A B-52 prepares to launch the X-51 "hypersonic" test vehicle.

WASHINGTON: “I believe, today, we could build a Mach 5 cruise missile [with] off-the-shelf materials,” said Charles Brink of the Air Force Research Laboratory. “We could go 500 nautical miles in 10 minutes.” Brink should know: He ran AFRL’s record-breaking X-51 program. Now AFRL and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are co-funding a… Keep reading →

The US Army's "Advanced Hypersonic Weapon."

CAPITOL HILL: Prompt Global Strike is a program to build a weapon that can destroy targets anywhere on earth within an hour of getting targeting data and permission to launch. Sandia Lab and the Army may have found the answer: the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon. So far, some aspects of PGS have attracted controversy. When the Pentagon wanted… Keep reading →

Falcon Hypersonic

CAPITOL HILL: Sometimes it can seem as if one lives on several different planets at the same time while living here in Washington. This afternoon saw three top GOP lawmakers decrying China after it apparently tested (we don’t know if the test was successful) a hypersonic vehicle. This evening, the Navy announced it is beefing… Keep reading →

We have heard much about the anti-access/area denial threat China poses to American and allied forces in the Pacific. We have read much about new Chinese missiles such as the DF-21, which supposedly can destroy maneuvering ships at sea — especially US aircraft carriers. We have read that Pacific allies wish to deploy substantial fleets of F-35s, and then critics decide that these “short range” assets can not meet the crucial needs of warfighting in the Pacific.

We have also learned in the press that core competencies like amphibious assault have now become virtually impossible because of the A2/AD capabilities of China. What is lost in all of this hyperbole is what the United States and its allies are doing to shape a new combat capability appropriate to the 21st century. It may be true that a linear airpower force would find it difficult to cope with such threats. One deploying what we call S-cubed evolution capabilities — sensors, stealth, and speed — can create a powerful distributed force in the Pacific, one that so complicates Chinese military planning as to greatly enhance US deterrence. Keep reading →

China unveils a new “stealth” jet, but we don’t know how stealthy it is or when it might fly actual missions. China unveils a new aircraft carrier. Its leaders boast about extending China’s reach, but the carrier doesn’t have any planes and we aren’t sure when they might build them. Monitoring a rapidly developing China, whose language is unknown to most Americans and whose government is obsessed with secrecy, requires a degree of speculation. Perhaps by design, China makes it hard to separate fact from fiction and intent from aspiration.

Estimations of Chinese capabilities and interpretations of Chinese intent based on single-source or dated information will not yield useful analysis. Distinctions must be made between official Chinese policy and the opinions of individual Chinese researchers. This is especially true when discussing China’s space programs. Given the dual-use nature of the overwhelming amount of space technology, as well as the competitive character of U.S.-China relations, technical information can easily be misinterpreted through a prism of assumed ill intent. While the military must consider worst-case scenarios, recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan have clearly demonstrated the dangers of basing policy decisions and consequent military strategies on poor technical assessments. Keep reading →