Conventional Prompt Global Strike: Strategic Asset or Unusable Liability?

By M. Elaine Bunn and Vincent A. Manzo Strategic Forum 263

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Conventional Prompt Global Strike: Strategic Asset or Unusable L
Conventional Prompt Global Strike: Strategic Asset or Unusable L
Strategic Forum 269
Photo By: M. Elaine Bunn and Vincent A. Ma
VIRIN: 180314-D-BD104-016

Key Points

  • A Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) capability would be a valuable strategic asset for some fleeting, denied, and difficult-to-reach targets. It would fill a gap in U.S. conventional strike capability in some plausible high-risk scenarios, contribute to a more versatile and credible U.S. strategic posture, and potentially enhance deterrence across a diverse spectrum of threats. 
  • A small number of CPGS systems would not significantly affect the size of the U.S. deployed nuclear arsenal or substitute for the ability of nuclear weapons to hold large sets of hard, deeply buried, or mobile targets at risk. 
  • A key concern is the risk that either Russia or China might launch its nuclear forces due to uncertainty about the target of an ambiguous U.S. CPGS strike. Assuming functioning early warning systems, the Conventional Trident Modification (CTM) mitigates this risk better than the conventional strike missile because Russian and Chinese officials would be better able to assess quickly whether a CTM would land on their territory.

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