by Henry Neiberlien

Hidden behind the recent headlines of Facebook’s poor practices, Russian spy poisoning, and governmental corporation there lies a secret arms race between the superpowers. China, Russia, India, and the United States are building and have built weapons that would give cold war analysts nightmares.

Here in the United States, our capabilities are publicised and politicised. Recently the United States Air Force recently a video demonstrating their future capabilities, such as unmanned wing-man, drone swarms, and microwave weapons that literally leave enemies in the dark. While the USAF is currently developing these technologies they are also hard at work mounting directed energy weapons for the F-35, and KC-135 aircraft, they are also in an arms race with Russia and China for hypersonic weapons.

Conventional ICBMs fly in a parabolic arc into space and back down through the atmosphere. At the top of this arc these missiles, even though they may carry multiple warheads along with decoys, are vulnerable to be shot down by anti-missile systems like the Kinetic Energy Interceptor and patriot missile system. Hypersonic weapon systems would fly so fast they could not be tracked by conventional missile defense systems, let alone be intercepted. The USAF has already tested hypersonic weapons in the form of the X-51 Waverider, and the FALCON program with limited success. China has also tested systems with little to no success with their DF-17 hypersonic glide vehicle so far, though most details are still hard to find. China has instead focused on developing naval assets to defend their coastline.

China also knows our greatest naval assets are our aircraft carriers. To quickly take out our vessels in a first strike operation China has developed the DF-21 ballistic missile, dubbed the “Carrier Killer” this missile is capable of flying 900 miles to its target. China’s new J-20 stealth fighter has also been seen by some experts as a first strike weapon against naval vessels with its low frontal radar cross section and high weapons load. Russia, however, has claimed to fully develop a mature system that will be deployed in 2019. This system is called the Avangard and it will launch on board reused SS-19 boosters.

Russia has also claimed that this weapon has been successfully tested in preparation for mass production. While exact details and specifications on the Avangard system are scarce ones and one can always be skeptical of Russian claims, video footage of another missile system has surfaced. The air-launched KH-72M “Kinzhal” (Dagger) hypersonic missile system was successfully released from a modernised MiG-31 “Foxbat” high altitude interceptor in mid-march during a test in mid-March. Once again Russia claims its a new missile, but it appears in the video to just be a modified Iskander short-range ballistic missile that had already existed in the Russian inventory. Russia also claimed they tested a sea-launched hypersonic rocket in 2017, but those claims are also questionable.

One missile system that Russian president Putin confirmed the existence of during his annual state address, this weapon is a nuclear powered and nuclear-armed cruise missile with an almost indefinite range called the Burevestnik (Stormbringer). This would be an entirely new strategic strike weapon when compared to the convention ballistic missile or even hypersonic glide vehicle weapon systems. With an almost 20,000 km range this missile not only flying to attack intercontinental targets, it can change headings and even loiter in a combat zone before striking. This missile is specifically designed as a suppression weapon that takes out missile defences before the main barrage of MIRV(multiple independent Reentry Vehicle) equipped ICBMs. While images, while blurry, exits of the supposed test fire of the new missile last year. Again with as all of these claims come from Russian come from Russian media the validity of these weapons actually existing in a usable state remains questionable.

Due to the build-up of these weapons on the Asian continent, India has begun its own hypersonic cruise missile program. India has been in close cooperation with the Russians and successfully tested their 290-mile range Mach-7 air-launched cruise missile named the BrahMos. This means that by the early 2020s the Earth’s four of the Earth’s most powerful nations will be armed with nuclear weapons that can be delivered faster than ever through even the most robust defences. In the coming years mutually assured destruction will take on a whole new meaning, tensions continue to rise, provocations and slander continue to be thrown, in the late Cold War of the 21st century.