Executive Intelligence Review

FROM EIR DAILY ALERT


Experts Agree, New Russian Weapons Are Real, and the U.S. BMD Program Is Finished

March 2, 2018 (EIRNS)—In stark contrast to the screeches of denial by Western government agencies and political “spokesmen,” there is consensus among people who are technically competent that the Russians are indeed developing the new strategic weapons that President Vladimir Putin described in his March 1 State of the Nation address, and that weapons with the new capabilities make the ill-conceived and provocative American Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system useless.

Edward Geist, a researcher on Russia at the Rand Corporation, referring to the nuclear-powered cruise missile, told National Public Radio: “I’m still kind of in shock. My guess is they’re not bluffing, that they’ve flight-tested this thing. But that’s incredible.” Geist recalled that the U.S. investigated the nuclear-powered missile, known as the Supersonic Low Altitude Missile. The U.S. nuclear engine, Project Pluto, was developed during the 1950s and 1960s, and then abandoned in 1964.

Sean Gallagher, a former Navy officer, describes in Ars Technica some of the technical aspects of the hypersonic missile, and then says that he is sympathetic to the Russian view that U.S. missile defense, if it worked, could “embolden” the U.S. to believe a nuclear war were winnable.

Steven Walker, director of the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) told reporters shortly after President Putin’s speech, that he could not comment on Putin’s assertion about an “invincible” hypersonic cruise missile, but that military scientists were moving as quickly as possible to test a U.S. hypersonic missile before 2020—and that they needed more help to do it. Asked if the United States is spending enough to help develop hypersonic weapons, Walker replied, “I would say no.” The Trump Administration’s FY19 budget supports hypersonic research funding, but Walker said some areas of research are still underfunded, particularly the facilities needed for testing. “We do need an infusion of dollars in our infrastructure to do hypersonics.”

As an example, Walker complained that DARPA has access to only one testing facility for hypersonics, at NASA’s Langley Research Center.

“If you look at some of our peer competitors, China being one, the number of facilities that they’ve built to do hypersonics surpasses the number we have in this country ... by two or three times. It is very clear that China has made this one of their national priorities. We need to do the same,”

he said.

Gary Pennett, director of operations at the Missile Defense Agency, explains that hypersonic weapons could be launched from planes, ships, or submarines. The potential deployment of such by Russia, he says, would create a “significant” gap in U.S. sensor and missile interceptor capabilities. The key challenge is that the new weapons are designed to defeat BMD systems.

This is made clear by Alexey Leonkov, formerly with the 30 Central Research Institute of Russia’s Aerospace Force. On the hypersonic “Avangard” missile, he says it can travel at speeds up to 20 times the speed of sound, Mach 20, or just over 15,000 miles per hour, according to a report by Sputnik news agency. American interceptors deployed in Europe, or on Aegis ships, can only travel at Mach 5, Leonkov explains. In order to catch up with a missile traveling at Mach 10, the interceptor would have to run at Mach 15.

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