Former Pentagon Official: Chinese, Russian Hypersonic Weapons Threaten US Early Warning System

Former Pentagon Official: Chinese, Russian Hypersonic Weapons Threaten US Early Warning System Former Pentagon Official: Chinese, Russian Hypersonic Weapons Threaten US Early Warning System Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

By Charlie McCarthy | Sunday, 06 February 2022 08:16 PM

The U.S. must catch up to Chinese and Russian advances in hypersonic weaponry or risk ceding the advantage to the other two superpowers, one former Pentagon staffer said in an editorial published in the Financial Times.

People dismissing the Chinese and Russian tests "missed the importance," wrote William Schneider, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and who previously served as an under-secretary of state and chair of the Pentagon's Defense Science Board.

"Maneuvering hypersonic vehicles are not simply another means of delivering a nuclear warhead to a target," he added.

"Instead, they are an essential part of a 'system of systems' designed to defeat the U.S.’s early warning abilities."

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday encouraged CEOs from more than two dozen of America's largest defense companies to accelerate hypersonic weapons development during a high-level meeting, CNN reported.

That came after China and Russia both conducted hypersonic missile tests last summer.

Russia's test involved its hypersonic Skyfall nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed cruise missile that has unlimited range. China tested two hypersonic ballistic missiles, one that released a second hypersonic object while flying on a maneuvering trajectory – the first time a country achieved such a result.

Hypersonic weapons are fast, low-flying, and highly maneuverable weapons designed to be too quick and agile for traditional missile defense systems to detect in time, Bloomberg reported.

The Congressional Research Service said hypersonic weapons, unlike ballistic missiles, are hard to track because they don’t follow a predetermined, arched trajectory and can maneuver on the way to their destination.

The U.S. ballistic missile early warning system is a set of satellites and radars that are integrated with their command, control and communications system to detect, locate and track adversary missile attacks, Schneider wrote.

However, China and Russia have well-developed advanced offensive capabilities in space.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration continues to adhere to its position that the U.S. will not use space for offensive military applications despite saying in December that it recognized space as being "critical to modern warfare."

"This leaves our deterrent vulnerable to nations who do not share this view," Schneider wrote.

The result of that could be catastrophic for the U.S.

"China and Russia’s maneuvering hypersonic missile capabilities enable these adversarial powers to have an integrated capacity to defeat the U.S. early warning system," Schneider wrote. "Under these circumstances, the U.S. would be blind to an incoming foreign missile attack, and its ability to respond significantly constrained."

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