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Military officials eye inserting troops anywhere on the globe in two hours by rocket

In the future, U.S. troops could be on the ground in hotspots anywhere on the globe in only two hours. This may sound like science fiction, but it is exactly what a group of civilians and military officials met to talk about at a two-day conference.

The meeting's purpose was to plan the development of the Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion (SUSTAIN) program. USA Today reports that the invitation to the conference called the idea a "potential revolutionary step in getting combat power to any point in the world in a timeframe unachievable today."

The biggest challenge for the SUSTAIN program is certainly the technology. Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Brown, a spokesman for the space office said that the next step in the plan is addressing technological challenges and seeking military input.

The goal of the program is to be able to insert a team of 13 soldiers anywhere on the globe in two hours. John Pike, a military analyst told USA Today, "This isn't even science fiction. It's fantasy." Pike says that the concept defies physics and the reality of what a small number of lightly armed troops could accomplish.

Burt Rutan, the rocket pioneer who won the X Prize in 2004 for building a private spacecraft capable of flying into space says that the plan is technologically possible. Rutan wrote in an email to USA Today, "This has never been done. However, it is feasible. It would be a relatively expensive way to get the troops on the ground, but it could be done."

The need for a program like SUSTAIN was restated in 2005 in a document from the Marines titled the Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare Capability List signed by Gen. James Mattis. The document called for the program to be realized as early as 2019.

2005 wasn't the first time military officials have dreamed of inserting soldiers into combat zones from space; the concept has reportedly been discussed sine the 1960's. General Wallace Greene mentioned the capability in a speech from 1963 and hoped Marines would be in space by 1968.

The technology needed for such a force would likely make SUSTAIN a viable program by 2030 according to military analyst Baker Spring. Spring says that it will be just as important for military officials to determine what such a small number of troops could do if they were inserted into a hot zone by rocket.

Perhaps the biggest question surrounding the SUSTAIN program in many minds is how safe will it be. Rockets have to be light to reach space and the bulk of their weight is fuel to reach space. Significant challenges for the program will center on a ship that can carry enough fuel to reach space and then be able carry enough fuel for lift off and removing the soldiers from the battlefield.

It would seem that the rocket ship would be very vulnerable as well. It would be virtually impossible to design a ship armored enough to withstand any incoming fire on ascent or decent to a battle. The ship would also not likely be able to carry any weapons of its own.

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By Brainonska511 on 10/17/2008 11:59:23 AM , Rating: 5
This just seems like a case of wasteful defense spending. US Marines can already be sent to most parts of the world within 6 hours due to the small battle-groups afloat or the number of bases that we have overseas.

RE: Why?
By GaryJohnson on 10/17/2008 12:27:44 PM , Rating: 2
Because the government wants to shut down those bases, pull back our ships, and shut off all communication with the outside world?

RE: Why?
By headbox on 10/17/2008 2:39:42 PM , Rating: 4
Who said anything about cutting off communication?

The USA shouldn't be the world's police, and we could save trillions by close foreign bases and focus on problems at home.

China doesn't have bases around the world, and no one wants to attack them.

RE: Why?
By therealnickdanger on 10/17/2008 2:57:17 PM , Rating: 1
China doesn't have bases around the world, and no one wants to attack them.

It has nothing to do with fearing them. They couldn't afford it anyway.

RE: Why?
By random2 on 10/18/2008 12:26:19 AM , Rating: 5
Wanna bet on that?
The only reason we don't see China exporting aggression, is because, 1) They'd just as soon not get into the whole cold war thing again, and, 2) China has always been a country of introspection, and navel gazing, rather than expansionist.
They have enough on there plate domestically without having to go outside their borders looking for issues or taking on causes.

RE: Why?
By Malhavoc on 10/18/2008 11:01:32 AM , Rating: 2
Always is a long time, and using that term would make you incorrect.

RE: Why?
By Samus on 10/19/2008 4:35:15 AM , Rating: 2
It's like Battlefield 2142's Titan launch system ;)

RE: Why?
By phxfreddy on 10/20/2008 4:24:45 PM , Rating: 2
Inserting rockets into troubled areas? OUCH

That's gotta hurt.

RE: Why?
By JackPack on 10/18/2008 9:23:07 PM , Rating: 4
They couldn't afford it anyway.

LOL. The irony of that statement....

RE: Why?
By Shadowmaster625 on 10/20/2008 11:38:01 AM , Rating: 2
It's true though. Actually, no one can afford it, unless they want a peasant population. Not even the country with the world's reserve currency can sustain it. An economy based on IMF riots and economic hitmen cannot be sustained.

RE: Why?
By kenji4life on 10/17/08, Rating: -1
RE: Why?
By Screwballl on 10/18/2008 11:29:35 AM , Rating: 3
Dealing with men and women coming back from Iraq (at Eglin AFB), I am told by more of them that it is more hostile in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world than it is in Iraq right now. With their own military force climbing daily with our training and a slow pull back of our troops, our main goal right now is training their forces and civilians for jobs, and protecting the contractors so they can complete their jobs and get the infrastructure back up and running well (or at least to a point where the Iraqis can fix it).

RE: Why?
By Nik00117 on 10/18/2008 12:39:04 PM , Rating: 1
I agree with you, my job is also based on US troops living overseas.

However I see this being practical in purpose. Thing is that this wouldn't be a every day use type situation. I mean lets say a Embassy is attacked in Africa somewhere and they need reinforcements NOW. With this system we could drop in a team of 13-26 or so men to really boost their ability to defend. Or even cross country within Afganisitan. I mean rapid deployement within like an hour cross country? believe me speed can be EVERYTHING. Any solider will tell you who has been or almost was injured that second of movement saved his life, or didn't.

RE: Why?
By Ringold on 10/17/2008 9:22:18 PM , Rating: 3
I once read part of textbook on political science; the heavy liberal bias dripped from every page.

Even so, it admitted that while global hegemons, such as ourselves, incur a large expense in being the global cop we also reap benefits. Namely, I encourage you to look in to what has happened with piracy after we stopped our Cold War era naval patrols. As a nation deeply connected in to international trade, we have a vested interest in controlling piracy, even if local nations are unwilling or unable. Countries like Somalia threaten everybody; while some coalitions could deal with one or two problems, there are far too many issues the UN, NATO, AU and other regional groups are dealing with already. At the end of the day, if something is to be done, it has to be us. For now. (But not always)

Another example, related to the article. Off hand, was the Marine Corp not born of the need to have someone go and kick the Barbary pirates asses? This has all been piracy related so far, but theres something to be said for keeping everything else as stable as possible. The UN is completely incapable of enforcing anything, and NATO without the US would be nearly as useless.

China does also have problems. Nobody wants to "attack us," asides really from terrorist groups, and China has terrorist groups of its own. They've got some organized crime in the east, and along their western frontier they're pretty worried about Islamic groups of various flavors. Plus, if you don't think China would take foreign bases if China could, you're delusional. ;) I fully expect China to get at least some sort of base in Africa sooner or later.

To think the worlds problems would melt away if we simply stuck our heads in the sand is a little naive.

RE: Why?
By random2 on 10/18/2008 12:40:54 AM , Rating: 2
I think you might be underestimating the intelligence of the Chinese people.
As mentioned in a previous post they have never in their history been ones to look longingly outside their borders.
Think about it. Almost all of...if not all of the history of lands being conquered throughout the ages involving the Chinese, have been lands inside what is currently China.
Now they are so capitalist reliant, I don't think they would risk the economic backlash associated with being perceived as a war like nation. Not that I don't agree they are very capable, but I cannot see how the will is there. And as you have also mentioned in a previous post, they do have there own issues at home to deal with. Just keeping up with the rapid expansion of their economy and all the associated trappings of such, would keep any society hunkered down and busy for decades.

RE: Why?
By ayat101 on 10/18/2008 2:18:48 AM , Rating: 4
You MISS THE MAJOR point. All those lands currently in China have not always been Chinese (Chinese government propaganda notwithstanding). China has ALWAYS been an expansionist power, except it only managed to conquer territories in its "near abroad". The most recent examples are Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Taiwan... all areas which were conquered, taken over, or colonised... all areas with racially and linguistically different people. Plus, if you look further into Chinese history you find MANY examples of smaller kingdoms and ethnic groups which suffered the same fate earlier in history, Hmong, the Southern Tai peoples (this is how Thailand came to be when those people were pushed out by Chinese, and some managed to survive and band together), Tangut, Vietnamese (they managed to resist Chinese invasions and kick out the invaders on multiple occasions... love that nation :) )... this is just a few examples off the top of my head, as there are more.

RE: Why?
By AnnihilatorX on 10/18/2008 8:38:36 AM , Rating: 4
All of those are pale in comparison to the Age of Sail when many European countries, especially Spain, Portugal, Britain, France, many more; drive indigenous tribes around the world and set up satellite colonies.

Do you call the aforementioned country expansionist nowadays? No you won't.
Now tell me why China is one.

RE: Why?
By masher2 on 10/18/2008 12:40:01 PM , Rating: 5
> "All of those are pale in comparison to the Age of Sail "

Err, China invaded Hainan and Tibet in 1950, and China fought a war with India in 1962 to claim a province in the Himalayas, and another war with Vietnam in 1979. That's not exactly the ancient history the Age of Sail is.

RE: Why?
By Ringold on 10/18/2008 3:46:30 PM , Rating: 4
I'm not sure where all the expansionist talk comes from. I didn't say they were. I said they'd take bases if they could. When was the last time we fought for territorial gain? Our bases aren't for territorial gain but to protect allies and protect our interests. It'd be the same with China.

They have major, and increasingly important, investments in Africa. Africa will only become more and more important as a source of raw materials, semi-processed goods, cheap labor, etc for China. Africa is volatile as all hell. Therefore, for some of the same reasons we probably have a presence there, I reckon China would (if they could) like to have a base in a host nation in Africa so to look after their interests, maybe even promote political stability or peace.. just not in the way we may prefer. But still, that's not expansionist. In my book, its just realistic.

RE: Why?
By ayat101 on 10/19/2008 1:21:04 AM , Rating: 2
The reply was to the post where it was claimed that China never looked outside its borders to expand territory, while the Europeans/Americans were evil colonisers. I gave SOME examples of how China colonised, or took over territories.

RE: Why?
By djkrypplephite on 10/18/2008 1:00:54 AM , Rating: 5
The US Marine Corps was founded on November 10, 1775 In a bar called Tun Tavern, Philadelphia, Pa. We were made to kick British ass. We won our first battle with the British without firing a shot: they ran away, and we took over one of their forts in the Bahamas. I'll let history speak for itself, but yeah, we kick all kinds of ass.

RE: Why?
By Ringold on 10/18/2008 3:51:46 PM , Rating: 2
I stand corrected. I knew a Marine would correct me before long!

RE: Why?
By NullSubroutine on 10/18/2008 2:16:29 AM , Rating: 2
I once read part of textbook on political science; the heavy liberal bias dripped from every page.

I would be considered liberal and I think we should have a strong military including bases around the world. I also think we should use our military where it is needed, just that we need to be more wise where we send them.

While I supported going into Iraq at the time (believed weapons of mass destruction) in retrospect I would have rather spent a trillion dollars and 4000+ soldiers deaths in say Africa stopping genocide, rather than unstablizing Iraq and sowing the seeds for their civil war (which has killed hundreds of thousand of Iraqi's as a byproduct). I do believe evil prevails when good men fail to act, but I also believe we best take care because evil is perpetrated by those who attempt to do good.

RE: Why?
By NullSubroutine on 10/18/2008 2:17:38 AM , Rating: 2

but I also believe we best take care because evil is *often perpetrated by those who attempt to do good.

RE: Why?
By bigboxes on 10/18/2008 10:22:40 PM , Rating: 1
I wish we could insert Bush into troubled areas via rockets.

RE: Why?
By JKflipflop98 on 10/19/2008 1:56:43 AM , Rating: 3
I wish I could insert my rocket into some bush about now.

RE: Why?
By lco45 on 10/19/2008 4:15:27 AM , Rating: 2
One of the most amusing posts I've read this year.


RE: Why?
By random2 on 10/18/08, Rating: 0
RE: Why?
By phxfreddy on 10/18/2008 12:27:16 AM , Rating: 2
China is not the leading culture of the world. However we best focus on leading with our minds and not blunt force. That being said there would be unintended consequences from pulling out of the world.

RE: Why?
By ImJustSaying on 10/19/2008 11:25:07 PM , Rating: 3

I just don't understand the world police argument. Especially when, say, state sovereignty is invoked by the 'world peace keeper (The US Govt)' in the case of Georgia but is not invoked in the case of the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan (or Pakistan for that matter, since it seems that both presidential candidates support violating Pakistan's sovereign territory). There seems to be a consistent policy of inconsistency.

Can someone clarify these murky hypocritical waters for me?

RE: Why?
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 10/17/2008 12:50:01 PM , Rating: 3
A cruise missile can be sent faster and do more damage than 13 soldiers, without ever considering the time to deploy 13 troops.

Perhaps they anticipate sending a fleet of these, so there would be 100 missiles with 1000 troops to deploy, assuming a small shoot down rate.

On the other hand, if you wanted to deploy them at altitude, they parachute in, and then take out personal targets. Now that would scare the heck out of heads of state, because now they are targets in any conflict.

Of course, you have to write the troops off once they are inserted. There has to be a better way of making a living...

Then again, this would add a lot of excitement to stand-by military flights. Shades of Dr. Strangelove.

RE: Why?
By masher2 on 10/17/2008 1:00:45 PM , Rating: 4
> "A cruise missile can be sent faster and do more damage than 13 soldiers"

13 soldiers can do things a cruise missile cannot -- things like rescue hostages, retrieve lost or stolen items, and locate targets whose precise position may not yet be known.

It's rather like arguing over what's better-- a screwdriver or a hammer? Both are necessary, and have their roles.

> "Of course, you have to write the troops off once they are inserted. "

Err, why? They're only inserted in two hours. They can be extracted in a few days.

RE: Why?
By snownpaint on 10/17/2008 5:27:38 PM , Rating: 4
Agreed.. However.
Shooting Cruise or IC missiles at countries isn't a good idea. No Country likes seeing missiles on their radar, even if they are not the target.

At the same time fast deployment with reduced bases of operations, help increase security and reduce scramble logistics. I can see why the military is interested.

NASA has explored the difficult prospect of making a failing object land nicely, and determined it isn't as easy as one hopes.

Unlike Paratroopers or HALO missions it is hard to bury a landing vehicle. Self Destruction still leaves your traces and technology you may not what laying around.

I'm a fan of "leave no man behind". Cowards are people that allow fear to overpower what is right. You may have to take losses on a mission, but you can at least make sure the soldiers are properly buried where the family can visit to mourn.

RE: Why?
By MrDiSante on 10/17/2008 5:48:34 PM , Rating: 1
This entire debate is pointless. Go read Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers: all the points you're going to come up with for and against are covered in there, as well as a bit of an interesting implementation of such an idea.

And I mean read the book, not watch the abomination that is the movie.

RE: Why?
By masher2 on 10/18/2008 2:05:37 AM , Rating: 2
I first read that book some 30-odd years ago.

RE: Why?
By BarkHumbug on 10/20/2008 11:24:22 AM , Rating: 2
That was the first thing that came to my mind as well! Excellent book by an excellent author. Movie sucks big time though...

RE: Why?
By mcturkey on 10/17/2008 7:03:17 PM , Rating: 2
Precisely. There are some things that 13 marines could do that a cruise missile cannot. If we receive actionable intelligence that a highly sought-after enemy were in a heavily populated location where a cruise missile would cause considerable collateral damage (eg. basement of a schoolhouse), deploying some Marines would make it possible to take out or capture that target with far less risk to the local population. No guarantees of course, but it presents a practical alternative when a direct missile strike is an unpalatable option.

RE: Why?
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 10/20/2008 7:49:39 AM , Rating: 2
Shades of Blackhawk Down, now.

RE: Why?
By TechIsGr8 on 10/17/2008 12:54:55 PM , Rating: 5
Just take a listen to Eisenhower's speech, warning America about the dangers of power and control by the military industrial complex. It's all about big money, big ongoing budgets, forever war, and invoking fear in the American people to go along with it. By today's standards, the neo-cons would paint him as a traitor.

Here is the transscript:

RE: Why?
By Amiga500 on 10/17/2008 1:51:05 PM , Rating: 5

I cannot emphasis enough how many within the US* need to seriously pay attention to what Eisenhower said. His prophesy has definitely come true - it might even be argued that a lot of the US's cold war expenditure was mostly a result of self-funding paranoia created by the military-industrial companies within the USA.

Unfortunately, due to the democratic structure of the US, it is very hard for candidates to get elected without sizeable support of such industries.

*That includes many readers of Dailytech.

RE: Why?
By jskirwin on 10/17/08, Rating: -1
RE: Why?
By evenjr on 10/17/2008 2:52:32 PM , Rating: 3
Cute edit.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

RE: Why?
By evenjr on 10/17/2008 2:55:46 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry forgot to mention the quote in my last post was from the same hippy myth source

RE: Why?
By masher2 on 10/18/2008 12:44:44 PM , Rating: 2
Why not quote the summary from that link?
- Eisenhower didn't believe the Military Industrial Complex was to blame for the Cold War. He laid the blame on communism: "a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method."

- Eisenhower felt the Military Industrial Complex was necessary.

- Eisenhower felt the influence of the Military Industrial Complex might be "sought or unsought." For 60s leftists, "unsought" power for the Military Industrial Complex was inconceivable.

- A principled Republican, Ike was also skeptical of agricultural and research programs fostered by the federal government. He did not consider military industrial interests uniquely insidious, but rather he distrusted government expansion generally.
That seems to counter your basic point fairly thoroughly.

RE: Why?
By Ringold on 10/17/2008 9:52:37 PM , Rating: 2
Perhaps you're all talking past each other, reading only what you want out of his speech.

Eisenhower, and every president since Roosevelt, has understood that whatever the cost endured and whatever the dangers it brings, a powerful standing military is without question a necessity. Troops take too long to train, their arms too long to design and manufacture, their tanks and their aircraft can take years or even decades to mass produce, and a similar story with warships and carriers. Wars can be fought and lost in the time it takes to just build a new carrier. Even WW1, we were a little flat-footed getting in due to the time involved in spooling up the army from, I think, a just couple hundred to millions. I think most people understand that the Cold War stayed cold partly because any direct conflict would be a lose-lose due to our strength.

It seems as though hippies think Eisenhower implied that risk must be avoided. No, it is inescapable, and it looks to me like Eisenhower is saying it must be managed instead.

RE: Why?
By Ammohunt on 10/17/2008 2:08:55 PM , Rating: 1
Forever war? thats called the human race war will disapear when humans become extinct. To believe otherwise is extremely naive.

RE: Why?
By random2 on 10/18/2008 12:48:27 AM , Rating: 2
And Dwight would know wouldn't he?
Anyone who thinks all this is about good and evil was raised on to many Disney shows, and really cannot think critically, or at least outside the box now and again.
Just keep watching your TVs.... specially Fox, and that way, you'll really come to understand how things really are.....NOT!!!
One of the brightest comments in this blog Tech :-)

RE: Why?
By joeld on 10/17/2008 4:55:54 PM , Rating: 2
I wish I could give you a 6.

RE: Why?
By rippleyaliens on 10/18/2008 12:27:44 AM , Rating: 2
Actually i am liking this idea. people laugh at 13 men,
LOL- 13 Seal team 6 (DEVGRU) , Folks that is 13 dudes, i would not want comming after me. Or 13 Delta guys.
MORE importantly, if 2-3 pods (26-39).. That is a serious force to be dealing with. And yes those guys are real..

Now, if the Tech can be utilized to, provide a platform for instance, via ICBM tech, or even just a launch from Andrews, with those troops, to be anyplace in the world within 2 hrs, safely. That is a serious punch.
Rescue ops..
Material destruction.. (Iran nuke, Korean, etc..., Swift silent deadly insertion of Teams in hot spots...

As a US Marine, yah, we are sitting off the coast, per say. but talk about hitting a fly with a hammer. It still takes time to get marines ready, get the helo's.. If the target is beyond the range of a Osprey, have to get a Navy Carrier on standby, with a fuel plane... There is no element of surprise, and the enemy could see us comming.

A high level insert platform, would just Rock..

ALSO- Once again, folks, what is Fantasy today, is reality tomorrow. 20 years ago, a GPS cost $1000, only gave lat/long and was pretty big. Same time frame, Cell phones were huge, and a call cost $1 a minute.
Now- a Cell is a GPS/Camera/Video Camera/messaging platform.
100 years ago, someone would have stoned you for mentioning that one day, people will be able to fly.
50 years ago, we just got jets,
25 years ago, BOOM a color tv..
10 years ago, the fast computer took up a full floor of a office building, today, $1000 buys a computer that is faster than that..

Me personally i can forsee, hyper sonic transport, >mach5-6.. Transporting 5-10 Spec Ops, anyplace in the world within 2hrs, and them just parachuting..
Other than Mach 5-6 we have that ability now, just need the Jets/Rockets to catch up.

RE: Why?
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 10/20/2008 7:54:45 AM , Rating: 2
Just a note, 100 years ago, we were flying, so I don't think anyone would have stoned anyone over it. I think stoning was not prevelant in the US 100 years ago anyway. It still is in some countries, but even they wouldn't have thrown stones when the thing was already proven and in practice by 1908.

RE: Why?
By Mithan on 10/18/2008 8:11:09 PM , Rating: 1
The US will collapse. None of this is going to happen.

RE: Why?
By cleco on 10/20/2008 11:48:14 AM , Rating: 2
In order to get to some countries we have to fly over their air space. which requires permissions. usually that takes time. With this system they can be flow over the air space which only extends a couple miles without permissions and do what they need to do. While this is happening they can get the permissions to extract

This program was covered earlier this year or so in Popular Science.

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