Defeating Hard and Deeply Buried Targets in 2035
Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States
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Underground and hardened facilities are used widely across the globe to protect strategically important assets of nations, to include those related to weapons of mass destruction. Over the last decade, they have presented challenges to the US military for holding such targets of adversaries at risk. Many studies have been accomplished to assess gaps in our military capabilities related to targeting these facilities. Limitations of kinetic weapons to effectively attack these targets highlighted the need to accomplish full-dimensional targeting of underground and hardened facilities in order to defeat them and render them ineffective. The benefits they provide to adversaries in concealment and protection, as well US and partner military limitations to targeting and defeating them, have served to accelerate construction of underground facilities and proliferation of associated technologies among these adversaries.Improvements in tunneling as well as anti-accessarea denial capabilities will serve to compound challenges to targeting underground facilities over the next several decades. As new technologies emerge, specifically related to nanotechnology, hypersonic vehicles, directed energy weapons, and other non-kinetic capabilities, the Air Force must emphasize funding these technologies in order to develop of a family of systems supporting Global Strike forces that will provide the best opportunity for targeting and defeating underground and hardened facilities in the future. Moreover, as the US nuclear stockpile is further reduced and underground facilities are constructed at depths and in materials where current and future kinetic weapons are rendered ineffective, the US military may be unable to hold some of the most critical underground targets at risk. Thus the military may be faced with considering alternative means for holding those targets an adversary deems most vital at risk in order to deter action opposed to US interests.