The Pentagon has dusted off a Cold war era concept to deal with large attacking forces, revamping it to fight Russia and China. While all the technologies are in place, the new-look program will come to fruition only in 10 years.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is resurrecting the decades-old Assault Breaker concept, Aviation Week reported Monday. The concept, once intended to prevent hordes of Soviet tanks from steamrolling NATO forces in western Europe, is now refurbished to fight China and Russia (again). Or, at least, to dissuade them from launching any “surprise attacks” on the US and its allies.
The original Assault Breaker project, conceived in late 1970s, focused on creating precision-guided munitions and submunitions, which could identify and destroy the armored targets of the Soviets.
In case of a surprise attack, B-52 strategic bombers and JSTARS command and control aircraft would be dispatched to stop and cripple the advancing forces. Each plane would carry at least 20 Assault Breaker ‘bus’ missiles, each packed with 40 smart submunitions. On top of that, submunition ‘buses’ could have been fired by ground-based MRLS systems.
Upon reaching the enemy’s amassed troops, the missiles would release submunitions, which, for their part, would identify tanks and other important hardware with acoustic, laser and other sensors, striking them at soft spots.
While the concept was never fully fleshed-out, it indeed laid the foundation for a range of smart-weapon systems, guided submunitions and so on. Some of them are still in use, while others – like Brilliant Anti-Tank (BAT) munitions – have been discontinued, due to high costs and to the disappearance of the hypothetical threat they were designed to counter.