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Prompt Global Strike - A missile to hit anywhere in 1 hr

Prompt Global Strike (PGS) is an initiative of the United States military to develop a system capable of a conventional weapon strike anywhere in the world within an hour.

The system is designed for time-critical strike in emergency situation, or to counter terrorist activities like attacking a terrorist leader based on inputs of his location, or against a rogue state preparing to launch an attack by localised destruction of his weapon assets.

Need for Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) can be described in a given scenario where the United States has learned of a terrorist group’s plan to transport a nuclear weapon, and the opportunity to intercept the shipment is both urgent and fleeting. In this scenario, there are no U S military forces close to the expected shipping point and one weapon type in the US arsenal can reach the point in time - a nuclear-armed ballistic missile.

Another scenario involves a rogue state preparing to launch a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead from a location that current conventional forces could not reach with sufficient speed. And yet another plausible scenario is one in which the United States has learned that a top terrorist leader will be at a certain place at a given time and again the nation has no conventional forces capable of striking that place at the right time.

The key concept is that in each case, a PGS weapon would be used, but without crossing the nuclear threshold and provoking massive nuclear exchanges.

The new weapon could be launched from air, land or sea on a long-range missile travelling at suborbital altitudes above 350,000ft. The missile releases a hypersonic pilotless plane that receives updates from satellites as it homes in on its target at up to five times the speed of sound, generating so much heat that it has to be shielded with special materials to avoid melting.

There have fears that PGS could trigger a non-nuclear arms race and complicate President Obama's long-term vision of ridding the world of nuclear weapons. U S military officials were also struggling to solve a separate major obstacle: the risk that Russia or China could mistake the launch of a conventional Prompt Global Strike missile for a nuclear one.

However, concerns about the PGS technology has led Russia to successfully demand that the United States decommission one nuclear missile for each new conventional weapon activated by the Pentagon. Now Russia and other nations would reportedly be allowed to inspect the Prompt Global Strike silos to see first-hand that the weapons are nonnuclear.

Current Conventional Prompt Global Strike projects focus on the development and demonstration of technologies that could support an eventual US - based operationally deployed system. Three concepts are being examined for the programme - Hypersonic Technology Vehicle, Conventional Strike Missile, and Advanced Hypersonic Weapon.

The PGS system will be designed to complement Forward Deployed Forces, Air Expeditionary Forces, which can deploy within 48 hours and Carrier battle groups within 96 hours.

The US Air Force prototype Prompt Global Strike design is a modified Peacekeeper III intercontinental ballistic missile. If it is successful, the plan is to deploy a handful of the missiles at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

A fact sheet on Prompt Global Strike issued by U S State Department states that the new START treaty protects the U S ability to develop and deploy a CPGS capability. The Treaty in no way prohibits the United States from building or deploying conventionally-armed ballistic missiles.


National Academy of Sciences website
US Department of State

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