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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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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 (blog) 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.


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