My thanks to a Facebook friend (Patricia Howard) for posting this link on my Facebook wall:
I thought this was so curious that I decided to post it here on the website and offer a few comments. The problem is, there are so many comments that could be offered that one doesn't really know where to begin.
So let's begin at the beginning: (1) technological dissonance. There is a dissonance here that I cannot wrap my mind around, and that is, on the one hand, we have evidence of a technological capability that must be giving intelligence and military analysts in Moscow and Beijing nightmares: a robotic space plane capable of carrying joyfully unspecified "cargo" into space and then shuttle-like, returning to earth and landing like an airplane. OK...cargo here could be anything: smart bombs, small nukes, satellites, cameras, you name it. The USAF, in other words, is in my opinion playing at some sort of game here, by acknowledging the existence of this aircraft. Usually, when this has been done in the past, it has meant that the actual deployable numbers of the revealed technology exceeds the one or two publicly stated. We've all seen the effectiveness of drone aircraft in the "war on terror" (and let's call it for what it really is, the "war to secure petroleum reserves, ancient sites, and the international drug trade").
But there is a dissonance here that, as I said, I cannot wrap my mind around, and that is the use of an old Atlas ICBM as the launch vehicle. Now, the Atlas has been in service a long time. It was the early backbone of the USAs strategic missile nuclear force and America's first truly intercontinental ballistic missile. Planning and design for it dates to the 1950s and, of course, to "good ole American knowhow" as exemplified in Arthur Rudolf, Wernher Von Braun, Ernst Steinhoff and a host of others who were involved in its design. It is a relatively sturdy and reliable launch vehicle, so one can see why the USAF would be launching its not-so-secret on an Atlas...
...but surely, in the 50+ years since the first conceptual designs were laid down in blueprint, the USA has come up with something newer? That question has to be puzzling the analytical minds in Beijing and Moscow as well... the USAF has pried the lid off the box of a "secret space program" to some degree here, but also appears to be playing some sort of game - at least in my opinion - by comfortingly launching this vehicle on an otherwise reliable but obsolescent technology (might as well get some usefulness out of those old Atlases, right?). The question I am asking, and that they are probably asking, is "What else does the USA have up its sleeve that they're not telling us"?