I attended the University of Illinois before most of you were born.
In our most glorious season, the one in 1964, we still lost to Ohio State 26 to zip, a tradition carried into more current Illini seasons, but in 1964 we made it to the Rose Bowl and whipped the Washington Huskies 17 – 7. And the three of us in the stands in Pasadena that day who were wearing Illinois sweatshirts had tons to cheer about. A great day in my life.
Somewhere in that season, I remember a home game in which my alma mater pulled off an epic trick play. In grand cardinal and gold USC (University of California Trojans, not the guys in powder blue) terminology, we ran a “student body right,” where the entire Illini offense participated in an end run to the right side of the field. It was a short-gain play, and the remainder of our team, each and every guy on the sidelines not involved in the offense, was standing up, just barely out of bounds when the play was whistled dead. Our offense returned to where the refs had placed the ball, and after a brief huddle we revealed a tight formation with two receivers split out wide to the left. The ball was snapped, our quarterback looked and looked to the left, and then abruptly turned and fired a missile deep along the right sideline to a wide open, streaking receiver. While the receiver’s teammates returned to the huddle after the student body right, he remained near the sideline. He simply stood up, barely in bounds, and was masked from view by the dozens of his teammates who were standing just outside the field of play. He was hiding in plain sight. The defense failed to notice him, nor was it noticed that there were only ten men in the brief Illini huddle prior to the touchdown pass that followed.
I won’t bore you and now describe a pick and roll on a basketball court. Same principle. Get the other guys thinking about something else, and then score.
From an article written by R. Jeffrey Smith, a Pulitzer Prize winning author and published on June 23rd in MSN about Michael D. Griffin, PhD., the newly appointed Pentagon Undersecretary for Research and Engineering.
“With five master’s degrees and a doctorate in aerospace engineering, he was the chief technology officer for President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (popularly known as Star Wars), which was supposed to shield the United States against a potential Russian attack by ballistic missiles looping over the North Pole. Over the course of his career that followed, he wrote a book on space vehicle design, ran a technology incubator funded by the C.I.A., directed NASA for four years and was employed as a senior executive at a handful of aerospace firms.”
The Pentagon’s initial investment in hypersonic weapons is to be 2.6 billion dollars, and speed weapons of this type are Dr. Griffin’s number one priority. Spurred on by progress in this arena by China and a bellicose Russia, The United States is determined to achieve supremacy in this sort of weaponry.
A hypersonic missile will be able to travel at more than fifteen times the speed of sound, or roughly 11,500 miles per hour. With a modest payload of only two hundred pounds of high explosives (nuclear-tipped missiles of this type are a quite different discussion), a hypersonic missile would be capable of striking an aircraft carrier and probably destroying it with nearly one million newtons of force, and without any warning. Or the White House could be obliterated without warning, especially if a hypersonic missile is launched from a submarine somewhere in the Atlantic. We might be able to detect the launch, but the destination, less than ten minutes later, would be common knowledge only after the detonation takes place.
So it’s a good thing that we’ve put development of this type technology in the hands of someone with a bulldog mentality, a PhD. and five Master’s Degrees. And it’s also a good thing that the folks on Pennsylvania Avenue, in Congress, and the Pentagon have collectively said, “Holy S__T” when briefed about weapons of this type.
And another Cold War arms race is about to commence.
We are approaching a major election year in the United States. With parties jostling for power, new military technology at the forefront of our concerns, and our citizens and leaders embroiled in other serious issues, we are about to lose focus. Will we remain vigilant, when so many other issues confront us? I sense that we will not.
In a recent article I wrote, I mentioned that one flaw in our democratic system of government is that we are highly inconsistent. Every few years, our leadership and direction change and differing agendas become our new realities. Sometimes, those changes are modest, and other times, they are severe. In this one regard, a Jihadist state has an advantage over us. The Islamic Republic of Iran’s philosophy and ambitions never waver, and while the United States is currently concerned about Iran and a confrontation that may become imminent, I predict this belligerency between us will pass. We will go back to concerns over presidential tweets and we will carry on with the business of developing hypersonic weapons. And we will become consumed with head fakes by Beijing and Moscow or by the ultimate scenario in which Iran performs the ultimate trick play on all of us. An unwavering nation whose citizens express willingness to give their lives in the name of Jihad is much more dangerous than a bellicose Vladimir Putin and his hypersonic weapons. The United States currently has more than six thousand nuclear weapons in her arsenal, and Russia is incapable of eliminating all of them in a first strike using advance weaponry. We may end up with advanced weaponry aimed at one another, but the theory of Mutually Assured Destruction will prevail.
The Jihadists in Iran, unfortunately, do not think that way. If Iran is allowed to purchase or develop nuclear weapons, I remain convinced they will use them. And they do not need to be blustery about their capabilities. While the Russian bear pounds its chest and China’s drummers deafeningly beat two thousand drums, it will be tragic if the United States fails to see that wide receiver calmly awaiting his moment of glory. We are a nation that goes for the head fake, a nation that ignores the obvious, a nation that graciously accepted friendship medals from Japanese delegates while their carriers were preparing to launch against our fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor.
That wide receiver I’ve mentioned represents Iran. Determined, with a playbook firmly and unwaveringly in place. That is the nation that must remain our primary concern.
While we are embroiled in candidates, speeches and endless tweets, while we deem it mandatory to expend billions of dollars in hypersonic research, and if we lose focus on the real dangers posed by our most virulent enemy, the day will come when Iran attempts to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons and those same weapons, in one form or another, will be used against American cities.
Two words must remain, as we move into this next decade.
Focus and vigilance.