Super Weapon? The Air Force Wants a (New) Nuclear Armed Cruise Missile

Kris Osborn

Kris Osborn

Security,

A good idea or waste of money? 

Super Weapon? The Air Force Wants a (New) Nuclear Armed Cruise Missile

Should major global powers be immersed in a high-stakes, dangerous escalation of tension, raising the possibility of a nuclear confrontation, could the existence of a long-range nuclear-armed cruise missile provide that unique additional variable necessary to keep the peace?

Such is the Air Force thinking when it comes to the current developmental trajectory for its emerging Long-Range Standoff Weapon (LRSO) -- a new, aircraft-launched nuclear cruise missile engineered to prevent nuclear conflict by holding enemy targets at risk potentially inaccessible to other methods of attack.

The LRSO ‘will allow the Air Force to ‘counter adversaries’ ever-improving integrated air defense with a lethal, tailorable, standoff nuclear strike capability,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, told an audience at a recent Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies Nuclear Deterrence event, according to transcripts.

The LRSO will be operational by 2030, Goldfein said.

The weapon will provide commanders with a wider range of options, as a bomber-launched nuclear cruise missile brings the prospect of deterring nuclear attack without needing to have a stealth bomber actually penetrate the airspace. Naturally, this lowers risk and also increases the deterrence posture by virtue of letting a potential adversary know there are a wide range of methods through which a response might be possible. Interestingly, the existence of nuclear weapons, according to Goldfein and other U.S. Air Force senior leaders, - is entirely based upon the notion of deterrence -- bringing the prospect of massive destructive power to achieve the opposite effect - stopping nuclear war before it happens.

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