Imagine countries using satellites to bombard enemies with simple 20 foot long poles that have the same effect as a nuclear bomb, but without the radioactive fall out. And those countries will have the ability to launch these poles and have them hit their target within 15 minutes. “Rods from God,” a.k.a. Project Thor, a military initiative to use space as the next frontier for warfare, is making this dream a reality.
The idea is called kinetic bombardment, and the US military actually did something similar in the Vietnam War. Lazy Dog projectiles, which were solid two inch long steel pieces fitted with wings, were dropped from as little as 3,000 feet and were still able to penetrate nine inches of concrete. The poles suggested for “Rods from God” are 20 feet long and one foot in diameter, and would be projectiles dropping from the lower Earth orbit. One can imagine the devastating impact these poles could have on their target.
The rod itself would penetrate several hundred feet into the ground as it traveling more than ten times the speed of sound, comparable to the velocity of nuclear weapons. The impact will not leave any harmful radioactive radiation, so any nearby friendly territories would not be affected. Project Thor introduces a new idea that is cheaper and more effective than nuclear weapons, but it heralds a new age in warfare - one that uses outer space to its fullest extent.
The project, as with any significant military weapon, has huge drawbacks when it comes to its ethical use. Opposition against nuclear weapons, which are hard to produce, has been strong, and that same opposition will most likely have a harsher stance against a more deadly and easily produced weapon.
The push for hypersonic penetrating weapons like “Rods from God” comes from the belief that rogue nations are building nuclear weapons in deep underground facilities. An ordinary nuclear bomb cannot penetrate far enough into the ground to hit these facilities, but a hypersonic weapon might. Many factors still play into the actual execution of Project Thor, but it seems like the future of global warfare lies in space.