The Pentagon is seeking the deployment of a non-nuclear submarine-launched missile for rapid strikes against terrorist camps and other potentially urgent threats, The New York Times reported Monday.
If fielded, it will be the only non-nuclear weapon designed for rapid strikes against targets thousands of kilometers away and will add to the country's military options when considering a preemptive attack, according to the report.
James E. Cartwright, the chief of the U.S. Strategic Command, was quoted as saying that the new weapon will enhance the Pentagon's ability to "preempt conventionally" and precisely while limiting the "collateral damage."
The program will cost an estimated half a billion U.S. dollars over five years, and the Pentagon is seeking 127 million dollars in its current spending request to the U.S. Congress to begin work.
But the plan has run into resistance from lawmakers who are concerned that it may increase the risk of an accidental nuclear confrontation.
The Trident II missile that will be used for such attacks is a system that has long been equipped with a nuclear payload.
Indeed, both non-nuclear and nuclear-tipped variants of the Trident II missile will be loaded on the same submarines under the Pentagon plan.
U.S. lawmakers have insisted that the Bush administration needs to present a plan to minimize the risk of the program before the new weapon is manufactured and deployed.