Many months ago I blogged about the latest in military technologies being developed and researched by DARPA (The Diabolically Apocalyptic Research Projects Agency, as we like to call it here on this website, following a suggestion of Mr. J.B.). Among those technologies were "smart bullets" which could change course in fllight, robots, exoskeletons, advanced universal medical technologies able to repair soldiers on the battle field, and electromagnetic railguns able to fire projectiles so fast that no standard means of protection - conventional armor plating for example - are sufficient. Indeed, such projectiles, if large enough, would impact with such extreme kinetic energy that that would have an effect similar to a nuclear weapon, sans all the nasty radioactive after-effects.
Now, according to this article, shared by Mr.V.T., Russia is responding in kind:
Space Railgun and Robot-Avatar: Russian Military Steps Into Sci-Fi Territory
Of interest here is this paragraph:
In a series of laboratory tests the Russian prototype has fired its projectile at a whopping 6.25 kilometers per second. A weapon capable of firing at a speed like this renders useless all existing means of ship, plane or tank protection.
Moreover, a projectile made from several kilos of tungsten is comparable to a small-yield nuclear artillery shell as it generates almost as much energy without leaving behind a deadly trail of radiation. During the latest such test the projectile reached the speed of over 11 kilometers a second, which means that the Russian railgun can send payloads right into space!
Such railguns are not a new idea. In fact, the idea first occurred to a Norwegian physicist and inventor before World War One and was indeed investigated by him and subsequently taken up by the Germans during that war, and intermittently between the wars, and again, during World War Two, as a part of their secret technologies developments.
As the article notes, such technologies, scaled up and perfected, could conceivable launch projectiles into space, and could thus conceivably function as anti-missile systems. Additionally, a large enough space-based platform could function as a non-nuclear strategic bombardment platform in the so-called "Rod of God" scenario, and ground based systems could similarly and conceivably be used as long-range strategic bombardment platforms. Or course, current technological limits make all of this a high octane speculation, but the possibilities and implications cannot be ignored.
So what are the implications of all of this? For one thing, they spell the immanent, if not present, obsolescence of ICBMs, cruise missiles, bombers, and even of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons themselves. After all, why use a weapon that has such horrific aftereffects? "Rods of God", however, carry no such punishment to the user.
And for another thing, they would fall outside current restrictions undertaken in treaty obligations by certain nations not to build nuclear weapons: think Germany and Japan here.
In short, a new arms race for an entirely different type of strategic weapon of mass destruction is dawning, one in which space is the ultimate platform and prize, and one in which current treaty restrictions - beyond commitments not to weaponize space - are no longer in play. And as has been said, one can conceive of long-range ground based platforms.
Think of this, the next time one hears an anxious press worrying about Iranian nuclear weapons. Perhaps the reaction to Iran should be "Go ahead, waste your money."
See you on the flip side...