13.08.2021 Author: Valery Kulikov

The Hypersonic Fall of US Prestige


The US has finally admitted that “American credibility” in the world is bulging at the seams. And it’s not just its political credibility. This fall began not with Biden or Trump but with the flawed perception by the current US political-military establishment of its alleged exceptionalism and dominance in the world.

Despite the policy pursued by the US authorities to pressurize and force their weapons on foreign markets, in many areas, they can no longer compete, in particular, with Russian weapons. It is enough to recall that the American military, who went through armed conflicts in Vietnam and other countries, on the pages of The Atlantic and several specialized US military publications have repeatedly declared the undeniable advantages of the legendary Soviet AK-47 assault rifle over the most popular in the US army M-16 rifle.

The US media published much about the problems with the touted F-35 fighter jets and the total failure of this program. As follows particularly from a recent US Senate Armed Services Committee report, the fighter engines of Pratt & Whitney F135 installed on the F-35 fighter jets degrade rapidly. According to reports, to date, 15% of the adopted US Air Force F-35 fighters can no longer fly because of this problem.

US missile defense has also thoroughly discredited itself, and recent attempts to make any updates have been unsuccessful. Another test was taken of the new Aegis Ballistic missile defense system on July 29, northwest of Hawaii. As the Missile Defense Agency said in a press release, it again failed: only one hit its target out of the two missiles launched, the second missile could not even detect the target. According to experts, given the cost of such weapons with only a 50% result in hitting its target, it is a waste of money. As usual, to camouflage the uselessness of their missile defense system, the US military tried to blame Russia for the test failure. Allegedly, a Russian warship placed powerful radio-electronic jammers in the missile launch area.

However, no ships of the Russian Navy were near Hawaii, as evidenced by the data of the global map of sea traffic.

It is a myth and a complete failure to present the US leadership’s apparent success in developing hypersonic missiles, which Russia and China have already achieved. A year ago, the White House and the American media advertised the alleged creation of some “super-duper missile,” which is 17 times faster than missiles currently available on the market, in particular those from Russia and China. However, no results have been presented to date. Moreover, in September 2020, US President Donald Trump, speaking to his supporters in Minnesota, even claimed that Russia allegedly “stole American hypersonic weapons development and used that data to create its own” (Fox News broadcasted this speech). However, even if one were to believe this latest propagandistic lie of the US leadership, it is natural to wonder whether the US actually has these weapons. And why is it that the Russian and Chinese forces already have a standard armament while the US cannot even begin to test it?

The failure of the US to create hypersonic weapons was confirmed on July 29. The US Air Force Public Affairs Office reported a complete failure upon testing a hypersonic missile USA AGM-183A ARRW, aka Booster Test Vehicle 1b; the vehicle’s engine did not work when separated from the B-52 bomber. A similar ARRW test failure was reported from the April events: the B-52 returned to a California military base with a hypersonic missile on board.

Today, the US SBIRS (Space-based infrared system) can warn of hypersonic missile launches, but only on a “hide who can” basis. Modern US technology does not allow such a target to be intercepted, so Russia’s hypersonic weapons are challenging the US Defense Department’s early warning missile systems.

Therefore, as the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has noted many times before, statements by Washington hawks about the readiness to deploy US hypersonic missiles in Europe are cynical against the background of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal for a mutual moratorium.  Recall that back in October 2020, President Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien said that Washington would send hypersonic intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles to Europe, if necessary, to “deter” Russia.

With such statements, Washington is only creating the preconditions for a new missile crisis in Europe. It is putting the Russian armed forces under a potential retaliatory strike by countries that, to please such hawks, will agree to the deployment of such US weapons aimed at the Russian Federation on their territory.

Although hypersonic weapons have not yet been used in combat, former US Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly told CNN that they would change the way we fight in the future as much as nuclear weapons did in the last century. According to Modley, this could destabilize the global security situation and threaten the existence of the United States.

With the US having terminated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, President Vladimir Putin proposed additional steps to de-escalate the situation in Europe a year ago. Still, so far, there has been no positive response. In particular, the Russian side expressed its willingness not to deploy medium-range missiles to which Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is applied, in the European part of Russia, in those regions where similar US systems will not be deployed. But this is only possible if the US and NATO countries take reciprocal steps. Putin also said that the US withdrawal from the treaty is a grave mistake; Washington’s withdrawal from the agreement increases the risk of a missile arms race.

The situation changed somewhat with the arrival of Democrat Joe Biden to the White House, who immediately after his inauguration extended START III for five years without additional conditions. After the personal meeting between Biden and Putin in Geneva, it was decided to create working groups to deal with strategic stability. Although there are still many blank spots, it is hoped that these talks will allow us to find common ground and move toward the de-escalation of tensions.

Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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