Space  ·   US Military

Space Marines or Starship Troopers? – Rocket-Launching US Special Ops Forces to Hotspots Worldwide

When science fiction meets science fact – In a partnership with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, the Pentagon is aiming to deploy U.S. special ops commandos to any hotspot on earth in just hours via rocket.

This according to a United States Transportation Command study obtained by The Intercept through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

This type or immediate response could help prevent the next Benghazi, where Americans were killed by Islamist terrorists on the anniversary of 9-11 in 2012 at a diplomatic compound in Libya, partly because of delays in available forces, and partly due to political reasons (e.g.: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton).

“Embassy Support” is one mission scenario assigned to this new sci-fi capability.

Currently the Army’s 82nd airborne division, which I had the honor to jump with during my time attached to one of its infantry companies while leading a Marine Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO) team, is America’s ‘Immediate Response Force.’

It is able to deploy its lightly armed lead elements virtually anywhere by air in less than a day.

Forward-deployed Marine Corps Marine Expeditionary Units – Special Operations Capable (MEU-SOCs), which I also deployed with, can often launch forces within less time if they are already in the immediate area, and within helicopter range, but likely could need days to arrive, if not already nearby.

But imagine rocketing teams of special operations commandos to an embassy crisis in just hours.

According to Task & Purpose:

The 2021 midterm report on “space transportation capabilities for the joint force” identifies three case studies for “point to point space transportation,” including one dubbed “embassy support.”

According to the documents, soldiers strapped into a rocket would provide “a rapid theater direct delivery capability from the U.S. to an African bare base,” that “would prove extremely important in supporting the Department of State’s mission in Africa.”

The report also notes that “the ability to demonstrate [point to point] space transportation could deter non-state actors from aggressive acts toward the United States.”

In other words, rocket-launched commandos slipping the surly bonds of Earth and being sent around the world in hours to secure a target.

Critics are quick to pounce on the idea however, as The Intercept notes:

“What are they going to do, stop the next Benghazi by sending people into space?” said William Hartung, a senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute who focuses on the U.S. arms industry and defense budget. “It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.”

Hartung questioned the extent to which a rocket-based quick reaction force would be meaningful even if it were possible. “If a mob’s attacking an embassy and they dial up their handy SpaceX spaceship, it’s still going to take a while to get there. … It’s almost like someone thinks it would be really neat to do stuff through space but haven’t thought through the practical ramifications.” 

Still, USTRANSCOM spokesperson John Ross wrote in an email to The Intercept that “the speed of space transportation promises the potential to offer more options and greater decision space for leaders, and dilemmas for adversaries.”

When asked when USTRANSCOM believes a rocket-deployed quick reaction force might actually be feasible, Ross said the command is “excited for the future and believe it’s possible within the next 5-10 years.”

Get ready to strap-in Space Marines, or will they be Starship Troopers? Only time will tell. ADN

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank. - - PAULCRESPO.COM

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