The United States is extremely vulnerable to future attack via hypersonic missiles and is falling behind in the technological know-how to defend the homeland from the threat, the commander of the United States Strategic Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
“The first, most important message I want to deliver today is that the forces under my command are fully ready to deter our adversaries and respond decisively, should deterrence ever fail. We are ready for all threats. No one should doubt this,” Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command said in his opening statement.
However, in a follow-on conversation with Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, Hyten cautioned: “we [U.S.] don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon [hypersonic missiles] against us.”
What Hyten suggests, as of today, the U.S. is powerless against hypersonic weapon threats and has to rely on deterrence against these so-called hypersonic weapons.
Hyten added, “so our response would be our deterrent force which would be the triad and the nuclear capabilities that we have to respond to such a threat.”
In other words, if Russia or China launches a hypersonic missile attack on the U.S., the Pentagon will respond with nuclear war.
Sen. Inhofe then asked America’s top nuclear commander to describe what a hypersonic weapon is and what it does.
“A hypersonic threat is a system that starts out ballistic, so you will see it like a ballistic missile, but then it depresses the trajectory and flies more like a cruise missile or airplane,” Hyten said.
“It goes up into the low reaches of space and then turns immediately back down and then levels out and flies at a very high level of speed. That’s a hypersonic weapon,” he said.
Hyten told Inhofe, “both Russia and China are aggressively pursuing hypersonic capabilities. We have watched them test those capabilities.”
Earlier this month, we reported that Russia test-fired a high-precision Kinzhal (Dagger) hypersonic missile from a MiG-31 supersonic interceptor jet in the South Military District in Russia’s southwest.
“The launch went according to plan, the hypersonic missile hit its target,” the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation declared.
The ministry released video footage showing the hypersonic missile air launch from the underbelly of the MiG-31 over the skies of Russia.
Экипаж истребителя МиГ-31 Воздушно-космических сил #ВКС выполнил практический учебно-боевой пуск гиперзвуковой ракеты высокоточного авиационного ракетного комплекса #Кинжал в заданном районе. Пуск прошел штатно, гиперзвуковая ракета поразила заданную цель на полигоне pic.twitter.com/xLguUwGrQW
— Минобороны России (@mod_russia) March 10, 2018
In late 2017, China conducted several tests of a hypersonic glide vehicle that could be used to defeat U.S. missile defense systems, nevertheless more recently, Russia’s hypersonic glider is one of six new strategic weapons announced recently via Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
China just showed its hypersonic-BGV in a vid on 08 Oct. Probably a test design model, but AFAIK this is first pics of an actual object 1/ pic.twitter.com/EXIMHkXTEA
— Raymond Wang (@soraywang) November 5, 2017
In February, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) requested the largest-ever budget increase of $9.9 billion in funding for the 2019 fiscal year. Within the request, we found the agency is demanding $120 million for “hypersonic defenses:”
Hypersonic Defense (PE 0604181C): MDA is requesting $120.4 million in FY 2019. MDA will execute a rigorous systems engineering process, identify and mature full kill chain technology, provide analysis and assessment of target of opportunity events, and execute near term sensor and command and control capability upgrades to address defense from hypersonic threats. This effort will execute the Defense Science Board’s recommendations to develop and deliver a set of material solutions to address and defeat hypersonic threats informed by a set of near-term technology demonstrations. An integrated set of enhancements will provide incremental capability measured by progress and knowledge points in the following areas: establishment of systems engineering needs and requirements to identify alternative material solutions; execution of a series of sensor technology
CNBC points out “it is clear that the U.S. lacks the means to combat hypersonics,” nevertheless has poorly allocated funds to develop the technologies over the years — thus enabling Russia and China to advance hypersonics to a higher degree.
Hyten has been on record — calling Russia the “most significant threat” to Washington, and emphasized the need for the Pentagon to modernize its nuclear weapon programs.
“I strongly agree with the need for a low-yield nuclear weapon,” he said of the Pentagon’s request for a low-yield warhead for submarine-launched ballistic missiles. “That capability is a deterrence weapon to respond to the threat that Russia, in particular, is portraying. President [Vladimir] Putin announced as far back as April of 2000 that the Russian doctrine will be to use a low-yield nuclear weapon on the battlefield.”
Hyten said the U.S. is somewhat ahead of Russia and China in some hypersonic technologies, but overall is severely behind the curve.
“As a whole, I’d say it’s a competition and it’s a competition, I believe, that we should have a goal of winning that competition; not tying, not losing, but winning the competition,” he said.
Hyten failed to address the exact areas where the U.S. is behind the eight ball in hypersonics when compared to Russia and China, in fear that such knowledge could jeopardize national security.
“The areas [we are] ahead in, we should accelerate further,” he said. “We need to make sure that that becomes a priority for our nation.”
The next phase is a U.S. response “and the first way to respond to it is to be able to see the threat, which, right now, is challenging. So we have to build capabilities to see what the threat is as well,” he added.
Hyten said defense companies and the Pentagon need to progress hypersonic technologies immediately. He mentioned the need for advanced technologies in sensors to track and identify the origin of a hypersonic threat.
“And right now, we have a challenge with that, with our current on-orbit space architecture and the limited number of radars that we have around the world,” he said.
“I’m going to advocate, as I’ve advocated for the last 30 years, that we need to move into space and be able to build sensors to conduct both the characterization of these new threats that are appearing, as well as discriminate better and earlier the midcourse element of the threat that exists today,” he said.
When asked about Russia and China improving strategic capabilities, including hypersonics, Hyten suggested both countries are “closing in” on U.S. advantages that have been the key building blocks of maintaining America’s global empire.
“I think we have stability with Russia on the nuclear side,” he said. “We have an advantage with China on the nuclear side. But they are gaining ground quickly, especially when you look at space and cyber.”
Unfortunately, the arms race in hypersonic weapons has ushered in the next Cold War between the United States, Russia, and China. It is a repeating cycle of madness where billions of dollars are being diverted to the military-industrial complex and frankly could bankrupt Washington.
Hypersonics will not make the world safer, but rather more dangerous with global superpowers having the capabilities of hurling projectiles at March five or greater. Americans, of the exceptional nation, see themselves as the dominant economic, political and technological power, but as we just discovered from the StratCom General — hypersonic technologies from Russia and or China could disrupt the American hegemony party rooted from a post World War II basis.
Nevertheless, you are starting to get the picture of how the next war will be fought…