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Subject: Air-Launch ICBM?
reefdiver    7/29/2006 12:34:35 PM
I note that Air-Launch LLC has now air-drop tested a 72,000 dummy rocket. Of course the intent of these experiments is to eventually allow the launch of a 1000lb satellite within 24 hours. In the case of someone attacking US satellites this capability could be extremely useful. It does however appear that this could also be used for ICBM launching as well. An interesting capability that would mean almost any C-17 (and how could you tell which?) could be carrying an ICBM - with nuclear or conventional warheads. The implications are enormous, - this method might even allow easily launching a lot of smaller MRBM without lots of mods to the aircraft - but thats another topic.
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DarthAmerica    RE:Air-Launch ICBM?   7/29/2006 12:43:25 PM
I could see use as a basing platform for satellite launch and maybe just maybe in a stretch even conventional MRBM/IRBM but ICBM? Why? Those things can make the trip all by themselves right from where they are. Care to elaborate?
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Carl D.    RE:Air-Launch ICBM?   7/29/2006 3:03:37 PM
They have test launched a Minuteman in an air-launch mode, from a C-5 back in the mid-70s. Costs of basing even a fraction of the force in this manner when compaired to the threat at the time when compared to any ground basing made it an interesting technical capability only at that point. As for now, if the U.S. were to introduce this capability into the force, the reasoning that would make the most sense would be to both get around any early warning systems focused on the expected polar flight path of U.S. ground based forces or to avoid an issue of overflight of non-involved countries to either use conventional or nuclear warheads, a la the Global Strike vision being developed by the U.S. Strategic Command.
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reefdiver    RE:Air-Launch ICBM?   7/31/2006 10:41:08 AM
My thinking was somewhat like Carl D.'s here - unpredictable flight paths. I felt it would be best for medium range ballistic missiles to be be deployed near theater on short notice. It also would add a lot of launchers at low cost - perhaps useful for hitting sites outside cruise missile ranges without launching ICBM's. These would arrive on target many times faster than cruise missiles. Guess I'm thinking of an Iran scenerio.
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DarthAmerica    RE:Air-Launch ICBM?   7/31/2006 2:28:25 PM
DoD has already got at least three solutions for that problem in the making and coming soon. CSLBM(dont believe the hype about it being cancelled), SLIRBM and FALCON.
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Carl D.    (no subject)   8/6/2006 6:27:03 PM
An interesting paper explaining air launching methods of ballistic missiles:AIAA-2005-0621 Trade Studies for Air Launching a Small Launch Vehicle from a Cargo Aircraft Covers FALCON requirements and their proposal using unmodified transport aircraft launching the company's QuickReach liquid fueled FALCON SLV for putting 1000 lbs of payload into LEO with only 24 hrs notice. The .pdf covers the key points to their approach to meeting the DARPA/USAF FALCON goals and describes methods and systems. Also from 27 July 2006 a press release on their latest launch: OPERATIONAL C-17A USED TO BREAK ANOTHER RECORD WITH AIRLAUNCH IN DARPA / AIR FORCE FALCON SMALL LAUNCH VEHICLE PROGRAM
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Carl D.    Air-Launch LLC QuickReach FALCON SLV   8/6/2006 6:48:59 PM General Characteristics Primary Function: Space lift vehicle Builder: AirLaunch LLC Carrier aircraft: Air Force unmodified C-17A or other large transport aircraft Engine first stage: A 172,000 lb (vacuum) thrust engine; uses liquid oxygen and propane as propellants Engine, second stage: A restartable 24,000 lb thrust engine, uses liquid oxygen and propane as propellants Length: 66 feet Diameter: 7 feet Weight: 72,000 pounds Lift Capability: 1,000 pounds to LEO Payloads: Operationally responsive spacecrafts, small satellites, technology payloads Guidance System: Inertial/GPS-aided navigation and control system Projected first launch: Approximately 2008 Launch Sites: Anywhere a C-17 or other large transport aircraft can fly; initial flights will be from NASA Wallops Launch cost: $5,000,000 So if this particular system can launch 1000 lbs into LEO, a WAG would give this particular system a payload of 2000 lbs with a range of 6,000 km(?) and maybe 4000 lbs with a range of 1000 km(?). Humm...What about an air-launched version of the SLIRBM, how many could you get on one C-17?
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Guilo    RE:Air-Launch LLC QuickReach FALCON SLV   8/16/2006 3:18:36 AM
If I may side-track a tad, why don't the Americans have (land-bound) mobile launchers, limiting themselves to only fixed sites (missile silos)? There is no doubt they have sufficient air and submarine launch capabilities but are these indeed the sole and sweeping reasons for not ever having mobile ones?
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reefdiver    RE:Air-Launch LLC QuickReach FALCON SLV   8/16/2006 9:07:51 AM
I've wondered this as well. The closest to that was the concept of the "shell" game with multiple tunnels interlinked by surface rail lines for the "Peacekeeper" MX ICBM. This was never done. Ultimately, I don't think the American military or civilians liked the idea of mobile nuclear missiles driving around the countryside protected by only a minimal force. Especially in western countries where there is so much freedom of movement, such mobile launchers could well be a target for terrorists. When you think about it, ground mobile ICBM's don't sound like such a great idea to have anywhere. Of course the US had several different ground mobile short range tactical nuclear missiles.
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hybrid       8/27/2006 3:19:54 PM
Pretty much as reefdiver says, Congress didn't like the idea of having MX/Peacekeeper missiles and Minuteman III missiles hanging around the countryside fairly unprotected. Also it was simply easier to invest in more Ohio class or other SSBNs which the USSR at the time either could not track or have a very very difficult time tracking. A land based mobile erector could still be detected by space and airborne assets but a underwater SSBN had to be hunted after actively in order to know where it was at all times.
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Carl D.    With regards to mobile ICBM history starting with the Minuteman   8/29/2006 10:47:33 PM

 When the Minuteman ICBM program was conceived and developed (1959-1963), of the first 150 missiles, it was planned to deploy 1/3 of these weapons on specially constructed railroad cars on trains based out of Hill AFB, Utah running on the commercial rail network throughout the Western and Central United States.  The rest of the first 150 would be deployed in the standardized, prefabricated, reinforced concrete underground silo missile sites we know today.


The rail mobile system was tested and proven under Operation Big Star running 4 trial trains between 20 Jan 1960 and 27 Aug 1960 all over the operational area on simulated deployments looking for problems with the system and procedures and to get telemetry on the missile???s systems.  On 27 Aug 1960 the last test train returned to HillAFB, gathering all of the information needed in 4 missions instead of the 6 missions that were planned.  The system was declared successful upon arrival back at the base. 


SAC wanted the system, but the Air Force and the Kennedy Administration placed priority upon the silo basing option, deferring the mobile portion of the program on 28 March 1961.  In December of that same year, Secretary of Defense McNamara cancelled the mobile Minuteman program, along with the Skybolt air-launched ballistic missile (range 1150 miles, 1 Mt warhead, 4 rounds per B-52H on the inner wing pylons (some sources state up to 8 Skybolts with 4 carried internally)) and the DynaSoar X-20A program, among other things.


Causes for the cancellation of this part of the Minuteman program include costs, both set-up and lifecycle, security and politics/public relations.  It can only be imagined how much more of a problem this would have been ten and twenty years later even if the routes of the missile trains had been restricted to BLM lands.  It has to be remembered that at the time the silo basing was hardened more than enough to deal with the prevailing OPFOR threats.  Today that may well be less of the case considering the CEP ratings on some current OPFOR systems.  This was in part the causation for the Midgetman prototype and the original MX/Peacekeeper mobile basing proposals, especially the hardened off-road TEL vehicles.


Now getting back to air-launched options, the Skybolt, once all of the kinks were worked out, would have given both the USAF and the RAF a really flexible offensive option.  It would have put a lot more strain upon USSR air defense and ABM systems.  I have also seen proposals involving air launching Minutemen missiles in a satellite launch vehicle role from modified B-58s.  The Skybolt could also likely have worked in that role.  Heck, the Skybolt today would in may respects fit the Global Strike mission rather well.  Imagine the system with a modern guidance package and a non-nuclear payload option like EMP, bunker buster, smart submunitions, or FAE/thermobatics. 

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