Disband the Air Force, Part Two: What about the Nukes?


Categorie: Air, Ballistic Missiles, Inter-Service Rivalry |

So if we were to disband the Air Force, as I proposed back in August and as Robert Farley seconded in a recent piece in The American Prospect, what would we do about the service’s 500 land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles? Maybe push through a new arms treaty and retire them all along with air-launched weapons, moving to a purely sea-based nuke force aboard boomer subs, as Great Britain has done?

Bad idea, says Mike Goldfarb from The Weekly Standard:

But getting rid of our ICBMs? It’s an interesting idea. I think it would be terribly naïve to put all our eggs in one basket and rely exclusively on a sea-based deterrent as David suggests.

John from Op-For concurs — ICBMs are indispensible. Why?

Once airborne, ICBMs are nearly impossible to defeat. They are remarkably survivable, and they are the fastest response weapon on the planet. Our enemies still field them, and in some cases are upgrading their strategic rocket forces with better boosters, better guidance systems, better reentry vehicles, and so on. So, I’ve heard many arguments on whether or not we could eliminate ICBMs, but not a whole lot of discussion on whether or not we should. 

But say we did. What might you do with all those leftover rockets? Goldfarb has an idea:

Attach a tungsten rod to the tip and voila, you’ve got yourself a conventional weapon capable of vaporizing deeply buried targets. You just need to convince the Russians and Chinese you aren’t lobbing a nuke in their direction.


6 Responses to “Disband the Air Force, Part Two: What about the Nukes?”

  1. Spencer says:

    Turning ICBMs into vehicles to carry conventional or kinetic munitions is an old idea. The logistics of convincing Russia and China we aren’t starting WWIII every time we need to hit a cave in Afghanistan is absurd. Besides, who’s to say Russia or China might not accidentally reveal the location and timing of the strike to our enemies? No, ICBMs armed with nuclear munitions are here to stay for a while. Stop fantasizing about an Air Force free US Armed Forces. Stick to what you do best: reporting.

  2. John says:

    damn. That Spencer dude is a dick.

  3. David Axe says:

    Yeah, I love it when readers complain about advocacy journalism by telling me to stick to reporting. As if opinion had no place in journalism. Maybe I should start putting “WIB Editorial Page” in the titles of opinion pieces. It might calm down the alarmists.

  4. Andrew Wagner says:

    Long time reader here. I’ve always been impressed by your analysis of military issues and particularly, the state of the U.S. Air Force. My roommate and I frequently discuss many of these issues and couldn’t agree more with your opinion on the air force. If the Air Force can’t manage it’s cost overruns and understand it’s position in a counter-insurgency dominated world, it doesn’t deserve the chunk of the budget it’s getting.

  5. Ian says:

    I took Rob’s point to be that the Air force as an institution starts looking for things to bomb so as to justify its existence. I understood him to be advocating an administrative reorganization rather than retiring weapons systems.

    Air force assets could be divided between a revived Army Air Corps (tactical bombing and battlefield air superiority) and a new Strategic Air Service (ICBMs and long range bombers)

  6. Alex says:

    All those points from OpFor also go for SLBMs; can’t be defeated once airborne, and the bases are invisible, mobile and self-defending too!

    Further, they don’t quite do silo-targeting, which means they’re a stabilising factor.

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