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

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?

Read more >

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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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Some pretty good work by Congress on missile defense this year

, senior scientist

Photo: Eric E Johnson/Creative Commons (Flickr)

The Congressional defense budget process is entering its conclusion, though battles remain. Despite little to show for it, the overall budget for missile defense continues to be robust. For example, the Senate appropriators met last week and added $1.2 billion above the Trump administration’s budget request for missile defense, including an additional $532 million for upgrades and six more boosters for the beleaguered Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, and added $222 million to fund program to replace the recently canceled Redesigned Kill Vehicle program. That is an unfortunate waste of tax dollars.

However, in other areas Congress—in particular the House—made a number of useful and positive corrections to the administration’s $9.4 billion missile defense budget request. The House also put several sensible new missile defense policies in place that deserve support. Read more >

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Why Did the Pentagon Conduct a Treaty-Violating Test?

, co-director and senior scientist

On Sunday, the Pentagon announced that it had launched a Tomahawk cruise missile with a range “more than 500 kilometers” from a ground-based launcher at a test site in California.

The purpose, it said, was to use “data collected and lessons learned from this test” to “inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities.”

The real purpose of the test, however, appears to be to underscore the US decision to leave the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by conducting a launch that would violate the terms of the treaty. INF prohibited all US and Russian land-based missiles, or launchers for those missiles, with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km. Read more >

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