Global Instability and Strategic Crisis

By Neville Brown | Go to book overview

7

The ascent of the missile

Herein a missile can be defined as a form of ammunition that propels itself in flight towards its target. Within that definition, the chief distinction to draw is between the cruise and the ballistic genre. The former is a crewless bomber dependent on air for oxygen and aerodynamic lift. The latter initially receives a boost from a rocket integral to itself. After burn-out, it is in parabolic 'free flight'-i.e. subject, in principle, only to gravity. However, the boost phase is not usually less than a tenth of the total flight time and, at shorter ranges, may be a much higher fraction. Atmospheric resistance has some effect, too.

A form that may assume tactical importance, in due course, is the cruisecum-ballistic hybrid. This will basically be a cruise design but with rocket boost for either initial or terminal acceleration. It will betoken the wider truth that cruise missiles and ballistic ones can be complementary means of attack especially in 'theatre' (i.e. regional) war. Indeed, the Iraqis mixed the two genres a little in their 2003 strikes. But when, in 1983, President Reagan embarked on his quest for missile defence worldwide, he principally had in mind wide-area defence against long-range rocketry with mass destruction warheads. Therefore the ensuing decade saw too little attention being paid everywhere to the singular defensive challenge advanced cruise missiles pose.

That singularity resides in an ability to jink (at perhaps two or three times g, the acceleration due to gravity) or else to contour-hug or sea-skim closely and, in due course, at supersonic or hypersonic speeds. But as it does either, a cruise missile may consume fuel several times faster than it would on a 'minimum energy' flight. Even without that incremental demand, however, fuel load must be a constraining factor over extended ranges. Proscriptions on the overflight of neutral territory can be a further impediment.

Nevertheless, cruise missiles intended to strike deep into the respective continental heartlands were deployed in submarines by each Superpower towards the end of the Cold War. The United States Navy brought into service in 1983 the Tomahawk (range 2,500 km). Its Soviet counterpart, the SS-N-21 (range 3,000 km) was deployed in 1987. Moreover, in 1982 the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was said to be evaluating a proposal for a Ground-Launched Cruise Missile with a range

-122-

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Global Instability and Strategic Crisis
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • The Author ix
  • Preface xi
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Part I - The Strategic Revolution 1
  • 1 - Through 11 September 3
  • 2 - The Poverty of Strategy 32
  • 3 - A War on Terror? 45
  • 4 - Saddam, Slow Decline and Rapid Fall 59
  • Part II - Limited World War? 71
  • 5 - Social Instability 73
  • 6 - Macabre Lethality 100
  • 7 - The Ascent of the Missile 122
  • Part III - Defence Against Missiles 131
  • 8 - Ballistic Encounter 133
  • 9 - Terrestrial Coverage 156
  • 10 - The Heavens Subverted? 163
  • Part IV - The Quest for Strategy 181
  • 11 - Pax Atlantica? 183
  • 12 - Arms in Moderation 197
  • 13 - Planetary Internationalism 217
  • 14 - Strategy Transcended 243
  • Appendix A 265
  • Appendix B 272
  • Further Reading 279
  • Notes 281
  • Index 303
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