Department of State: US Lags China and Russia in Hypersonic Missile Development

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This was stated at a hearing in the Senate by a special representative of the State Department, nominated for the post of Undersecretary of State for Arms Control State Department special representative Marshall Billingslea told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the United States trails both Russia and China in the development of hypersonic missiles. Billingslea, who has been nominated to the post of undersecretary of state for arms control, suggested that the military needs to accelerate a broad effort to modernize the American nuclear arsenal, in part to create the leverage that would press both Moscow and Beijing to agree to new arms control treaties. “We have an urgent need to robustly test a number of emerging hypersonic glide vehicle technologies that are coming online,” he said during his nomination hearing. “We are, I think it's fair to say, behind when it comes to the Chinese testing program in particular, and the Russians have actually already deployed to nuclear hypersonic weapons on their heavy ICBMs.” Billingslea is trying to broker the extension of New START, the most significant existing arms control treaty that restricts the stockpiles of Russian and American nuclear weapons. U.S. officials have signaled they would allow that treaty to expire altogether if China refuses to join the negotiations and strike a three-party bargain because Beijing is in the midst of a rapid expansion of its ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons arsenal. “Hypersonics offer a number of advantages,” he said, adding that U.S. officials only want to develop missiles that can carry conventional weapons rather than nuclear warheads. “These will be, I think, important equalizers for us, particularly in the Asia Pacific region.” Chinese officials have rebuffed American calls to negotiate, arguing that both Russia and the U.S. both have larger nuclear arsenals. And Russia has deployed intermediate-range, land-based cruise missiles in Europe in violation of a major Cold War-era ban on such weapons while also developing smaller nuclear weapons, which Billingslea described as an apparent effort to have the option of using nuclear warheads “in a European environment” without provoking a full-scale nuclear war. “It’s not a theoretical problem with the Russians, given that they have demonstrated a willingness to invade other countries repeatedly,” Billingslea said. “Our ability to negotiate effective arms control does, in fact, go hand-in-hand with a robust modernization program.”