Missiles and Missile Defense

Our experts weigh in on security issues with U.S. national missile defense and nuclear weapons around the world.


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Latest Missiles and Missile Defense Posts

The Accuracy of Hypersonic Weapons: Media Claims Miss the Mark

Hypersonics weaponry—an emerging missile technology that sends warheads gliding through the atmosphere at high speeds—has garnered a great deal of attention in the press. In a recent post I showed that claims of their “revolutionary” advantages are highly exaggerated. Hypersonic weapons travel more slowly than existing ballistic missiles, can be detected by existing satellite technologies, and do not meaningfully alter the balance between missile offense and defense.
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The Last Remaining Nuclear Arms Control Treaty Between the U.S. and Russia Could Expire in One Year, Here’s Why That’s Dangerous

, analyst

New START mandates an intensive monitoring and verification regime that provides the U.S. and Russia with vital transparency into each other’s nuclear arsenals. Photo: Randy Montoya/Sandia National Laboratories.

One year from today, on February 5, 2021, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is scheduled to expire, leaving the United States and Russia without a single bilateral nuclear arms control agreement for the first time in nearly 50 years. This would mean the end of constraints on either country’s nuclear arsenal which, especially when combined with worsening relations between the two, could be a recipe for a new nuclear arms race. It will also end the intrusive verification measures that have provided both countries with substantial confidence in their assessments of each other’s arsenals over the past several decades.

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Setting the Record Straight on Hypersonic Weapons

Recent reports would have you believe that hypersonic weapons—an emerging class of low-altitude, high-speed missiles—are poised to revolutionize modern military strategy. A recent op-ed in the New York Times characterized these “game-changing” missiles as the “apotheosis” of airborne weaponry, capable of feats that “no missile can currently achieve.” This fantastical depiction, which underpins a race among the major military powers to develop these weapons, is part of a long pattern of media hype.

But are these weapons really so revolutionary? Will they upend the global security environment? And does their arrival make conflict between United States, Russia, and China inevitable?

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China Rejects Policy of Nuclear Launch on Warning of an Incoming Attack

, China project manager and senior analyst

International and Chinese participants discuss verification technologies at the 16th PIIC Beijing Seminar on International Security in Shenzhen, China. The conference was sponsored by the Chinese Arms Control and Disarmament Association (CACDA), the Program for Science and National Security Studies (PNSS) at China’s Institute of Applied Physics and Computational Mathematics (IAPCM) and the US-based Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).

Fu Cong, the director general of the Arms Control Department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, recently called on all nuclear weapons states to abandon the policy of preparing to launch nuclear weapons on warning of an incoming nuclear attack. He issued the unprecedented official statement in his keynote address to a major international arms control conference held in Shenzhen in mid-October.

Cong also asked nuclear weapons states to take additional steps to diminish the role of nuclear weapons in their national security doctrines, including joining China in publicly committing to never use nuclear weapons first. Read more >

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North Korea’s Latest Missile Test

, co-director and senior scientist

Various sources are reporting that North Korea test-launched two ballistic missiles tonight on lofted trajectories.

One of the missiles is reported to have reached a maximum altitude of 910 km (570 miles) and splashed down at a range of 450 km (280 miles) from the launch point. This missile would have had a burnout speed of about 3.74 km/s with a loft angle of 81.5 degrees, and a flight time of about 17 minutes.

If flown on a standard trajectory with the same payload, that missile would have a maximum range of about 1,900 km (1,200 miles).

This would classify the missile as medium range (1,000 to 3,500 km).

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