New Age defense

While all the other machinations are going on in politics, serious men and women, those in defense of the country, are trying to see through the fog of future defense needs and are making assessments of our capability.

This week, without the need of a fancy new budget for a Space Force or a new uniform patch, the Pentagon has let leak that our defense of the nation is shifting away from ballistic missile defense to intercepting hypersonic and cruise missiles in order to keep pace with Chinese and Russian advances. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) director, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, has even, in a preemptive move, stricken the word ballistic from the organization’s mission statement to emphasize the wider missile threat he is facing.


Meantime, Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, has also said he believes nuclear, chemical or biological weapons will not be used in war, especially not involving attacks on each other’s homelands.  “The Chinese ability to hold our forward deployed assets at risk with very high-speed, very hard-to-intercept precision-guided systems — that’s something to which we have to respond.”

Russia has recently been televising its hypersonic missile progress, making a show for journalists and as veiled threats to its neighbors (and NATO especially). While we all watch Russia’s antics, China is building long-range tactical precision-guided systems that could be a major player in a conventional fight. What is especially worrying to the experts in the Pentagon, is that unless the U.S. decides to fund and “wallpaper the Earth with radars” — a war game in which the radars themselves would become a target for precision attack — the military needs to combat the advanced threat from space, Griffin says.

So, space weapons and defense systems seem a foregone conclusion. Sadly. Griffin explains that space-based sensors will be vital in the MDA’s strategy. “The only real way to see these things coming is from space,” Griffin says. “They’re very hard to see from high orbit because they’re not as bright. They are a factor of 10 or more dimmer than strategic missiles. You have to get closer.”

Closer can also mean closer to a new arms race, and the possible consequences of such a race in space.


Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now lives in New Mexico.