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US General Likens China And Russia Hypersonic Missile Tests To A ‘Sputnik Moment’

The U.S.’s top uniformed military officer called China’s suspected test of a hypersonic weapons system a “very concerning” development in the escalating competition between Washington and Beijing. US General Likens China And Russia Hypersonic Missile Tests To A ‘Sputnik Moment’

“What we saw was a very significant event of a test of a hypersonic weapon system. And it is very concerning,” General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview for “The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations” on Bloomberg Television. “I don’t know if it’s quite a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s very close to that. It has all of our attention.”

US General Likens China And Russia Hypersonic Missile Tests To A ‘Sputnik Moment’


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Milley’s comments are the most significant acknowledgment by a U.S. official of reports that China’s military conducted possibly two hypersonic weapons tests over the summer, including the launch into space of an orbiting hypersonic weapon capable of carrying a nuclear payload.

The Financial Times first reported the tests, citing officials it didn’t name.

The next-generation technology, if perfected, could be used to send nuclear warheads over the South Pole and around American anti-missile systems in the northern hemisphere.

Hypersonic weapons are normally defined as fast, low-flying and highly maneuverable weapons designed to be too quick and agile for traditional missile defense systems.

While Milley stopped short of declaring the weapons test on par with Sputnik — the pioneering 1957 satellite that gave the Soviet Union an early lead in the space race, shocking the U.S. — the comparison showed the depth of concern about Beijing’s work on hypersonic arms.

Defense Department spokesman John Kirby declined to comment Wednesday on Milley’s remarks about China’s hypersonics program, but he told reporters at the Pentagon that “this is not a technology that is alien to us, that we haven’t been thinking about for a while” and that the U.S. has defensive capabilities “that we need to hone and to improve.”

“Our own pursuit of hypersonic capabilities is real, it’s tangible and we are absolutely working towards being able to develop that capability,” Kirby said, “but I won’t get into the specifics of testing and where we are.”

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall referred in a speech last month to the potential for such a Chinese space-based capability, which during the Cold War was called a “Fractional Orbital Bombardment System,” or a system that goes into orbit and then de-orbits to hit a target.

And the chief executive officer of Raytheon Technologies Corp., Gregory Hayes, said on Tuesday that the U.S. is “at least several years behind” China in developing hypersonic technology.

China has disputed the reports of the tests, saying it simply launched a reusable space vehicle.

‘Strategic Competition’

The development comes as the U.S. and Chinese militaries have increasingly squared off across Asia, from the South China Sea to the Taiwan Strait, as part of what the Biden administration has characterized as “strategic competition” between the world’s two largest economies.

The threat of a U.S. strike that wipes out Chinese missiles before they can hit an American target has long been seen as a deterrent against more assertive military action by Beijing.

The reported hypersonic test was part of a broader buildup of the Chinese military with broad implications for America, Milley said. “They’re expanding rapidly — in space, in cyber and then in the traditional domains of land, sea and air,” he said.

“And they have gone from a peasant-based infantry army that was very, very large in 1979 to a very capable military that covers all the domains and has global ambitions.”

“As we go forward — over the next 10, 20, 25 years — there’s no question in my mind that the biggest geostrategic challenge to the United States is gonna be China,” Milley said. “They’ve developed a military that’s really significant.”

China Military Budget

The scope of that buildup is greater than official defense spending figures suggest, Milley said. “You gotta zero out to the cost of labor,” Milley said. “Chinese military troops are not anywhere close to the level of expense” of a US. solider. “So, zero that out. Then you get budgets that are much closer.”

In addition, he said much of the Chinese military’s research and development is led by state-owned companies in the commercial sector, which isn’t counted as official defense spending.

“If you really peel the onion back and you do a detailed analysis” that compares “apples to apples, you’ll see budgets that are much closer to each other than people might think.”

Milley characterized America’s long military involvement in Afghanistan as a strategic failure because “the enemy, the Taliban, ended up in Kabul, in the capital. And the regime that we supported lost,” he said.

The failure didn’t come in the last 20 days of the war or even the last 20 months, Milley said. But “what caught us by surprise” in August was “the speed, and the scope and the timing” of the Afghan government’s collapse, he said.

“So, that’s something that we need to figure out.”

Soldiers And Politics

Milley has drawn fire from both Republicans and Democrats in recent years as military leaders struggle to steer clear of Washington’s increasingly partisan politics.

Democrats and former high-ranking officials criticized Milley when he marched across Washington’s Lafayette Square with then-President Donald Trump in June 2020 for a photo op outside St. John’s Church in the midst of nationwide protests against police violence.

Critics said Milley’s presence lent the military’s imprimatur to a political event that undercut freedom of speech and assembly.

“It all happened very quickly. I thought he was going out to, you know, check troops sort of thing,” Milley said. “And I found out very, very quickly as I looked forward and I saw the press being set up, I realized it was a political event and I — I got out of the way — and broke away from that. And I regret that,” he said of his participation.

More recently, Milley was criticized by Republicans for calls he made to his Chinese counterparts in the tumultuous final weeks of the Trump administration to reassure them that the president didn’t plan to attack.

Milley has said the calls were a normal part of his job and were coordinated with the acting secretary of defense.

Milley also described the Jan. 6 Capitol riot as “one of the most significant events in recent history,” but declined to comment on what could have been done differently that day.

“I’ll let the January 6 Commission and all the various investigations do all the postmortems on it,” he said.

Updated: 10-26-2021

U.S. Lags China On Hypersonic Weapons by Years, Raytheon CEO Says

The U.S. government is years behind China in the pursuit of so-called hypersonic weapons that bob and weave through the atmosphere at more than five times the speed of sound, Raytheon Technologies Corp.’s chief executive officer said Tuesday.

While the Pentagon has a number of hypersonic weapons programs in development and the U.S. understands the technology, China has “actually fielded hypersonic weapons,” Raytheon CEO Gregory Hayes said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Balance of Power With David Westin.” “We are at least several years behind.”

The emerging, ultra-fast weapon systems have sparked concerns because of their potential to destabilize relations between the U.S., China and Russia.

They may also become a front in the mounting competition between Beijing and Washington as the world’s two largest economies clash over trade, technology and humanitarian issues. Raytheon is developing a hypersonic cruise missile with the U.S. military.

Hypersonics capability is “the most destabilizing threat to the homeland,” Hayes said. “The time to react is very, very short.”

The CEO’s comments come after reports that China conducted two hypersonic weapons tests over the summer, including one of a so-called hypersonic glide vehicle.

Launched from a missile or rocket, the craft separates and zips toward a target while maneuvering through the atmosphere, and Hayes said such weapons can reach speeds of 22,000 miles per hour.

“We have to have automated systems to defend the homeland, and we are focused on that,” he said in the interview.

Raytheon’s Missiles and Defense unit in September successfully test-fired a hypersonic cruise missile that can travel at speeds greater than Mach 5 as part of a development contract for the U.S. Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Defense Department’s advanced technology development agency.

“We will have weapons to challenge the adversaries but most importantly I think our focus is how do we develop counter-hypersonics,” Hayes asid. “That’s where the challenge will be.”


Updated: 10-28-2021

In This Nuclear Arms Race, China’s Hypersonic Gliders Are A Wake-Up Call

US General Likens China And Russia Hypersonic Missile Tests To A ‘Sputnik Moment’

China probably wants more and better nukes not because it’s aggressive, but because it’s afraid.

Too bad we as a species don’t have the luxury of worrying about just one existential threat at a time. We’re already rather busy with one — a pandemic — and about to talk our heads off about another — climate change — at the COP26 convention in Glasgow. Now we’re also reminded of a third, nuclear annihilation.

This summer, China apparently tested new hypersonic missile systems — as recently revealed by the Financial Times but officially denied by Beijing.

What’s shocking about this isn’t that these new weapons can travel at about five times the speed of sound — existing ballistic missiles can go even faster.

It’s that these new Chinese birds can glide around the world inside the atmosphere in any direction they want, while being guided remotely to their target.

If you don’t immediately find that innovation scary, take it from Mark Milley, who as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is America’s top brass. Speaking to Bloomberg this week, he called the demonstration of Chinese missile prowess “very close” to a Sputnik moment.

Long before it became a vaccine, you recall, Sputnik was the eponymous satellite launched in 1957 by the Soviet Union that suggested the Russians were ahead in the space race and could one day rain nuclear bombs down on the U.S. from the sky.

Whether the analogy is apt or not, this latest development does add to many others to warrant grave concern. Think about why China might want such a hypersonic glide vehicle as a transport option for its small but fast-growing arsenal of nuclear warheads.

The most obvious purpose is to evade U.S. missile defenses already existing or in development.

The U.S. has systems in Alaska that, fingers crossed, could shoot down an incoming ballistic missile from North Korea (the ostensible foe) or any other adversary on that side of the earth, including China.

These missiles would have to follow a fixed trajectory out of the atmosphere, fly into space and over the North Pole and then back down toward their targets. Out there in the ether is where the American interceptors would hit.

The U.S. is also adding interceptor systems based on ships in the Pacific, as a successful test proved last year. These could stop missiles lobbed from Asia to North America over Hawaii, for instance.

If China — and then Russia and other nuclear powers — get gliders, however, these defensive systems will be obsolete. Nuclear payloads could then zip around the South Pole instead, for instance.

They’d never even exit the atmosphere. And they could change their trajectory, being controlled all along by a Chinese operator with a joystick.

All this makes China sound menacing and aggressive. In that sense, the news seems to rhyme with revelations that China is also building a couple of hundred silos for more conventional intercontinental missiles that could carry nukes.

In reality, China probably appears so aggressive only because it feels incredibly insecure. The greatest fear in Beijing is that in an escalating conflict — over Taiwan or whatever else — the U.S. might be tempted one day to launch preemptive nuclear strikes to take out all or most of China’s arsenal.

The Americans would only contemplate such a drastic step, of course, if they thought that their own defenses could parry any remaining missiles coming from China in retaliation.

That would explain the Chinese missile silos, most of which are probably destined to be empty decoys to keep the Americans guessing where the real warheads are. It would also explain these new gliders.

They send the message that, hey, we don’t need to lob our kit over the North Pole, we could go around the other side.

Such mental games — and they do ultimately originate in mathematical game theory — demonstrate once again how, in the perverted logic of nuclear war, everything is interconnected.

An escalation in defensive technology, in this case American, might superficially seem pacific and uncontroversial. But by changing the parameters of the game, it can trigger an arms race in offensive weapons.

This is also the infernal subtext when the U.S. and Russia, still the two largest nuclear powers by far, talk about “modernizing” their arsenals.

This means not only more delivery methods, hypersonic and what not, but also new types of nukes, including “tactical” ones.

Cold War game theory was based on concepts such as Mutual Assured Destruction — MAD, appropriately. If either side launched “strategic” weapons at the other’s homeland, it would swiftly receive the counterstrike.

Like two people with a matchbox standing in the same room with gasoline up to their waists, neither would ever light up first.

Tactical nukes ruin that metaphor. They carry smaller payloads that are intended for use not against the adversary’s homeland but against enemy forces in a war zone.

Imagine, say, Russia fighting and losing against NATO in eastern Europe, or the U.S. coming up short against China in the South China Sea. Either could then be tempted to end the regionalized battle on its terms with a “limited” nuclear strike.

But that opens Pandora’s strategy box. Would a tactical strike warrant retaliation, and if so, of the tactical or strategic sort?

How human-all-too-human leaders would calculate their options in such an escalation spiral — where decisions must be taken in minutes — is an open question. But on balance, the scenarios are more — rather than less — calculable if all sides retain an ability to retaliate.

As ever, understanding our common dilemma — not as Americans, Russians or Chinese, but as humans stuck together on a confusing and tense planet — is the first step toward sanity. It’s fine for the world’s great and middle powers to compete as rivals in ideology, trade and whatever else.

But their leaders must accept that when it comes to existential threats to humanity, they must rise above themselves and talk as partners. That’s true whether the specter is a pandemic, climate change, or nuclear war.

Updated: 11-29-2021

Russian Military Says It Test-Fired Hypersonic Missile

Russia’s military announced on Monday that it had successfully test-fired a hypersonic missile it developed.

One of the Kremlin navy’s Admiral Gorshkov-class frigates in the White Sea launched the Zircon cruise missile, which hit a practice target 215 nautical miles away, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry, first reported by The Associated Press.

The Zircon, which is set to enter service next year on Russian ships and submarines, is meant to fly at a distance of up to 620 miles and at nine times the speed of sound, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The test only adds to tensions between the Kremlin and the West, as it comes amid a major Russian military buildup near its border with Ukraine.

U.S. and NATO intelligence have shown Russian forces could soon push into Ukraine, much like it did with its 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

Since that land grab, Moscow has made modernizing its armaments a top priority.The country has been developing several hypersonic missiles, including the Zircon.

Putin has stressed that the new missile, which Russia has tested several times as of late, will greatly increase Russian military capability.

Updated: 1-6-2022

North Korea Says It Tested Hypersonic Missile

The technology is some of the latest being developed by the U.S., China and Russia. Pyongyang’s appears to be in the early stages.

North Korea said it hit a target with a hypersonic missile, as the country seeks to put itself in the small club of countries developing the technology.

Pyongyang made that claim in state media on Thursday a day after the launch, which was its first weapons test since October.

Hypersonic weapons are some of the latest technology being developed by the U.S., China and Russia. Hypersonic missiles fly at least five times the speed of sound and closer to the Earth than ballistic missiles, making them difficult to detect on radar.

Japanese and South Korean officials had described the missile on Wednesday as a suspected ballistic missile.

However, photos released by North Korean state media on Thursday matched a model the country put on display at an event in October, which weapons experts have identified as a liquid-fueled maneuvering re-entry vehicle, one of North Korea’s hypersonic models.

The launch Wednesday would be the second test by North Korea of hypersonic technology, after one in September.

Last year, China carried out a hypersonic missile test, raising alarms in Washington over rapid advances in Chinese weapons technology that could be used to target American ports or installations in the Indo-Pacific region.

China’s technology enables a rocket carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle to orbit space before cruising down toward its target, making it harder to intercept.

North Korea’s hypersonic technology appears to be in the early stages of development, weapons experts said, and would need some time before any practical deployment.

To deploy a credible hypersonic glide vehicle, such as the one deployed by China, longer-range tests would be required over at least a few years, the experts said.

“North Korea’s message is that their goal is to use weapons like hypersonic missiles to incapacitate missile defenses in the U.S. and South Korea,” said Park Won-gon, a professor of North Korean studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

North Korean state media said Thursday that the missile was a “hypersonic gliding warhead,” an apparent reference to the use of high-speed gliders to carry warheads past missile defenses.

The weapon’s warhead detached from its rocket booster and maneuvered about 75 miles before it hit a target around 430 miles away, according to state media.

Japanese officials had said Wednesday that the missile flew about 310 miles and landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

During a year-end speech, Mr. Kim vowed to pursue high-tech weapons to counter what he called military instability on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea hasn’t tested nuclear bombs or long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2017, but in recent years the country has developed a range of more maneuverable weapons.

These weapons are aimed at overcoming missile defenses wielded by South Korea and the U.S., North Korea analysts say.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a call on Wednesday with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, condemned North Korea’s missile launch and discussed cooperation to achieve complete denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, the State Department said.

Shortly after the launch on Wednesday, South Korea’s National Security Council expressed concerns over the missile test and called for resuming dialogue, according to the presidential office.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry urged North Korea to respond to its efforts to resume dialogue and reach peace.

Washington and Seoul have called on North Korea to surrender its nuclear weapons and return to talks, which have stalled since a series of summits between Mr. Kim and then-U.S. President Donald Trump.

Talks collapsed in 2019, and North Korea has brushed off calls to revive dialogue.

President Biden’s administration has continued to say it is open to talking with North Korea “any time, anywhere.” Pyongyang has largely ignored Washington’s overtures and called on the U.S. to withdraw its “hostile policies,” such as military drills with South Korea and sanctions.

Hours after the missile launch, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, whose term ends in May, visited the South Korean east coast city of Goseong, where he attended a ceremony for a new rail line that he called a “steppingstone for peace and regional balance” on the Korean Peninsula.

“North Korea’s military capabilities will continue to advance while there’s no sign they are willing to return to talks,” said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at South Korea’s Dongguk University.


Updated: 3-6-2022

Hypersonic-Missile Failures Risk U.S. Chase of China, Russia

* U.S. Adversaries Have Pulled Ahead On Hard-To-Destroy Weapons
* Test Failures Require ‘Aggressive’ Push To Meet September Goal

U.S. efforts to catch up with China and Russia in developing hypersonic weapons may be set back after Lockheed Martin Corp.’s air-launched missile suffered three consecutive test failures that left it on a tight schedule.

That’s put in doubt the Pentagon’s goal to declare it America’s first combat-ready hypersonic weapon and approve initial production by Sept. 30.

China and Russia have conducted test launches and fielded their versions of the new weapons, which can travel five times the speed of sound and maneuver in flight like a cruise missile, making them harder to detect and shoot down.

The U.S. weapon faces several hurdles in a development phase now expected to cost at least $1.4 billion before it can be found to have “early operation capability.” The Air Force hasn’t yet released an estimate of total acquisition costs or said how many of the weapons it wants.

The latest hurdle: successfully conducting fourth and fifth tests of its booster motor by June 30. Their timing will be contingent on the results of a failure review board for the third test that was to be complete by the end of last month, according to the Air Force program office.

If successful, those tests would be followed by the program’s key flight test of a fully operational missile between July and September.

Added to that is completion of a production readiness review to assess Lockheed’s capability to manufacture and integrate hardware for delivery.

The hypersonic Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon is a fast-track “rapid prototype” program that’s intended to cut months, if not years, off its development and deployment in the face of rapid progress by adversaries.

The weapon is intended to be dropped from a B-52H bomber and accelerated by its booster motor before a solid glide body separates and flies at hypersonic speeds to its target.

Russia said last month that it test-fired a hypersonic missile, sending a message to the U.S. and NATO allies in advance of its invasion of Ukraine.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has asserted that hypersonic weapons will make up the core of Russia’s non-nuclear deterrence capability in the future.

The U.S. says Russia has deployed its Avangard Hypersonic Glide Vehicle and its Tsirkon hypersonic anti-ship and land-attack missile.

China is investing heavily in hypersonic weapons as well, putting one in orbit in July that flew 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers) in more than 100 minutes of flight, according to the top U.S. nuclear commander.

Russia and China are able to press ahead on new weapons without the oversight by lawmakers and the public that can slow testing and deployment under the Pentagon’s acquisition system.

‘Aggressive Schedule’

Heidi Shyu, the Defense Department’s undersecretary for research and engineering, said through a spokesperson that she’s “supportive of the Air Force’s aggressive efforts to accelerate development,” but “the Sept. 30 operational capability date is a very aggressive schedule.”

The Air Force is also hedging its bets on the declaration date. Its program office said in a statement that it “continues to aggressively pursue” an early operational capability “while maintaining high standards of technical rigor.”

In spite of the test failures to date, “it is still possible to provide” that capability “in late calendar year 2022 provided future flight testing concludes as per the current plan.” The flight test program “has successfully demonstrated a number of first-time events,” it said.

The chairman of a House subcommittee that monitors the program is skeptical of U.S. efforts to date and specifically whether the Air Force can achieve its goal this year.

“The U.S. has a lot of catching up to do with China,” Representative Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat, said. “It will take much more than a Sept. 30 press release to regain the lead we’ve squandered since the 1970s.”

The Pentagon’s hypersonics effort needs “funding, engineering excellence, and rapid testing to begin to reach parity. Even then, I worry that the U.S. doesn’t even know how to catch up, particularly given the repeated failures” with the missile program that “we’ve had to date on components that should not be technically challenging,” Cooper said in a statement.

A production decision on the first 12 missiles that was previously planned for January is on hold pending the results of the December failure review, the two additional booster motor tests and the full-missile flight.

The program office said it “will not award a production contract without a Production Readiness Review and a successful All Up Round Test Flight.”

“To date, the team has not found any systemic quality issues at Lockheed or its subcontractors” that caused the test failures, the program office said.

Limited Exercises

The three failures so far have occurred during limited exercises focused on demonstrating the performance of the missile’s booster motor after separating from the bomber but without the hardened glide-body warhead of an operational missile.

The remaining schedule of increasing complexity to meet a Sept. 30 declaration “leaves little to no room for test delays or additional flight failures, and so it will likely be challenging,” said Kelley Sayler, an analyst in advanced technology such as hypersonics.

Cristina Vite, a spokesman for Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed, said in an email that “the joint government and Lockheed Martin team closely reviews every test to ensure quality measures remain in place.”

She said that with each test the missile “continues to gain significant technical maturity while accomplishing many first-time milestones.”

Lockheed was awarded an initial $480 million development contract in April 2018 that was broadened in December 2019 to $986 million.

Updated: 3-19-2022

Russia Says It Used Hypersonic ‘Kinzhal’ Missiles To Attack

* Missiles Said To Hit Weapons Storage Site In Western Ukraine
* Ukraine Hasn’t Confirmed Claimed Strike By Advanced System

Russia said it fired hypersonic missiles from its “Kinzhal” system for the first time in the more than three-week invasion of Ukraine, to destroy an underground weapons storage site in the west of the country.

The Ministry of Defense said the military used Kinzhal (Dagger) missiles on Friday to target the site storing missiles and aviation ammunition in the village of Delyatyn, outside the city of Ivano-Frankivsk, according to an emailed statement.

The claimed strike marked the first use of the nuclear-capable advanced weapons system in the Ukraine war, state news service RIA Novosti said.

Ukraine didn’t report any Russian attack on the military facility overnight and did not immediately comment on Russia’s claims.

There is also no mention of explosions on social media, though hitting a “big underground” ammunition storage would be loud. Bloomberg News cannot independently verify Russia’s reports.

The Kinzhal, which can carry conventional or nuclear warheads, flies 10 times faster than the speed of sound, or more than 2 miles per second, President Vladimir Putin said when he announced the system in an annual state-of-the-nation address in 2018.

The Kinzhal was among several latest-generation strategic weapons that Putin said at the time could overcome any U.S. missile defenses.

On Friday, Ukrainian authorities said a Russian missile strike hit an army barracks in the southern city of Mykolaiv with unconfirmed reports of several dozen soldiers killed.

Updated: 4-5-2022

Military Pact Between U.S., U.K. And Australia To Focus On Hypersonic Missiles

Hypersonic missiles fly at more than five times the speed of sound and can be difficult to detect on radar.

A military partnership between the U.S., the U.K. and Australia will be expanded to focus on developing hypersonic missiles, amid concerns that the U.S. and its allies are falling behind potential rivals including China in testing such weapons.

Hypersonic missiles fly at more than five times the speed of sound and can be maneuvered before hitting a target. They are more difficult to detect on radar than existing missiles, giving an edge to any military seeking to surprise an opponent.

Officials from the U.S., the U.K. and Australia said on Wednesday that they would focus on both hypersonic missiles and counter-hypersonic capabilities after meeting to discuss progress in implementing their new three-way alliance, called AUKUS.

The pact, announced last year, is already aimed at providing nuclear-powered submarines for Australia in the coming decades and developing undersea capabilities, quantum technologies and artificial intelligence.

The AUKUS countries said Wednesday that they would look into electronic-warfare capabilities, noting that the electromagnetic spectrum is increasingly contested and that they want to enable their forces to operate in contested and degraded environments.

They said they would expand information sharing and deepen cooperation on defense innovation.

“We reaffirmed our commitment to AUKUS and to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the countries said in a joint leaders-level statement. “We reiterated our unwavering commitment to an international system that respects human rights, the rule of law, and the peaceful resolution of disputes free from coercion.”

The AUKUS pact is a key part of the U.S. strategy for the Indo-Pacific, where it is building a network of alliances that can serve as a counterweight to China.

Australia is an important U.S. ally in the region and is a member of the Quad group of countries, a separate partnership that includes the U.S., Japan, India and Australia.

Defense experts say that guided long-range strike capabilities are crucial for success in modern warfare because they are more efficient in hitting specific targets. U.S. officials have previously said developing hypersonic missiles is a priority.

Australia has been investing in its overall missile capabilities, and on Tuesday said it would partner with U.S. defense companies Raytheon Technologies Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. to help build missiles domestically. Australia also said that it would accelerate the deployment of new missiles for its air force and navy.

China has good long-range strike capabilities and is likely to improve those capabilities in the future, according to some defense experts. China has already conducted hundreds of hypersonic ballistic missile tests, according to one former U.S. official.

Hypersonic missiles can be either ballistic or cruise missiles. Hypersonic ballistic missiles, which like other ballistic missiles fly along a curved arc, can start their descent at lower altitudes, helping them evade radar.

As it begins its descent, the tip carrying the warhead heads back to the ground at hypersonic speed. The tip is called a glide vehicle because it doesn’t have its own power.

A hypersonic cruise missile flies on a flatter course and is powered throughout its flight, though the speed requires more advanced propulsion technology. Most common types of cruise missiles currently travel at less than hypersonic speed.

Russia is developing ballistic and cruise hypersonic missiles, and North Korea has said it has tested a hypersonic missile. The U.S. has several programs to develop hypersonic glide vehicles and hypersonic cruise missiles but last year had two failed tests of a hypersonic glide vehicle.

Updated: 4-25-2022

Lockheed’s $398 Billion F-35 Is At Risk of Costly Fixes, Congress Watchdog Says

* U.S. And Allies Face Added Expenses For Potential Retrofits

* Combat Simulation Tests May Unearth Costly Flaws: Watchdog

The U.S. and allies buying Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 may face millions in added costs if serious problems emerge during long-delayed combat simulation tests of the fighter jet, according to Congress’s watchdog agency.

The annual report by the Government Accountability Office is a reality check on likely add-ons to the three-year-old, $398 billion estimated cost of acquiring the planes.

F-35s have received renewed attention with their deployment to Eastern Europe, Germany’s announcement of plans to to buy 35 of the planes and fresh NATO interest in its “dual capability” to carry a nuclear bomb following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Lockheed has delivered more than 750 of a potential 3,300 jets to the U.S. and partners. They are in operation in nine nations, including South Korea, the U.K. and Israel, and deliveries continue even as the final round of simulated tests against the most advanced air defenses and aircraft of adversaries remains in limbo. It most recently had been scheduled for December 2020, three years late.

While the U.S. “is purchasing aircraft at these high rates, those that are already in the fleet are not performing as well as expected,” the GAO said.

Completion of the combat testing is legally required before full-rate production — the point when a program should have demonstrated an acceptable level of performance and reliability and is ready for higher manufacturing rates.

“If the full-rate production decision occurs in 2023, we estimate that the program will have delivered 1,115 aircraft before finishing operational testing,” or about one-third of the total projected to be purchased by the U.S. and partner nations, and foreign military sales, which “increases risk,” the watchdog agency said.

“It means that more aircraft will need to be fixed later if more performance issues are identified, which will cost more than if those issues were resolved before those aircraft were produced,” according to the report.

Software Upgrade

Separately, the cost of the Defense Department’s program to regularly upgrade software to handle new weapons has risen by $741 million since 2020 to about $15 billion and will stretch to 2029, or three years later than planned.

That effort “is continuing to experience cost growth and schedule delays,” the GAO said in its evaluation of the upgrade, called Block 4.

The Pentagon also continues to grapple with five previously undisclosed deficiencies with the aircraft’s on-board system to prevent fuel tank fires as well as with the engines, rudder and electronic combat system, the GAO said.

The flaw in the aircraft’s system for preventing wing fuel-tank fires “increases the risk of explosion in the event of a lightning strike.” The program office “is currently identifying the root cause” and “a way to fix it,” the GAO said.

The F-35’s total projected cost for now is $1.7 trillion, which includes $1.3 trillion in estimated operations and sustainment over 66 years.

“We were unable to determine the extent to which F-35 program costs changed” because the “F-35 program office did not provide an update on total program cost more recently than as of December 2019,” the GAO said.

The report doesn’t include Defense Department responses. The program office in prior years has issued comments after the report’s release.

Laura Siebert, a spokesperson for Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed, said in a statement that “we have not received the latest GAO report but recognize these reports are a snapshot in time.

Working closely with our customers and the Joint Program Office, we have been addressing previous GAO recommendations.”


Updated: 5-24-2022

China And Russia Sent Bombers Near Japan As Biden Visited Tokyo

Moscow and Beijing have been stepping up joint military drills in recent years. There has been no offical US response.

Chinese and Russian strategic bombers flew a joint exercise near Japan while President Biden was visiting Tokyo on Tuesday, prompting Japan and South Korea to scramble jet fighters in response.

In the morning, as Mr. Biden and the leaders of Japan, India and Australia discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s regional assertiveness, two Chinese H-6 bombers joined two Russian TU-95 bombers over the Sea of Japan and flew together to the East China Sea, Japan’s Defense Ministry said.

Two other Chinese bombers later joined the exercise, Japan said. The Chinese and Russian defense ministries confirmed they held a joint drill, which the Russian side said lasted for 13 hours.

“We have conveyed to both China and Russia our grave concerns,” Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said, adding that the joint exercise by Chinese and Russian aircraft was the fourth such drill and the first since November last year.

“I consider that the fact such action was taken during the Quad summit indicates the degree of provocation was raised compared with the previous cases,” he said.

South Korea’s military said two Russian jet fighters also joined the exercise and the group entered South Korea’s air self-identification zone. It said it scrambled fighters in response to monitor the group, as did Japan.

Mr. Biden left Japan on Tuesday afternoon to fly back to the U.S. after strongly condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine and releasing details of a plan with the other Quad leaders to more closely monitor and deter illegal Chinese fishing and Beijing’s maritime militias.

There have been growing signs of military cooperation between Moscow and Beijing in recent years, including a joint naval drill last year in which Russian and Chinese ships sailed around Japan.

In the first joint drill between the Chinese and Russian air forces in 2019 near South Korea and Japan, South Korea fighters fired warning shots at a Russian plane.

Tuesday’s patrols were held as part of the implementation of the provisions of the military cooperation plan for 2022 and aren’t directed against third countries, Russia’s Defense Ministry said.

Updated: 6-2-2022

China Nears Launch of Advanced Aircraft Carrier, Satellite Images Show

China has what is considered to be the largest navy in the world, with about 355 ships and submarines, according to the Pentagon report.

The U.S. is heading in the opposite direction, with 297 ships and plans to fall to 280 by 2027. Again, China has 355 and is headed to 460 by 2030.

The ‘Type 003’ carrier will enable China to project military power globally, analysts say.

China is poised to launch its newest, most advanced aircraft carrier, in a major step that will enable its navy to expand its military operations on the high seas.

New satellite imagery reviewed by The Wall Street Journal shows that after several years of work in the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai, China’s third carrier, known as a Type 003, may be afloat in coming weeks or even days, analysts said.

The Type 003 is China’s third aircraft carrier, and its largest and most advanced. It uses new electromagnetic catapult technology akin to what the U.S. and French carriers have to launch aircraft, analysts said.

“Once operational, China’s third carrier will greatly expand its ability to secure its near-sea interests while also enabling the [Chinese Navy] to project power further away from the Chinese mainland,” said Matthew Funaiole, senior fellow with the China Power Project at the CSIS, an independent nonprofit research organization in Washington that provided the imagery to the Journal.

The ship’s launch reflects China’s steady progress expanding its naval fleet, Mr. Funaiole said.

“All signs point to this progress continuing for its fourth, fifth and maybe even a sixth carrier,” he said.

The U.S. is by far the world leader in deployed aircraft carriers, with 11.

The satellite imagery taken May 31 by Maxar Technologies shows that the dry dock where the ship had been under construction has been cleared of smaller ships and boatyard work that previous imagery showed had been there just 10 days ago.

The removal of that work would enable the Chinese navy to launch the carrier into the Yangtze River, said Mr. Funaiole, who noted that Beijing could launch the ship on a national holiday, the Dragon Boat Festival, which begins on Friday.

It could still be years before the carrier is fully operational, Mr. Funaiole added.

A U.S. official said it is plausible that the ship could launch from its dry dock imminently, but cautioned that its construction is ongoing. “There’s significant work to do before the carrier will be able to go to sea and start trials,” the official said.

This carrier is the first built indigenously by China. Beijing’s first aircraft carrier was a former Soviet vessel that was rehabilitated years ago. Its second was of a design based largely on the first Soviet one.

But the new carrier is only as good as the aircraft it launches, and China still has a way to go to make a next-generation fighter, the Chengdu J-20, compatible for carriers, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

“It’s not a significant development because the weakness of the Chinese carrier capability is the air wing,” said Mr. Clark. However, he said, when that time comes, in three or four years, the U.S. could face a Chinese navy with an effective capability in the region.

​“It could be a challenge for them because it’s pushing out the range for Chinese air power even further,” he said.

China’s embassy in Washington said it couldn’t comment on the issue. The Pentagon had no immediate comment.

In its annual report to Congress last year on China’s military, the Pentagon said the new carrier is likely to be operational in 2024.

The vessel’s size and catapult-launch system “will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed wing early-warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations and thus extend the reach and effectiveness of its carrier based strike aircraft,” it said.

Beijing also is developing new versions of fighter and electronic attack jets that would launch from its aircraft carriers, and enhanced anti-submarine warfare capabilities to protect both its carriers and its own submarines, according to the latest version of the Pentagon’s China Military Power Report.

Based on satellite imagery, CSIS predicted last October that the carrier would launch within three to six months. But that schedule was apparently slowed by the Covid pandemic, which forced the city of Shanghai, where the vessel is being constructed, into a strict lockdown, Mr. Funaiole said.

Then last Friday, Mr. Funaiole said, China’s government issued a maritime notice instructing other craft to stay clear of the area around the dry dock where the carrier sits, a possible sign of an imminent operation.

Updated: 6-7-2022

The Chinese Navy’s Great Leap Forward

A base in Cambodia is the latest sign of Beijing’s global military ambition.

First by stealth, then by degrees, and now by great leaps, China is building a blue water navy and a network of bases to extend its military and political influence.

A new secret Chinese military base in Cambodia ought to wake up America’s political class—including the U.S. Navy brass—to what is fast becoming a global Chinese challenge.

The Washington Post on Monday cites Western officials about the facility under construction at Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base on the Gulf of Thailand.

The Journal reported in 2019 that Cambodia and China had secretly agreed to let the Chinese military use a naval base in the Southeast Asian nation. China and Cambodia denied it at the time.

But now China is building a naval facility for its exclusive use “and taking extraordinary measures to conceal the operation,” according to the Post.

The Cambodian government is denying the latest report, and that’s no surprise. The Cambodian constitution bans foreign military bases inside the country’s borders, and the presence of the Chinese forces could stir a nationalist backlash.

China’s naval base also won’t please Cambodia’s Southeast Asian neighbors, including Thailand, which has been a major non-NATO ally of the U.S. since 2003, and Vietnam, which has had a tense relationship with China.

Beijing has a long history of lying about its military intentions. Recall Chinese President Xi Jinping’s promise that he wouldn’t militarize the artificial islands in the South China Sea it developed during Barack Obama’s Presidency. The islands are now home to an array of advanced Chinese military equipment.

Earlier this year China and the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific signed a security pact. Both governments deny that the agreement will lead to a Chinese base or permanent presence, but China operates in stages until one day the world learns there’s an operating base.

The Solomons aren’t far from Australia and are near important commercial shipping lanes.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently took an eight-country tour through the South Pacific to drum up support for a security and development agreement.

The Pacific countries rejected a formal accord, but China will be back with more money and other promises. China wants to dominate shipping lanes that have long been guaranteed by the reach of the U.S. Navy.

China wants a global network of bases that would make it easier to project power. The PLA already has a base in the East African nation of Djibouti. Gen. Stephen Townsend, head of U.S. Africa Command, told Congress in March that Beijing also wants a base in West Africa on the Atlantic Ocean.

The Journal reported last year that U.S. officials suspect China wants a base in the United Arab Emirates, though construction stopped after Washington intervened.

China’s strategic goals here are political, economic and military. Beijing has long taken a mercantilist view of natural resources and doesn’t trust normal commercial trading rules.

Like Japan in the 1930s, Beijing believes that a far-flung base network is necessary to guarantee the supply of oil, minerals and other raw materials in case of sanctions, global shortages or conflicts.

Military bases are also a form of potent persuasion for smaller nations skeptical of Chinese intentions. Bases make it easier to monitor U.S. ship movements and threaten U.S. installations in Guam and elsewhere in the event of a conflict.

A base network will also help China deploy and utilize its own version of the U.S. satellite Global Positioning System.

The proliferation of PLA bases is being matched with an ever-growing Chinese navy. The U.S. is heading in the opposite direction, with 297 ships and plans to fall to 280 by 2027.

China has 355 and is headed to 460 by 2030. Beijing relies on smaller vessels, but it will soon launch an advanced aircraft carrier that will let it project air power abroad.

Some in Congress seem aware of this relative U.S. naval decline, but the U.S. Navy and Pentagon don’t seem alarmed. They should be.

The Chinese military is advancing around the world, and the best guarantee of keeping the peace is a U.S. military and Navy that can reassure allies and deter the hawks in Beijing.


Updated: 9-22-2022

Raytheon Beats Lockheed, Boeing For $1 Billion Hypersonic Cruise Missile

US General Likens China And Russia Hypersonic Missile Tests To A ‘Sputnik Moment’

* Cruise Missile Intended To Reach Five Times The Speed Of Sound
* Award Gives The US Air Force A Second Hypersonic Weapon

Raytheon Technologies Corp. beat Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. for a $1 billion contract to design, develop and produce a new hypersonic weapon for the US Air Force, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

Raytheon was awarded the “task order” for the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile that calls for weapon system design, development and initial delivery expected to be completed by March 2027.

The HACM, which has been co-developed with the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, will use air-breathing propulsion to reach five times the speed of sound.

It will be the Air Force’s second hypersonic missile after Lockheed’s ARRW, which is a hypersonic weapon that’s boosted into the atmosphere and then glides to its target.

Air Force officials have indicated that the HACM might be used on both fighters and bombers, with one official saying a B-52 bomber potentially could carry as many as 20, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.

At least eight hypersonic weapons are in development, the service said.

Russia said in February that it had test-fired a hypersonic missile, sending a message to the US and NATO allies just before its invasion of Ukraine.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has asserted that hypersonic weapons will make up the core of Russia’s non-nuclear deterrence capability in the future.

The US says Russia has deployed its Avangard Hypersonic Glide Vehicle and its Tsirkon hypersonic anti-ship and land-attack missile.

China is investing heavily in hypersonic weapons as well, putting one in orbit last year that flew 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers) in more than 100 minutes of flight, according to the top US nuclear commander.

Russia and China are able to press ahead on new weapons without the oversight by lawmakers and the public that can slow testing and deployment under the Pentagon’s acquisition system.

Updated: 10-10-2022

What Are Hypersonic Missiles And Who’s Developing Them?

US General Likens China And Russia Hypersonic Missile Tests To A ‘Sputnik Moment’

Missile tests by U.S. rivals raise pressure for defenses and America’s own hypersonic missiles.

Hypersonic missile tests by North Korea and China have highlighted the challenge of coming up with effective defenses against the advanced weapons, as well as the difficulties the U.S. has had in developing its own hypersonic-missile program. Here’s a guide to hypersonic missiles.

What Are Hypersonic Missiles?

“Hypersonic” means more than five times the speed of sound, or just over a mile a second. But in common military terminology, not every missile traveling at hypersonic speed is called a hypersonic missile.

The term is generally reserved for missiles that can be maneuvered before hitting their target and don’t follow a simple, straight course.

There are two main types of hypersonic missiles. The first is launched on a ballistic course. “Ballistic” refers to the curved arc of any projectile shot into the air, and in this case the arc tops out high above the earth.

As it begins its descent, the tip carrying the warhead heads back to earth at hypersonic speed with the ability to change course throughout its flight.

This tip is called a glide vehicle because it doesn’t have its own power source like a jet airplane’s fuel tank—it moves, or glides, while being buffeted by forces such as aerodynamic lift and drag.

A variant called a maneuverable re-entry vehicle typically makes just a single turn before reaching its target.

The second type of hypersonic missile is a cruise missile. It flies on a flatter course and is powered throughout its flight, so it isn’t a glider.

What Are The Advantages Of Hypersonic Missiles Compared With Other Missiles?

US General Likens China And Russia Hypersonic Missile Tests To A ‘Sputnik Moment’

Because of their maneuverability, hypersonic ballistic missiles are harder to track and destroy. They often begin their descent at lower altitudes than other ballistic missiles, which may allow them to fly below the coverage area of land- or sea-based radar-detection systems.

As for cruise missiles, most common types currently travel at less than hypersonic speed. Making the missile fly faster has obvious advantages in catching an opponent by surprise, but also requires more advanced propulsion technology.

Can Hypersonic Ballistic Missiles Be Intercepted?

It is difficult with existing missile defenses because of the missiles’ combination of speed and an unpredictable flight path. The U.S. issued contracts to three defense contractors in November 2021 to develop interceptor missiles against hypersonic missiles, but American officials have said it will likely take until the middle of this decade to develop a defensive capability.

Which Countries Are Developing Hypersonic Missiles?

US General Likens China And Russia Hypersonic Missile Tests To A ‘Sputnik Moment’

China has conducted hundreds of hypersonic ballistic missile tests, according to the former vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Hyten, including two in the summer of 2021 in which missiles circuited the globe.

Russia is developing both ballistic and cruise hypersonic missiles, and Iran says it has built a hypersonic missile.

Australia plans to partner with the U.S. and U.K. in developing hypersonic missiles, and several other countries are researching them.

North Korea Has Been Testing A Lot Of Missiles. Are Any Of Them Hypersonic Ballistic Missiles?

Quite possibly. Keep in mind that, under common military terminology, “hypersonic ballistic missile” refers to a missile with a maneuverable warhead traveling at hypersonic speed.

After North Korea tested a ballistic missile on Jan. 11, 2022, Japanese officials said their tracking data showed the missile turned sharply before it landed in the sea.

That suggested it was a hypersonic ballistic missile, which is how North Korea’s official media described it.

Other recent North Korean missile tests, including one on Jan. 30, didn’t involve maneuverable warheads.

What About The U.S.?

The U.S. has several programs to develop hypersonic glide vehicles and hypersonic cruise missiles but suffered two failed tests of a hypersonic glide vehicle in 2021. U.S. defense officials say the development of hypersonic missiles is now a priority.

Updated: 11-10-2022

Iran Says It Has Built Hypersonic Missile

U.N. atomic agency separately reported that Tehran continues to stonewall its investigation into Iranian nuclear activities.

TEHRAN–Iran said Thursday it has built a hypersonic missile capable of penetrating any air-defense system, as the United Nations atomic agency reported that Tehran continues to stonewall its investigation into Iranian nuclear activities.

As senior officials lashed out at Tehran’s neighbors and other foreign foes they accuse of fomenting protests sweeping across the country, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh said the new missile could maneuver both inside and outside the atmosphere, according to state media. He provided no evidence to support the claims.

While Iran has a vast missile development program, it remains unclear if it has the capability to build hypersonic weapons, among the latest technology being developed by the U.S., China and Russia. North Korea said it tested a hypersonic missile earlier this year.

Hypersonic missiles fly at least five times the speed of sound and closer to the Earth than ballistic missiles, making them difficult to detect.

Iran regularly tests new missile technology, but the latest claim comes as it faces an antigovernment protest movement that is posing the clerical establishment one of its biggest challenges in years.

As the unrest has grown, senior Iranian officials have publicly accused Saudi Arabia, along with the U.S., European countries and Israel, of orchestrating the demonstrations, without providing any evidence to support the allegation.

“If they meddle in Iran, they will pay the price,” Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, a senior military adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, was quoted as saying Thursday by the Young Journalists Club, an affiliate of Iranian state television.

The IRGC’s top commander last month publicly warned Saudi Arabia to rein in coverage of the Iranian protests by Farsi-language satellite news channels outlets, including Iran International, a Saudi-backed satellite television channel based in London popular with many Iranians. Iran’s intelligence minister, Esmail Khatib, called Iran International a “terrorist organization” this week.

On Thursday, Iranian authorities arrested a woman they accused of passing information to Iran International, according to Fars, a semiofficial news agency.

The channel denied on its website that it had ever collaborated with Elham Afkari, who is the sister of a wrestler controversially executed two years ago.

Earlier in the week, Iran International said on its website British police had notified two of its London-based journalists of “an imminent, credible and significant risk to their lives and those of their families.” The Metropolitan Police force has declined to comment.

Last week, U.S., Saudi and other military forces were on heightened alert for a possible imminent attack from Iran on the kingdom based on shared U.S. and Saudi intelligence warnings.

That threat has eased but not passed, Persian Gulf and U.S. officials said. Iran denied it was planning an attack. Saudi officials suggested that Iran believed an attack would deflect attention from the protests at home.

Iranian authorities have struggled to quell the unrest that has occurred almost daily since the death on Sept. 16 of a young woman in police custody for allegedly violating Iran’s strict rules on how women dress in public.

More than 200 have been killed and over 1,000 arrested in the crackdown. On Thursday, protests continued in large parts of the country.

Iran has also stepped up accusations against European nations, including Germany, that are looking to place fresh human rights sanctions against Tehran over its crackdown.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Berlin should back off what he called its interventionist stance or face “long-term consequences.” The German Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported Thursday that Iran was still obstructing its probe into undeclared nuclear material found in Iran, leading to a likely formal rebuke of Iran at the IAEA’s board meeting of member states next week, Western diplomats said.

Tehran has refused to provide credible answers to the Agency’s questions about the materials, the IAEA has said. Iran has demanded that the three-year-old probe be closed down as a condition for restoring the 2015 nuclear deal, a stipulation the U.S. and its European allies have refused.

Talks on restoring the deal, which lifted most international sanctions on Tehran in response to tight but temporary restrictions on its nuclear program, have stalled.

In two confidential reports circulated to member states and seen by the Journal, the IAEA also said that Iran’s decision to remove agency cameras from nuclear-related facilities made it harder for the Agency “to provide assurance of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”

An official close to the agency said that Iran’s withholding of key information from the IAEA means it could take them four months to rebuild a clear picture of Iran’s nuclear program if the 2015 nuclear deal was revived.

The IAEA said that after weeks of delay, Iran had this week invited an IAEA team to come to Tehran later this month for talks on the so-called safeguards probe.

“The director general is seriously concerned that there has still been no progress in clarifying and resolving the outstanding” questions about the materials, the report said.

Meanwhile, the Agency reported that Iran’s stockpile of 60% enriched uranium grew by 6.7 kilograms to 62.3 kg in the three months to Oct. 22, far above the amount needed to produce enough nuclear fuel for a weapon.

Iran claims its nuclear program is purely peaceful but it is the only nonnuclear weapon country to produce 60% nuclear fuel, which can be swiftly converted into 90% enriched weapons grade fuel.

Iran has massively expanded its nuclear program since 2019, after the U.S. decision in May 2018 to exit from the nuclear deal.


Updated: 11-22-2022

China Is Expanding Its Effort To Launch Weapons From Hypersonic Missiles


A new wind tunnel is intended to further develop the technology, which pushes the bounds of physics.

China is expanding its capacity to develop weapons that can be fired from hypersonic missiles, suggesting a test this summer that surprised U.S. military officials with its technological accomplishment is part of a program to create new threats for U.S. missile defenses.

The state-controlled AVIC Aerodynamics Research Institute said it is set to open a new wind tunnel capable of replicating the speeds and high temperatures faced by hypersonic missiles.

The new wind tunnel’s roles include testing the “separation and release” of weapons from hypersonic vehicles, the institute said in a news release Sunday.

A hypersonic glide vehicle is a maneuverable warhead that sits on the tip of a long-range missile and, once released, glides to its target on an unpredictable path that makes it difficult to intercept.

In a test in July, U.S. officials said, China fired a missile that traveled around the globe in a low-earth orbit before releasing the glide vehicle.

That glide vehicle then separately fired a projectile of its own, they said—a feat that pushes the boundaries of physics.

No other country has demonstrated the ability to launch projectiles from hypersonic glide vehicles. Doing so poses a steep technical challenge, missile experts said, because the launch takes place while the vehicle is traveling around five times the speed of sound, meaning the projectile is immediately subject to very high pressure and heat.

The exact role of the second projectile isn’t known. Missiles that can be fired from glide vehicles in flight could make them even more difficult to defend against.

Possibilities include firing a decoy to confuse missile defenses or launching a missile to destroy a secondary target.

“Until there’s data made public, it is still fairly opaque,” said Melissa Hanham, an expert on missile technology formerly at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

The new wind tunnel is twice as wide as the institute’s first such facility and can simulate conditions up to eight times the speed of sound, it said.

The tunnel has been under construction for two years and recently passed tests to ensure it is ready for use, the institute said.

The tunnel will “bolster the research and development of China’s hypersonic weapons and equipment,” it said. The institute and China’s defense ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment. Another entity, the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Center, also conducts research into hypersonic weapons.

U.S. military officials concede that America’s hypersonic weapons-development program trails China’s. During the past five years, the U.S. has conducted nine hypersonic tests, while China has launched hundreds, according to Air Force Gen. John Hyten, who was until recently vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

China already has hundreds of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that travel high into space and back down faster than hypersonic glide vehicles.

They include missiles that can launch up to a dozen warheads at different targets, likely overwhelming U.S. defenses. Military analysts say Beijing’s goal appears to be developing new weapons and delivery methods to ensure it retains an advantage.

“I think China is concerned about the future of U.S. missile defense,” including possible space-based interceptors, said Zhao Tong, a Beijing-based nuclear-arms expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

China conducted another hypersonic missile test in August, according to U.S. officials. Analysts say one objective of the summer tests could have been to develop the ability to threaten the U.S. from the south, avoiding the majority of U.S. missile defenses, which are positioned to counter attacks from missiles fired over the North Pole.

China’s race to perfect the ability to fire missiles from hypersonic glide vehicles may increase pressure on the U.S. to more rapidly bolster its missile defenses.

The Biden administration is scheduled to issue an update to U.S. missile defense policy early next year, along with a new National Defense Policy.

On Friday, the Pentagon said the Missile Defense Agency has given Raytheon Technologies Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. contracts to develop prototypes of systems to destroy hypersonic glide vehicles during their descent.

Military leaders in the Asia-Pacific region say adding new missile defenses are among their top priorities.

Hypersonic Weapons: Who Has Them And Why It Matters

They’re so fast, their speed can change the surrounding air molecules. They can carry a nuclear warhead, fly low and be hard to detect. Such weapons are also at the center of escalating competition between the U.S. and Russia and China.

Russia claims that it used hypersonic weapons, Kinzhal missiles, for the first time in combat in Ukraine.

Though the Kinzhal travels at hypersonic speeds, it doesn’t fall into the category that arms experts mean when they talk about hypersonic weapons.

1. What Are Hypersonic Weapons?

They are normally defined as fast, low-flying, and highly maneuverable weapons designed to be too quick and agile for traditional missile defense systems to detect in time.

Unlike ballistic missiles, hypersonic weapons don’t follow a predetermined, arched trajectory and can maneuver on the way to their destination, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The term “hypersonic” describes any speed faster than five times that of sound, which is roughly 760 miles (1,220 kilometers) per hour at sea level, meaning these weapons can travel at least 3,800 miles per hour.

At hypersonic speeds, the air molecules around the flight vehicle start to change, breaking apart or gaining a charge in a process called ionization.

This subjects the hypersonic vehicle to “tremendous” stresses as it pushes through the atmosphere, according to a 2018 U.S. Army paper.

2. What Are The Different Kinds Of Hypersonic Weapons?

There are two main types–glide vehicles and cruise missiles. Most of the attention is focused on the former, which are launched from a rocket before gliding to their target, because of the challenges of achieving hypersonic propulsion of missiles.

The missiles have engines called scramjets that use the air’s oxygen and produce thrust during their flight, allowing them to cruise at a steady speed and altitude.

3. How Is Russia’s Kinzhal Missile Different?

It’s a ballistic missile. And although it reaches hypersonic speeds, that’s true of nearly all ballistic missiles at some point during their path.

Rather than a new system, the Kinzhal is thought to be derived from Russia’s ground-launched 9K720 Iskander-M, a short-range ballistic missile.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense said it used Kinzhal, or Dagger, missiles in Ukraine to destroy a weapons cache and fuel depot on March 18 and 20. The missiles, which were fired from a plane, can carry conventional or nuclear warheads.

4. Who Has Hypersonic Weapons?

China, the U.S., and Russia have the most advanced capabilities, and several other countries are investigating the technology, including India, Japan, Australia, France, Germany and North Korea, which claims to have tested a hypersonic missile.

Russia: Russia’s Avangard is a glide vehicle launched from an intercontinental ballistic missile and will reportedly carry a nuclear warhead. Russian news sources claim it entered combat duty in December 2019. Tsirkon is a ship-launched cruise missile said to be capable of striking both ground and naval targets.

China: Its military conducted possibly two hypersonic weapons tests over last summer, including the launch into space of an orbiting hypersonic weapon capable of carrying a nuclear payload. The Financial Times first reported the tests. China has disputed reports of the tests, saying it simply launched a reusable space vehicle.

Previously, China conducted a number of successful tests of the DF-17, a medium-range ballistic missile designed to launch hypersonic glide vehicles. U.S. intelligence analysts assess that it may now be deployed.

China has also tested the DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile, which could be modified to carry a conventional or nuclear glide vehicle.

The U.S.: Gregory Hayes, chief executive officer of U.S. defense contractor Raytheon Technologies Corp., told Bloomberg TV Oct. 26 that the U.S. is “at least several years behind” China in hypersonic technology despite significant investment.

Development funding increased approximately 740% in the five years before 2020 and is expected to total almost $15 billion between 2015 and 2024, not including production costs.

The U.S. Navy leads the development of a glide vehicle for use across the military branches, while the Air Force is working on an air-launched glider. The government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, with Air Force support, is developing an air-launched hypersonic cruise missile, according to CRS.

The U.K., U.S. and Australia said in a joint statement April 5 they are cooperating on “hypersonics and counter-hypersonics” as part of their new Aukus security pact.

5. What’s The Significance Of Hypersonic Weapons?

In an appearance on Bloomberg TV, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, likened China’s suspected tests of a hypersonic weapons system last year to a “Sputnik moment,” a reference to the Soviet Union’s pioneering launch of a satellite in 1957, giving it an early lead in the space race and shocking the U.S.

Hypersonic weapons are very difficult to counter using existing defenses. U.S. officials say that American hypersonic weapons, unlike those being developed in China and Russia, are being designed to carry conventional rather than nuclear weapons.

But this provides scant reassurance to potential U.S. adversaries, who would have no way of knowing whether such a weapon in fact carried a nuclear warhead while it was in flight.

The pursuit of these systems by China and Russia reflects a concern that U.S. hypersonic weapons could enable America to conduct a preemptive, decapitating strike on their nuclear arsenals and supporting infrastructure. U.S. missile defense deployments could then limit their ability to conduct a retaliatory strike against the U.S.

Updated: 12-2-2022

U.S. Unveils B-21 Raider, The Stealth Bomber Designed To Deter China

The Air Force wants 100 of the new jets, priced at $700 million apiece.

PALMDALE, Calif.—The Pentagon on Friday showed off its first new bomber in more than 30 years, lifting the veil on the secret long-range jet intended as a central element in Washington’s effort to keep China in check.

At an average cost of almost $700 million each, the B-21 boasts a futuristic flying-wing design and is intended to fly thousands of miles to strike targets deep behind enemy lines, evading detection by the most sophisticated air defenses.

US General Likens China And Russia Hypersonic Missile Tests To A ‘Sputnik Moment’

The plane is the first part of the U.S. nuclear deterrent’s $1 trillion overhaul, which will also include new nuclear submarines and land-based missiles, countering China’s own expanding nuclear forces.

The B-21 will carry conventional and nuclear arms, and could eventually fly without a pilot, aircraft maker Northrop Grumman Corp. says.

“The B-21’s edge will last for decades,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said as the jet was unveiled for the first time publicly at an event at the Plant 42 facility in Palmdale, Calif., where the most advanced U.S. aircraft are developed and built.

US General Likens China And Russia Hypersonic Missile Tests To A ‘Sputnik Moment’

The new aircraft was rolled out of a hangar following a flyover of the three existing Air Force bomber types, with a giant sheet removed to reveal a flying-wing shape similar to the existing B-2 Spirit jet.

The Air Force hasn’t disclosed when it will deploy the B-21, though military analysts expect the first to enter operations in 2026 or 2027. It will join a bomber fleet that is the smallest—and oldest—in Air Force history.

In the years following World War II, the U.S. built a huge number of bombers designed to strike deep behind the lines in a conflict with the Soviet Union.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the Air Force began shrinking its bomber fleet, while expanding its fleet of surveillance and recon planes, helicopters and attack planes suited for the fights in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The B-52 bombers are 60 years old on average, and the Air Force plans to fly them into the 2050s. The Air Force’s roughly 45 B-1 bombers are 34 years old on average, while its 20 B-2 stealth bombers are 26 years old.

To limit adversaries’ ability to develop defenses against the B-21, the Pentagon has revealed few details about the classified program, keeping it under wraps in the heavily guarded Palmdale facility for seven years.

Over this past summer, the Pentagon permitted Northrop Grumman and other companies involved in the project to let employees acknowledge for the first time they were working on the program.

For the best part of a decade, workers weren’t even able to tell their families. Hundreds of employees gathered for Friday’s unveiling.

Northrop Grumman is ready to begin testing the plane—taxiing it on the ground around the facility and eventually flying it—so the time had come to reveal it to the public, Air Force officials said.

The B-21 appeared slightly smaller than its immediate predecessor, the B-2, introduced in the 1990s. Hit by cost and development challenges and skepticism in Congress about the plane’s role, Northrop Grumman built only 21 B-2s, rather than the 132 originally planned. That left each plane costing $2.2 billion in 2022 dollars.

ir Force chief of staff Gen. Charles Brown said Friday he was aiming to have at least 100 B-21s. The Pentagon hasn’t made the cost and sustainment details public, but independent analysts expect the program to cost more than $100 billion in all if 100 planes are delivered.

Northrop Grumman said it leads 400 suppliers on the program, though the Pentagon has identified only six, including engine maker Pratt & Whitney, a unit of Raytheon Technologies Corp.

Stealthy, radar-evading jets have proved difficult and expensive to maintain. Northrop executives said the B-21 has been designed with existing parts and technology to lower costs and improve reliability.

“The B-21 is designed to be a daily flier,” said Tom Jones, head of the company’s aerospace unit.

Updated: 1-23-2023

U.S. Weapons Industry Unprepared For A China Conflict, Report Says

The war in Ukraine is highlighting the inability of U.S. arms companies to replenish the military’s stocks.

WASHINGTON—The war in Ukraine has exposed widespread problems in the American armaments industry that may hobble the U.S. military’s ability to fight a protracted war against China, according to a new study.

The U.S. has committed to sending Ukraine more than $27 billion in military equipment and supplies—everything from helmets to Humvees—since Russia’s invasion of the country last year.

The infusion of arms is credited with helping the Ukrainian forces blunt Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion in what has become the biggest land war in Europe since World War II.

But the protracted conflict has also exposed the strategic peril facing the U.S. as weapons inventories fall to a low level and defense companies aren’t equipped to replenish them rapidly, according to the study, written by Seth Jones, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

“The bottom line is the defense industrial base, in my judgment, is not prepared for the security environment that now exists,” said Mr. Jones in an interview. Industry now is operating in a manner “better suited to a peacetime environment,” he added.

Mr. Jones said the study, which reflected input from senior military, defense, congressional, industry and other government officials, showed how quickly the U.S. military would run out of munitions in a potential conflict with China in the Indo-Pacific.

“How do you effectively deter if you don’t have sufficient stockpiles of the kinds of munitions you’re going to need for a China-Taiwan Strait kind of scenario?” Mr. Jones said.

For more than the last 20 years, the U.S. fought insurgency warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, a troop-intensive strategy, but the Ukraine conflict is a largely conventional war that relies more on heavy weaponry.

A potential conflict with China in the Indo-Pacific would be different from the largely land war taking place in Ukraine, but would nonetheless need to draw deeply from U.S. arms stockpiles.

The problems with the industrial base, in part the result of outdated military contracting procedures and a sluggish bureaucracy, are now affecting the ability to create a credible deterrent in the Indo-Pacific region or face-off against China in a military conflict, according to the study’s finding.

“These shortfalls would make it extremely difficult for the United States to sustain a protracted conflict,” the report said. “They also highlight that the U.S. defense industrial base lacks adequate surge capacity for a major war.”

The rate of consumption of weaponry by the Ukrainians is quickly demonstrating the challenges the U.S. industrial base could face in an extended conflict over Taiwan.

The number of Javelin shoulder-fired missiles sent to Ukraine since last August, for example, is equal to about seven years of production based on fiscal 2022 production rates, the study said.

The number of antiaircraft Stinger systems provided to Kyiv represent roughly the same number of systems exported abroad over the past 20 years, the study said.

Meanwhile, the more than one million rounds of 155 mm ammunition sent to Ukraine by Washington has shrunk the U.S. military’s own supplies, which the study says are now considered low.

Inventories of the Javelin system, howitzer artillery and counter-artillery radars are also all considered low, according to the study.

Platforms, like the Harpoon coastal defense system, which is seen as a significant piece of Taiwan’s defense strategy, are considered medium, though current stocks might not be sufficient for wartime, the study said.

“The history of industrial mobilization suggests that it will take years for the defense industrial base to produce and deliver sufficient quantities of critical weapons systems and munitions and recapitalize stocks that have been used up,” the study said.

Military leaders have also expressed increasing frustration about the industrial base in recent months. Adm. Daryl Caudle, the head of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, called out the defense industry for the delayed supply of arms.

“I am not forgiving of the fact they’re not delivering the ordnance we need,” he said when asked about balancing the U.S. military’s readiness amid the U.S. shipments of billions of dollars of assistance to Ukraine.

“All this stuff about Covid this, parts, supply chain—I just don’t really care,” he said. “We’ve all got tough jobs.”

While the U.S. and its allies have been able to send billions of dollars of arms to Ukraine since last year’s invasion, Pentagon planners expect that Taiwan couldn’t be easily resupplied after the start of a conflict, since Chinese forces would likely blockade the island.

There is already a backlog of more than $19 billion of U.S. arms to Taiwan, based on sales approved since 2019.

The CSIS study took particular aim at the U.S. government, which has failed to adapt, remaining “risk averse, inefficient and sluggish” when it comes to the industrial base.

And the government regulations that govern foreign military sales are outdated, according to the study, which said the current process can take 18 to 24 months.

“In trying to prevent military technology from falling into the hands of adversaries, the United States has put in place a regulatory regime that is too sluggish to work with critical front-line countries,” the report said.

The study cited one example in which the decision to provide an unnamed weapon system to Taiwan using the U.S. foreign military sales process added two years to the delivery date, which meant it took four years to get to the island counting the two-year production time.

“This is a significant and problematic difference given the ongoing tensions in the Taiwan Strait,” the study said.

While the kind of weaponry U.S. officials believe Taiwan needs for a fight is in many cases different than what has been sent to Ukraine, the conflict in Europe has nonetheless exposed fissures within the industrial base and the government for contending with the problem, Mr. Jones said.

At the same time, the government has yet to adapt to what Mr. Jones and others believe is a wartime mentality that requires governmental agility and efficiency to enable the defense industry to produce more weapons.

China’s autocratic government, on the other hand, has invested heavily in recent years in military modernization.

A series of wargames CSIS conducted in recent months showed that the U.S., in the case of a conflict with China, could run out of some weaponry, including long-range, precision-guided munitions, in less than one week.

Mr. Jones recommends that the U.S. reassess its total munition requirements, urging Congress to hold hearings on the matter. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley said in November that such an effort is already under way.

The study also suggests reassessing American requirements for replenishing its stockpiles, creating a strategic munitions reserve and determining a sustainable munitions procurement plan to meet current and future requirements.


Updated: 3-29-2023

US Air Force Plans To End Lockheed Hypersonic Weapon Program

* Service Doesn’t Intend To Purchase Any After Two More Tests

* Weapons Buyer Discloses Decision In Congressional Statement

The Air Force won’t pursue a hypersonic weapons program under development by Lockheed Martin Corp. as officials signal more support for a different initiative by rival Raytheon Corp.

The Air Force doesn’t “currently intend to pursue follow-on procurement” of the weapon known as ARRW, though it will conduct two additional flight tests to accumulate important data, Air Force Assistant Secretary for Acquisition Andrew Hunter told a House Armed Services subcommittee Wednesday.

Hunter didn’t say why the Air Force was giving up on the Lockheed program, but it comes days after Bloomberg News reported that a recent test of the ARRW had failed — after a data link to the weapon was lost during flight.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall acknowledged to another committee on Tuesday that the test “was not a success,” as the service “did not get the data we needed.”

Kendall said the Air Force was “more committed” to another weapon called the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile built by Raytheon, but stopped short of saying the service would end the Lockheed program after prototype testing.

Definite Role” For Raytheon Weapon

Kendall said “we see a definite role” for the Raytheon missile because “it’s compatible with more of our aircraft and it will give us more combat capability overall.”

The Raytheon weapon flies on its own while the ARRW launches from a rocket before the warhead separates and glides at hypersonic speed to a target.

The March 13 test was important because it’s the second of four that are planned for the prototype operational hypersonic missile. It was the service’s top hypersonic program and meant to compete with Russian and Chinese programs that have already been successful.

The weapon was designed to fly up to eight times the speed of sound and approximately 1,000 miles. The Congressional Research Service in a Feb. 13 report said that the Air Force had repeatedly “pushed back the timeline” for the hypersonic missile and now states it could be operational as soon as this autumn.

Three previous booster-test failures of a development-model ARRW derailed plans for the missile to go into production last year. They eventually succeeded. The Pentagon had hoped to declare the US’s first combat-capable hypersonic weapon by Sept. 30, 2022.


Updated: 8-7-2023

Pentagon Withholds Payments Of $7 Million A Piece On Upgraded Lockheed F-35s

The Pentagon has withheld payments of $7 million a piece on the first four F-35s upgraded by Lockheed Martin Corp., with the fighter jets placed in storage until testing shows its software delivers on new capabilities.

Lockheed is on contract to deliver an additional nine TR-3 jets a month with improved software and hardware, or as many as 45 more, by Dec. 31.

The aircraft needs the delay-plagued software upgrade to fully function with new cockpit hardware before it can carry more precise weapons and gather more information on enemy aircraft and air defenses.

The “TR-3” upgrade will increase processing power 37 times and memory 20 times over the F-35’s current capabilities.

The Pentagon’s F-35 program office and Lockheed will “ensure that all these aircraft are safely and securely stored” until they are formally accepted, office spokesman Russell Goemaere said in a statement.

Lockheed said in a statement that “we continue to produce F-35s at the rate originally forecasted for this year and have completed 77 TR-3 test flights as of July 31.”


Updated: 9-11-2023

Lockheed Risks $800 Million Withheld Over New F-35 Software

* The Pentagon Is Holding Back $7 Million Per Aircraft

* Long-Delayed Simulator Testing For The F-35 Also Begins

Lockheed Martin Corp. may see more than $800 million in payments withheld through next June until it wins approval for the software powering its most advanced version of the F-35, according to newly disclosed delivery figures.

The No. 1 US defense contractor is on tap to finish production of about 52 of the upgraded TR-3 model fighter jets by Dec. 31 and approximately 12 per month after that, or 72 more by June 30, for as many as 124 jets, according to the data released Monday by Russ Goemaere, the Pentagon’s spokesman on the F-35.

The Pentagon is withholding $7 million per aircraft until the new software is validated because the aircraft are being placed in storage until then.

At 124 jets, that’s $868 million. Last month, the Defense Department withheld $7 million on each of the first four upgraded F-35s.

The aircraft needs the delay-plagued software upgrade to function fully with new cockpit hardware before it can carry more precise weapons and gather more information on enemy aircraft and air defenses.

The upgrade will increase processing power 37 times and memory 20 times over the F-35’s current capabilities.

Lockheed said in a statement that “TR-3 remains our top priority. We continue to produce F-35s at a rate of 156 per year and expect to continue at that pace while simultaneously working to finalize TR-3 software and hardware integration, testing and delivery.”

Simulator Testing

Separately, long-delayed testing of the F-35 in an advanced Pentagon simulator is beginning Monday, according to a Pentagon spokesman.

It’s the final stage of testing designed to determine whether the Pentagon’s costliest weapons system is up to countering the top Russian and Chinese air defenses and fighters, and it counts for 42% of the evaluation needed for a passing grade.

The Pentagon’s test office reaffirmed in a statement its long-standing view that the simulation is necessary as part of legally required testing before Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed can proceed with full-rate production.

Of a potential fleet of 3,000 or more F-35s for the U.S. and international customers, at least 965 have been delivered. Many of those may need to be retrofitted based on findings from the tests.

The F-35 was supposed to fly the 64-sorties exercise in 2017 but it’s been postponed for years because of unresolved technical problems in the “Joint Simulation Environment” test facility compounded by the Covid pandemic.

The Pentagon test office plans to deliver its test report no later than 90 days after the completion but doesn’t plan to publish an unclassified summary, it said.

Updated: 9-17-2023

Marine Corps F-35 Jet Fighter Lost In ‘Mishap’

US General Likens China And Russia Hypersonic Missile Tests To A ‘Sputnik Moment’

Pilot ejected safely; emergency teams are trying to locate plane.

An advanced Marine Corps F-35B jet fighter went missing Sunday after a “mishap” forced a pilot to eject near Charleston, S.C., the service said.

The pilot ejected safely and was being treated at a local medical center, but the plane couldn’t be found as of Sunday evening, a spokeswoman from Joint Base Charleston said.

The jet was assigned to a Marine Corps training squadron from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing based in North Carolina. The Joint Base sent a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, asking the public to call the base if they found the aircraft.

“If you have any information that may help our recovery teams locate the F-35, please call the Base Defense Operations Center,” the post said.

The base is working with the FAA to locate the missing plane. The FAA declined to comment, referring the matter to the military.

“We are currently still gathering more information and assessing the situation,” a Corps spokesperson said. “The mishap will be under investigation.”

Lockheed Martin has produced more than 1,000 F-35 jets, though deliveries to the U.S. are currently suspended pending the completion of some upgrades.

Around a dozen of the planes have been destroyed in crashes and accidents since the F-35 entered service in 2015, according to U.S. Air Force data, a rate no worse than other aircraft types.

The aircraft are equipped with transponders and beacons, and several have been recovered from hostile environments.

The U.S. Navy last year recovered a carrier-based F-35C from a depth of more than 12,000 feet after it crashed into the South China Sea.

A British F-35B crashed on takeoff from an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean in November 2021, prompting an undersea search that successfully located the plane on the seabed. Japan recovered one of its F-35s that crashed off the country’s northern coast in 2019.

The search operation for the latest missing jet is concentrated around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, which each have an average depth of less than 20 feet and are around 75 feet at their deepest point.

The F-35B, which can take off and land vertically just as a helicopter, has a list price of around $90 million for the latest batches. Older planes cost more, and upgrades have also inflated the price of planes.

The Air Force said that an F-35A—the cheapest of the three models—that crashed last year at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, was valued at $166 million, more than twice the list price of the plane.


Updated: 9-18-2023

Wreck of Missing F-35 Jet Fighter Found In South Carolina

Debris field found some two hours northeast of Charleston.

The Marine Corps said late Monday that it had located the wreckage of an F-35B jet fighter that disappeared after its pilot ejected in South Carolina on Sunday.

Military and civilian agencies had been searching for the jet around two lakes near Charleston, but located a debris field in Williamsburg County, some two hours northeast of the city.

The Marines also announced a two-day pause in flying across the service this week to assess its safety practices. The F-35 incident is the third involving Marine aircraft in recent weeks, including the fatal crash of a V-22 Osprey in Australia.

The search for the single-engine, single-seat F-35 attracted widespread attention after Joint Base Charleston sent a post Sunday on X, formerly known as Twitter, asking the public to call if they found the aircraft.

The pilot ejected safely after what the Marines called a “mishap” near Charleston, S.C., a term commonly used during ongoing investigations into aircraft incidents.

The F-35 has a range of so-called stealth modes that restrict its visibility to radar and other detection. The Marines haven’t commented on what mission the jet—one of two on a sortie—was performing. The F-35B has a range of around 900 nautical miles.

The aircraft are equipped with transponders and beacons, and several have been recovered from hostile environments.

The U.S. Navy last year recovered a carrier-based F-35C from a depth of more than 12,000 feet after it crashed into the South China Sea.

A British F-35B crashed on takeoff from an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean in November 2021, prompting an undersea search that took three weeks to successfully locate and recover the plane on the seabed. Japan recovered one of its F-35s that crashed off the country’s northern coast in 2019.

The jet involved in the latest accident was assigned to a Marine Corps training squadron from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing based in North Carolina.

Lockheed Martin has produced more than 1,000 of the single-seat, single-engine F-35 jets, though deliveries to the U.S. are currently suspended pending the completion of some upgrades.

Around a dozen of the planes have been destroyed in crashes and accidents since the F-35 entered service in 2015, according to U.S. Air Force data, a rate no worse than other aircraft types.

The F-35B, which can take off and land vertically as a helicopter does, has a list price of around $90 million for the latest batches. Older planes cost more, and upgrades have also inflated the price.

The Air Force said that an F-35A—the cheapest of the three models—that crashed last year at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, was valued at $166 million, more than twice the list price of the plane.


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