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The US is racing to deploy submarine-launched hypersonic missiles

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The US is racing to deploy submarine-launched hypersonic missiles

 

The US intends to build an underwater facility for testing hypersonic weapons, with a focus on developing submarine-launched hypersonic weapons targeted at potential adversaries like China and Russia.

During a recent hearing of the US Senate Committee on Armed Services, Vice Admiral Johnny Wolfe, the director of Strategic Systems Programs for the US Navy, unveiled plans to create the Multi-Service Advanced Capability Hypersonics Test Bed (MACH-TB) and an innovative Underwater Test Facility at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana.

The underwater facility signifies a notable advancement in deploying hypersonic capabilities from submarines, with the goal of improving the stealth and survivability of these critical systems.

Wolfe also announced a collaboration between the Navy and Army to develop and deploy a common hypersonic weapon system. This partnership will utilize a shared hypersonic glide body and missile booster and will adhere to a rigorous joint testing schedule to ensure the high-performance and reliability of these cutting-edge weapons.

Wolfe underscored the key attributes of hypersonic systems, noting their ability to travel at speeds over five times the speed of sound and effectively target heavily defended high-value assets due to their speed, maneuverability, and altitude.

The hypersonic weapons play a central role in the strategic vision of the US Department of Defense (DOD), as outlined in the 2022 National Defense Strategy. This strategy aims to strengthen integrated deterrence, enhance campaigning capabilities, and secure lasting advantages over potential adversaries.

Although the US had previously announced its intention to deploy hypersonic weapons aboard submarines, the effort has been hindered by budget cuts and the absence of suitable testing facilities.In November 2021, USNI News reported that the US Navy aims to deploy the Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) hypersonic weapon system on the first Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine (SSN) equipped with the Virginia Payload Module by 2028.

Initially, the plan was to equip the four guided-missile variants of the Ohio-class submarines with hypersonics by 2025. However, this plan had to be revised due to budget cuts, which prevented the construction of an underwater test facility.

In terms of missile capacity, USNI noted in February 2020 that the additional Virginia Payload Module adds 28 missile tubes, enabling a total of 40 missiles per submarine. While this enhancement makes the Virginia-class SSNs a potential replacement for the older Ohio-class SSGNs armed with 154 missiles, it raises concerns about reduced missile capacity and potential issues related to magazine depth and firepower.

Budget cuts and reduced shipbuilding orders may cast a shadow over the future of the US’ planned submarine-based hypersonic arsenal. Breaking Defense reported that the US Navy decreased its 2025 order for Virginia-class SSNs from two to just one unit this month.

Despite canceling one of the planned Virginia SSNs, Breaking Defense notes that the US Navy’s 2025 budget maintains the nine projected submarines, ensuring the continued submarine production capability for both the US Navy and AUKUS.While the construction of an underwater hypersonic weapons testing facility advances the US hypersonic weapons program, a February 2024 report by the US Congressional Research Service (CRS) raises critical questions about the operational and strategic implications of hypersonic weapons.

The CRS report points out that although US hypersonic weapons research receives substantial funding, there is a lack of clear acquisition plans or approved mission requirements. It also highlights divergent views on the feasibility and affordability of producing these weapons in significant battlefield numbers.

Further detailed assessments, including cost and strategic analyses, are deemed necessary by the CRS report to better comprehend the role of hypersonic weapons in US strategy.Regarding potential tactical and strategic uses of hypersonic weapons by the US, Alan Cummings observes in a November 2019 War on the Rocks article that these weapons can serve as signals of US interest and determination, as well as leverage for pursuing arms control agreements. Additionally, they can offer a flexible response to adversary counter-space operations.

Cummings emphasizes that the relatively low number of US hypersonic weapons makes them potent signals to adversaries, revealing US priorities on interests and redlines. He also suggests that low-visibility deployments and systems that can be swiftly deployed and recovered may aid in achieving this objective.

In 2010, the US simultaneously surfaced three Ohio-class SSGNs in the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans, possibly indicating displeasure with China’s activities in the South China Sea and East China Sea. The submarines involved were the USS Michigan in Pusan, South Korea, the USS Ohio in Subic Bay, Philippines, and the USS Florida in Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

Cummings suggests that hypersonic weapons could mitigate the threats posed by near-peer adversaries such as China and Russia to trade or other strategic interests if used as bargaining chips in future arms control agreements.

He argues that for the US to negotiate from a position of strength, it must develop the same capabilities it seeks to limit, as potential adversaries would only take negotiations seriously under such conditions.

However, the US may already be significantly lagging behind in submarine-launched hypersonic missiles. In February 2024, Asia Times reported on Russia’s deployment of its Zircon ship and submarine-launched hypersonic weapon in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Russia’s Zircon missile underwent its initial flight test in 2015 and was declared operational in 2022. The missile was tested by two naval vessels, the Admiral Gorshkov frigate and the Severodvinsk SSGN, before being deployed to the frigate in January 2023.

Currently, these naval vessels are not present in the Black Sea. If the missile were to be used in combat, it would be unusual for it to be launched from a ship on which it has not yet been tested.

Cummings also suggests that employing hypersonic weapons could provide alternative responses to adversaries’ aggressive actions in space. He notes that the US heavily relies on space-based assets for communication, surveillance, and navigation, making it particularly concerned about threats to those assets from adversaries.

He suggests that hypersonic weapons could provide the US with first-strike capabilities against command uplinks to anti-satellite weapons before the latter could be utilized.

Furthermore, Cummings mentions that the short flight time of hypersonic weapons could enable the US to inflict damage before its space-based assets are compromised. He believes that both of these strategies could serve as viable deterrents against the use of anti-satellite weapons in the first place.

More: While the US debates, China implements the concept of a Cyber Force

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Will the Israel-Gaza conflict affect Joe Biden’s chances of re-election?

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Will the Israel-Gaza conflict affect Joe Biden’s chances of re-election
Creator: Cameron Smith | Credit: White House

When major issues in American foreign policy intersect with election periods, they often spell trouble for the incumbent president. Like several predecessors, US President Joe Biden is dealing with significant challenges like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, some of which were inherited from previous governments, including the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Others, like the Israeli retaliation in Gaza and Iran’s involvement, involve complexities from both current and past administrations. With these significant crises converging during a tense election season, it’s understandable that Biden’s foreign policy is under close examination. Thus, it raises the question of how this administration’s foreign policy might affect voter decisions in the upcoming November elections.

Back to Afghanistan

Many observers believe that President Biden’s foreign policy difficulties began with what has often been labeled the “botched” American exit from Afghanistan. Although this event alone, despite the severe yet preventable consequences that ensued, is unlikely to significantly affect electoral outcomes beyond the concerns raised by some commentators. However, this might not hold true for other global crises currently confronting the Biden administration, particularly its handling of the situation in Gaza. Predicting voter behavior is notoriously challenging, especially well ahead of election day. Yet, examining how international crises have historically influenced voter intentions can shed light on how Americans perceive their global role and the potential impact this perception could have on their selection of a leader in the upcoming election.

Read More: Biden tells Netanyahu that the US will not take part in a counter-strike against Iran

1968 redux?

This year, the Democratic National Convention is set to take place in Chicago, Illinois, echoing the unsettling similarities to the year 1968 when it was last hosted there. That year, amidst a turbulent political climate driven by foreign policy crises, the convention was marked by significant discord.

In 1968, America was grappling with the aftermath of the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy, intense civil rights turmoil, and the deepening conflict in Vietnam. As the Democratic Party convened in Chicago, it faced a profound crisis. The convention was met with large-scale anti-war demonstrations against U.S. involvement in Vietnam, which culminated in violent clashes with police, resulting in the arrest of 650 protesters.

The chaos at the convention contributed to the Democratic nominee, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, losing the presidential election to Richard Nixon.

Today, while the geopolitical context with the Middle East differs significantly from Vietnam, domestically, the Democratic Party shows similar signs of division, particularly over the Biden administration’s approach to Gaza. During the Michigan state primary in February, over 100,000 Democrats cast “uncommitted” votes in a coordinated effort to push President Biden to take stronger action against the violence in Gaza. This is noteworthy considering Biden’s narrow victory in Michigan by just over 150,000 votes in the 2020 election.

As the convention approaches in August, ongoing peaceful protests at Democratic events are expected to persist, reflecting vital democratic dissent. However, media portrayal of these protests is likely to focus on internal party conflicts, potentially affecting public perceptions of President Biden’s leadership and the overall unity of the party.

Iran

Iran has significantly influenced past U.S. elections, and recent events suggest it might do so again. The 1979 Iranian Revolution and the mishandled Iranian hostage crisis are widely considered to have contributed to one of the most significant defeats in modern American political history for then-incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter.

In the midst of the Iranian Revolution, a year before the 1980 election, militant students stormed the American embassy in Tehran, taking over 50 Americans hostage. The crisis, which lasted more than a year, unfolded under the watch of seemingly powerless American officials, and a failed military rescue attempt only added to the debacle.

The revolution, alongside the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, severely undermined Carter’s authority. His Republican opponent, Ronald Reagan, capitalized on Carter’s perceived weaknesses, campaigning on a promise to “make America great again.”

Carter ultimately lost the election in a landslide, similar to Humphrey in 1968. Notably, the hostages were released on the day of Reagan’s inauguration, a timing many believe was not coincidental. Despite conventional narratives of Carter’s weakness, it’s important to recognize that after the failed rescue, his administration undertook lengthy and tense negotiations with Iran, continuing right up until the end of his term. These negotiations eventually culminated in the hostages’ release. There remain substantial questions about the Reagan campaign’s involvement in the resolution of this crisis.

Perceptions matter

The historical specifics of foreign policy crises hold importance, but their perceptions and the narratives around them often have a greater impact on election outcomes. During his presidency, Jimmy Carter was perceived as ineffectual, contributing to a broader sense of American “malaise,” while Ronald Reagan presented himself as a figure of strength and vitality, ultimately leading to Carter’s electoral defeat. Similarly, that loss profoundly influenced the United States’ global role and the course of history.

Following four years of tumult under Donald Trump, Joe Biden sought to reestablish America as a positive global force, assuring Americans that the “beacon” of U.S. leadership could be reignited. However, there’s a risk that Biden’s own foreign policy could weaken this message and his personal appeal. Current polling indicates that around two-thirds of Americans favor an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Yet, Biden’s seeming inability and unwillingness to separate the U.S. from Israeli actions, coupled with his administration’s ongoing support without conditions on military aid, are fracturing the diverse voting coalition that helped him ascend to power. Maintaining this coalition and ensuring voter turnout are crucial for his re-election prospects.

Moreover, perceptions of Biden’s apparent lack of empathy toward the suffering of Palestinian people, especially children, could severely damage the compassionate image he meticulously crafted—a key element of his 2020 voter appeal. This situation places Biden in a double bind. On one hand, he is seen as overseeing a crisis in American moral leadership, with many believing the “international rules-based order” he vowed to uphold is being applied inconsistently, especially to U.S. allies. On the other hand, Donald Trump, once again his opponent, aims to capitalize on perceived weaknesses by projecting an image of decisive strength, appealing to a vision of America regaining unmatched global dominance, reminiscent of Reagan’s rhetoric.

This perception that Biden’s administration is stumbling through one foreign policy crisis after another only strengthens this narrative. Additionally, there are concerns that his foreign policy team is more focused on tallying “wins” and “losses” rather than addressing the deep-seated, structural issues behind these crises. Whether fair or not, combined with other factors like changing perceptions of the domestic economy, these issues contribute to a notably low approval rating for Biden.

In a closely contested race, where polling shows a margin of error that could swing either way, these perceptions become even more critical. As history shows, the mythologizing of these perceptions can significantly influence election outcomes.

Read More: Poll Indicates Majority of Voters Consider Trump’s Hush Money Case Serious

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Poll Indicates Majority of Voters Consider Trump’s Hush Money Case Serious

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Poll Indicates Majority of Voters Consider Trump's Hush Money Case Serious
Get this image on: Flickr | Creator: PO1/USN | Credit: Dominique A. Pineiro

Ahead of the upcoming trial of the former president set to commence next week in New York, a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll indicates that the majority of American voters consider the criminal accusations against Donald Trump, involving purportedly concealing secret payments to a porn star, to be significant.

According to the poll, conducted over five days and concluded on Monday, approximately 64% of registered voters view the allegations as at least “somewhat serious,” while 34% regard them as less important.

The trial, slated to commence next Monday, marks the first of four criminal charges against Trump, who ran as the Republican candidate against Democratic President Joe Biden in the November election.

Legal analysts suggest that the remaining three cases, which involve allegations of election fraud or mishandling of classified documents, are notably more grave compared to the hush money payment allegations.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll indicates that any potential criminal conviction could carry significant repercussions for Trump, who finds himself in a closely contested race with Biden. Trump stands as the first sitting or former US president to confront criminal charges.

Approximately four out of ten Republican respondents perceive the hush money allegations as serious, along with two-thirds of independents. New York prosecutors allege that Trump concealed a $130,000 payment facilitated by his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to porn star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, in exchange for her silence regarding a purported sexual encounter with Trump a decade prior.

Also Read: The Top Candidates for Trump’s Vice Presidential Nominee Are These

rump refuted the existence of such a meeting and pleaded not guilty. Nearly one-third of Republicans and almost two-thirds of independents surveyed find it plausible that Trump falsified business records and engaged in fraud.

Trump has entered a plea of not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records; notably, he has not been specifically indicted for racketeering, which constitutes a distinct offense under New York law.

Voters seem to regard the charges against Trump in the ongoing trials as more severe. Approximately 74% of registered voters surveyed deem allegations of voter fraud to be serious. Trump endeavors to postpone all four trials.

However, a New York state appellate judge rejected his plea to postpone the undisclosed trial. Around 60% of registered voters in the survey express agreement with the assertion that Trump’s criminal trials should proceed before the November 5 election.

Respondents displayed ambivalence towards this claim, with only 27% of registered voters agreeing with Trump’s argument that presidents should be immune unless they have been impeached by Congress.

Many Republicans shared this perspective, with approximately four-fifths of respondents agreeing that the prosecutions were “excessive and politically motivated.” However, around a quarter of Republican respondents in the poll indicated that they would not support Trump if he were convicted of a felony crime by a jury.

About three-quarters of registered voters in the Reuters/Ipsos poll expressed the view that having a president in office with such significant legal obligations would be “risky.” The survey, conducted online from April 4-8, encompassed 1,021 U.S. adults, including 833 registered voters, nationwide.

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The Top Candidates for Trump’s Vice Presidential Nominee Are These

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The Top Candidates for Trump's Vice Presidential Nominee Are These

The primary season for the presidency is finished, and now that former President Donald Trump has secured the Republican nomination, inquiries are arising about who is being considered for his vice presidential shortlist.

Back in February, during the ongoing primaries, Trump mentioned to Maria Bartiromo of Fox News that he didn’t plan on revealing his selection anytime soon.

Insiders connected to Trump’s campaign suggested that Trump hold off on announcing his choice until the convention to build anticipation and bolster his sway over the contenders vying for the position.

Reports from CBS News indicate that Trump is contemplating Stefanik as a potential candidate for vice president. When Stefanik was asked if she would accept the role of vice president, she responded on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” saying she would be pleased to serve in any capacity within the Trump administration.

He ended his campaign for the presidency in November and threw his support behind Trump just before the New Hampshire primary, dealing a blow to his fellow South Carolinian and former governor.

Scott stated on “CBS Mornings” that he would never seek a cabinet position from Trump but refused to answer whether he would serve as Trump’s vice president.

Originally hailing from the Republican stronghold of South Dakota, Noem contemplated a presidential bid in 2024 but ultimately opted against it upon Trump’s announcement of his candidacy. “And if President Trump runs, I’ll support him,” Noem told CBS News Major Garrett in 2022.

Noem was among the earliest governors to endorse Trump, declaring her support at a rally last September, and she actively campaigned for him several times in Iowa ahead of the January caucuses.

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, another former candidate for the 2024 presidential race, has also been mentioned by the Trump campaign as a possible vice presidential pick.

Burgum was the initial former 2024 presidential contender to formally endorse Trump, appearing alongside him at a rally in Indianola, Iowa, on January 1, 2024.

“He’s one of the finest governors in our nation, and I’m eager to have him join the administration, playing a crucial role,” Trump remarked about Burgum during the January 14 protest.

Last year, Sanders delivered the Republican rebuttal to President Biden’s State of the Union address. She formally endorsed Trump at a campaign rally in Hialeah, Florida, in November 2023.

Carson, who competed against Trump in the 2016 presidential primary, campaigned for the former president in Iowa prior to the caucuses. Carson is seen as a reliable choice for vice president due to his popularity among conservatives and Christians.

When asked if he and Trump had discussed the possibility of Carson becoming vice president, Carson replied, “I don’t want to talk about private conversations.”

Rubio endorsed Trump the day before the Iowa caucuses in a piece published on March 21. In an interview with Glenn Beck, Rubio stated that he had not communicated with Trump or his campaign regarding a potential vice-presidential candidacy.

“The reason I serve in public office and the motivation behind my candidacy, which involves a six-year commitment upon taking office, is because I’ve always aimed to contribute to the betterment of our country,” Rubio remarked.

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