US moves closer to space-based combat


The US is developing a new space vehicle which could attack targets anywhere in the world within minutes, The Daily Telegraph reported Wednesday.

The weapon would be part of a US strategy that looks beyond the present conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, in which space warfare is deemed necessary to counter possible missile attacks from enemy nations.

The Falcon, the subject of an ambitious $459 billion project, would be a "hypersonic vehicle" capable of flying at six times the speed of sound. The vehicle could reportedly deliver 12,000lb (5,454 kg) payloads, whose destructive power would be intensified by Earth's gravity while traveling towards their target at up to 25 times the speed of sound.

A spokesman for the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) told The Daily Telegraph that a first test flight was scheduled for next year.

Loren Thompson, a leading defense analyst in Washington, told the paper that the goal behind the project was to reach potential targets in minutes, not hours, with the focus on "time sensitive targets" in states such as Iran and North Korea. Both countries have either developed nuclear weapons without international approval or are suspected of doing so.

"If we received intelligence that a strike was about to happen on South Korea, or on Israel, we would want to destroy that within minutes and not hours. But from most current US bases that is not feasible.

"With a hyper-sonic vehicle launching from the Middle East or Asia you could be over hostile territory within minutes," he said. "It's not just a question of can we destroy North Korean weapons, but can we get there quickly enough in the event of an imminent launch?"