In sixty minutes or less, weapon systems of the Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) can deliver targeted annihilation for battlefield preparation, as well as on select critical, strategic, and fleeting or high-value targets. That’s faster than I can get a pizza delivered, but that’s why the CPGS strategy has inaugurated Advanced Hypersonic Weapons.
To demonstrate merit that I’m not speculating on this strategic capability, let’s start from at the beginning. The CPGS program left its 1994 conceptualization to become formally articulated in 2001, and citing a U.S. Government Accountability Office report on CPGS,
The Department of Defense (DoD), in its December 2001 Nuclear Posture Review, progressed a conceptual framework for transforming U.S. strategic capabilities to address the new security risks the United States faces. The review proposed a New Triad that would bring together the capabilities of nuclear and conventional (nonnuclear) offensive strike forces, active and passive defenses, a revitalized defense infrastructure, and enhanced command and control, planning, and intelligence capabilities. The synergy realized with the integration of these capabilities, according to DoD officials, would provide the President and other senior decision makers with a wider range of military options against emerging threats while reducing U.S. reliance on the use of nuclear weapons.”
The DoD joint-services program fizzled and popped on the back burner of the Pentagon throughout the 2000s as the strategic focus shifted to the Global War on Terrorism. There were also nominal concerns, as the branches could not agree on the how CPGS was to be developed, but they knew it was destined to piggy-back on existing Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles. Conventional strike missiles, which are currently in principle, retrofitted nuclear missiles, sans nuclear warhead. The use of ICBMs presented a clear complication, because the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile would trigger the early warning systems of U.S. antagonists. America’s adversaries who could then easily conclude that a nuclear weapon has been fired, and in effect unknowingly overreact and kick start the apocalypse.
In 2010, the project was formally announced to the world as part of the New START Treaty, due to the ICBM launch system of CPGS. However, the U.S. State Department, in a very clear header states, “The New START Treaty does not contain any constraints on current or planned U.S. conventional prompt global strike capability.” The State Department also announced the CPGS future trajectory into, Hypersonic Technology Vehicle, Conventional Strike Missiles, and Advanced Hypersonic Weapons (AHW) – including penetrating bombers.
By 2011, the U.S. Army Space Missile Defense Command successfully launched the first AHW glide vehicle. The prototype was an astounding success via its impressive 2,300 miles, on target in thirty-minutes from launch to impact. The AHW system a joint DoD-DARPA venture has manifested additional and growing technological breakthroughs in hypersonic systems, at the hypersonic bar of speed, Mach 5 (3,836 MPH) and beyond. Even so, the search for these speeds and capabilities are nothing new and have been underway, in this form since the 1960’s.
In addition to simply the speed and delivery, a number of other innovations continue to emerge from DARPA, such as Materials Development for Platforms (MDP) program – the stuff that allows hypersonic aircraft and missile to fly on target and with a payload. Increasing speeds are being developed in the Tactical Boost Glide (TBG) program. Additional developments include the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), which is focusing on making the air-launched hypersonic missile more affordable and compatible with current delivery systems and platforms such as aircraft, ship, and submarines across the DoD.
Advancements of this kind often rematerialize across the spectrum. The on-going development beyond smashing American enemies without going nuclear goes well beyond aerodynamics and aerothermal effects and eventually trickles down to the warfighter in new composite kits, optics, and sensors – for a start.
Currently, the ongoing advancement of hypersonics appears to be the future, or at least the tip of the spear for CPGS. The overarching program is designed with the 48-hour expeditionary force, and 96-hour carrier battle group in mind, and is speculated to introduce an orbital kinetic weapon space platform. A necessary development that is needed to deter the on-going and dangerous rise in Chinese and Russian aggression, as these new systems would counter their nuclear-launch warning systems. The fallback for the bulk of CPGS relies on modified ICBM such as the Peacekeeper land-based ballistic missile—Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and conventionally-armed modification of the Trident Submarine-Launched Missile (SLBM).
Of course, these developments have China and Russia in a bit of an uproar as they scramble to keep up. Regardless, CPGS appears to be the next arms race and possible deterrent of a greater conflict between America- NATO, and China-Russia – for now.
Featured Image via the National Air and Space Intelligence Center