Development of missile comes as US president’s rhetoric has fueled fears of a new nuclear arms race
(May 15, 2020) — Unveiling the flag for his new space force in the Oval Office on Friday, Donald Trump said the US was developing a “super duper missile” to outpace military rivals including Russia and China.
“We have no choice, we have to do it with the adversaries we have out there. We have, I call it the super duper missile and I heard the other night [it’s] 17 times faster than what they have right now,” the president said, sitting at the Resolute Desk.
“That’s right,” said the defense secretary, Mark Esper, standing to Trump’s right.
“You take the fastest missile we have right now,” Trump said. “You heard Russia has five times and China’s working on five or six times, we have one 17 times and it’s just got the go-ahead.”
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has indeed announced a hypersonic nuclear missile, meaning one that flies at five times the speed of sound (767mph) or faster.
According to Bloomberg News, Putin has said his Avangard missiles can “travel at up to 20 times the speed of sound, like a ‘meteorite’ or a ‘fireball’”.
“Not a single country possesses hypersonic weapons, let alone continental-range hypersonic weapons,” Putin told military chiefs in December, according to Bloomberg. “They’re trying to catch up with us.”
The US tested its own hypersonic missile last year but on Friday Trump, whose public rhetoric and withdrawal from key treaties have fuelled fears of a new nuclear arms race, seemed to allude to new technology. A report released this week detailed accelerated US spending on nuclear weapons.
Trump’s desire to build a new and cosmic arm of the US military has attracted widespread criticism and satire. In perhaps the most extreme example, Netflix will soon release an eponymous comedy starring Steve Carell and John Malkovich.
The fallout from Friday’s event in the Oval Office might have been more reminiscent of HBO’s hit satire Veep.
According to The Hill, reporters raised the “super duper missile” during a Pentagon press call. Despite Esper’s apparent confirmation of the “super duper missile”, a spokesman referred questions back to the White House.
2019 World Nuclear Arms Spending Hit $73 Billion – Half of It by US
Trump boosted nuclear funding but cut pandemic prevention
WASHINGTON (May 13, 2020) —The world’s nuclear-armed nations spent a record $73bn on their weapons last year, with the US spending almost as much as the eight other states combined, according to a new report.
The new spending figures, reflecting the highest expenditure on nuclear arms since the height of the cold war, have been estimated by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which argues that the coronavirus pandemic underlines the wastefulness of the nuclear arms race.
The nine nuclear weapons states spent a total of $72.9 billion in 2019, a 10% increase on the year before. Of that, $35.4bn was spent by the Trump administration, which accelerated the modernisation of the US arsenal in its first three years while cutting expenditure on pandemic prevention.
“It’s clear now more than ever that nuclear weapons do not provide security for the world in the midst of a global pandemic, and not even for the nine countries that have nuclear weapons, particularly when there are documented deficits of healthcare supplies and exhausted medical professionals,” Alicia Sanders-Zakre, the lead author of the report, said.
The report comes at a time when arms control is at a low ebb, with the last major treaty limiting US and Russian strategic nuclear weapons, New Start, due to expire in nine months with no agreement so far to extend it.
Russia, which has announced the development of an array of new weapons — including nuclear-powered, long-distance cruise missiles, underwater long-distance nuclear torpedoes and a new heavy intercontinental ballistic missile — spent $8.5 billion on its arsenal in 2019, according to ICAN’s estimates. China, which has a much smaller nuclear force than the US and Russia but is seeking to expand, spent $10.4 billion.
Those expenditures were far overshadowed by the US nuclear weapons budget, which is part of a major upgrade also involving new weapons, including a low-yield submarine-launched missile, which has already been deployed.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the cost of the US programme over the coming decade will be $500 billion, an increase of nearly $100 billion, about 23%, over projections from the end of the Obama administration.
Congressional Democrats failed in an attempt to curb the administration’s nuclear ambitions, but Kingston Reif, the director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association, said budgetary constraints in a coronavirus-induced recession, could succeed where political opposition failed.
“There’s going to be significant pressure on federal spending moving forward, including defense spending,” Reif said. “So, the cost and opportunity cost of maintaining and modernizing the arsenal, which were already punishing, will become even more so.”
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