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Could new U.S. tactical missile projects trigger a new nuclear arms race?

Are the U.S. Army and DARPA Trying to Start a Nuclear Arms Race? National Interest,  Michael Peck, 6 Apr 18,   Could new U.S. tactical missile projects trigger a new nuclear arms race?

Recent comments by U.S. Army leaders, and a new project from Pentagon research agency DARPA, point to the United States developing new long-range battlefield missiles.

 The Pentagon believes that it needs the missiles because its field artillery is inferior to Russian guns that have a longer range than their American counterparts. “We need cannons that fire as far as rockets today, we need rockets that fire as far as missiles, and we need missiles that push out to 499 kilometers and beyond,” Gen. Robert Brown, commander of U.S. Army Pacific, told an Association of the U.S. Army audience in Huntsville, Alabama last month.

“499 kilometers and beyond” is a very significant phrase, because the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Force Treaty (INF), signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, banned nuclear and conventional missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (or about 300 to 3,400 miles). The agreement came in the midst of an arms race after the Soviets deployed SS-20 intermediate-range nuclear missiles which threatened Western Europe, to which the United States responded by deploying Pershing II and ground-launched cruise missiles.

The conventional weapons provision pointed to an uncomfortable fact: there is no way to peek inside a nose cone to be sure the missile isn’t carrying a nuclear warhead. So while conventional intermediate-range missiles could have many uses (attacking airfields, command centers, etc.), a missile launched from, say, Germany could hit Moscow with a nuclear weapon.

Indeed, the INF treaty obligated both sides to dismantle a lot of expensive hardware: 2,692 weapons, from short-range tactical missiles to long-range cruise missiles. It also established mechanisms for both sides to verify compliance. The treaty has been assailed in recent years, with the United States accusing Russia ofviolating the agreement by deploying a new ground-launched cruise missile. Putin’s recent speech, in which he boasted of Russia developing a nuclear-powered cruise missile, isn’t likely to reduce tensions.

However, General Brown suggested that the U.S. Army wouldn’t mind breaching the INF treaty. “‘I know there’s the INF treaty…but we need to push beyond that,’” Brown said, according to Politico.

At the same time, DARPA is pursuing its OpFires missile program. “The United States ground-based forces are currently limited in effective range of surface-to-surface precision fires,” according to DARPA. “The OpFires program seeks to provide operational/theater level commanders with flexible capabilities to strike time sensitive targets while providing persistent standoff from unpredictable land launch positions.”

DARPA says “the overarching goal of the OpFires program is to develop and demonstrate a novel ground-launched system enabling advanced tactical weapons to penetrate modern enemy air defenses and rapidly and precisely engage critical time sensitive targets.”……….


April 6, 2018 - Posted by | USA, weapons and war

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