Pentagon officials and key lawmakers continue to warn that China and Russia are outpacing the U.S. in the development of key military technology, including super-fast missile technology.
Last month, Russia successfully tested hypersonic missiles, and China is rumored to have had such technology since last year.
Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said: “Right now, we’re helpless,” The Hill recently reported.
Inhofe advocated for more investment in hypersonics, which are missiles that can fly more than five times the speed of sound, along with missile defense.
Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, also stressed the importance of improved military technology and outlined the capabilities of hypersonic missiles during combat.
“[Hypersonics] start out like a ballistic missile, but then it depresses the trajectory and then flies more like a cruise missile or an airplane. So it goes up into the low reaches of space, and then turns immediately back down and then levels out and flies at a very high level of speed,” he explained.
Hyten also admitted in a Congressional testimony last week that U.S. missile defense cannot stop hypersonics.
He said that the U.S. is instead relying on nuclear deterrence, or the threat of a retaliatory U.S. strike, as its defense against such missiles.
“We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us, so our response would be our deterrent force, which would be the triad and the nuclear capabilities that we have to respond to such a threat,” Hyten told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
As far as any possible way the U.S. might be able to improve its missile defenses, particularly against hypersonics, Hyten advocated for space-based sensors.
“I believe we need to pursue improved sensor capabilities to be able to track, characterize and attribute the threats, wherever they come from,” he said. “And, right now, we have a challenge with that, with our current on-orbit space architecture and the limited number of radars that we have around the world. In order to see those threats, I believe we need a new space sensor architecture.”
Thomas Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, also said that the U.S. is falling behind Russia and China in military technology.
“And the reason is the U.S. hasn’t been doing anything near the same pace both in terms of developing our own capabilities but also failing to develop sensors and shooters necessary to shoot down theirs,” he said, The Hill reported.
With Russia and China investing billions of new dollars in their own military spending, President Donald Trump has pressed forward with his own campaign promise to strengthen the U.S. military.