According to a DefenseLINK
article, DARPA has awarded contracts for phase one of the FALCON
hypersonic cruise vehicle (HCV) development program. That's FALCON as in
Force Application and Launch from the
Continental United States. The FALCON
will be an autonomous robot plane that can take off from a
conventional runway in the US and strike targets up to 9,000 miles away
with its 12,000 lbs weapon payload in 2 hours or less traveling at
speeds of Mach 6 or
higher. Eventually, a single, reusable robot plane will do the whole
job. But because DARPA anticipates the need to blow up a few things
before the final "Version 2" vehicle is available, their
plan (PDF format) calls for developing a "Version 1" FALCON that's
made in two parts: a rocket powered small launch vehicle (SLV) that will
accelerate a Common
Aero Vehicle (CAV) into low Earth orbit (LEO). The autonomous CAV
will then glide towards the target at hypersonic speeds.
What the heck do we need this for?
We pretty much won the cold war.
Who are we suppose to nuke now? An alien invasion scenario?
Granted there are terrorists, but this is sort of way overkill for
them. I cannot even see using it, in case some terrorist group was to
sieze a nuclear missile compex in the former Soviet Union. What are
they going to do, drop a 1 megaton nuke on a missile complex in
another country to wipe out some terrorists?
Of course the idea and concept is good. A vehicle like this would
enter the atmosphere not using engines, thus it would be harder to
detect. It's on a hypersonic "dead stick landing" approach. he vehicle
is a great step towards highperformance autonomous aircraft.
My question is why not go to a sub-light-speed inertial weapon. if you
have a 2,000+ pound iron object travelling 60,000+ mph on impact, who
needs nukes? Same nuclear bomb effect, no toxic radiation problems.
Plus it's a lot simpler. they could park them in orbit way up there
and just fire them off when needed. Virtually undetectable until they
hit the atmosphere and you see the streak, but it's too late then.