Nuclear Weapons, China, and a Strategic Defense Initiative for this Century

Nuclear Deterrence

Nuclear Weapons, China, and a Strategic Defense Initiative for this Century

A modern strategy for addressing the threats we now confront must be conceptually similar to Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative and draw from the lessons it conveyed. It must also maintain the sufficiency of our triad and apply technologically advanced answers to the array of new threats we face.

America’s alliance with the United Kingdom must be held as sacrosanct. It must not be subject to the caprice of an irresolute administration. Neither should our constellation of alliances be shortchanged. Shared purpose with our NATO partners as well as our alliances with Japan, Australia, South Korea, and India are essential in countering China’s march.

Ballistic and Cruise Missiles

The GBSD force will replace 400 Minuteman III ICBMs and achieve its initial operational capability (IOC) in 2029. Full operational capability, however, is not expected until 2036, meaning that some Minuteman missiles will be more than sixty years old before their replacement.

Also critical will be our development and deployment of the Long-Range Standoff Cruise Missile (LRSO). Our B-52 force is scheduled to be operational through its ninth decade of continuous service. It is not a platform that can penetrate defended sites; therefore, a modern standoff weapon is required if the B-52 is to continue its service in our triad.

The LRSO is also a hedge against a defensive breakthrough that could impair our stealth bombers from reaching their targets undetected. Crucially, our maintenance of a capable bomber fleet exacts huge defensive expenditures for adversarial states.

If not for our strategic bomber force, these expenditures would, in all likelihood, be redirected to offensive weapons. The fact that bombers are slow in comparison to missiles is an unmatched factor for crisis de-escalation; permitting precious time in which strategic forces can be recalled.

The Strategic Defense Imperative

For strategic deterrence to maintain, the calculus concerning the outcome of any first strike must be uncertain for the aggressor. Strategic defense complicates this calculus enormously, for the actual capabilities of defensive systems are extremely difficult to ascertain or model with accuracy. This deficit in knowledge promotes stability, which secures peace.

Present and future programmatic elements designed to defeat strategic weapons must be fused and prioritized within a new Strategic Defense Initiative: the SDI II. Disjointed and disparate efforts must be replaced with unyielding timelines so that America will be defended.

SDI II must investigate the role that space could play in our defense. In addition to sensors, the United States has no choice but to investigate the deployment of anti-missile systems in space. Advances in HGV technology pose a particular threat that may not be overcome by terrestrially based ABM systems.

Unfortunately, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, whose immense size is matched by the latency of its actual productive output, appears incapable of meeting this challenge. Therefore, true bureaucratic reform is a necessity. This will require empowering our nation’s warfighters, thus upsetting the department’s status quo, which, alarmingly, is now bound by politics.

Strategic Warning

Although the Chinese or Russian orbital HGVs do not presently threaten the survivability of America’s triad, their speed and their inherent ability to loiter in space, are destabilizing, for their stealth, while in orbit, and their swiftness, once committed, could delay, perhaps catastrophically, America’s ability to determine the nature and the magnitude of an attack.

No present defensive systems to counter HGVs have been publicly deployed by our nation. It is not certain that we will be able to defeat these hypersonic vehicles, at least in the near term.

Once an HGV is committed to attack, its heat signature, due to its immense speed, will be observable to a constellation of infrared satellites. One important program known as the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS) was initiated by the Trump administration. It is to be part of the Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared Polar (NG-OPIR) program.

Contracts for this multi-billion-dollar investment were awarded by the United States Space Force, after this service’s creation by President Donald Trump. The first satellites could be operational by 2025.

Anti-satellite Weapons

Of concern are Chinese and Russian anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon systems, which have not been matched or challenged for decades. On January 11, 2007, the People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA) successfully tested an ASAT weapon by destroying a Chinese satellite with a kinetic kill vehicle (KKV) placed into orbit by a solid-fuel, multistage rocket.

On November 15, 2021, Russia tested an anti-satellite weapon, which destroyed its target, creating over 1,500 shards in space. Both nations have conducted many other tests of ASAT systems or system components. Advances in Chinese and Russian ASAT capabilities thus threaten to blind our assemblage of space-based sensors.

Space Force

The creation of the Space Force by the Trump administration was a pivotal step in securing a reciprocal American ASAT ability. American ASAT programs were quiescent since our ASM-135 ASAT, which was to be carried by a fleet of modified F-15 Eagles, but was canceled in 1988, due, in part, to congressionally mandated restrictions that led to cost overruns and pauses in testing.

The errors in the management of that ASAT program must not be repeated, for we must now contend with both Chinese and Russian threats to our space-based systems. Crystallized by the Trump administration’s concerns regarding the magnitude of the Chinese and the Russian ASAT threats, the United States has no choice but to deploy ASAT systems expeditiously.


HGVs may contain kinetic or conventional warheads (this capability is in addition to their capacity to carry nuclear payloads). By dint of their unprecedented speed and their ability to evade and to maneuver, kinetic or conventionally armed HGVs could be able to attack U.S. strategic assets in the future. These could include missile silos, bomber bases, or submarines in port.

Aircraft carriers or airbases are vulnerable today due to the deployment of intermediate-range HGVs, which are being produced by Russia and by China in significant numbers. China, which pretends to be a reliable trading partner, has recently built a life-sized depiction of a Ford-class carrier on rails, to be used as a moving target in the desert it employs for weapons tests.

Development, therefore, of defensive systems, incorporating new technologies, is imperative. The time-urgent design and procurement of anti-HGV sensors and weapons must be a priority.

Indeed, a system of defense priorities was employed by Project Silverplate, in World War II, which enabled B-29 bombers to be rapidly redesigned in order to carry America’s first atomic bombs. This system of defense priorities cut through a vast array of bureaucratic red tape, enabling war-winning weapons to be deployed.

It is critical that anti-HGV weapons be recipient of the same type of emphasis, so that bureaucratic indifference be quelled. It should also be recalled that Project Silverplate made use of bomb-carriage attachments from a version of Britain’s Lancaster bomber. To defeat HGVs, America should work closely with our most-trusted allies to glean if any of their technologies may be applicable in defeating this threat.

Military leadership is required, but many of our nation’s civilian officials, and some of our flag officers, appear more concerned with progressive politics and sociological constructs, which should have no presence in our armed forces. A primary mission of our military should be the fielding of crucial weapons in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Too often, however, managerial and programmatic incompetence are masked by feigned concern for social issues. This must end. This is not our military’s mission.

Chinese-Russian Bloc

The formation of a Chinese-Russian military bloc would constitute a grave threat to the safety and security of the United States and its allies. China’s wealth, population, and irredentism, if coupled with Russia’s technical brilliance, natural resources, military traditions, and knowledge, would form a colossus. This union must not transpire, for it could displace America’s international leadership and presage world domination by a Chinese axis, intent on enforcing its avaricious and assaultive form of communist authority and control.

Russia’s universities, defense laboratories, and military production capabilities must not fuse with China’s capital and labor. Though China has equipped itself with Russian weapons for many years, China and Russia do not yet constitute a combine with shared hegemonic goals. Beijing’s incendiary ambitions must be restrained from metastasizing into a dynamism that would employ an overt force of arms against Taiwan or nations aligned with America, for such a course could escalate into war with the United States.

The accelerated potential for the union of China and Russia could have been avoided had not America been submerged into a miasma of deceit, due to the false Russian-collusion narrative, which undercut the Trump administration’s attempts to forge better relations with Moscow. We understood that a series of missteps by administrations, after President Reagan, stimulated the rise of Russian authoritarianism.

We recognized that a more nuanced yet resolute strategy toward Russia was required, for episodic admonishments do not work. Debilitating mistakes were made by President Obama in his uncertain handling of Russia’s incorporation of Crimea in 2014, for Crimea’s complex history was not considered, nor was Russia’s aggression adequately contested

Ukraine, formerly one of the USSR’s captive nations, suffered enormously under occupation. Many millions of Ukrainians died in the Holodomor from starvation and other causes, due to Soviet decrees that devastated agricultural production. Russia’s revanchist objectives should be thwarted, but this requires statesmanship, not vacant demarches.