Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Hot Eagle:" the Space Marines Are Coming

I doubt that they'll be called "Space Marines," but there's a good chance that sometime around 2040, something like this will happen (all times are UTC):
  • 13:35. A truck bomb explodes at the American embassy's gate in [redacted]. There are unconfirmed reports of gunfire inside the embassy complex.
  • 14:05. An unidentified person, calling from the American embassy in [redacted] claims that it has been liberated by [redacted], that the embassy staff will continue to be safe, provided that specified demands are met.
  • 14:20. An aid to the American ambassador at the embassy is killed.
  • 16:25. Several spacecraft enter the airspace of [redacted] and land near the American embassy. Marines, armed with stun guns and gooey nets, pour out.
This isn't Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, or Star Wars stuff.

Gooey nets are available today. Products like Sticky Net are an effective way of restraining people without killing them, and anathema to the more hoplophobic bloggers.

Stun guns are a still in the research-and-development stage. The way I see it, though, the biggest obstacles to their use will be
  • A 'we've never done that before' attitude by some older officers in the military and police forces
  • Legal challenges by people and organizations horrified by the thought that big, rough, men in uniforms won't have options other than lethal force
Those space ships are a little further off, but they're being developed.

2002: Birth of the Space Marines

In 2002, the United States Marines' deputy commandant for Plans, Policies and Operations, now-retired Lieutenant General Emil R. Bedard signed a Universal Needs Statement calling for "Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion (SUSTAIN) capability".

The prototype is called "Hot Eagle." It doesn't exist yet, but the Pentagon wants to see test flights in 11 years.

What's being discussed sounds a lot like the Dyna Soar project (1958-1963). Almost a quarter century would pass before some of the Dyna Soar technology was used in the Shuttle. Now, fifty years later, I think "Hot Eagle" has a very good chance of making it off the drawing board and into the inventory of the United States military.

Spaceplanes like the Dyna Soar aren't the only option for the Space Marines. The McDonnell Douglas Delta Clipper represents a type of vertical takeoff and landing spaceship that could land in a smaller area than a glider.

McDonnel Douglas' Delta Clipper lost out to the more excitingly innovative technologies of Lockheed Martin's X33, with its linear aerospike engine.

Unlike the X33, which had to be scrapped around the turn of the century, the Delta Clipper actually flew in the late nineties. It's not hard to imagine that engineers could take data from the Delta Clipper tests and begin work on a new vertical takeoff and landing single-stage-to-orbit spaceship.

Marines in Spaceships? Yes, it Makes Sense

Production models of "Hot Eagle" would 'fly' more than 50 miles up: above what most countries claim as their airspace. That would make it possible to 'send in the Marines' without getting the permission of every country along the route: and probably tipping off the enemy in the process.

The psychological impact of having Marines landing in spaceships, hours after an incident, might be almost as effective as the next-generation non-lethal weapons that some find so scary. Although a few shiploads of Marines might not be able to deal with all aspects of a mission, I think they would at the least be able to buy time until slower military units caught up.

I may not live to see Space Marines, but I'm glad to read that some of America's leaders are planning ahead.
Slightly-related post in another blog: News and resources:
  • "Spaceplane to reach spots faster"
    Times of India (October 20, 2008)
    • "The American military is planning a 'spaceplane' designed to fly a crack squad of heavily armed marines to trouble spots anywhere in the world within two hours.
    • "At a recent secret meeting at the Pentagon, engineers working on the craft, codenamed Hot Eagle, were told to draw up blueprints for a prototype which generals want to have in the air within 11 years.
  • "Pentagon plans 'spaceplane' to reach hotspots fast"
    TimesOnline (UK) (October 19, 2008)
    • "The American military is planning a 'spaceplane' designed to fly a crack squad of heavily armed marines to trouble spots anywhere in the world within four hours.
    • "At a recent secret meeting at the Pentagon, engineers working on the craft, codenamed Hot Eagle, were told to draw up blueprints for a prototype which generals want to have in the air within 11 years."
  • "Future Launch"
    A few visionary Marines would take expeditionary warfare to new heights
    Navy League of the United States (undated)
    • "Think back to the Iranian hostage crisis of the late 1970s. For 444 days, the United States was rendered impotent after a mob of Iranians overran the Marine Guard and took the U.S. Embassy staff hostage.
    • "President Jimmy Carter, who had promised during his election campaign to reverse the country's 'crisis of confidence' and 'national malaise,' looked powerless during the long hostage crisis as Americans were reminded nightly that their countrymen were being held against their will, and there was nothing the United States could do about it."
  • "Scaled Composits"
    home page
  • "Jurassic Technology: The History of the Dyna-Soar"
    Aerospace Crosslink (Winter, 2004)
    • "During its brief existence, the nation's first space plane fostered research and technology that influenced space efforts for years to come.
    • "When NASA announced in the spring of 2003 that its next major project would be the design and launch of an orbital space plane, many in the space community sensed that the nation's space program had come full circle. An Air Force program to develop a similar orbiting space plane, the Dyna-Soar, was the first in the nation's history to result in the manufacture of hardware. The Dyna-Soar program was truly a pioneering effort, and although it was canceled in December 1963 without achieving flight, it fostered research that was later applied to the development of the space shuttle and other U.S. space systems."
  • "NASA Shuts Down X-33, X-34 Programs" (March 1, 2001)
  • "The Delta Clipper Experimental: Flight Testing Archive"
    NASA (January 6, 1998)

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.