An Intercontinental Ballistic Missile with conventional explosives in place of its usual nuclear warhead would allow the U.S. military to take out terrorist targets on the other side of the world in an hour or less. Too bad any ICBM launch — nuclear or non-nuclear — looks the same to other countries’ radars, meaning every strike on a terrorist camp risks sparking World War III. It’s for that reason that just this week the Air Force wisely shelved all discussion of its loopy “ICBMs vs. terrorists” scheme.
Or maybe not.
Or maybe so.
Truth is, it’s no longer clear what the Air Force thinks about non-nuclear ballistic missiles. Are there plans to build them despite the risks? Or did cooler heads prevail? Could an armed, hypersonic glider based on the finicky Hypersonic Test Vehicle replace the strike-anywhere nuke-less ICBM? Or would the super-fast glider merely complement the potentially world-ending terrorist-killing rocket?
In just a week’s time, one Air Force official or another has announced each of these positions, directly contradicting some other officials … or himself.