WASHINGTON — The U.S. Strategic Command announced yesterday it had achieved an operational capability for rapidly striking targets around the globe using nuclear or conventional weapons, after last month testing its capacity for nuclear war against a fictional country believed to represent North Korea (see GSN, Oct. 21).
In a press release yesterday, STRATCOM said a new Joint Functional Component Command for Space and Global Strike on Nov. 18 “met requirements necessary to declare an initial operational capability.”
The requirements were met, it said, “following a rigorous test of integrated planning and operational execution capabilities during Exercise Global Lightning.”
The annual Global Lightning exercise last month tested U.S. strategic warfare capabilities, including the so-called CONPLAN 8022 mission for a global strike, according to publicly available military documents.
CONPLAN 8022 is “a new strike plan that includes [a] pre-emptive nuclear strike against weapons of mass destruction facilities anywhere in the world,” said Hans Kristensen, a consultant for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Kristensen first published the STRATCOM press release on his Web site, nukestrat.com.
More on what this means after the fold.
Today, we stand on the brink of technological advances that can prompt a new concept of aerospace power employment. Stealth applied to bombers and maneuverable fighters, all-weather precision-guided munitions (PGM), and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will allow us to maneuver over, around, and through—or to stand off outside advanced defensive systems and networks already available to potential adversaries. Even more startling advances in information technologies are enabling new dimensions of command and control (C2), allowing horizontal integration of air and space intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms. With the application of valuable lessons from conflicts of the past decade, these technologies will provide the means to master persis-tent difficulties that continue to plague efficient planning and execution of aerospace power at the operational and tactical levels: time-critical targeting, all-weather precision, restrictive rules of engagement (ROE), collateral-damage control, and—perhaps most importantly—access issues.
Read carefully and you will see that what General Jumper was advocating was a modernized version of what the Germans in WWII called “Blitzkrieg” or “lightning war”:
HISTORY IS REPLETE with battles, campaigns, and wars that were lost because fundamental changes in the nature of warfare went unrecognized. . . . [T]he German Wehrmacht, realizing that technological and industrial advances had altered the nature of warfare, synergistically exploited new weapons such as the Panzer I and Junkers Ju-87 Stuka to develop a new concept of operations—the blitzkrieg. Packaged in powerful, combined panzer-air armies, later called Kampfgruppen on the eastern front, Wehrmacht forces cut large swaths around the determined resistance and drove deep into enemy territory. Nations that had the means to defend themselves with tanks, aircraft, fortifications, and manpower clung to outmoded ideas of positional warfare while the Wehrmacht flew over or maneuvered around permanent defenses. The results were devastating and immediate. The German onslaught quickly moved through Poland and overwhelmed numerically and often technologically superior forces in the Low Countries and France.
And now it appears that General Jumper’s vision of a 21st Century blitzkrieg capability for US forces has been realized:
Guam unit: Global Strike capable
By Tech. Sgt. Jeff Capenos, 36th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam — Four B-1 Lancers from the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron here participated in Exercise Koa Lightning last week — continuing their mission of providing Global Strike capabilities for Pacific Air Forces and Pacific Command.
During the exercise hosted in Hawaii, the B-1s dropped inert weapons and worked close air support on the island of Oahu with Joint Tactical Air Controllers from the 25th Air Support Operations Squadron.
“These were long sorties and very similar to missions being flown in Afghanistan,” said Capt. James Hart, 37th EBS pilot. “Sixteen-and-a-half hours is a long time to fly, but it was great training.”
Exercise preparations began three weeks prior with 37th EBS members working with the Kenney Warfighting Headquarters in Hawaii to reserve tanker support and airspace, and coordinate flight plans over Hawaii.
“This exercise brought together many elements of Global Strike,” said Lt. Col. David Been, 37th EBS commander. “From the tanker task force here to the Kenney Warfighting Headquarters in Hawaii, along with the superb maintenance we’ve come to expect, we had great support in making this exercise a success.”
The exercise was such a success that the unit finished the month flying 100 percent of all fragged sorties in the various October exercises, the colonel said.
Of course, this is all somewhat hypothetical, right. We’d only use this capability as a “last resort”, wouldn’t we? Well, maybe not . . .
Early last summer, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved a top secret “Interim Global Strike Alert Order” directing the military to assume and maintain readiness to attack hostile countries that are developing weapons of mass destruction, specifically Iran and North Korea.
Two months later, Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson, commander of the 8th Air Force, told a reporter that his fleet of B-2 and B-52 bombers had changed its way of operating so that it could be ready to carry out such missions. “We’re now at the point where we are essentially on alert,” Carlson said in an interview with the Shreveport (La.) Times. “We have the capacity to plan and execute global strikes.” Carlson said his forces were the U.S. Strategic Command’s “focal point for global strike” and could execute an attack “in half a day or less.”
In the secret world of military planning, global strike has become the term of art to describe a specific preemptive attack. When military officials refer to global strike, they stress its conventional elements. Surprisingly, however, global strike also includes a nuclear option, which runs counter to traditional U.S. notions about the defensive role of nuclear weapons.
. . . But a confluence of events, beginning with the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the president’s forthright commitment to the idea of preemptive action to prevent future attacks, has set in motion a process that has led to a fundamental change in how the U.S. military might respond to certain possible threats. Understanding how we got to this point, and what it might mean for U.S. policy, is particularly important now — with the renewed focus last week on Iran’s nuclear intentions and on speculation that North Korea is ready to conduct its first test of a nuclear weapon.
Global strike has become one of the core missions for the Omaha-based Strategic Command, or Stratcom. Once, Stratcom oversaw only the nation’s nuclear forces; now it has responsibility for overseeing a global strike plan with both conventional and nuclear options. President Bush spelled out the definition of “full-spectrum” global strike in a January 2003 classified directive, describing it as “a capability to deliver rapid, extended range, precision kinetic (nuclear and conventional) and non-kinetic (elements of space and information operations) effects in support of theater and national objectives.”
This blurring of the nuclear/conventional line, wittingly or unwittingly, could heighten the risk that the nuclear option will be used. Exhibit A may be the Stratcom contingency plan for dealing with “imminent” threats from countries such as North Korea or Iran, formally known as CONPLAN 8022-02.
CONPLAN 8022 is different from other war plans in that it posits a small-scale operation and no “boots on the ground.” The typical war plan encompasses an amalgam of forces — air, ground, sea — and takes into account the logistics and political dimensions needed to sustain those forces in protracted operations. All these elements generally require significant lead time to be effective. (Existing Pentagon war plans, developed for specific regions or “theaters,” are essentially defensive responses to invasions or attacks. The global strike plan is offensive, triggered by the perception of an imminent threat and carried out by presidential order.)
Is it any wonder North Korea and Iran are pushing so hard for nukes? Or that the rest of the globe sees the US as a bigger threat to world peace than any other actor on the global stage? Or that China is going great guns to modernize their own military forces? In a world we have dominated since the end of the cold war, a world without any major opponents with anything close to our military capabilities, why are we pushing so hard for an operational “global strike” capability with both our conventional and nuclear arsenals? And why are we willing to use such “pre-emptive attacks” at the drop of a hat (so to speak)
All I have is questions, I’m afraid. But I do urge you to read the entire Washington Post piece by William Arkin quoted above. It has lots of “scary stuff” to ponder over.