The Obama administration is considering what sort of military action to take, if any, against the government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, which stands accused of using chemical weapons against its own people. The most likely option: a cruise missile strike against assorted military and government sites, like the presidential palace and chemical munitions facilities. Here's a primer on cruise missiles.
What are cruise missiles?
Cruise missiles are fast-moving, guided bombs that soar at a very low trajectory, parallel to the ground. They are distinct from regular (non-cruise) missiles primarily because they go really far. They are also distinct from drones, because they do not have on-the-ground pilots--instead, they fly a pre-set path--and you can only use them once. Germany used the first cruise missile in World War II. Called V-1s, after Vergeltung, the German word for retribution, they were fired from sites in northern France and aimed at London. The idea behind the V-1, which is the core idea behind all cruise missiles since, is to attack from far away without needing a pilot to control it.
How do cruise missiles work?
All cruise missiles have an internal guidance system, though the types vary. The Tomahawk cruise missile, which the U.S. Navy has deployed since 1984, uses a system called "Terrain Contour Matching," where an altimeter and an inertia detector plot the flight path against a pre-loaded terrain contour map. Later versions of the Tomahawk also use GPS, and there are other guidance systems that some cruise missiles use.
Cruise missiles all have basically the same parts: an engine, often a jet with an air intake, propels the missile through the air. There's a spot for fuel, and a spot for the warhead, or explosive carried inside. Both cruise missiles pictured below were designed to carry nuclear warheads, but most cruise missiles, and all that have actually been used in war, carry conventional, non-nuclear explosives. The front end of a cruise missile usually has a guidance system. Cruise missiles, with wings and engines, often resemble pilot-less planes.
Cruise missiles can be launched by airplanes, submarines, ships, or from launching vehicles on land. Besides the United States, more than 70 nations have cruise missiles.
Has the United States used cruise missiles before?
Oh, yeah. If the drone is the signature weapon of the 2000s and 2010s, cruise missiles were the go-to in the 1990s. Deadly, launched from far away, and without a pilot on board, they promised to destroy enemies without risking American casualties. Here are three American cruise missile strikes from the 1990s:
In 1993, Kuwaiti authorities foiled a plot by Iraqi Intelligence services to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush. In retaliation, President Bill Clinton ordered the firing of 23 cruise missiles at Iraqi intelligence headquarters. In 1998, President Bill Clinton ordered a cruise missile strike against the El Shifa Pharmaceutical Industries plant in Sudan, under the assumption that it was a chemical weapons plant. Also in 1998, Clinton ordered troops to fire cruise missiles at Osama bin Laden in the Khost province of Afghanistan. Both of these 1998 attempts were retaliation for the bombing of U.S. embassies in East Africa.
What were the consequences?
Following the 1993 strike, Iraq and the United States existed in a state of simmering hostility for the next decade. America (together with the United Kingdom and, for some of the time, France) imposed a "no-fly-zone" over the country, to prevent Iraqi's government from attacking Kurds in the north and Shi'ites in the south. The no-fly-zone was deeply problematic: Iraqi anti-air missiles occasionally fired at American aircraft overhead, and Americans bombed Iraqi anti-air missile sites in return. It only ended with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Tensions and violence in Iraq persist to this day.
The El Shifa Pharmaceutical Industries destroyed by the United States in 1998 was in fact actually just a pharmaceutical plant. The ruins were left untouched and now serve as a shrine to American incompetence.
The cruise missile strike in Khost failed to kill Osama bin Laden; a mission that would take 13 more years, a ground invasion of Afghanistan, a decade-long man-hunt, and a special kill team of Navy SEALS to complete. From the National Security Archives, there is also evidence that "the strikes not only failed to hurt Osama bin Laden but ultimately may have brought al-Qaeda and the Taliban closer politically and ideologically."
What are cruise missiles' limitations?
A 2000 report by the U.S. Air Force on Tomahawk cruise missiles notes several limitations:
Since then, cruise missile guidance systems have improved, but the overall limitations of the weapon system remain. The weapon requires good intelligence and good maps to hit the target. It also needs the enemy to stay in one, relatively vulnerable place.
Will the U.S. use cruise missiles in Syria?
It's not entirely clear. More certain is that idea that drones won't be used. Drones are great at tracking individuals from safe skies. But Syria's government has anti-aircraft weapons, which can easily shoot down drones. Cruise missiles, instead, fly faster, hit harder, and instead of hunting individuals take aim at big, fixed targets like military bases or palaces. Also, the United States has a lot of cruise missiles near Syria, and very few available drones.
Several publications, including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal expect the U.S. to use cruise missiles if the Obama administration does order strikes. Anonymous senior U.S. officials told NBC that a three-day cruise missile barrage against the Assad regime is possible. Of course, there's no guarantee that strikes will happen at all. Yesterday, President Obama said he had not made a decision on whether to intervene in Syria.
Launching cruise missiles feels like a strong military action for a president to take, but it's very unlikely to be a decisive one.
I could just see the syrian govt frantically reading over this.
"Popsci has given us everything! We will win for sure now!"
-Just trying to keep my girlish asymptote
Your girly 'humorous' comment may change if the US's speciality of bombing helpless 'third-worlders' changes into facing a real foe, like Russia, a country quite capable of reducing your nation to dust. You do realise that Syria is backed by the Russians?
Little hint: "Called V-1s, after Vertgeltung" - it is actually "Vergeltung" :-)
Greetings from Germany and thanks for all the great posts. I am a big fan! :-)
And use them they should! Regardless of weather we have direct proof that Syria actually launched the weapon themselves, they have killed thousands of innocent people in their civil war. Civil wars should not assume that every person on the opposing side is a trained killer. Morally, we should have intervened 2 years ago. That Syrias "Red Line" was the use of chemical weapons was stupid. The Red Line was crossed the moment they leveled buildings with hundreds of innocent people in them. The red line was crossed when they blew up little children and shot them. Every country in the world should be as ashamed as when they let 800,000 Tutsi get massacred in 1994. Regardless of who launched the attack, gauging by the atrocities that have already been committed by Assad, using chemical weapons is well within his morality.
As for the useless UN and it ridiculous veto process, they are slow and useless. They have a process that allows the majority ruling of other super powers to be circumvented by the veto of just one. This is a useless process and shows that the UN is merely the weak idea of a uniform government. More would get done without the UN for sure. Russia, I hope that when the sh!t kicking goes down, that you fire a shot in Syrias defense so we can level your little tugboat too. Russia cares about Russia and does nothing to care for the rest of the world. Russia: "We take care of our friends even when they are crazy and f*cking up rolyally, no matter what.". That's great. Most would shed the dead weight and look down on the horrible actions committed. But not Russia. They will loyally stick by their psychotic friends. You are the company you keep Russia and we all know you are trying to protect your biggest consumer of your old outdated weapons systems.
I hope we level this countries defenses. We have the backing of the Arab League and that is all we need. UN, get your ridiculous inspectors out of the way. You are merely buying time for Syria to lie and hide more evidence. You will never uncover who really launched the rockets. The fact you were fired on by snipers when you went to the chemical sites should be proof enough. Those weren't rebels shooting at you and the fact that Assad shelled the area to get rid of the evidence makes it stink even more. Save the innocent people. Most of them have already moved out of the country so, level it. Do it before they attack the refugee camps where most of the opposition has moved to. This whole thing is probably a ploy to simply get the people to migrate into concentrated areas and then kill them. The fact that the refugees are now in tight groups makes this a must!!! They are certainly dead if we don't do something. They will never make it back in now.
"Do not try and bend the spoon. That is impossible. Only try and realize the truth - there is no spoon."
"Do not try and bend the spoon. That is impossible. Only try and realize the truth - there is no spoon."
Also, no worries on POPSCI giving any real advantage to the enemy on details of the cruise missile. They are so completely wrong on its capabilities, in this article, that I hope the enemy does read it!! A cruise missile is as maneuverable as we want it to be. If we want to hide it we can. If we want to follow terrain we can. If we want to obscure its trajectory we can. Don't think for a second that new meta-materials, for limited spectrum cloaking, won't be used either. Nothing in the UN rule-book about using cloaking. You can't shoot down what you can't see. Syria would be smart to just apologize and give up. We don't need even one more country on our side to do this and everyone knows it.
"Do not try and bend the spoon. That is impossible. Only try and realize the truth - there is no spoon."
Completely Agree with you @ejfineran Thats one of my biggest concerns with this Syria thing aside from an exit strategy. This will probably not just be the U.S. vs Syria if it happens. There will be quite a few other contries involved.
-Just trying to keep my girlish asymptote
-Just trying to keep my girlish asymptote
There is the possibility that a cruise missile or two might open up and spread a whole lot of toxic weapons from its depot, thereby the USA causing a human disaster or sorts.
Let us hope they know '100%,ABSOLUTELY,FACTUALLY', what those cruise missles are aiming at!
Your condescending comment may change if the US and Russia were in fact at war. Good luck trying to 'reduce our nation to dust' while America has the largest Navy on Earth. You do realize that America is backed by 10 aircraft carriers--more than the rest of the world combined?
Oh and don't forget the submarines, which are probably parked outside Russia at this very moment.
Starz, count on it. They are putting them their now. Guarantee it.
ejfineran, you are very wrong. You can bet that our space based lasers are more than capable of taking out low earth orbit ICBMs. Our ground based lasers (lasers, solid state and chemical). Plane based lasers, Our patriot missiles and other interceptors, Our kinetic rail guns, our autonomous drones (tanks, vehicles, planes), our virus creating super computers (stuxnet) and our invisible (cloaked) neutron bombs (if some country is that dumb) will be working unison with our self guided smart weapons, GPS bunker busters, stealth aircraft, stealth submarines, stealth tanks, etc. and an infantry that kicks ass like none other on the planet. We don't show our cards, as our corrupt government makes apparent, and we put billions into defense every year. We took out an army of ovr 600,000 (including their defenses and infrastructure) in days. Then precisely did the rest of the job with far less advanced technology. Between DARPA, NASA and the government funded university experiments, you can bet that we are more deadly than you can possibly imagine. I would be very surprised to see a rocket, of any kind, land on american soil. We would scourge this planet country by country until the last enemy fell. Don't awaken the sleeping giant again. Not even nuclear weapons will stop us. You may kill Americans but our military will eventually destroy you. We want peace and freedom for everyone. This isn't about oil or gold, this is about the supression of humans, the failed government and leadership of Syria, the atrocity that is happening to innocent people. It's own neighbors are tired of Syria and they don't want the blood on their hands so they call us. They know we will crush Syria. We havent fired a bullet and the whole world is shitting its pants. Stop slaughtering innocent people you evil fucks! Get the message! I hope we kick the dog crap out of this army and destroy their chemical weapons.
No better reason to go to war in my opinion. To try and comfortably live in peace, while your neighbors are being killed, and treated like insects, is not possible. Our world is more connected than ever now and crimes against humanity don't go unnoticed anymore. If we have to take out every dictator that is killing his people then we should. We shouldn't stop until we are done. It's more expensive to stop and start than it is to keep going. lol
I've been to Russia and my first thought was, "Really?? We were in a cold war with THESE guys???"
Cruise missiles are a horrible choice for this situation. It is a coward's political tool. Politicians think employing them shows strength and resolve. But really it shows timidity. That you are willing to use force against that country, but not willing to put troops in harms way to make sure the job gets done right.
Nice posts D49. As ususal democedes i don't agree with you. Sparing american lives is a priority, otherwise public opinion won't allow the US troops to finish their job. With NASA mothballed (basically) all the classified goodies are up in space really making people wonder, where was that unmanned ship they sent up for like a year? and what was it up to. Putins chess game is already in check, he has funded assad, funded terrorism against the US and israel. Hopefully the US has a plan to take down the king of russia, or at least eliminate all the other pieces.
If you are not willing to put soldiers is harms way, then you are not committed to a military solution. An attack using only cruise missiles political strategy not a military one. It puts civilians at risk and increases the chance of collateral damage. Isn't the whole point of military intervention in Syria to save civilian lives? What is the point of retaliation if our cruise missiles kill more civilians than the chemical attacks?
I am a veteran. I have friends and family still in the military. I am not being cavalier with our soldiers lives. They volunteered to serve, being in harms way is part of the job. Either use the military or don't... but don't half-ass it.
"Germany used the first cruise missile in World War II."
Sigh... Try WWI!
And thank you so much POPSI for giving away vulnerabilities in the system. Nice job trolls.
D49 - your illiterate patriotism is inspiring, but dreadfully ignorant.
'...our space based lasers are more than capable of taking out low earth orbit ICBMs…'
No nation (or SPECTRE) has space based lasers with the capabilities you describe.
'...Our ground based lasers...Plane based lasers, Our patriot missiles and other interceptors, Our kinetic rail guns, our autonomous drones … will be working unison with our self guided smart weapons, GPS bunker busters, stealth aircraft, stealth submarines, stealth tanks, etc…'
No nation has ground based lasers with the demonstrated capability to destroy ICBMs, nor demonstration of any of the grab-bag examples you list as though actual facts. Btw, GPS-anything in a world-class conflict is already off the table - the Chinese demonstration of how easy it is to destroy troublesome satellites has not yet pierced your tin-foil hat. Now that any nation can google-map their own CD storage guidance system, the terrain-hugging cruise missiles of the US are no more lethal than those held by a large minority of nations on earth.
'...you can bet that we are more deadly than you can possibly imagine…'
Oh no - you didn't get a chance to finish the article? We cruise-missiled OBL with slightly less-than-deadly results. Less than deadly for OBL, but ultimately quite deadly for 4 airliners of passengers and their ground targets. How can you possibly apologize for this massive failure of the technologies you promote?
'...It's more expensive to stop and start than it is to keep going. lol'
I'm deeply sorry for your lack of access to an adaquate educational system. My wish for you is that you recognize this short-coming and refrain from whipping up a death frenzy in others of similar shortage.
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@Educated_Troll, you're not very educated at all are you? You live under the premise that if such a thing existed that we would know about it. Like when a spy agency gave NASA satellites that had more capability than the Hubble Telescope. One of Obamas first orders of business was to kill a defense project for a plane based laser who's soul purpose was to destroy missiles.
As for SBL platforms, they have been in development since the 70's. That's over 30 years of development and funding. Given the raw number of satellites that have been put in orbit since then, I would bet that they are there. I may not know which satellites but I am certain enough.
Lasers have been studied for their usefulness in air defense since 1973, when the Mid Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL) was first tested against tactical missiles and drone aircraft. Work on such systems continued through the 1980s, with the Airborne Laser Laboratory, which completed the first test laser intercepts above the earth. Initial work on laser based defense systems was overseen by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), but transferred to the newly created Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) in 1984. Work continues today under the auspices of the BMDO, the successor to the SDIO.
Current SBL planning is based on a 20 satellite constellation, operating at a 40 degree inclination, intended to provide the optimum TMD threat negation capability. At this degree of deployment, kill times per missile will range from 1 to 10 seconds, depending on the range from the missile. Retargeting times are calculated at as low as 0.5 seconds for new targets requiring small angle changes. It is estimated that a constellation consisting of only 12 satellites can negate 94% of all missile threats in most theater threat scenarios. Thus a system consisting of 20 satellites is expected by BMDO to provide nearly full threat negation.
The only foil hat that you should mention is the one your dad left off his pecker before you were born. Please don't troll me again you POS. I came in peace but got called out by an idiot. You don't read between the lines. The US is at little risk of ICBMs and could easily launch more satellites if needed.
In the future please don't try an beat my conjecture with more conjecture. Your post amounts to nothing more than a rebuttal based on disbelief. You provide no facts and no proof. A poor argument. You should try posting on fashion articles.
CHIPSENIOR Message for D49, as in many comments I'm seeing totally false information being posted. I would suggest you and some of the others research your comments before placing them on line. Spaced based lasers doesn't quite cut the path as truth. Just because you've seen previews or concepts of weapons that may possibly be used in the future; they mean just that, the concept but not the results. Rail guns, have you any idea of the size of the weapons your describing? You are as most far away from the actual platforms which could be used ; but if they are may well initiate another, race for weapons production. Obama has a choice to implement several types of systems that might, affect more than merely Syria in the area. More than likely this free time from using ballistic force may be a blessing.
Educated _Troll, I see you've picked up on D49's rant in the wind ; never the less not all nations in the world have cruise missiles that can compare to the one's the US has. As far as Drones are concerned, Iran's interruption of one and taking control of it is no more important than the "Peubelo" -sp (boat incident by North Korea, back in the day) by the time most countries can facilitate any type of production to compare to what's taken our country 20+ years to develop, we've already traveled many more steps up the ladder. If the entire world were to take a rational look at their surroundings they might see we are all in this together. It doesn't seem logical at the present but in the near future you'll see an end to those that hold their country by dictatorship, either by force or military means, its the entire human race that will be at stake to either be exterminated or to propagate. There are many who believe in warfare to overcome supposed enemies, but in turn we only have differences that do not constitute war as enemies, only the ability to compromise our differences. Obama's ability to call for a military strike on Syria, can only be viewed by those adversaries of Syria as a get even tactic, one of which smells of a third party planting evidence. As Hitler did to the Polish Government; before he invaded their country , the Gulf of Tonkin, G.H. Bush's photos of Saddam's troops invading Saudi Arabia, G.W. Bush's Weapons of Mass Destruction. just to name a few. With in each of these incidence all can witness the ability of corrupt leadership that eventually costs the world from thousands of lives to millions. Assad may not care how many lives are lost with his dictatorship, but he must know whether it be now or in the near future he will fall its all in his willingness of how far that might be, Putin, on the other hand can -not bring the military might of Russia to bear on the United States, he's somewhat a bully, but not quite a mad man, given the opportunity he and Obama can make headway to solving this issue, thankfully they should be meeting at present. You are aware the Russians have a naval port of call on the Mediterranean Sea, located in Syria.
@CHIPSENIOR, respectfully, please stay on top of your technology. The Navy already has the railgun. They already have it mounted on a ship. Lol. They have already awarded the development contract for the "mass production" of the Railgun. There were more than one prototype built and of them, the ones that are already mounted on ships, are by far the most deadly.
"The U.S. Navy’s Science and Technology community is deploying prototypes of electromagnetic rail guns, solid-state laser weapons and underwater unmanned vehicles in operational units with sailors and Marines, senior service leaders said April.
“These prototypes are shifting the game in our favor. We can no longer spend huge dollars on systems — they must be very reliable, very affordable and very effective. It is about developing disruptive technologies that can be hugely effective and hugely affordable,” Rear Adm. Matthew L. Klunder, Chief of Naval Research, Office of Naval Research (ONR), said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 14th Annual Science & Engineering Technology Conference/Defense Tech Exposition, National Harbor, Md.
A ship-mounted electromagnetic rail gun is one such prototype being tested on Navy vessels, Klunder said.
The rail gun, which can hit ranges of 100 miles or more, uses electricity stored on the ship to generate a high-speed electromagnetic pulse sufficient to propel a kinetic energy warhead. The result, is an inexpensive, high-impact and long-range offensive weapon, Klunder said.
“Electromagnetics have been around for a long time. How do you harness them and build the rails? We’re big fans of learning how to prototype these technologies for military applications,” he added. “We’ve fired this numerous times through testing. This is showing incredible results, so much so that we are very committed to this for the future.”
The rail gun’s hyper-velocity projectile can also be fired from standard Navy 5-inch guns as well as 155mm Howitzers, Klunder added.
The Navy is also testing several prototypes of a fully-autonomous, long-endurance land launched unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV), the large displacement UUV (LDUUV).
The idea is to deliver persistent undersea sensing capability while exploring technological avenues for increased energy density to prolong the LDUUV’s endurance and mission capabilities.
Klunder also highlighted the testing, development and deployment of the Navy’s Laser Weapons System (LaWS), a high-energy, solid-state next-generation directed energy or “laser” weapon to go early next year on board the USS Ponce.
The idea is deploy a low-cost, high-energy effective offensive and defensive weapon against a range of potential threats, including drones, fast-attack boats and what is referred to as small boat swarm attacks wherein large numbers of small watercraft attack simultaneously."
It's ok, wipe the egg of your face later. As I stated in my original post, we have a host of advanced weaponry at our disposal. All of which, in the case of a large scale war, will be used. Used to serious advantage as well.
To your point about lasers...I have seen them on the front of a USAF Airplane. I have seen them on vehicles that destroy ordinance. I have seen them on navy vessels. I have seen how the targeting system on them works with multiple beams tracking, targeting, adjusting for atmospheric disturbances, and then lasing the target to destruction... within 10 seconds. Not only can they hit a target but they can very accurately choose to either ignite the warhead, the fuselage or any part of the missile they choose.
I cannot fight ignorance but I can post facts. As for the SBL platform, I have no direct proof of this, as any proof would be classified anyways but, given the mirrors used for various types satellites, it is very plausible that sunlight itself could be concentrated as a laser from a seemingly inconspicuous satellite. "Starwars" from the Reagan era was the first space based ICBM defense platform. The only reason it wasn't put into commission was the realization that lasers were faster, more accurate, sustainable and cost effective. That last part is complete conjecture but its very plausible and follows the trend in technology on the platforms that are in use today.
My points stand and if need be I will provide much more research to the fact. Wow, just a room full of know-it-alls. :)
Also, the GPS guided railgun is already in use. It even created a breakthrough. They solved a problem with the railguns projectile which, when traveling at hypersonic speeds, creates a plasma sheath. The plasma sheath is created by air friction of the projectile and surrounds it during flight. The problem with this plasma bubble is that stops the use of control frequencies that would guide the projectile. At least until the breakthrough that a certain High Mhz frequency could indeed pass through the plasma sheath, allowing for communication. Thus the "GPS" guided rail projectile was born. The US has no enemy that matches our technology. The fact that you don't know is some hope for us I suppose and most likely intentional.
As for weapons races CHIPSENIOR... allow Iran to develop a Nuke and you will see a race like no other. As for truly world destroying weapons of mass destruction, chemical and bio warfare are the new nukes. Nothing stand s a better chance of leveling our human race than those two do. You can see why the US and its allies are at arms over their use.
Another little tidbit, which again is conjecture, is the recent detail about Neutrinos and neutrino beams. The sun creates Neutrinos but they source of neutrinos is at a great distance from the earth. You get something like billions or trillions of them passing through you at any given time. However, against the background of other cosmic energy they are diluted. Interestingly, if you created an earth based source of them, something in the quadrillions per square inch/centimeter, you could easily make fissile material useless. We already have neutrino beams btw. To point one at a nuclear warhead, for instance, would cause the nuclear fuel inside it to react with the neutrinos. A minimal version of the same thing that happens when the warhead is detonated begins to happen, as the neutrons of the nuclear material begin to strip away. So, do you think there is a neutrino beam pointing at nuclear arsenals around the world right now? Maybe at Irans centrifuges? This could be done underground and without the knowledge that it was even happening. Lol. I am glad that people don't know what is possible anymore. I am saddened that their arrogance leads them to think they would have heard about it if it were possible.
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D49 ... you are freakin' awesome!
@Jcanch, ...Somebody has to keep these trolls in check. You know?
@ D49: You destroy trolls. WHAT the hell are you?
Alright. This isn't about "war". A war has to be officially declared. This is also about Syria and cruise missiles. the whole idea is about dealing the Assad regime a punishing blow like taking away toys and privileges from an unruly child. On the other hand, it seems the cure (Syrian opposition) might be far worse than the disease. Even Obama seems to realize that now.