US admits inferiority to Russia-China in nuclear arms race

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MAURO GIA SAMONTE

AS I always invoke my right to say what I want, so must I uphold that stand for others, too. For this reason, I hardly bother countering readers’ comments that clash with what I say in my columns. They have as much right as I have to say their piece, no matter that they use my space to say it.

But when readers tend to pass on misinformation at the expense of the credibility of what I write, I am always prodded to state my case quite clearly.

In my last column, “Golez, the gall!,” I sought to clarify the prevarication promoted by former National Security Adviser and Parañaque congressman Roilo Golez in a recent “Tapatan sa Aristocrat” forum. Golez declared in the forum that the United States does not need the Manila Trench in order to launch nuclear missiles intended for the east coast of China – only a thousand or so kilometers away. He would even laugh at such a contention, arguing that the US can just as conveniently fire its missiles toward China from faraway Guam. Former ISAFP Chief Victor Corpuz debunked this argument with the pragmatic assessment that US missiles launched from Guam can easily be detected by China and destroyed before they can reach the Chinese mainland, whereas if fired from the Manila Trench, those missiles can defy Chinese interception and thus succeed in destroying the Chinese east coast where the Chinese population and industries are concentrated. Hence the urgent need of China to build forward military installations in the South China Sea where the Manila Trench is located.

Controversy in a nutshell
In a nutshell, this is the gist of my column last Saturday. In a nuclear warfare, the first-strike factor is critical. In this reckoning, China has a big advantage. It needs only to launch its nuclear warheads from the Chinese mainland and get those weapons blasting the very heart of America. In contrast, America needs to position its nuclear submarines in the Manila Trench for it to deliver just that kind of damage. But with China’s strong military presence all over the South China Sea having been long established and counting, that American dream is continuously – if not yet forever – being frustrated. With the first-strike advantage kept safe in Chinese hands, there is no way the US can spark the much-feared nuclear holocaust.


But now comes this reader, a certain Roldan Guerrero, who comments: “In case of war, I can only say one thing – the side with superior armaments will win it. America has perfected the manufacture of war equipment and hardware. China is very new in the field and until now no country is biting to buy made-in-China military armament products. People around the world know the quality of products made in China. Of course their mastery of imitation is also known to everyone. But they cannot duplicate what they imitate nor can they produce a better one. China remains a big bluff but it also remains the inferior side.”

Chinese assertiveness in SCS
Since as far back as 2010 when China began displaying its assertiveness in the South China Sea with the launch of its first-ever aircraft carrier, refurbished from an old vessel acquired from Russia, I have been keeping track of the developments in the region. At the moment, I have just updated myself with recent materials on the issue. One substantially relevant article, “The West begins to realize that hypersonics missiles are real” by Seraphim Hanisch (The Duran website, March 27, 2018), the author writes: “This is a true myth-busting event of a scale not seen since October of 1957. That was when the Soviet Union shocked the world by launching the first artificial satellite, the Sputnik (Traveler) into an elliptical orbit as high as 538 miles above the Earth. This event was a real moment of truth for the West, which viewed the Soviets incorrectly until the Soviet Union showed its capabilities to be far in advance of the European and American nations. This did not stop with just the one satellite either, as Russia sent Laika the dog into orbit, and then later the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, and the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova. Each time, starting with the launch of Sputnik, the Soviets showed their ability to a frustrated and worried West.

China successfully tested its own Kinzhal hypersonic missile in November 2017 which US military authorities expect to be operational by 2020 and which they admit will be unstoppable. The Kinzhal is shown under its MiG-31 launchplane but has been digitally blurred out to, according to news site The Hill which published it, hide its advanced features.

“This happened again on March 1, 2018, when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the development of six new high technology weapons systems. Two of them involved the use of hypersonic warheads that are highly maneuverable in the atmosphere, and are unstoppable by any Western anti-missile systems. These warheads can fly at speeds ranging between Mach 10 and 20, and they can sense and evade tracking systems as they relentlessly close [in]on their targets.”

This is the very development I was referring to in my past column when I wrote that Chinese capability of striking at the very heartland of America was unstoppable. In fact, this is the very connotation used by a US authority in a session of the US Senate.

“Right now, we’re helpless,” Sen. James Inhofe (Republican, Oklahoma), a senior member of the Senate armed services committee, said in advocating for more investment in hypersonics, along with missile defense.

What are hypersonics?
Hypersonics are generally defined as missiles that can fly more than five times the speed of sound.

According to the article, Gen. John Hyten, commander of the US Strategic Command, last week described a hypersonic as a missile that starts out “like a ballistic missile, but then it depresses the trajectory and then flies more like a cruise missile or an airplane. So, it goes up into the low reaches of space, and then turns immediately back down and then levels out and flies at a very high level of speed.”

The author continues: “In November, China reportedly conducted two tests of a ballistic missile with a hypersonic glide vehicle that US assessments expect to reach initial operating capability around 2020. The country had already conducted at least seven tests of experimental systems from 2014 to 2016.

“So, it is not only Russia, but China as well. The revelation of American vulnerability was slow to come, but it did:”

And now to the present controversy; in the event China decides to make that crucial first strike in order to disarm America early on and thereby prevent the much-feared global annihilation, can the US stop it?

The article reveals that in congressional testimony last week, Hyten conceded US missile defense cannot stop hypersonics.

“’We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us, so our response would be our deterrent force, which would be the triad and the nuclear capabilities that we have to respond to such a threat,’ Hyten told the Senate armed services committee.

“Asked if the US is really falling behind Russia and China on hypersonics, Thomas Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said flatly: ‘Yes’.”

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