One of the most basic of flying machines-- the balloon-is making a comeback to help combat the growing threat of land-attack cruise missiles. A ground-based system of aerostats, equipped with tracking and communication systems, already is being planned to help detect incoming missiles in a tactical environment. A maritime variant of this technology may be the next step.
The ability to counter the rapidly escalating threat of land-attack cruise missiles to U.S. forces at home and overseas will be an important requirement for future conflicts. They are, in Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig's words, "poor man's weapons" that give "third-tier and second-tier states, as well as major competitors, the power to destroy or disrupt targets beyond the battlefield." Defeating this threat will require innovation, farsightedness, solid investment, and the willingness to reject the tendency toward business as usual.