Arms Race II
Michael D Griffin is the current Secretary for Research and Engineering, which is a job that comes with an annual budget of more than $17 billion. Griffin is known as an optimist who believes in “disruptive innovation.” Furthermore, Griffin believes the United States can “do anything we need to do that physics allows. We just need to get on with it.” With this mindset, Griffin has made the Pentagon’s priority hypersonic missiles.
Hypersonic missiles are a revolutionary military technology. The weapons can maneuver swiftly and strike anywhere in the world within minutes. Specifically, hypersonic weapons refer to missiles that move faster than Mach 5 (3,800 miles per hour). However, governments plan to make missiles that can move up to fifteen times the speed of sound, which is nearly 11,400 miles per hour. They move so quickly that their kinetic energy is powerful enough to penetrate virtually anything. As of now, they are being made to carry small conventional explosives, but could potentially carry nuclear warheads. In essence, these missiles are the ultimate weapon.
Hypersonic missiles are indefensible because they have the ability to strike anywhere in the world within minutes. Additionally, because the weapons can be maneuvered so sharply that it makes detection nearly impossible. The Pentagon is figuring out what a hypersonic attack would look like, and they have realized that they have no idea how to defend against one.
The United States, Russia, and China may have no defense towards hypersonic missiles, but they are hot to get their missiles operational because of the applications of them. For example, the United States could use the missiles to target Russian nuclear-armed ballistic missiles being carried on trucks, or the Chinese could target American bombers or other aircrafts at bases. These weapons could put a hole in America’s $11 billion aircraft carrier instantaneously. As a result, said aircraft carriers may become useless. Additionally, these weapons could be instant leader-killers. Finally, they could be used to as a first-strike against another nation’s government and kill the chain of command. These weapons are game changers.
Although there are many benefits for governments having hypersonic missiles, there are serious issues that come along with them. The Pentagon points to October 2022 for when they think their missiles will be operational, and China and Russia believe they are further along than the United States. The weapons are being built so quickly that the thought about the impacts are lagging behind. There have been no international agreements on how or when they should be used. This is an issue because the weapons move so quickly that governments may make rash decisions on when to use them out of panic. As a result, they might hurt efforts to avoid accidental conflict.
These weapons are extremely delicate and agreements over their use have to occur soon. In the meantime, the missiles could take on the “grim psychology of Mutual Assured Destruction.” For the military superpowers, this means that they will attempt to stockpile hypersonic missiles, which is a seriously alarming thought.
Written by William Turchetta, Edited by James Mueller & Alexander Fleiss