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Boeing Wins Contract To Study Conventionally Armed ICBM Demo

By | August 29, 2007

      By Michael Sirak and Dave Ahearn

      The Air Force awarded The Boeing Co. [BA] an $8.9 million contract to study aspects of the conventionally armed long-range ballistic missile that the service plans to demonstrate early next decade, the Chicago-based company announced.

      “With more than 50 years of experience supporting Air Force missile programs, our team looks forward to assisting the Air Force with this study,” Peggy Morse, director of Boeing Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Systems, said in a statement.

      “It will help refine requirements leading to a demonstration program and will provide system-level analysis of one of the key concepts considered viable for a prompt global strike weapon.”

      The study, which Boeing said is scheduled for completion in June 2009, will help the Air Force as it prepares to demonstrate the Conventional Strike Missile (CSM) concept around 2012.

      The CSM is a land-based ballistic strike weapon that would be capable of hitting a target with a payload of conventional munitions essentially anywhere on the globe within an hour of its launch from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., or another coastal base in the contiguous United States.

      Controversy has surrounded the CSM concept, however.

      Some lawmakers in Congress are concerned that some nations, observing the United States military launch what seems to be an ICBM, might assume American forces have launched a nuclear strike, and respond with a retaliatory nuclear strike against the United States or its forces.

      Some Democrats in Congress, especially, have expressed a desire to cut or kill outright funding for CSM development programs.

      That CSM concept in the Boeing contract features the Minotaur launch vehicle atop which stands a payload delivery vehicle that protects the weapons load as the missile traverses space and then dispenses the munitions over the target area.

      The Air Force considers the CSM a mid-term prompt-strike option that could be available around 2015 to go after time-critical targets such as a fleeing terrorist leader or a missile armed with weapons of mass destruction being hastily prepared for launch at the United States.

      Service officials say it would be more capable in this role than the converted Trident missiles that the Navy intends to field in the near term. It could serve until the objective, more sophisticated prompt global strike system that the Air Force wants around 2020 becomes available.

      Initially the Air Force is investigating thermal protection systems, along with guidance, navigation and control components and high-speed weapons-dispense mechanisms applicable to the CSM concept. It also is assessing weapons payloads, focusing first on the Textron [TXT] BLU-108 submunition.

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