- USAF warplanners are worried that they
will soon run out of Air Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCM). The remaining
inventory of the Boeing air launched missile is reported to be under 200
after the firing of 40 to 50 ALCMs during NATO strikes inside Serbia.
Boeing no longer manufactures the ALCM.
- The low ALCM inventory is one reason
being circulated for the the early combat deployment of the stealth bombers
into heavily defended Serbian airspace. The downing of a F-117A Nighthawk
by Serbian air defenses clearly shows that manned aircraft are vulnerable.
- Robot missiles such as the Boeing ALCM
are used in areas where manned fighters would be exposed to dangerous air
defenses. Boeing ALCMs are currently launched by the aging B-52 bombers,
flying safely outside of enemy airspace.
- The B-2, F-117A and other stealth manned
aircraft are expensive assets to risk in some heavily defended areas. The
recently downed F-117A fighter-bomber has punctured the invulnerability
of stealth aircraft and nearly cost the Air Force a pilot.
- The F-117A stealth bomber carries special
2,000 pound bombs, designed to knock out installations buried in deep rock
tunnels such as the Serbian military command and control network. The
F-117A was thought to be invisible to even the most advanced Serbian air
defense systems such as the SA-10 "Grumble" surface to air missile
(SAM) or the MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter.
- The other stealth bomber, the USAF B-2,
has been plagued by extra-ordinary costs, a single base and by rain clouds
that frequently shroud Yugoslavia. The limited number of the billion dollar
planes, and the bad eastern european weather has forced planners to use
no more than handful of big bombers per day. The long 14 hour flight time
from the single U.S. airbase also forces B-2 planners to limit attacks
to fixed targets on a scheduled basis.
- In contrast, NATO stealth forces in theatre
provide direct fire on very short notice. F-117A jets from nearby NATO
bases in Italy are minutes from their targets in Yugoslavia. The NATO
reliance on the F-117A pits these tactical aircraft against the teeth
of Serbian Army mobile air defenses such as the SA-6 "Gainful"
and the SA-10 "Grumble."
- SA-6 GAINFUL RAMJET SURFACE TO AIR MISSILE
- President Clinton is being criticized
in Congress and the Pentagon for being "bomb" happy. Clinton's
policy of bombing with high-tech weapons is rapidly using up U.S. inventories.
The shortages, according to DOD officials, can be laid directly to President
Clinton's Defense budget shortfalls for the hard pressed U.S. military.
- According to Defense planners, the most
critical shortfall is in air launched cruise missiles. In late 1998, Boeing
was contracted by the USAF to convert the final remaining 130 nuclear
tipped AGM-86B missiles into conventional "Bunker Buster" ALCMs
with 2,000 pound warheads. After the last AGM-86 is converted no further
missiles will be available.
- USAF AGM86B BUNKER BUSTER
- The USAF has no missile that can replace
the long range ALCM. The original USAF replacement for the ALCM, the JASSM
(Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile), does not have the range nor the
heavy one ton payload of the AGM-86B "Bunker Buster" missile.
The stealthy JASSM is currently being manufactured by Lockheed/Martin and
is reported to have only a 1,000 pound warhead and a range of 300 miles.
- STEALTHY JASSM WITH WINGS FOLDED UNDER
NAVY F-18 HORNET
- Late last year the Air Force chief of
staff, General Michael Ryan, told his staff to begin planning for a new
missile to replace the AGM-86. Ryan told his staff to consider all possibilities,
including a heavy version of JASSM with a 1,000 mile range.
- In March 1999, General Ryan told the
Senate Armed Forces Committee that JASSM cannot be considered a replacement
for the AGM-86. General Ryan described the JASSM as a "complementary"
weapon with a lighter 1,000 pound warhead.
- The Air Force has spent over $3.4 billion
and a decade developing the JASSM stealth cruise missile. Not a single
JASSM has been manufactured for operational production. The requirement
for a new, long range, version could delay the JASSM project. USAF and
Lockheed/Martin officials are anxious to complete the stealth missile
before taking on any modifications or a new missile design.
- Ironically, the USAF answer may lie in
a troubled Navy missile project and Russia. One reported Boeing follow
on for the ALCM under consideration is a ramjet powered, hypersonic, cruise
missile. Such a high speed missile could strike targets at extreme ranges
and have the added impact of bullet like speed.
- The U.S. Navy is already funding a small
project to provide targets that simulate high speed super-sonic cruise
missiles. The candidate is required to fly at Mach two just nine feet
above the sea for over 50 miles.
- One potential candidate is from the Russian
Zvezda-Strela State Science and Production Center. The Russian proposal
was to supply the Navy with up to 300 modified Kh-31A 'Kripton' (Mod 2)
medium range air-to-surface anti-ship and anti-radar missiles over the
next five years.
- ZVEZDA MA-31/KH-31 SUPERSONIC MISSILE
- The titanium Kh-31 was built in 1988
by Zvezda-Strela for the former Soviet Union. In 1997, the U.S. Navy test
fired four of the ramjet powered, titanium cruise missiles which reached
a reported 1,700 miles per hour at 100 feet. The missile, however, suffers
from a lack of range and does not meet Navy specifications for 50 miles.
- In 1998, the Clinton administration gave
Boeing/Douglas and Zvezda-Strela engineers additional funding to improve
the Russian missile's range to over 100 miles. Zvezda and Boeing circulated
reports of an agreement between Russia and the U.S. Navy to purchase up
to 300 Kh-31s.
- Boeing was to convert the weapon Kh-31
into the MA-31 supersonic aerial targets (SSST) for the U.S. Navy (Janes
Defense Weekly 14 October 1998). According to Janes Defense, 28% of any
sale would go directly into the bank accounts of the Russian Army Generals.
- Press reports and Congressional pressure
have forced the U.S. Navy to purchase no more than five MA-31 missiles
from Boeing in 1999. According to a letter written by Undersecretary of
the Navy, H. Lee Buchanan, the Navy plans to only fund $2.8 million for
"a limited number of MA-31 targets."
- Furthermore, the Navy program has come
under fire from Democrats and Republicans in Congress. The Russian MA-31
is inferior when compared to a current missile fielded by U.S. contractor
Allied Signal. The Vandal, a modified Talos missile of 1950s design, already
exceeds the required Navy Mach 2+/50 mile range specifications.
- USN TALOS RAMJET MISSILE
- Despite its age, the Talos/Vandal has
beaten the best Navy ship air defenses deployed against it and many of
the Navy missiles deployed to replace it. Allied proposes to update the
Talos/Vandal design and build a new 1990s package called Sea Snake. The
Sea Snake takes the best of the Talos, a giant ramjet engine powered by
lighter fluid, and combines it with new lightweight electronics and airframe.
- The Sea Snake predecessor, Talos, could
exceed Mach 3 in flight and was large enough to carry a huge nuclear warhead.
Talos had a long and successful career filling Navy air defense needs
until it was retired from service in the late 1980s.
- During the Vietnam War a single Talos
destroyed two MiGs at a distance of over 65 miles. Talos was also used
to strike North Vietnamese radar sites on the ground over 75 miles inland.
There is every reason to expect Sea Snake to exceed Talos in all categories.
- Allied is not alone with ideas. In addition,
several other U.S. defense contractors have expressed interest in supplying
proposals for the tiny SSST program. One such proposal is reported to
be an exotic hyper-sonic wave rider similar to high speed UFO like vehicles
flown from Area-51. These new designs will push aerospace technology to
the very limits.
- Yet, Presidential politics have interfered
with the tiny Navy project. There are open allegations that the Navy project
is being given to the Russians. Vice President Al Gore was alleged to
support the purchase of the Kh-31 by the Navy. The Russian maker Zvezda-Strela
is backed by Gore supporters, Cassidy Associates, a lobbying firm located
inside the beltway and IBP International, an arms firm located in England.
- Congressman Tim Roemer (D-IN), told the
National Security Sub-Committee of the House Appropriations Committee that
they should "consider the reliability of a Russian source" for
a U.S. Navy missile program. In addition, Roemer warned that "the
procurement of the Russian made MA-31 will almost surely terminate the
Navy's most reliable existing supplier of targets made in the U.S.A."
- Congressional officials are concerned
the Sea Snake and other advanced designs need to be fairly considered and
not sacrificed for the sake of global politics. The importance of the
SSST program goes well beyond a few hundred target drones for the Navy
and strikes directly at the heart of our current missile shortage.
- U.S. contractors are following the Air
Force and Navy missile needs carefully. The Navy SSST requirement for a
few hundred high speed targets could well expand into a joint requirement
for thousands of new missiles to replenish allied inventories. The loss
of the project to a political deal to improve Russian/U.S. relations may
set American hyper-sonic development back for years.
- The Clinton years in the Oval office
have been spent weakening U.S. armed forces. Our weakness, in turn, has
given rise to a more unstable world. Instead of maintaining or even building
on the Reagan 1980s weapons budgets, so long derided by liberals, Clinton
has expended our critical defense stockpiles in futile and useless attempts
to sway dictators. The U.S. weakness needs to be addressed at once before
North Korea, China or Iraq decide to challenge our bare cupboards.
- It may shock some but President Clinton
will not be here much longer. The USAF and Navy, however, will be here
in the twenty first century to defend our nation. They deserve the best
weapons, pay and training on Earth. These values should not be sacrificed
for short term political gains nor historic legacies.