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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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Starship Troopers
By stryfe on 10/17/2008 12:31:17 PM , Rating: 2
Apparently someone in the US military has been reading Robert A. Heinlein's book Starship Troopers.

In the book (not the movies) the marines wear robotic battlesuits that allow them much greater speed and strength than a regular human as well as the ability to carry a great deal of weaponary, including a tactical nuke.

The marines in their battlesuits are loaded into pods which are then fired from orbit of the planet their mission is on. The pods protect them through reentry and as they get lower in the atmosphere start to go through a process that is like peeling an onion, each layer through a series of flaps and parachutes slowing their descent. Once they are very close to the ground (something like 500-1000m) they eject themselves (still in their battlesuit) from the pod and land on the ground as if they'd simply jumped off a 5' ledge.

The marines carry out their mission and then secure a landing zone for a transport to land and pick them up.

It's really a great book, Heinlein was a brilliant man.

RE: Starship Troopers
By FITCamaro on 10/17/2008 12:59:10 PM , Rating: 1
I read the book long before the movie ever came out. Then when I was 16 the movie came out and I had my dad take me to see it expecting something at least similar to the book. Boy was I wrong....

At one point in the movie he turned to me and was like "Why did you want to see this?"

RE: Starship Troopers
By stryfe on 10/17/2008 3:15:40 PM , Rating: 2
I read on the IMDB page for the movie that the director started to read the book, got through the first chapter, got bored and never finished it. It sure shows.

RE: Starship Troopers
By FITCamaro on 10/17/2008 5:41:13 PM , Rating: 3
What the hell was boring about guys in mech suits and portable nuclear missiles as armaments?

RE: Starship Troopers
By EODetroit on 10/20/2008 10:09:53 AM , Rating: 2
That's fine because Starship Troopers, the movie, is a great movie. I never read the book, I understand its a lot different than the book, and that's ok. The movie is awesome, and anyone that doesn't understand what makes it awesome just doesn't "get" it.

Now Starship Troopers 2 is terrible.

RE: Starship Troopers
By FITCraparo on 10/18/08, Rating: -1
RE: Starship Troopers
By on 10/18/08, Rating: -1
RE: Starship Troopers
By stryfe on 10/18/2008 7:04:49 PM , Rating: 2
Lord of the Rings

Other than a couple skipped sections to keep the length semi-sane it's an exceptional representation of the book.

RE: Starship Troopers
By FITCraparo on 10/18/2008 10:04:42 PM , Rating: 1
LOTR sucks donkey d**k heres the perfect take on it

RE: Starship Troopers
By masher2 on 10/17/2008 1:03:33 PM , Rating: 2
I remember in the early 90s, the military began working on powered armor, due to the concepts Heinlein pioneered in that book in the early 1960s.

RE: Starship Troopers
By Strunf on 10/17/2008 1:54:04 PM , Rating: 2
In Starship Troopers 3 they get those suits near the end... the movie is a complete waste of time even for the fans of the first.

RE: Starship Troopers
By codeThug on 10/17/2008 2:37:18 PM , Rating: 2
RE: Starship Troopers
By roastmules on 10/17/2008 2:59:06 PM , Rating: 2
Armor by Steakley was, in my opinion, one of the best books on this subject. (There was some weirdness about 3/4 of the way through, that didn't seem to go...)
The first and last sections are what I'd think a World-War II style combat with that technology would be like. (I site WWII, since the casualty rate was so high. We don't have many casualties in combat these days by comparison.)

RE: Starship Troopers
By helios220 on 10/17/2008 3:01:16 PM , Rating: 2
While Starship Troopers is certainly not the only science fiction work featuring space marines, it's what came to my mind when I first read this article a few days ago on Defense News. Despite the questionable technical feasibility of this (currently), space marines just seemed too cool so I figured I'd submit the article to DT and here it is, kind of cool. Glad to see other people find it interesting too.

RE: Starship Troopers
By MonkeyPaw on 10/17/2008 4:11:31 PM , Rating: 2
Here I was thinking they stole this idea from Quake 2 and 4. ;)

RE: Starship Troopers
By MrWho on 10/18/2008 3:30:23 PM , Rating: 2
Just what I was about to add! :)

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