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DARPA wargamer calls for US X-Men superplane fleet

JFK would have gone for it, Mr Obama

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This kind of rough-landing capability is normally impossible for high-flying intercontinental jets as they can't fly slow enough to manage it, no matter what sort of undercarriage they might have. However, this problem was expensively solved in the development of the latest C-17 heavy long-range transports, using a trick called "blown flaps". C-17s can make longhaul flights and then set down on short, rough runways if they want to.

The existing C-17 transport

And this. Just when you thought the night couldn't get blacker ...

It would certainly make sense to apply blown flap rough-landing to the M-X, though this might well be a deal-breaker as far as the regular air force were concerned. They wouldn't want it on their superbomber, and it wouldn't be a bolt-on thing you could add later.

However SOCOM might sort out the technical problems, these would probably be as nothing to the snags faced in getting the M-X approved or budgeted in the first place. Many people would dismiss such ideas as fantasy straight off, saying that the capability could never be worth the cost.

Nonetheless, one should note that it is now openly acknowledged that SOCOM has been let off the leash to an unprecedented degree in the last few years, carrying out direct-action raids and other operations in Syria and other countries previously thought to be off limits. It's also credibly suggested that reconnaissance and other missions have been taking place inside Iran. These operations have only rarely led to any diplomatic fallout, in the way that conventional bombing raids would have done.

One might argue that in fact a stealthy spec-ops plane like the notional M-X is more useful to America than a similarly-performing bomber. One might contend that a few of the right people on the ground can often do more for the USA's interests than any amount of high explosives. Even a relatively right-on, Democratic president - much caressed overseas - might find that SOCOM is actually his favourite military tool, more worthy of serious funding and avant-garde technology than traditional mass-casualties'n'bombing warfare.

Even SOCOM's more aggressive direct-action missions have negligible bodycounts compared to conventional military operations, and the secret supertroopers can easily be more subtle than that. They have swarms of linguists, unconventional and indirect warfare specialists, psyops and civil-affairs people. They can often get in and out of countries without even being noticed, avoiding unfavourable media reports and diplomatic issues.

After all, the JFK specwar school has its name for a reason. It was the sainted Kennedy himself, much beloved of liberals worldwide, feted in Berlin just like Barack Obama, who more or less kicked off the modern generation of American special forces. Though the Army special-ops people were already formed, it was Kennedy who said they could wear their treasured green berets, overruling grumpy mainstream generals who had refused permission. The Green Berets tripled in strength under Kennedy, indeed, and his administration also oversaw the formation of the Navy SEALs and the ancestors of today's airforce spec-ops people.

If Barack Obama - as his advocates suggest - is truly another JFK, he might just emulate his illustrious predecessor and be a good friend to the secret, elite, comparatively surgical and delicate supertroopers.

They might just get their stealthy X-jet after all. ®

Bootnotes

*High Altitude Low Opening, for a quick freefall descent popping the chute at the last minute, offering the smallest chance of being tracked by radar; or High Altitude High Opening, for maximum glide distance between jump and landing.

**Warning: don't read Ghost if you're of delicate sensibilities. It features Syrian soldiers raping and torturing kidnapped American sorority girls en masse, extended BDSM sex involving the hero, Osama bin Laden's severed head delivered to a thinly disguised President Bush, the same president ordering a nuclear strike on Syria to general applause, handwringing Democrat weenies getting in the way, etc etc. All a bit gothic, really.

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