The Pentagon is asking the US Congress for US$ 500 million to
set up a new force of conventionally armed, long-range missiles
capable of striking anywhere in the world within an hour after an
order is given, The Washington Post reported
The initiative will convert 24 Trident missiles armed with
nuclear warheads into rockets carrying conventional warheads and
begin fielding them by 2008, according to the report.
The missiles will be launched from submarines and could hit
targets 8,500 to 11,000 km away.
Pentagon officials said a primary advantage of the plan is that
it will offer US leaders a conventional alternative to nuclear
weapons in a distant crisis where the speed is essential.
But they also acknowledged a major risk of it, that is, that
other nations could conceivably misinterpret a conventional missile
attack as a nuclear strike.
Nevertheless, the officials said that the proposed plan, called
"prompt global strike" is needed to address threats-- such as
terrorist groups and underground weapons stocks and military
facilities -- that have proliferated and for which nuclear weapons
are "not appropriate" because they are too powerful and inflict
high civilian casualties.
They said the conventional ballistic missiles could penetrate
the ground deeper than other conventional weapons, making it a
possible alternative to another proposal for building a "bunker
buster" nuclear weapon designed to go deep into the earth and
propagate a shock wave.
With estimated flight times of 12 to 24 minutes, the
conventionally armed missiles could be used quickly against a
remote and fleeting "terrorist stronghold" or against a nation
threatening a neighbor with a missile attack -- targets that could
take many hours, days, or weeks to reach with cruise missiles,
bombers or ground forces.
(Xinhua News Agency March 9, 2006)