National Academies Press: OpenBook

U.S. Conventional Prompt Global Strike: Issues for 2008 and Beyond (2008)

Chapter: Appendix I: The Minuteman Option

« Previous: Appendix H: Cooperative Reduction ofNuclear Ambiguity
Suggested Citation:"Appendix I: The Minuteman Option." National Research Council. 2008. U.S. Conventional Prompt Global Strike: Issues for 2008 and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12061.
Page 219
Suggested Citation:"Appendix I: The Minuteman Option." National Research Council. 2008. U.S. Conventional Prompt Global Strike: Issues for 2008 and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12061.
Page 220

Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

I The Minuteman Option Early in the course of this study, the Committee on Conventional Prompt Global Strike Capability was indeed puzzled that the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) list of actively considered options did not include putting a conventional warhead on the Minuteman III missile, since those missiles and operational proce- dures exist, are well understood, and have significant payload. Moreover, various possible applications for the missiles have been suggested over the years by scien- tific panels; conventional global strike seemed to be another natural application to consider. Upon further inquiry, however, the committee independently concluded that for reasons described below, the Minuteman option is not as attractive as the sea-based alternatives for the near term, and that it is not as attractive as a number of the longer-term options. The salient points are best read sequentially: • The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) of 1991 may well be extended, in which case using the Minuteman for conventional prompt global strike (CPGS) would probably require treaty modifications that would have to be negotiated with Russia and other countries, raising the possibility of complica- tions, delays, and uncertainties. • If treaty issues did not exist, the Minuteman launched from current instal- lations in California or Florida would often have to overfly Europe, Russia, or China, creating nontrivial risks of international incidents and possible ambiguities during crisis. • Deploying the Minuteman elsewhere, such as in Hawaii, which the com- mittee analyzed, could largely avoid the overflight problems, but the political, economic, and procedural difficulties of introducing a new and secure operational 219

220 U.S. Conventional Prompt Global Strike base for strategic missiles, even if the missiles are few in number and convention- ally armed, might prove considerable and cause delays. • Even if the basing difficulties could be resolved quickly, the Minuteman option proves not to have any particular attractions relative to the submarine-based approaches. Indeed, it would probably have to be modified to use something very similar to the Conventional Trident Modification’s (CTM’s) front end in order to achieve adequate accuracy and to build conservatively on past technology. Moreover, such a modification would take time and testing and would incur the difficulties that arise when one organization is asked to use technology developed by another (e.g., technology tested in a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency [DARPA] program). The difficulties are not merely parochial, but also technical: organizations have rich infrastructures developed over decades, which include people with a great deal of tacit knowledge that must also somehow be captured and transferred. The Air Force might find it necessary or expedient to develop its own version of a CTM-like front end, in which case additional years might be required. Further, development risk would be higher than in the Navy’s incremental approach within a mature organization that has a long-term record of success with almost precisely the same components as in the CTM or CTM-2. • The committee reasoned, nonetheless, that if concerns about ambiguity problems in time of crisis were a dominant consideration, then perhaps the Min- uteman option would nonetheless have some advantages. It should be possible to provide on-site inspections and persistent instrumentation that would provide nations such as Russia with a reasonably high level of assurance that any launches would contain conventional weapons (“reasonably high” because nearly any sys- tem of assurances could probably be defeated with sufficient cunning and lapses of diligence by the observer). However, the committee’s analysis concluded that with only modestly more creative measures, such assurances could be provided with submarine-based options (see Appendix H). For all of these reasons, then, as well as the fact that the DOD had earlier considered the option and rejected it, the committee did not analyze the Minute- man option to the same extent that it did the others.

U.S. Conventional Prompt Global Strike: Issues for 2008 and Beyond Get This Book
Buy Paperback | $69.00 Buy Ebook | $54.99
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

Conventional prompt global strike (CPGS) is a military option under consideration by the U.S. Department of Defense. This book, the final report from the National Research Council's Committee on Conventional Prompt Global Strike Capability, analyzes proposed CPGS systems and evaluates the potential role CPGS could play in U.S. defense.

U.S. Conventional Prompt Global Strike provides near-, mid-, and long-term recommendations for possible CPGS development, addressing the following questions:

  1. Does the United States need CPGS capabilities?
  2. What are the alternative CPGS systems, and how effective are they likely to be if proposed capabilities are achieved?
  3. What would be the implications of alternative CPGS systems for stability, doctrine, decision making, and operations?
  4. What nuclear ambiguity concerns arise from CPGS, and how might they be mitigated?
  5. What arms control issues arise with CPGS systems, and how might they be resolved?
  6. Should the United States proceed with research, development, testing, and evaluation (RDT&E) of the Conventional Trident Modification (CTM) program5 and, ultimately, with CTM production and deployment?
  7. Should the United States proceed with the development and testing of alternative CPGS systems beyond CTM?
  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook,'s online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!