Suppose that U.S. intelligence finds indisputable evidence that a major terrorist leader is dining right now in a remote farmhouse in central Asia. Say also that local political sensitivities prohibit calling in bombers for an air strike and that the meal is unlikely to last the two hours it would take a Tomahawk cruise missile to reach the site from its maximum range. How to respond?

Pentagon weapons procurers hope to have an answer in an advanced turbine engine that can shrink a cruise missile's "time on target" to "tens of minutes." Such a system might catch the hypothetical terrorist chief before dessert.