @09:07AM (#1143068)

    They don't send C-17's directly to the front lines for exactly the same reason. Fast deployment to disaster areas is one obvious use case, as is fast reinforcement of an existing overseas military base, either your own or an ally, or to the rear lines of an army group. Maybe a large FOB if it has a secure landing zone. A Berlin Airlift situation is another potential use case.

    The big advantages are that it can be based from the continental US, it can arrive faster than any aircraft, and it flies high enough that it doesn't need to ask permission to cross intervening airspace. It can even overfly hostile territory as long as the drop zone itself is safe enough. Paradropping behind enemy lines is another interesting possibility. Even just the threat of getting hit with that should keep military strategists up at night.

    Anyone capable of detecting a Starship launch will be able to tell it apart from an ICBM. ICBMs come in as fast and steep as they can, which means dropping from a high orbit. They also have limited fuel so they want as high g-force a launch as possible. 10-12 g's isn't unheard of. Starship requires a flat entry profile which means staying as low as they can manage and is limited to less than 4 g's. Anything more would destroy the rocket. Starship is also a lot bigger than any ballistic missile, about 15 stories tall just for the upper stage. MIRV warheads are the size of large naval artillery shells. If your radar can't tell the difference then it needs glasses. ;)

    The entire point of this study is to work out exactly where, when, and how using Starship would be beneficial as well as when not to use it.

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  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @09:57AM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 08, @09:57AM (#1143081)

    Just because Starship doesn’t look like an ICBM doesn’t mean it can’t be used as one. Any enemy would have to consider the possibility that an incoming Starship was a Trojan horse.

    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday June 08, @02:14PM (3 children)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 08, @02:14PM (#1143126) Journal

      An incoming commercial aircraft could have a nuke on it.

      Employers should not mandate wearing clothing. It should be a personal choice. It only affects me. Junk can't breathe!
      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Tuesday June 08, @02:53PM (2 children)

        by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday June 08, @02:53PM (#1143146)

        Heck, an incoming cargo van could have a nuke in it.

        ICBMs are primarily useful for striking targets deep within enemy controlled territory - exactly the place where you *wouldn't* be dropping off cargo or supplies. Especially not via a huge, loud, glowing-hot rocket that's going to attract the attention of every enemy within a hundred miles.

        • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Tuesday June 08, @04:45PM

          by Freeman (732) on Tuesday June 08, @04:45PM (#1143193) Journal

          Again, it would be great for quick deployment, not to a hot combat zone. It would definitely not be used against a country/nation that is technologically advanced enough to shoot it down or who could mistake it for a nuclear missile and do something about it. Direct delivery of a hundred tons of equipment in a few hours from USA to the other side of the world is a killer tactic. The speed of deployment could be greatly increased with a fleet of Starships. We're talking a matter of hours for a "small" strike force (ones that could include tanks) to the other side of the world. How long does it take us to ship a single tank that far as of now? How many stops would be needed and/or mid-air refuels with current tech? In the event you can do a single shot delivery with a starship, you're vastly improving deployment time. Especially, if your other option is sending everything by boat.

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        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Tuesday June 08, @04:50PM

          by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday June 08, @04:50PM (#1143196) Journal

          In a surprise attack, you could just ship your first nukes deep inside the enemy target. Assuming the enemy dosen't check for that at the borders, shipping ports, etc.

          I don't suppose they could check aircraft until they land.

          All of that said, I think anyone would be more concerned with a rapidly incoming starship landing.

          Employers should not mandate wearing clothing. It should be a personal choice. It only affects me. Junk can't breathe!