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Conventional ICBM

they're not nuclear
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As the price of reaching orbit drops it becomes more practical to create ICBMs that don't carry a nuclear payload. To be used the next time it's discovered that a particular leader of unbalanced warfare is in a particular place and the attacking country has nothing nearby. In such a situation a quick phone call to other countries to reassure them that this isn't the beginning of a a nuclear exchange would allow a swift, sure placement of a bomb anywhere on the globe. A sufficiently large number of these could save a good deal of expensive asset placing.
Voice, Aug 08 2010

Baked http://gizmodo.com/...-iran-in-30-minutes
[Grogster, Aug 08 2010]

Prompt Global strike http://en.wikipedia...rompt_Global_Strike
Several designs, converted ICBM's being the easiest. I beleive there's plans to place a handful of modified ICBMs aboard existing SSN's. [Custardguts, Jan 16 2014]

Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) http://en.wikipedia..._Bombardment_System
Basically parse what [8/7] said into reality, circa 1960's. SALT II put a stop to it, at least officially. Note: not nearly as energetic as some poorly researched fiction, including big-budget hollywood films, would have you beleive. [Custardguts, Jan 16 2014]

Brilliant Pebbles http://en.wikipedia...s#Brilliant_Pebbles
Here's [8th's] weapon system, no conventional explosives required. [MechE, Jan 16 2014]

Project Thor http://en.wikipedia...t_Thor#Project_Thor
More of the same. [MechE, Jan 16 2014]

Halfbaked 'til toasted... Orbital_20toaster
[normzone, Feb 22 2014]

[link]






       Non-nuke ICBMs are baked, methinks [link]. But, what if there is some distinguishing mark or label on them certifying they are non-nukes? Like a label that says, "...if you can read this you're standing too close..." Anyone with a decent pair of field glasses will then have the assurance that they are about to be blown up by a conventional weapon.
Grogster, Aug 08 2010
  

       // As the price of reaching orbit drops //   

       // expensive asset placing //   

       Hmm. The answer is actually to loft some LEO birds with re-entry-hardened conventional payloads.   

       The NavStar GPS system, or GLONASS, or Gallileo would be a perfect "front" for deploying this sort of store.
8th of 7, Aug 08 2010
  

       //conventional icbm// - baked, link   

       //LEO birds with re-entry hardened conventional payloads// - baked, link   

       Well baked I'm afraid, although there are real potential-for-escalation risks with the former, and a whole international treaty prohibiting the latter.
Custardguts, Jan 16 2014
  

       I believe you underestimate the volume of ordinance involved in modern conflicts. I'm relatively sure that any country that can muster a battery of ICBMS and the satellite and intelligence infrastructure to make use of them for a non-nuclear tactical application is already up against an enemy well aware of basic asymmetric warfare and not one likely to store many of it's eggs in one convenient basket. Last I checked we weren't at war with Justin Beiber and desperate for a technique that would get some conventional explosives "up in that".
WcW, Jan 16 2014
  

       Agreed, but open warfare isn't the mission for the system, and not how I read [Voice]'s description. It's more designed for punitive strikes, or decapitating strikes. I don't think it too far-fetched to think of a scenario where a sufficient number of high-value targets would be either found in the same place at the same time, or at least, their locations pinpointed sufficiently for multiple simultaneoud strikes to be effective. Probably more useful against a military organisation than a cellular nonheirachal terrorist group.   

       ...And to prove the point, the US, and Russia, (and presumably China, maybe India) are investing heavily in the technology.
Custardguts, Jan 16 2014
  

       See my links for the actual approach to do this from LEO. No explosives required. A kinetic strike from orbit will do just fine.
MechE, Jan 16 2014
  

       This entire idea is made pointless by drones and cruise missiles. Both are far less expensive options for blowing stuff up anywhere in the world on less than an hour's notice (and no, I'm not exaggerating, we really can do that).
Alterother, Jan 16 2014
  

       //This entire idea is made pointless by drones and cruise missiles. Both are far less expensive options for blowing stuff up anywhere in the world on less than an hour's notice ...//   

       I don't think that's quite true. A brief perusal of wikipedia suggests that with cruise missiles you've got a choice between supersonic (max range ~500km) and long-range subsonic (range varies, furthest listed is 2500km).
The speed of sound is ~340m/s at sea-level, but decreases with altitude, and I suppose the speed of the missile will be lower still, so perhaps a subsonic missile travels at something like 250m/s, or a kilometer in 4 seconds. This is 15 kilometers per minute, or 900km in an hour. Even at 333m/s you can only strike 1200km away in an hour - and that totally disregards launching.
Obviously you'd need a large number of bases to strike anywhere in the world within an hour. My very rough calculation (based on a generous 1000km range) suggests you'd need over 650 evenly distributed bases to hit 'anywhere' within an hour, and thus well over 200 to hit anywhere on land. That's going to be difficult to arrange politically.
  

       On the other hand, you'd only need a single ICBM base to hit anywhere in the world in well under an hour. I can imagine that it would be politically feasible to set up a single, multi-nationally accredited non-nuclear ICBM base from which launches wouldn't immediately instigate WWIII.
Loris, Jan 17 2014
  

       Okay, that's not quite true. I got carried away.   

       The US or her AEGIS-equipped allies can potentially launch a Tomahawk against any target within ~1400 miles of any coastline in less than one hour. We have ships all over the damn place, so this is not just possible, it's feasible. Targeting the extreme center of large land masses (Central Asia, for instance) would require a B1 bomber or a long- distance drone (which we also have scattered around the globe) and would probably take half a day from takeoff to delivery. That's a more realistic description of our military's strike capability.   

       Short version: by the time this idea was posted it was decades out of date, since the US has for some time had the ability to accidentally place precision-guided munitions on British ground forces in any theater of combat without warning and without sending anything into space.
Alterother, Jan 17 2014
  

       I think the advantage of this would be that you could hit anywhere without any preparation.   

       Firing an ICBM off may be pricey (perhaps $50 million), but how does that compare to the operating costs of permanantly stationing warships off every coastline?
Honestly I think if it would work, the economics would be in its favour. However, given the stated accuracy of modern ICBMs (~500 meters), I doubt that the intercontinental N2 mine would have many appropriate targets.
Loris, Jan 17 2014
  

       // Last I checked we weren't at war with Justin Beiber //   

       And that's a good thing ?   

       // since the US has for some time had the ability to accidentally place precision-guided munitions on British ground forces in any theater of combat without warning and without sending anything into space. //   

       That's true. The only novelty is the hem-hem "precision" aspect ...   

       "The United States of America: Randomly Opening Fire On Our Allies Since 1917"   

       And it even took you three years to get that far ...   

       //you could hit anywhere without any preparation //   

       They already do that. Eventually, they may develop technology to allow them to hit somewhere specific, rather than just anywhere. And then the only challenge is to make that specific place the location of an actual enemy ...
8th of 7, Jan 17 2014
  

       [8th of 7], you've been assimilating far too many under-bridge-dwelling lifeforms lately. Report to hanger five at 0600 to have your implants graunched.
pertinax, Jan 19 2014
  

       //However, given the stated accuracy of modern ICBMs (~500 meters), //   

       Hmm, I get (from multiple sources) around 100m for the Trident II, which is an SLBM, but same-same otherwise. Then again, I'm sure that can be improved upon - a 475kT warhead doesn't exactly have to hit you dead-on, and these things are normally designed to a spec, rather than the best possible performance.   

       I'm sure than in place of 8 W88 MIRV warheads, you could place one single device with much better accuracy. You could even have the payload get to within say 1000m, fire retrorockets, obtain imaging, select a target, then engage. That's easily possible with current technology.
Custardguts, Feb 21 2014
  

       I'm not sure where I got that accuracy from - a wikipedia article I think.
A bit more searching and I found a comparison table for ICBMs. Minuteman II is given as 90-120m. Best accuracy is the Russian RS-24 at 50m (and the range is 12000km), and there are a *lot* of active missiles with worse accuracy (200m is common, worst is 1.5km).
  

       Unfortunately however this accuracy is CEP (circular error probable), which is defined as: the radius of a circle, centered about the mean, whose boundary is expected to include the landing points of 50% of the rounds. (taken direct from wikipedia.)   

       So if the accuracy is 100m, then half the missiles are delivered over 100 meters away. Fine if you're targetting a Bond villain's lair, I suppose.
Loris, Feb 21 2014
  

       Being one hundred meters (metres) from the blast point of any conventional warhead carried by any long range delivery platform of modern manufacture would seriously and most irrevocably ruin anyone's day.
Alterother, Feb 21 2014
  

       As I said - great for targeting a large conglomeration of enemies. For a surgical strike in a well-populated country however, we could expect some collateral damage. It's not ideal for a weapon intended to strike anywhere in the world to have a 300m exclusion zone from every school, creche, SSSI, hospital, mosque and library.
Loris, Feb 21 2014
  

       That's alright, the US military has a long and proud tradition with weapons and equipment that meet the description // not ideal //.
Alterother, Feb 21 2014
  

       The point I was trying to make is that they had no reason to go any better than ~100+m accuracy. When you're slinging 475kT warheads, 100 or even 500m is just a matter of living a few more milliseconds.   

       If you took the total warhead capacity of an ICBM, and designed a specialised conventional warhead delivery system, I have no doubt you could go much better, accuracy wise.   

       In fact, I'm quite certain that's exactly what several countries are working on, right now.
Custardguts, Feb 22 2014
  

       Delivering a small bomb seems a waste of an ICBM. But how about delivering a load of drones? They could pile out at 5000 feet a half mile from the target. Then they could buzz about stinging and slapping folks, spraying them with Axe, doing all those things drones do.
bungston, Feb 23 2014
  
      
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