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"ACA's journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent."

– Hans Blix
Former IAEA Director-General
January/February 2022
Edition Date: 
Tuesday, January 11, 2022
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Congress Boosts Defense Budget By $25 Billion


January/February 2022
By Shannon Bugos

U.S. lawmakers have authorized a $25 billion increase to the annual defense policy bill’s topline, bringing the total to $768 billion. The total reflects bipartisan views that President Joe Biden’s proposal was insufficient to deter China and Russia and keep pace with inflation.

The B-21 Raider strategic bomber, shown here in an image provided by Northrup Grumman Corp., is among the weapons systems that will receive increased funding under the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. (Photo by Northrup Grumman Corp.)The fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), approved by Congress in December, “makes great progress,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said. “It addresses a broad range of pressing issues, from strategic competition with China and Russia; to disruptive technologies like hypersonics, [artificial intelligence,] and quantum computing; to modernizing our ships, aircraft, and vehicles.” The committee’s version of the NDAA, passed July 21, included the $25 billion increase to the administration’s NDAA request of $743 billion.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, said the NDAA “bolsters our national security” and “prepare[s] our military to face the ever-growing threat of China.” Rogers had introduced an amendment in the committee for the boost to the request, which the committee approved in its version of the NDAA on Sept. 2.

The House passed the NDAA on Sept. 23, but the Senate deadlocked over the legislation and failed to pass its own version. The leaders of the respective armed services committees then bypassed the usual conference committee, during which the chambers reconcile their respective versions of a bill, and negotiated a final compromise bill between themselves.

The House passed the compromise NDAA on Dec. 7 by a vote of 363–70, and the Senate followed with an 88–11 vote on Dec. 15. Biden signed the legislation into law on Dec. 27, marking the 61st consecutive year that an NDAA has been enacted.

“This bill represents compromise between both parties and chambers—as a result, every single member involved has something in it they like and something that didn’t get into the bill that they wish had,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) in a Dec. 7 statement. “Ultimately, our responsibility as a Congress to provide for the common defense supersedes these areas of disagreement, making the substance of this bill and its signature into law critical.”

But the NDAA only authorizes the funding. Congress has yet to pass the defense and energy and water appropriations bills, which appropriate actual spending, and is not expected to do so until at least mid-February, when the continuing resolution passed on Dec. 2 expires.

The legislation authorizes a total $5.1 billion for the construction and continued research and development of what ultimately will be a fleet of 12 Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines, an increase of $138 million from Biden’s budget request. (See ACT, July/August 2021.) The Senate summary of the legislation attributed part of the cost to the need for “industrial base development and expansion.”

The NDAA includes the $15.2 million requested by the Defense and Energy departments for the development of a new sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM) and its associated low-yield nuclear warhead. The House Appropriations Committee has zeroed out this funding in its version of the fiscal year 2022 appropriations bill, therefore leaving the possibility that this SLCM program ultimately may not receive any funding.

The Trump administration proposed this controversial SLCM program in its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). (See ACT, March 2018.) The NDAA would exert some oversight over the program by restricting travel by select Navy staff until the department releases the analysis of alternatives for the new capability and briefs Congress on it.

Congress authorized the Air Force’s $3 billion request for the B-21 Raider strategic bomber program, including $108 million for initial procurement. The legislation also approved the service’s $609 million request for the long-range standoff (LRSO) weapons program to replace the existing air-launched cruise missile (ALCM), a 58 percent increase from the fiscal year 2021 authorization.

Bloomberg reported in July that the projected total cost of the development and procurement phases of the LRSO program will fall between $14.2 billion and $16.2 billion, an increase of 30 to 50 percent from the Air Force’s 2016 estimate. (See ACT, September 2021.) In the 2022 NDAA, Congress prohibited the awarding of the LRSO procurement contract until the Pentagon conducts additional cost analysis and justifies the awarding of a sole-source contract for the program. The Air Force announced in April 2020 that Raytheon would be the sole contractor for the LRSO program and awarded the company a $2 billion development contract in July 2021. (See ACT, September 2021; May 2020.)

The legislation also provided $2.6 billion for continued R&D and initial missile procurement for the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program, the same as the Biden budget request and $1.1 billion more than the previous year’s authorization. The GBSD missiles are slated to replace the fleet of 400 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) beginning in 2029.

The Pentagon requested in late 2021 a report by the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace by the end of January on potential options for the future of the land-based leg of the nuclear triad, but the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review is scheduled for release around the same time, casting doubt on how influential the Carnegie report could be.

Meanwhile, there has been significant pushback from Congress on downsizing or eliminating the ICBM leg, as evidenced by the NDAA provision that bars any 2022 funding from going toward reducing the number of deployed ICBMs below 400.

The Carnegie report will help “to make sure we surface the full range of viewpoints across the political spectrum, tension points, and key considerations, so that the Department can benefit from those insights during the NPR process,” Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, wrote in a Nov. 8 letter to Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). The senator had written Kahl in September following the abrupt departure of the department’s lead on the NPR process, Leonor Tomero, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, from the Pentagon. (See ACT, December 2021.)

In addition to the NPR, which began in July, the Pentagon is working on two other complementary studies, the National Defense Strategy and the Missile Defense Review, which began in June. (See ACT, September and October 2021.) The White House is also working on the National Security Strategy, which helps to guide these three Pentagon documents. Kahl said on Dec. 8 that the National Security Strategy will be released “early in the new year,” to be followed by the National Defense Strategy.

Relatedly, the NDAA mandates the establishment of a congressional commission to examine and offer recommendations regarding the long-term U.S. strategic posture, including a strategic threat assessment and a review of nuclear weapons policy, strategy, and force structure.

In the 2022 legislation, Congress also authorized the Army’s request of $286 million for the development of a conventional, ground-launched, midrange missile capability. The service announced in 2020 its selection of the Navy’s Standard Missile-6 and Tomahawk cruise missile to serve as the bases for this capability. (See ACT, January/February 2021.) Both missiles likely would have been prohibited under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, from which the United States withdrew in August 2019.

The overall national defense topline, including defense-related activities outside the scope of the armed services committees, is anticipated to be $778 billion for fiscal year 2022, a 3.4 percent increase from the administration’s request. In the coming years, the Pentagon is expected to face tough choices as the defense budget is projected to experience no growth beyond inflation adjustments.

The Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which maintains and modernizes the nuclear warhead stockpile, received a total of $16 billion for its nuclear weapons activities account, a $497 million increase from the Biden administration’s request. Congress gave the NNSA a mammoth 24 percent increase in its 2021 authorization compared to the previous year and set the agency on track to request and thus far receive a larger annual budget than projections had anticipated.

The NDAA will provide the requested funds for the B61-12 gravity bomb, the W87-1 ICBM warhead, and the W80-4 ALCM warhead upgrade at $772 million, $691 million, and $1.1 billion, respectively. Congress also authorized the requested $1.6 billion to increase the production rate of plutonium pits for nuclear warheads to at least 80 per year at two production sites.

In addition, U.S. lawmakers approved funding for other controversial NNSA programs proposed by the Trump administration and continued by the Biden administration. These include the new high-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead (W93), along with an associated aeroshell, for $134 million, and the megaton-class B83-1 gravity bomb for $98.5 million.

Meanwhile, Congress for the second year in a row slashed the Pentagon’s proposal for a layered homeland missile defense system. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has plans to adapt the Aegis missile defense and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems, both designed to defeat short- and intermediate-range missiles, to intercept limited ICBM threats, which is currently the aim of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system based in Alaska and California.

Congress made an 87 percent reduction in the $99 million MDA request for adapting the Aegis system to supplement the GMD system due to “lack of requirement,” according to the budget documents. The law also zeroed out $65 million that was requested to demonstrate THAAD capabilities against longer-range threats, as the request was “unjustified” and “lacking [an] acquisition strategy.”

But lawmakers funded the $745 million R&D request for the GMD system, as well as $926 million for the development of the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI) missile. The Pentagon plans to supplement the existing 44 ground-based interceptors with 20 NGI missiles beginning not later than 2028, a timeline endorsed by the NDAA, so as to bring the fleet total to 64.

Congress once again boosted the Cooperative Threat Reduction program after receiving a greatly reduced budget request from previous appropriation levels. This program is aimed at reducing threats from weapons of mass destruction and related challenges, including the spread of dangerous pathogens such as the coronavirus.

The Trump administration aimed to cut the program in fiscal year 2021 by 36 percent from the previous year’s appropriation, but Congress thwarted the effort. (See ACT, April 2020.) For 2022, the Biden administration proposed a significant 33 percent cut from the 2021 appropriation of $360 million, but the NDAA boosted the $240 million request by 44 percent, to $345 million, specifically in support of the Biological Threat Reduction Program.

U.S. lawmakers authorized a $25 billion increase in annual defense spending to $768 billion.

Conference Makes No Progress on Robotic Weapons


January/February 2022
By Michael T. Klare

A UN meeting has failed to adopt binding controls on lethal autonomous weapons systems despite ardent calls from many governments, arms control experts, and civil society groups for restrictions on these so-called killer robots.

An Uragan 9 multiple launch rocket system on display at an exhibition of Russian robotic weapons in 2017. (Photo by Sergei Bobylev\TASS via Getty Images)Although negotiators have been discussing limits on these weapons, which are computer controlled, for eight years, the sixth review conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) ended in Geneva on Dec. 17 without a conclusive agreement.

“The outcome of the Review Conference falls drastically short, and does not reflect the will of the vast majority of states, civil society, or international public opinion,” Isabelle Jones of The Stop Killer Robots advocacy group said in a statement.

Many of the 125 states-parties to the convention, such as Austria and New Zealand, have called for a total ban on lethal autonomous weapons systems. But others, such as Russia and the United States, which are developing autonomous weapons systems, have rejected a binding agreement and instead advocated for a less restrictive “code of conduct.”

Advocates of a protocol banning autonomous combat systems argue that such weapons, including ships, planes, tanks, and other weapons governed by artificial intelligence rather than direct human oversight, violate international humanitarian law by making it difficult to protect civilians trapped in combat zones. They question the ability of weapons that operate without human control to distinguish between armed combatants and unarmed civilians in such situations.

Prior to the review conference, a group of governmental experts met several times in 2021 to consider the rationale for and content of a legal ban on autonomous combat systems. If adopted, such a ban would be formulated as an additional protocol to the CCW, akin to the existing protocols on incendiary weapons and blinding laser weapons. The experts group reportedly made significant progress toward delineating such a measure, but was blocked from submitting a report on its proceedings by Russia and other opponents.

Because the experts group and CCW deliberations operate by consensus, a handful of states, notably Russia and the United States, have been able to impede progress toward any binding restrictions on autonomous weapons systems. Both countries have ambitious goals for integrating lethal autonomous weapons systems into their combat arsenals and are reluctant to accept meaningful curbs on their use. (See ACT, March 2019.) As a result, the review conference could agree only to continue deliberations by the experts group on such limitations for just 10 days during 2022.

As stated in the final conference report, “[T]he group is to consider proposals and elaborate, by consensus, possible measures, including taking into account the example of existing protocols within the convention, and other options related to the normative and operational framework on emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapon systems.” Experts say that is no mandate for substantive work on a binding legal measure.

Many of those who attended the review conference or observed its proceedings expressed deep disappointment with this outcome. “It’s clear that a minority of states including the U.S. and Russia, already investing heavily in the development of autonomous weapons, are committed to using the consensus rule in the CCW to hold the majority of states hostage and block progress towards the international legal response that is urgently needed,” Jones said.

Although most states at the conference said they would participate in the 2022 experts group sessions in the hope of making further progress, some have indicated a willingness to consider an alternative path toward a binding instrument on lethal autonomous weapons systems outside the CCW framework.

Brazil, Chile, and Mexico made this explicit in a joint statement at the meeting’s conclusion, and several other states are also said to favor such an approach. This could involve efforts to secure a binding international treaty under the auspices of the UN General Assembly, where majority rule, not consensus, would prevail. That was the path adopted by opponents of nuclear weapons in securing passage of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

A UN meeting failed to adopt binding controls on lethal autonomous weapons.

AUKUS States Sign Information Exchange Deal


January/February 2022
By Julia Masterson

For the first time, the United Kingdom and the United States may now share sensitive naval nuclear propulsion information with Australia, a non-nuclear-weapon state, as a result of a trilateral agreement signed on Nov. 22.

The HMS Vigilant, a UK Valiant-class submarine, in Scotland in 2019. The UK and the United States recently agreed to share sensitive naval nuclear propulsion information with Australia under a new security partnership known as AUKUS.  (Photo by James Glossop - WPA Pool/Getty Images)The Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information Agreement marks the latest step by the security partnership, known as AUKUS, to provide Australia with a fleet of at least eight nuclear-powered submarines.

The multifaceted AUKUS initiative, announced Sept. 15, will also facilitate the sharing of information in a number of technological areas, including artificial intelligence, underwater systems, and long-range-strike, cyber-, and quantum capabilities. According to U.S. President Joe Biden on Sept. 15, the objective of the new trilateral alliance is “ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific [region] over the long term.”

Although the submarine project is in its early stages, the AUKUS pact could ultimately allow Australia to become the first non-nuclear-weapon state to field a nuclear submarine. (See ACT, October 2021.)

In a Nov. 22 press release, Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton stressed that the agreement allows only for the sharing of information, not equipment or technology. The agreement is subject to consideration by the U.S. Congress under Section 123 of the 1954 Atomic Energy Act, which regulates U.S. nuclear trade, and to a UK parliamentary review. Section 123 establishes conditions and outlines the process for major nuclear cooperation between the United States and other countries.

According to a Dec. 1 message from the White House to Congress, “The agreement would permit the three parties to communicate and exchange naval nuclear propulsion information and would provide authorization to share certain restricted data as may be needed during trilateral discussions, thereby enabling full and effective consultations.”

Dutton explained that the agreement will support an 18-month examination by the three countries into the steps necessary for Australia to acquire the submarines, including training and education to “safely and effectively build, operate, and support nuclear-powered submarines.” It remains unclear whether the vessels will be based on existing UK or U.S. attack submarines or on an entirely new design. In September, Dutton told reporters that Australia may lease vessels from its partners in the near term to “provide opportunities for us to train our sailors [and to] provide the skills and knowledge in terms of how we operate,” suggesting that the submarines may share a similar design.

The AUKUS project already has skirted international norms regarding the sharing of nuclear information and technology between nuclear and non-nuclear states. Pending domestic legislative review in the UK and the United States, Australia will soon become the first non-nuclear-weapon state privy to the sensitive engineering and mechanics of U.S. and UK nuclear submarines, powered by onboard nuclear reactors. Even without the transfer of materials, the sharing of protected information on UK and U.S. naval nuclear propulsion design entrusts Australia with an immense responsibility as a steward of that sensitive technical knowledge.

Australia’s new submarines will likely run on highly enriched uranium. Australia is a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and on Nov. 22, Dutton asserted that “Australia is not seeking nuclear weapons.” Irrespective of Canberra’s intentions, however, because only nuclear-weapon states currently field nuclear submarines, there is no precedent for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to safeguard naval nuclear propulsion technology or the fissile material used on board those vessels. As a non-nuclear-weapon NPT state, Australia is required to place all nuclear materials within its jurisdiction under nuclear safeguards. Mounting uncertainty over whether and how Australia’s vessels will be appropriately safeguarded is exacerbating concerns about potential nuclear proliferation and the precedent the new submarines could set.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Nov. 22 that nuclear submarine cooperation among Australia, the UK, and the United States “deliberately escalates regional tensions, stimulates [an] arms race, threatens regional peace and stability, and undermines international nuclear non-proliferation efforts.”

In an Oct. 29 memo to the IAEA, China called for a special meeting of the agency’s members to consider the parameters of a regime to safeguard naval nuclear technology. Beijing urged that the AUKUS partners refrain from commencing their cooperation until a safeguards system is in place.

Although the November sharing arrangement pertains only to information, not nuclear materials, the Chinese spokesman criticized the nuclear submarine scheme as “clearly violat[ing] the object and purpose of the NPT and seriously impact[ing] the international nuclear nonproliferation regime.”

“It is extremely irresponsible for the three countries to forge the so-called agreement on the exchange of naval nuclear propulsion information [and] advance nuclear submarine cooperation in disregard of international rules and opposition of parties,” Zhao said.

In a statement to the IAEA Board of Governors on Nov. 24, Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi said that Australia, the UK, and the United States had not provided the agency with additional information on the project or its safeguards implications since announcing the agreement in September.

The United Kingdom and the United States may now share naval nuclear propulsion information with Australia.

Congress Fails to Block Saudi Arms Sales


January/February 2022
By Jeff Abramson

Despite continuing controversy over U.S. military assistance to Saudi Arabia, a divided Congress in December failed to block the sale of air-to-air missiles to Riyadh and to prohibit some support for the Saudi war in Yemen. Critical to the debate was what constitutes “offensive” weaponry and military action.

Yemenis inspect the scene of an aerial attack, carried out by a jet aircraft of the coalition led by Saudi Arabia, on Dec. 23 in Sana'a, Yemen.  (Photo by Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images)The Biden administration notified Congress in early November of its desire to sell 280 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles and associated launchers to Saudi Arabia for $650 million. Amid intense debate about the sale, the administration made clear that it believed the deal was consistent with President Joe Biden’s Feb. 4 pledge to end support for “offensive operations” in the war in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting with the Houthi rebels since 2015. The administration claimed in a Dec. 7 policy statement and elsewhere that the missiles could not be used against ground targets and that “Saudi Arabia uses these munitions to defend against aerial cross-border attacks, such as Houthi explosive-laden drones.”

The Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition have been accused of atrocities in the Yemen war, which in 2021 was marked by the continued advance of Houthi forces, especially around Marib, and by Saudi-led airstrikes. The Houthis do not have an air force, but have used drones in attacks on Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-led coalition has continued a controversial blockade of Houthi-controlled sea- and airports, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the country.

Opponents of the air-to-air missile deal generally cited reasons other than whether these were “defensive” weapons. On Nov. 12, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who introduced a resolution of disapproval for the sale in the House, said, “It is simply unconscionable to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia while they continue to slaughter innocent people and starve millions in Yemen, kill and torture dissidents, and support modern-day slavery.” Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced the Senate resolution on Nov. 18, arguing in part that the war was not approved by Congress and the weapons would reward Saudi bad behavior inside the kingdom, as well as exacerbate suffering in Yemen. The senators were later joined by six Democratic co-sponsors, many of whom had signed a letter in May encouraging Biden to "leverage all influence and tools available, including the potential impact on pending weapons sales…to demand that Saudi Arabia immediately and unconditionally stop the use of blockade tactics."

On Dec. 7, a majority of Senate Democrats, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), voted to advance the resolution of disapproval. No Republicans, aside from Paul and Lee, supported the resolution, which failed by a 30–67 vote.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who had co-sponsored numerous bipartisan resolutions of disapproval during previous administrations, did not support the resolution. (See ACT, January/February 2021.) Also not supporting the resolution was Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who said in a statement, “The weapons up for discussion today are being used in this context to defend against these aerial attacks. As air-to-air missiles, they are largely incapable of attacking civilian targets or infrastructure, a critical factor in my decision to support this sale.”

Menendez added that protecting civilians remained a priority and that he would continue to hold up other sales to Saudi Arabia, indicating “there are many other sales that have not moved forward, that
I have not permitted to get out of the [c]ommittee.” Although he did not say what these sales might be, his comments suggest that so-called offensive weapons that could more easily be used against civilians would remain controversial to influential Democratic senators such as himself.

Separately, in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2022 approved in December, Congress extended prohibitions on in-flight refueling by U.S. military planes of Saudi and other non-U.S. aircraft active in hostilities in Yemen. But the final version of the legislation did not retain measures that had been in the House version that prohibited support to offensive operations more broadly. Instead, the measure contained a policy statement on protecting civilians and required a report on whether Saudi Arabia had “undertaken offensive airstrikes...resulting in civilian casualties.” (See ACT, November 2021.) In a November policy statement, the Biden administration argued that stronger prohibitions were not needed because it “already has ceased support for Saudi-led coalition offensive operations in Yemen.”

Congress in December failed to block the sale of air-to-air missiles to Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia Said to Produce Ballistic Missiles


January/February 2022
By Julia Masterson

Saudi Arabia is manufacturing ballistic missiles with China’s help, according to a U.S. intelligence assessment reported on Dec. 23 by CNN. Although Riyadh previously purchased missiles from Beijing, this is believed to be the first time it has produced them domestically, and the development is raising concerns about a new missile race in the Middle East.

Site at al-Dawadi near Riyadh, where Saudi Arabia is manufacturing ballistic missiles with China's help, according to a U.S. intelligence assessment reported by CNN. This satellite image was provided by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, where experts analyzed the data. (Source: James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey.)

 

 

Saudi Arabia is thought to be seeking to advance its missile capabilities to bolster its capabilities in Yemen, where the kingdom remains entrenched in a war against Iran-aligned Houthi rebels.

Satellite images of a site near al-Dawadmi, west of Riyadh, suggest that Saudi Arabia is producing solid-fueled ballistic missiles, as evidenced by signs of a “burn pit” that is used to dispose of solid-propellant leftover from the production line.

The burn pit is “a strong signature” that the facility is manufacturing solid-fueled missiles, according to experts Jeffrey Lewis and David Schmerler of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Compared to liquid-fueled missiles, which are generally filled with a liquid propellant prior to launch, solid-fueled missiles are considered a greater strategic risk because they can be fueled and concealed or transported in one piece and fired on a moment’s notice.

In an Arms Control Wonk blog post on Dec. 23 analyzing the images, Lewis and Schmerler assessed that the site “appears to have been built with Chinese assistance.” The fuel production and test site is near the al-Watah missile production facility. The missile facility was first publicly identified by Lewis and his team in 2019, and the U.S. intelligence community later that year publicly confirmed that Saudi Arabia had expanded the al-Watah plant to include the rocket engine production and test facility near al-Dawadmi. (See ACT, March and July/August 2019.) The engine test stand observed at the site in 2019 closely resembles those produced by China, leading the open-source analysts to identify Beijing as a likely supplier of the technology.

U.S. officials across multiple agencies reportedly have been briefed by the intelligence community on large transfers of sensitive ballistic missile technology from China to Saudi Arabia in recent months, according to CNN. The specific model of solid-fueled missile being produced at the al-Dawadmi site remains unknown, but given Beijing’s assistance, it could be of Chinese design.

Saudi Arabia already possesses ballistic missiles purchased from China, including the 3,000-kilometer-range Dong Feng-3, which the kingdom displayed in 2014, and other Dong Feng-class missiles transferred from Beijing in batches since 2018.

The new missiles will likely carry conventional weapons, given that Saudi Arabia does not have nuclear weapons and is a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). But Riyadh is seeking to expand its civilian nuclear power infrastructure and may be constructing a new uranium-processing facility, known as Al-Ula, to produce yellowcake, also with Chinese assistance. (See ACT, September 2020.) Saudi Arabia’s small-quantities protocol safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is outdated and would not permit the agency to inspect a yellowcake production facility. Riyadh has denied the existence of the Al-Ula facility, but any activity there would go unmonitored by the IAEA, thereby raising concerns about potential covert nuclear operations.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in March 2018 that “if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.” There is no indication that Iran intends to produce a nuclear weapon at this time, and negotiations to restore stringent limitations to Iran’s nuclear program under the 2015 nuclear deal are ongoing.

The United States has repeatedly refused to sell ballistic missiles to Saudi Arabia, citing proliferation concerns and a commitment to remain within the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which seeks to limit the spread of ballistic missile technology. Although not illegal, China’s assistance to Saudi Arabia contradicts its vow to abide by the MTCR. China is not a member of the export control regime, but has pledged to voluntarily abide by its guidelines, which prohibit the export of missiles capable of delivering a 500-kilogram payload more than 300 kilometers.

Riyadh’s new ballistic missiles are likely to alter the power dynamics in the Middle East and stymie efforts by the United States and others to build on the Iran nuclear deal by negotiating limits on Iran’s missile program. The development highlights the contradiction that “while significant attention has been focused on Iran’s large ballistic missile program, Saudi Arabia’s development and now production of ballistic missiles has not received the same level of scrutiny,” Lewis told CNN

Saudi Arabia is building ballistic missiles, according to CNN.

Congress Authorizes Accelerated Hypersonics Plan


January/February 2022
By Shannon Bugos

Congress has voted to authorize and, in some instances, substantially increase the Biden administration’s fiscal year 2022 budget request for the accelerated development and deployment of hypersonic weapons capabilities amid increasing rhetoric from Pentagon officials that the United States is falling behind and needs to catch up to China and Russia.

The Pentagon in May requested a total of $3.8 billion for projects related to the research, development, and initial procurement of hypersonic weapons for fiscal year 2022. Congress either rubber-stamped or increased the requested amounts, except for two programs, in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed by the House on Dec.7 and the Senate on Dec. 15. President Joe Biden signed the legislation on Dec. 27.

The passage of the NDAA came as defense officials called for the United States to speed up its development of hypersonic capabilities, in particular following a test by China in July that, according to published reports, featured a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle that circled the globe before launching a separate projectile over the South China Sea and then striking within two dozen miles of its target. (See ACT, November 2021.)

“There is an arms race, not necessarily for increased numbers, but for increased quality,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told Reuters on Nov. 30. “The Chinese have been at it very aggressively,” he said, while the United States has not “done enough.”

Gen. David Thompson, vice chief of space operations for the Space Force, noted on Nov. 20 that the United States has some “catching up to do very quickly.”

On Nov. 16, Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged that the Chinese test should “create a sense of urgency” in the United States “from a technology perspective.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin declined to comment on the Chinese test, but said on Nov. 17 that the Pentagon will “continue to move as fast as we can to develop [hypersonic] capabilities.” On Dec. 4, Austin asserted that the United States will meet “the pacing challenge [of China] with confidence and resolve, not panic and pessimism.”

The Trump administration launched an accelerated plan for the development and deployment of conventional hypersonic weapons, which the Biden administration continued in its 2022 budget request and Congress has now kicked up a notch with the 2022 NDAA. (See ACT, July/August 2021.)

The 2022 NDAA fully authorizes the Air Force’s request for $238 million for continued research and development on the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), an air-launched hypersonic glide vehicle, and $200 million for the new Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile program. Congress decreased the initial procurement budget for the ARRW system from $161 million to $117 million. The system failed three flight booster tests in 2021, with the latest failure on Dec. 15 when “the launch sequence was aborted before release with an unknown issue,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Heath Collins told The War Zone on Dec. 17. (See ACT, September 2021.)

As for the Navy, Congress boosted the budget for the Conventional Prompt Strike program, which features the common hypersonic glide body that is shared with the Army’s program, by $124 million above the requested amount to $1.5 billion, a 95 percent increase from the fiscal year 2021 authorization for the program. The Navy plans to add the system to Zumwalt-class destroyers starting in fiscal year 2025 and to Virginia-class submarines in fiscal year 2028.

The Navy’s request for $57 million for its new Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare Increment II weapon was cut by $23 million due to “lack of program justification.”

The Army received the full request of $301 million for R&D on the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) and $111 million for additional LRHW batteries. The service plans to begin operating the program in fiscal year 2023.

A Nov. 12 report by Bloomberg, based on an estimate from the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office, highlighted the rapidly growing costs of the Navy’s and Army’s hypersonic programs, which share the common hypersonic glide body. The office projects that these programs will add $21.5 billion to the Navy’s budget and $7 billion to the Army’s budget in the coming years.

According to the CAPE office estimate, the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike program will cost $10 billion for development, $11 billion for production, and $400 million for related military construction. The Navy is planning for 240 missiles in all, at a cost of $89.6 million each.

The CAPE office estimated that the Army’s LRHW program will cost the Pentagon $4.4 billion for development and $2.5 billion for production. With a plan for 66 missiles, including 48 development models, the cost of each LRHW missile comes to $106 million.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman, a Defense Department spokesperson, told Bloomberg that the CAPE cost projection is “in close alignment with the Army and Navy cost estimates for their respective programs.”

The rising estimates illuminate the motivation behind the remarks of Heidi Shyu, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, in October that “we need to figure out how to drive towards more affordable hypersonics.”

The Pentagon successfully conducted a second test of the first-stage booster rocket motor for the common hypersonic glide body on Oct. 28. The department last tested the glide body in March 2020. (See ACT, April 2020.)

“We are on schedule for the upcoming flight test of the full common hypersonic missile,” said Vice Adm. Johnny R. Wolfe Jr., director of the Navy’s strategic systems programs. This test is scheduled to occur by the fall of 2022.

Meanwhile, Congress authorized $256 million for the hypersonic programs overseen by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a 47 percent increase from the agency’s request. One of those programs is for the Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), for which the Pentagon successfully conducted a free flight test in September. Congress authorized an additional $37 million for the HAWC program above the DARPA request of $10 million.

The 2022 NDAA also included provisions related to the testing and development of hypersonic weapons. One provision requires the Pentagon to submit a report to Congress comparing U.S. efforts to deploy hypersonic weapons and other emerging technologies to those of China.

Congress authorized the Biden administration’s 2022 budget request for the accelerated development of hypersonic weapons.

Congress Authorizes Accelerated Hypersonics Plan


January/February 2022
By Shannon Bugos

Congress has voted to authorize and, in some instances, substantially increase the Biden administration’s fiscal year 2022 budget request for the accelerated development and deployment of hypersonic weapons capabilities amid increasing rhetoric from Pentagon officials that the United States is falling behind and needs to catch up to China and Russia.

A U.S. airman with the 912th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron secures the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (AARW) as it is loaded under the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress bomber at Edwards Air Force Base, California in 2020. (Photo by U.S. Air Force)The Pentagon in May requested a total of $3.8 billion for projects related to the research, development, and initial procurement of hypersonic weapons for fiscal year 2022. Congress either rubber-stamped or increased the requested amounts, except for two programs, in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed by the House on Dec.7 and the Senate on Dec. 15. President Joe Biden signed the legislation on Dec. 27.

The passage of the NDAA came as defense officials called for the United States to speed up its development of hypersonic capabilities, in particular following a test by China in July that, according to published reports, featured a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle that circled the globe before launching a separate projectile over the South China Sea and then striking within two dozen miles of its target. (See ACT, November 2021.)

“There is an arms race, not necessarily for increased numbers, but for increased quality,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told Reuters on Nov. 30. “The Chinese have been at it very aggressively,” he said, while the United States has not “done enough.”

Gen. David Thompson, vice chief of space operations for the Space Force, noted on Nov. 20 that the United States has some “catching up to do very quickly.”

On Nov. 16, Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged that the Chinese test should “create a sense of urgency” in the United States “from a technology perspective.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin declined to comment on the Chinese test, but said on Nov. 17 that the Pentagon will “continue to move as fast as we can to develop [hypersonic] capabilities.” On Dec. 4, Austin asserted that the United States will meet “the pacing challenge [of China] with confidence and resolve, not panic and pessimism.”

The Trump administration launched an accelerated plan for the development and deployment of conventional hypersonic weapons, which the Biden administration continued in its 2022 budget request and Congress has now kicked up a notch with the 2022 NDAA. (See ACT, July/August 2021.)

The 2022 NDAA fully authorizes the Air Force’s request for $238 million for continued research and development on the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), an air-launched hypersonic glide vehicle, and $200 million for the new Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile program. Congress decreased the initial procurement budget for the ARRW system from $161 million to $117 million. The system failed three flight booster tests in 2021, with the latest failure on Dec. 15 when “the launch sequence was aborted before release with an unknown issue,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Heath Collins told The War Zone on Dec. 17. (See ACT, September 2021.)

As for the Navy, Congress boosted the budget for the Conventional Prompt Strike program, which features the common hypersonic glide body that is shared with the Army’s program, by $124 million above the requested amount to $1.5 billion, a 95 percent increase from the fiscal year 2021 authorization for the program. The Navy plans to add the system to Zumwalt-class destroyers starting in fiscal year 2025 and to Virginia-class submarines in fiscal year 2028.

The Navy’s request for $57 million for its new Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare Increment II weapon was cut by $23 million due to “lack of program justification.”

The Army received the full request of $301 million for R&D on the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) and $111 million for additional LRHW batteries. The service plans to begin operating the program in fiscal year 2023.

A Nov. 12 report by Bloomberg, based on an estimate from the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office, highlighted the rapidly growing costs of the Navy’s and Army’s hypersonic programs, which share the common hypersonic glide body. The office projects that these programs will add $21.5 billion to the Navy’s budget and $7 billion to the Army’s budget in the coming years.

According to the CAPE office estimate, the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike program will cost $10 billion for development, $11 billion for production, and $400 million for related military construction. The Navy is planning for 240 missiles in all, at a cost of $89.6 million each.

The CAPE office estimated that the Army’s LRHW program will cost the Pentagon $4.4 billion for development and $2.5 billion for production. With a plan for 66 missiles, including 48 development models, the cost of each LRHW missile comes to $106 million.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman, a Defense Department spokesperson, told Bloomberg that the CAPE cost projection is “in close alignment with the Army and Navy cost estimates for their respective programs.”

The rising estimates illuminate the motivation behind the remarks of Heidi Shyu, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, in October that “we need to figure out how to drive towards more affordable hypersonics.”

The Pentagon successfully conducted a second test of the first-stage booster rocket motor for the common hypersonic glide body on Oct. 28. The department last tested the glide body in March 2020. (See ACT, April 2020.)

“We are on schedule for the upcoming flight test of the full common hypersonic missile,” said Vice Adm. Johnny R. Wolfe Jr., director of the Navy’s strategic systems programs. This test is scheduled to occur by the fall of 2022.

Meanwhile, Congress authorized $256 million for the hypersonic programs overseen by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a 47 percent increase from the agency’s request. One of those programs is for the Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), for which the Pentagon successfully conducted a free flight test in September. Congress authorized an additional $37 million for the HAWC program above the DARPA request of $10 million.

The 2022 NDAA also included provisions related to the testing and development of hypersonic weapons. One provision requires the Pentagon to submit a report to Congress comparing U.S. efforts to deploy hypersonic weapons and other emerging technologies to those of China.

Congress authorized the Biden administration’s 2022 budget request for the accelerated development of hypersonic weapons.

Chinese Hypersonic Glider Said to Fire Projectile


January/February 2022
By Shannon Bugos

The orbital bombardment system featuring a hypersonic glide vehicle that China allegedly tested in July included the release of an unspecified projectile from the vehicle during flight, according to an article in the Financial Times.

China announced in November that a new wind tunnel for testing hypersonic aircraft is nearly operational.  (Photo by China Central Television)The newspaper, citing U.S. intelligence sources, first reported in October about the alleged July 27 test in which a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle, carried on a rocket, flew through low-orbit space and circled the globe before striking within two dozen miles of its target. (See ACT, November 2021.) On Nov. 21, it reported that the vehicle fired a separate projectile, which had “no obvious target of its own,” in the middle of its flight “in the atmosphere over the South China Sea.” The projectile fell into the water, the article said.

Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, commented that the embassy was “not aware” of the test. “We are not at all interested in having an arms race with other countries,” he added.

The Biden administration declined to comment on the most recent report, although the White House noted that the test “builds on our concern about many military capabilities that the People’s Republic of China continues to pursue.”

Experts acknowledged that, if the report is true, the test would signify a technological achievement and a leap in capability for Beijing. But many experts emphasized the continued lack of clarity regarding the July test, particularly with respect to the nature of the supposed projectile, and urged caution before jumping to conclusions.

“Was it a missile at all? Or a spent rocket stage? Or a jettisoned service module?” tweeted Marco Langbroek, a military satellite tracker and an academic researcher at Leiden University in the Netherlands, about the projectile on Nov. 21.

The Financial Times report “generated more questions in my mind,” tweeted Laura Grego from the Union of Concerned Scientists on Nov. 22. “Better information about the launch site, landing site, what was at the landing site (a runway?), where the deorbit burn took place (ok probably will never get that), would help.”

In a potentially related development, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China announced on Nov. 21 that a new wind tunnel that can simulate speeds between Mach 4 and 8 is nearly operational.

The wind tunnel “can meet the test requirements of hypersonic aircraft,” including, notably, “weapon separation and release,” said the corporation said in a statement.

Further potential information and speculation about the July test came after the Pentagon on Nov. 3 released its annual China military power report, which said that Beijing is in the midst of a concerning nuclear buildup that includes efforts to amass 1,000 strategic nuclear warheads by 2030 and expand the number of nuclear delivery systems. (See ACT, December 2021.)

The hypersonic glide vehicle that China allegedly tested in July included the release of an unspecified projectile, the Financial Times reported.

Pentagon Awards Anti-Hypersonic Missile Contracts


January/February 2022
By Michael T. Klare

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has awarded contracts of approximately $20 million each to Raytheon Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., and Northrop Grumman Corp. to develop prototypes of a hypersonic missile intended to intercept and destroy an adversary’s hypersonic projectile in the unpowered glide phase of its trajectory.

A flight test of the Russian Avangard hypersonic missile in 2018. The United States is pursuing anti-hypersonic systems that could intercept and destroy such projectiles. (Photo by Russia MoD)By awarding contracts to the three companies simultaneously, the Pentagon hopes to hasten development of the weapons and ensure early deployment. “Multiple awards allow us to execute a risk reduction phase to explore industry concepts and maximize the benefits of a competitive environment to demonstrate the most effective and reliable Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI) for regional hypersonic defense, as soon as possible,” explained Rear Adm. Tom Druggan, program executive for sea-based weapons systems at the MDA. The award was announced on Nov. 19.

Such a weapon is needed, advocates claim, because existing missile defense systems, which are intended to intercept ballistic missiles in outer space, are ineffective against hypersonic glide vehicles, which skim atop the Earth’s outer atmosphere and maneuver in flight. The GPI missile “will be the first-ever interceptor with the speed, ability to withstand heat, and maneuverability required to intercept hypersonic threats in this environment,” said Tay Fitzgerald, vice president of strategic missile defense at Raytheon Missiles and Defense.

Initially, the proposed GPI missile will be fired from vertical launch cannisters installed on Aegis-class destroyers. If this proves successful, “we can move it to the land-based battery,” said the MDA’s Vice Adm. Jon Hill, presumably referring to the Aegis Ashore anti-missile system, such as those now installed in Romania and, beginning in 2022, in Poland.

The roughly $80 million to be spent on these preliminary efforts are only part of a much larger Pentagon hypersonic defense initiative, which was funded at a level of $310 million in the fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). That is $62 million more than the Biden administration requested and a 14 percent increase from the $273 million authorized in 2021. The 2022 NDAA also includes $3.8 billion for the development of offensive hypersonic weapons.

The Defense Department has been granted additional funding for the development of a new constellation of satellites that it says is needed to track adversaries’ hypersonic missiles in flight and guide the proposed GPI missile to its target. This satellite system, called the Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor, was allocated $256 million in the 2022 NDAA, almost twice the amount approved in 2021.

In recent years, some U.S. defense officials, members of Congress, and think tank analysts have argued with growing urgency that anti-hypersonic systems are needed to defend the United States against potential adversaries who are proceeding with the development and deployment of assorted offensive hypersonic projectiles. Two examples are the Russian Avangard, now deployed on some SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the Chinese DF-ZF, mounted on the DF-17 medium-range ballistic missile.

These weapons, like the U.S. Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon and the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike system, are called boost glide systems because they employ a booster rocket to carry the glide vehicle into space. After reaching an altitude of about 100 miles, the glide vehicle separates from the booster and, driven by accumulated velocity alone, glides along the outer atmosphere for hundreds or thousands of miles en route to its intended target.

Because of their low-Earth trajectory, hypersonic glide vehicles are more difficult to detect by tracking satellites than ballistic missiles and to intercept with existing missile defense systems. This has generated a perceived U.S. requirement for new missiles and tracking systems to detect and destroy adversary glide vehicles. The House Armed Services Committee, in its markup of the 2022 NDAA, expressed concern over “the inability of current radar systems to detect, track, engage and defeat emerging threats from hypersonic weapons.”

With the United States preparing to field its own array of offensive hypersonic missiles, one approach to this concern could be the exploration of bilateral or multilateral arms control agreements limiting the numbers and types of deployed hypersonic weapons. Instead, Washington so far has chosen to invest in the development of what are certain to be costly defensive weapons, which could prompt China and Russia to develop their own defensive systems and more capable offensive missiles.

There are signs that such an action-reaction spiral has commenced. Worried about the impending deployment of U.S. hypersonic missiles in Europe and beyond, Russia has begun to configure its S-500 missile defense system to intercept hypersonic missiles and has developed a new system, the S-550, with hypersonic defense in mind. “S-500 and S-550 systems will become a platform for the new air defense system, by protecting strategically important facilities from hypersonic targets,” an unnamed source close to the Russian Defense Ministry told the Russian news agency TASS in November.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency awarded contracts to three companies to develop hypersonic missile prototypes.

Arias Appointed for Second Term at OPCW


January/February 2022
By Leanne Quinn

The member states of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have decided to renew the appointment of Fernando Arias as the organization’s director-general. His second term will run until July 2026.

Fernando Arias (L), recently appointed to a second term as director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are shown meeting in Moscow in 2019.  (Photo by Vladimir Gerdo\TASS via Getty Images)“In the next few years, I understand that my main mission will be to contribute to build up consensus; to preserve the values of the verification regime, cooperation, and assistance; and to continue modernizing the tools of the secretariat to keep on working in an efficient manner,” Arias said during his acceptance speech on Dec. 1.

Although Russia formally disassociated itself from the decision, it did not call for a vote, and the reappointment was approved by consensus. Prior to serving as director-general, Arias was Spain’s permanent representative to the OPCW.

Following the decision, many delegates expressed firm support for Arias’ professionalism and integrity and confidence in his ability to lead the organization for the next four years. The delegates also voiced concern over the challenges facing Arias and the OPCW in the years ahead.

“There is no shortage of challenges ahead,” said Brazilian delegate Paulo Roberto Caminha de Castilhos França. “To name some of the key ones: the ongoing pandemic and its impact on work of the OPCW; the search for ways to reduce the stifling polarization, which undermines trust in this organization; the need to promote equitable geographic representation in order to render the organization more fit for its purpose; and a gradual steering of the OPCW into a new terrain, in which chemical weapons will have finally been eliminated.”

Arias’ election was one of several decisions that took place during the 26th conference of states-parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which convened in The Hague from Nov. 29 to Dec. 3.

One issue involved the aerosolized use of central nervous system-acting chemicals by law enforcement. When used under controlled medical conditions, chemicals that modify these functions, such as the opioid fentanyl, are considered safe. In a 2018 report, the OPCW’s Scientific Advisory Board recognized that these chemicals “can have a very low safety margin when delivered as an aerosol” and that their use has “resulted in permanent harm and death.”

The only large-scale use to date occurred in October 2002 when Russian special forces deployed aerosolized central nervous system-acting chemicals to end an armed siege of the Moscow Dubrovka Theater. Although hostages were freed, 125 individuals died as a result of the effects of the chemicals.

The OPCW conference adopted an understanding that the aerosolized use of these chemicals for law enforcement purposes should not be permitted under the CWC. The decision was passed with 85 member states in favor; 10, including China and Russia, against; and 33 member states abstaining. It also called for continued research on these chemicals by the OPCW Scientific Advisory Board.

The United States, a co-sponsor of the initiative, lauded the vote in a State Department press release, noting that “this decision sends a clear signal that countries cannot hide their work to advance an offensive capability for the aerosolized use of central nervous system-acting chemicals under the guise of doing so for law enforcement.” While welcoming the conference decision, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Bradford University have called for the prohibition to also cover law enforcement weapons employing these chemicals delivered by non-aerosolized means and to cover toxic chemicals that act on other human physiological systems.

No resolution was reached regarding the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. (See ACT, November 2021.) Fifty-five member states produced a joint statement once again calling on Russia to cooperate fully with the OPCW in a thorough and transparent investigation of the incident, including negotiating a technical assistance visit with the OPCW.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) members reappointed Fernando Arias as director-general.

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