Imagine a group of Al Qaeda terrorists hiding deep in a cave in the Hindu Kush mountains. Predator drones can’t reach them and by the time the US President orders a strike by an army special services team, they escape.
Perhaps this scenario has been enacted before: Osama bin Laden may owe many of his lives to this glaring inability to react in time.
Not any more. In the years ahead, the US may introduce a new weapon system called Prompt Global Strike, an array of missiles, sensors and deep penetration rockets.
The idea is old and simple: a combination of powerful missiles (the Minuteman, for example) and second-by-second guidance by satellites enable a missile strike anywhere in the world in less than an hour.
Why now and not earlier? In an age dominated by non-state threats, expenditure on nuclear weapons and their delivery systems makes little sense. The US is also gearing for a renewed push to end the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Having a potent non-nuclear weapon system makes much sense.