U.S. Studying Options for New Generation of ICBMs

By Stew Magnuson
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — U.S. Strategic Command has begun to study options for the replacement of the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, said Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, Stratcom commander.
What size, weight, shape the missiles will take has not been determined, he told reporters at the Space Symposium here. The Nuclear Posture Review confirmed that the nation will need to sustain and invest in nuclear forces and the command is proceeding with studies and analysis as a result of the review, Kehler said.
Similarly, plans for a new long-range bomber are under way, although the Air Force is the lead on that program. Stratcom would be the primary user of such an aircraft/ Kehler said the command was mostly in agreement with the Air Force on bomber requirements. He declined to get into specifics other than to say that the aircraft should have a balance of survivability, range and payload performance.
Stratcom still believes that it should have the option of having a prompt conventional global strike capability, which could deliver a non-nuclear weapon anywhere in the world within minutes and deep within an enemy's territory. The command has been looking at the hypersonic test vehicle as a possible solution and a second test is scheduled for this year. He didn't know of any other solutions in the works.
Original concepts would have placed conventional warheads aboard Trident missiles, but that idea was scrapped because the trajectory of the missile would be identical to a nuclear weapon. There were concerns that an enemy would no know the difference and assume that it was under nuclear attack. The hypersonic vehicle travels at a different trajectory and could not be mistaken as a nuclear weapon.

Topics: Bomb and Warhead, Strategic Weapons

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