It is unsurprising that 82 percent of the Missile Defense Agency’s 2023 budget proposal is allocated to research and development efforts. This prioritization underlines the Pentagon’s interest in uncovering breakthrough technologies to help defend against a new and rapidly evolving array of threats.
“Ballistic missiles are now more sophisticated and numerous. They are becoming more mobile, survivable, reliable, and accurate, and can achieve longer ranges. New ballistic missile systems also feature multiple and maneuverable reentry vehicles along with decoys and jamming devices,” Dee Dee Martinez, Comptroller of the Missile Defense Agency, told reporters on Monday.
The challenge of identifying threats quickly and accurately is growing more pressing as adversaries continue to develop new technologies designed to prevent detection or interception. For instance, hostile nations are developing electronic warfare countermeasures to jam radar or decoys and coordinate multiple attacks. The kinds of emerging threats were envisioned and anticipated by defense planners in recent years. For example, a document called “Army Air and Missile Defense 2028” specifies some of the more difficult challenges presented by enemy weapons. For instance, regarding ballistic missile threats, the Army’s report explains that advanced weapons are now engineered with “maneuverable reentry vehicles, increased accuracy, multiple independent reentry vehicles, hypersonic/supersonic glide vehicles, and electronic attack.”
Martinez also warned about the growing dangers posed by cruise missile attacks. “Cruise missiles follow unpredictable flight paths and are now capable of supersonic and hypersonic speeds. Russia and China are developing advanced cruise missiles that can be launched from aircraft, ground launchers, and ships or submarines, along with hypersonic missile capabilities,” she said.
Moreover, given the size and sophistication of Russia and China’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) arsenals, Moscow and Beijing pose growing threats to the United States. The sheer pace of Chinese ICBM and nuclear warhead expansion, which includes the addition of recently discovered missile silos, continues to cause concern at the Pentagon. China’s ascent as a major nuclear power is leading many thinkers and strategists—including Adm. Charles Richard, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command—to see the global nuclear threat equation as a “three-way” dynamic between Russia, China, and the United States.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.