US Air Force Should Buy SpaceX Starship as a Hypersonic Platform for Missiles and Bombs

The US Congress is looking to spend $6 billion in 2021 for a Pacific Deterrence Initiative which would be funding for operations in the Pacific to counter China. The general in charge of the U.S. Air Force in the Pacific would like to see some of it spent on hypersonic weapons.

General Wilsbach has no preference on the type. Hypersonic research involves maneuverable weapons or aircraft that can travel at speeds of Mach 5, or higher, and the systems designed to defeat them.

In 2021, SpaceX will be making about one hundred reusable SpaceX Starships. A 15,000 altitude test (50,000 feet) is expected during the first week of December 2020 for the SN8 starship prototype.

The 2021 prototypes will be more capable and will progress to an orbital test flight. In 2021, SpaceX Starship will be going mach 15 to 30 and will be able to carry 100 tons of payload. SpaceX can throttle and turn the engines on and off. This will enable SpaceX starship to be a far more capable hypersonic platform.

The Starship by itself will be able to have a range of about 8000 miles. It will be able to fly over and over again, day after day and get reloaded with missiles that would be carried to hypersonic speeds. It will be able to act like a massive hypersonic bomber.

The cost will be lower and the payload will be larger and it will fly sooner than the other US hypersonic systems. Bombs and Missiles deployed from a Mach 15-30 platform would also be hypersonic.

SOURCES- National Defense Magazine
Written By Brian Wang,

56 thoughts on “US Air Force Should Buy SpaceX Starship as a Hypersonic Platform for Missiles and Bombs”

  1. This will not sit well with the rank and file SpaceX employees. Many of them are young and talented engineers who will be against this.

  2. I am not saying technology will not catch up and handle it, though outside of Russia it will be slow. China can do small payloads into LEO well but they do not have the rocketry knowledge or infrastructure to do LEO+ interception reliably. Russia has the wherewithal, but no money for it. I am merely advocating the overall removal of Aircraft Carriers and stealth bombers from the US arsenal once a working Starship Booster that lands and is reusable 10+ times is complete, The Starship Booster alone, once working, can power a huge host of military platforms as a first stage vehicle to launch a range of hypersonic weapons. Its the ultimate 1st stage and gives any weapon attached nearly global shrike ability from Kansas, again, once complete.

  3. The PRC never owned the whole of the south china sea, Tibet or Taiwan, but that hasn't stopped them from using force to take them.

  4. A good example of diplomacy would be for all nations to recognize that China 'owns' the Sth China sea, all the way to Indonesia. And who knows after that. What I liked about Obama was that he preferred diplomacy – and did a nuclear deal with Iran that will enable it to end the nuclear non-proliferation, and chose to ignore China's fake islands. He was a diplomat, a man of peace. And the rest is history.
    Old African saying, talk softly and carry a big stick. No stick then don't bother talking – your enemies are walking over you.

  5. Better solution- encourage Taiwan to produce nuclear weapons.
    As soon as nukes enter the discussion, would-be invaders think twice. This includes the US- like with NK.

  6. Just have the military paint them different.
    Honestly, why is it not a big deal for Boeing to produce passenger airliners AND bombers but not Musk do the same for starships?

  7. That's right up there with "why can't we all just get along". drivel
    It's in our blood, our DNA, were a tribal species at heart, and until we genetically modify ourselves, we will weaponize everything, the next battlefield could be anywhere.

  8. Isn't the trick having something that can be hypersonic in the atmosphere? Having missiles in orbit doesn't automatically mean they can approach a target in the atmosphere at hypersonic speed and still be able to target. Not talking 'rods from god'.

  9. I'm intrigued. Which particular Trump stuff-up are you relating to this development?

    Is this because he failed to build his wall, so American's are still feeling vulnerable and threatened by foreigners?

    Is this because he was cowed by accusations of racism so he caved into pro-viral pressure not to shut the US borders fast enough, let loose a plague in the country, and now the next government might need to have a foreign adventure to distract the population?

    Is this because he didn't remove the legal privileges that allowed the big tech social media platforms to take control of the fake-news-industrial-complex that dominates current US politics?

    Go on, how did a Trump mistake lead to any future US-Russian conflict?

  10. If you give the US a weapon with a faster response time and cheaper than a aircraft carrier, the B-2 and F-22 in terms of ability and ordinance. Then its nearly un-targetable.

    And it hasn't actually flown once yet, not a full flight. And you think this means they'll make 100 in the next year?
    Maybe for US military aircraft in WW2. Nothing like that speed of adoption has every happened in the US military in the lifetime of any serving officer.

    Actually, let's look at WW2. They had a brand new, radial technology, devastatingly effective type of aircraft tech developed then too. The jet engine.

    The first Allied jet flight occurred on 15th May 1941 (we'll ignore the Germans did it two years earlier). Even in WW2, even when having test pilots die was considered a "cost of doing business", even when aircraft were being developed in weeks, when a better fighter plane could be a matter of national survival, it still took until July 1944 to get these operational.
    That's when you are pushing the development speed of new aircraft tech as fast as you can go.

  11. Russia we deserve to live like you i know Trump messed up but that does not mean you have to make are life a living mess pls dont do this to us pls

  12. China's ruling oligarchy is simply afraid of their own people. They know that if freedom ever came to China that many in the communist party might be jailed for crimes against humanity.

    The Chinese in Taiwan, on the other hand, have had no problem embracing freedom and democracy. So it has nothing to do with cultural differences.

    Taiwan has a freedom index on the Freedomhouse scale of 93 (which is actually higher than in the US). Mainland China has a freedom index of 10 which is below that of Iran and barely higher than Saudi Arabia. China's not even close to the partly free level on that scale.

    The ruling oligarchy in China believes that their economic
    domination over the West is– inevitable– and that their influence and
    control over US corporations will eventually help them to bend the American people to their will.

    The economic appeasement and greed of the West to Chinese fascism has only emboldened them. And the economic embrace of free trade among– free nations– is the only way to stop them!

  13. my compliments .. space should be a dimension of union and collaboration between people and nations, in peace. No Space Cowboys please..

  14. No nation at the moment has anything to deal with orbital bombers, orbital AA systems, radar that is in orbit and faces earth, and eventually drones that can hypersonically descend on targets. That is in a very real manner what a Starship Heavy could create if they are even at 30 million per launch for 100 tons. If you give the US a weapon with a faster response time and cheaper than a aircraft carrier, the B-2 and F-22 in terms of ability and ordinance. Then its nearly un-targetable. Add it up.

  15. Just no. You still have to get within range and have an accurate position. So they can take on Hawaii and start a nuclear war. All those missile systems are worthless without a high resolution position targeting system, unless you go MAD.

    Based off the targeting platforms available to the the Chinese and Russians, unless off their coast within 1000km or a setup experiment, they cannot hit anything moving too far away.

    Those DF-21 missiles need a accurate target position or a nuke. Even with that speed if the AC is moving, it better be able to maneuver once within 100km, or like 5 seconds from impact, if the position is off just a little it misses.

    Essentially, anything conventional and they miss without real-time targeting data. They do not have the AWACS aircraft and surface radar reach to detect anything over the horizon much further than 1000km out, except maybe those few fake islands in the South China Sea. Russia has greater reach and ability in this regard due to size, but China likes to pretend.

    My fav is the " Arctic Ambitions" of China, even though they have no direct access.

    Also, the US has reach all over Earth: NORAD, AWACS, Aegis, and THAAD. It will only expand exponentially if SpaceX is successful with the Starship. Not much anyone can do about that without creating a Kessler Syndrome, even then with the current tech they have they might not be able to hit a Starship with even a minimal counter-measure ability. They are being designed to carry 100+T.

  16. In 2021, SpaceX will be making about one hundred reusable SpaceX Starships

    The only way this is not nonsense is if there should have been the addition of

    In the 20 years beginning in 2021, SpaceX will be making about one hundred reusable SpaceX Starships

    Still an amazingly optimistic forecast, but not a ridiculous fantasy of assuming 2 per week.

  17. It is technically feasible to redirect a small asteroid 15 years in advance and wipe out your enemy without even declaring war. You can also replicate the Chixulub event if you live on Mars and you are fed up with high taxes or something..

    I wouldn't agree it's currently technically feasible. Physically possible of course, but current tech, and indeed anything likely before 2050 (if not 2070), you couldn't start redirecting an asteroid without anyone with telescopes and motivation to be able to see you do it. Then, when they work out where it's heading… "oh, hang on, isn't that the same asteroid that Canada was doing that impact testing on 6 years ago? "

  18. Tungsten rods have been used as anti-armour projectiles for decades now, and nobody has any trouble at all in identifying them as weapons.

  19. can't imagine a lump of machined titanium would be as expensive as a complex hypersonic missile.

    What, exactly, is the difference between a lump of machined metal (of any sort) and a complex, hypersonic missile?

    The expensive and complex bit of a missile is the guidance. Your "simple" lump of metal will still need all the guidance to hit a target. You aren't going to achieve anything militarily by destroying a random bit of landscape somewhere near your target. This isn't WWII any more.

    Your telephone pole is definitely going to be hypersonic. Everything in orbit is hypersonic.

    So a rod from god is merely a complex, hypersonic missile without an explosive warhead. That's the only difference. And modern deep penetration high speed warheads only use a tiny % of high explosive anyway. So the difference is trivial.
    You won't be saving any money. Tungsten is probably more $/kg than high explosive anyway.

  20. "Rights" is not a paradigm that makes sense from every political perspective. It only makes sense from a "Social Contract" perspective. Encouraging values and a willingness to treat all individuals equally and with dignity is more likely to be heard.
    China mostly gets upset at things they consider to be insults. Trivially easy to avoid that or talk to them directly, privately rather than through the media. OK, not trivially easy. They are offended by the term Chinese…which seems really bizarre. But it is achievable. And watch where you barf.
    The essential thing is that if people were to vote freely and without any corrosion, would they vote for the system of government they have (not talking about administrations…unless it really is not abiding by its Constitution)? That vote does not actually have to take place. Saudi Arabia, and Belarus may fail that test. Iran may be a tossup. The others: Russia, North Korea and China would likely say they want what they have…Except in Hong Kong.

  21. In 2021, SpaceX will be making about one hundred reusable SpaceX Starships

    Are you sure? It might be based on demand, all these projections and plans are never internally consistent. The demand for heavy has been almost nonexistent.

    Since June 2010, rockets from the Falcon 9 family have been launched 103 times, with 101 full mission successes, 3 being FH, one partial failure and one total loss of spacecraft (numbers current as of 24 November 2020)

    "SpaceX aims to have up to 54 launches for Falcon 9 and another 10 for Falcon Heavy for 2021 from Florida according to its February 2020 environmental assessment. In October 2020, Musk indicated he wanted to be able to increase launches to 48 in 2021"

  22. This is the same line of thinking as having a FOBS constellation surge launch on one or a few starships. Yes it is technically feasible, but geopolitically a bad idea. Also, for military purposes, a more distributed system where you have individual launchers launching individual hypersonic weapons is the preferred methodology. Which means something smaller. Also, calling up a civilian starship on demand is a non-starter, and the military is currently not in a position to own their own starship (while they could, leaving it around as a standby launcher is a waste of money, but the military currently has no need to operate a starship at the cadence necessary to pay for one, assuming SpaceX was willing to sell/lease).

    Now, if the military did want a nuclear FOBS, or a combination of sensor/comm constellations and predeployed conventional hypersonic weapons in reentry vehicles, then that changes things. Having a swarm of tungsten rods, hypersonic weapons, and drones deployable from orbit on less than 30 minutes notice to anywhere, managed by an all seeing gorgon eye that never sleeps is a terrifying system. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and near instantaneous retribution. There's a reason countries have been hesitant to deploy a FOBS up until now, not counting the technically difficulty of surge deploying it.

  23. There's never going to be peace in this world as long as the economic greed of our corporations continues to prevail over basic human social and economic rights.

    China is a model that suggest that people are willing to live under the oppression of a ruling oligarchy (the communist party) in exchange for economic gain. But its easy to get along with China– as long as you're willing to obey its ruling oligarchy. Lecturing China about human rights is about as useless as American abolitionist were lecturing the South about the sin of slavery.

    The US and the rest of the free world need to start an economic free trade zone among nations that are free and democratic and who respect human rights (US, Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia, South Korea, etc.). There should be low tariffs on imports among free nations that are 10% or less, IMO.

    But there should be high tariffs (15% to 100%) on all imports from nations that are not free and who continue to oppress their people ( China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, etc.).

    The US should trade with everyone, IMO. But the free nations of the world should have the freest and most advantageous access to the US economy. And the free world still has substantial economic and scientific dominance over the nations that continue to oppress their own people.

  24. I think that ICBMs use sold fuel boosters, rather than the liquid fueled engines Starship is designed to use. They do that because liquid fuels tend to be unstable (early ones were corrosive to boot) and you want to be ready to launch quickly – that's why they call the missile the 'Minuteman'.

  25. Any rocket that can achieve orbit is capable of being an ICBM, so they already do.

    How do you tell what's inside, especially if they start containerizing payloads. (I haven't seen plans for that, but it's a pretty obvious point on a road map when you are talking about freight hauling using any transportation mode.)

  26. Starship as a weapons platform won't work. No complicated hostile machinery will be allowed to fly in the near future because of directed energy weapons.
    Launching military payloads in peacetime is realistic and a very big market. The amount of kinetic energy that can be stored, prepared and deployed from space is staggering and game changing.

    It is technically feasible to redirect a small asteroid 15 years in advance and wipe out your enemy without even declaring war. You can also replicate the Chixulub event if you live on Mars and you are fed up with high taxes or something..

  27. The original "Project Thor" was supposed to use Tungsten, but that was at a time when the material cost was negligible compared to getting it into orbit.

  28. US nuclear aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines should be more than enough to keep China's ruling oligarchy from intimidating its neighbors.

    But I'd also deploy floating nuclear barges within International Waters just outside of the Philippine's northern EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) for the production of synthetic jet fuel from seawater to provide carbon neutral jet fuel for naval planes and US Navy destroyers. The nuclear barges could be towed into the area by electric or hybrid electric tugboats that are also recharged with electricity from the nuclear barge.

    The nuclear barges could be powered by a couple of NuScale Reactors to provide more than 150 MWe of electricity for jet fuel production.

    This would allow the US Navy to enhance its help in protecting friends in the area (Taiwan, Philippines, South Korea, Japan, and the US Northern Mariana islands).

    China already has plans to deploy floating nuclear reactors into– disputed– territorial waters in the region.

  29. 4" x 4" X 4" tungsten cube $2,500 on Amazon – about 40lbs. "Rods from God" has been talked about as a telephone pole-sized form factor. The stuff is crazy dense/massive. Starship economics could get it to orbit on the cheap.
    "Demolition Ranch" on Youtube just did a demo on shooting the above cube. Even a .50 BMG armor piercing round just barely dented it.

  30. But you don't use 150 T for cruise Missile. Build dedicated reusable 1st that also has the expensive hardware, command and control, most of the sensors can also go SCRAM, and fly all the way close to the target and a cheap dumb 2nd detonation stage that it guides. That will make a very cheap cruise missile. That will replace most of the bombers also.

  31. So that Elton Musk can upgrade his famous remark from "we will coup whoever we want" to "we will bomb whoever we want"

  32. Terrible idea. Imagine if half the 747s out there were bombers, so many civilian 747s would get shot down that no one would even get in one.
    You can't rely on the transponder honor system to correctly identify aircraft, you need that difference in configuration.
    How about more diplomacy? That usually does not cost much. Is there no room for projections in the future of diplomacy…only more weapons? Yes, the US needs hypersonic missiles because the other big boys are getting them. But I see no reason to escalate beyond that without provocation.
    We need better relations with China and Russia. Russia needs to find something else they can be good at beyond oil and weapons. They have a huge landmass, there just has to be a lot of minerals. They need to find them and mine them.

  33. There may actually be a place for “Laser” in the system. Orbital/Hypersonic Kinetic bomber Starship could carry megawatt+ laser defense systems – which would be pretty effective since any missile coming at it would be detected a long way off and in vacuum. Starship itself would be pretty tough to hurt with lasers being stainless steel and able to spin and tumble if attacked since it’s uncrewed. Also a good excuse to give it a cool highly polished look.

  34. Yep. Unlike a re-entering spacecraft it’s not trying to aero brake. Just the opposite. It’s trying to shed as little velocity as possible converted to heat before impact. It would come in very steep pointy end first and only pass through the atmosphere for a brief period. Steel jacketed concrete with thermal tiles to protect control surfaces would probably work. Most of the mass doesn’t need to be expensive.

  35. Titanium rods carried on Starship ARE hypersonic missiles. Missile in this sense doesn’t imply it has it’s own propulsion.

  36. This isn’t a nuclear escalation, nor is the Chinese and Russian buildup of Hypersonic missiles. Either could have destroyed US carriers with nukes more than half a century ago.

  37. Spinning a new Starship design as a weapons platform would be a bad idea. They would impose their requirements, regardless of the touchy-feely goals of cheap space access and settlement, and probably not even keep the goals of fast reuse. A weapon or a weapon launcher's design space is just not the same as a cargo or passenger vessel's, even if there are similarities.

    Unless Musk plans having the military guys fully financing his rocket plans, that is.

    So far it seems he wants to self-fund his endeavors, with a risky bet on Starlink, where they will be selling the antenna receivers at a loss for a while, waiting to streamline the production process and make them cheap later.

    I hope they keep that focus, and deliver a final working product that can be spun into something else later, like airplanes, which were first developed into existence and then had bombs and guns attached to them.

    But yeah, I'm aware war was among the first uses of airplanes too, and so will be for these rockets and spaceships.

  38. Steel with some sort of a ceramic coating is probably your best bet. Tungsten would be ideal but would cost an absolute fortune.

  39. does a 15 kg tungsten rod in space count as a weapon?
    Even as it generated GJoules of heat at 5Mach impact, 2 minutes after given command?

  40. I agree, although Musk probably wouldn't care what they were used for, if he sold them all to the air force for the right price. I can't see it happening though. He wants the lousy rock Mars badly.

  41. No reason to use titanium; It's low density, and you WANT density. Simple steel would be a lot better. Something like tungsten would be ideal.

  42. Don't know why they would bother with loading starship with hypersonic missiles.

    Rather load the starship on its booster with a cargo of titanium rods, go straight to orbit and release from there. Nice and simple and I'd imagine the kinetic forces involved would be significantly greater than conventional explosives as well as being cheaper – can't imagine a lump of machined titanium would be as expensive as a complex hypersonic missile.

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