“For 50 years, the Arms Control Association has educated citizens around the world to help create broad support for U.S.-led arms control and nonproliferation achievements.”

– President Joe Biden
June 2, 2022
September 2021

September 2021

Edition Date: 
Wednesday, September 1, 2021
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New Cruise Missile Cost Rises

September 2021
By Kingston Reif

The projected cost of the U.S. Air Force’s program to build a new fleet of nuclear air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) has risen to between $14.2 billion and $16.2 billion as the service begins the main development phase for the weapons.

An AGM-86B air-launched cruise missile, shown here during a 2014 training exercise after being released from a B-52H Stratofortress over the Utah Test and Training Range. (Photo by U.S, Air Force)The updated cost projection is an increase of 30–50 percent from the Air Force’s earlier estimate of $10.8 billion for the program, known as the long-range standoff (LRSO) weapon, in 2016. (See ACT, September 2016.) Both the new and previous estimates include the impact of inflation.

Bloomberg was the first to report on the updated cost estimate for the LRSO system. The cause of the projected increase is unclear.

The latest projection does not include the upgraded warhead for the missile, dubbed the W80-4, which is expected to cost an additional $11 billion.

The new missile estimates were prepared by the Air Force and the Pentagon’s independent cost-estimating office ahead of the program’s Milestone B decision, a landmark for major Pentagon acquisition programs because it is considered the program’s official start.

Following the Milestone B decision, the Air Force in July awarded a $2 billion development contract to the Raytheon Co. for the program.

In a press release announcing the LRSO award, the Air Force wrote, “Raytheon provided the best overall value to the warfighter and taxpayers based on the selection process’ evaluation factors.”

The award of the contract to Raytheon did not come as a surprise.

The service had already decided in April 2020 to continue developing the missile with Raytheon as the sole contractor, citing the company’s superior design. (See ACT, May 2020.)

In August 2017, the Air Force awarded Raytheon and Lockheed Martin Corp. each a $900 million contract to proceed with development of the LRSO system. (See ACT, October 2017.) The contracts were intended to cover a 54-month period of development after which the Air Force would choose one of the contractors to complete development and begin production.

The Air Force later in 2020 decided to accelerate the Milestone B decision for the program to the spring of 2021, about nine months earlier than planned.

The Biden administration supported the acceleration of the program in its first budget request. The Pentagon is asking for $609 million for the LRSO program in fiscal year 2022, an increase of $250 million more than the Trump administration was planning to seek. (See ACT, July/August 2021.)

It is not clear whether the unplanned increase reflects the growth in the projected acquisition cost for the program, the acceleration of certain program activities, or both.

Current Air Force plans call for the procurement of about 1,000 new nuclear-capable missiles to replace the current fleet of AGM-86B missiles that have been operational since 1986. The service says a new ALCM is needed because the existing missiles are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain and are losing their ability to penetrate sophisticated air defenses. The new missile will be compatible with the B-52H and planned B-21 bombers.

The new missile will be dubbed the AGM-181 when it becomes operational.

The cost projection for a new long-range standoff weapon has increased 30–50 percent from the U.S. Air Force’s earlier estimate.

Key Arms Control Officials Confirmed

September 2021
By Shannon Bugos and Julia Masterson

The Biden administration made progress over the past two months in filling key arms control and national security posts within several departments.

Bonnie Jenkins, a former Arms Control Association board member with decades of experience as an arms control and nonproliferation expert, is the new undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. She is among the unusually high number of women named to national security positions by President Joe Biden. (Photo by U.S. Mission-Geneva)Bonnie Jenkins was sworn in on July 25 as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. Just three days later, she led the U.S. delegation, alongside Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, in a round of the U.S.-Russian strategic stability dialogue in Geneva.

“I am committed to reduce the risk of nuclear war by effective arms control, limit Russian and [Chinese] nuclear expansion, strengthen biosecurity, and pursue accountability for the use of chemical weapons,” Jenkins posted on Twitter following her swearing-in ceremony.

The Senate confirmed Jenkins on July 21 by a vote of 52–48. Biden nominated her for the post in March. (See ACT, April 2021.)

Jenkins, a former board member of the Arms Control Association and former coordinator for threat reduction programs at the State Department under President Barack Obama, will oversee bilateral talks with Russia on strategic stability and nuclear arms control, as well as guide U.S. strategy for the upcoming 10th review conference for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

In addition, Biden nominated Mallory Stewart on July 2 to become assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, a position that reports to Jenkins. Stewart currently serves as a special assistant to the president and senior director for arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation on the National Security Council. She previously served as deputy assistant secretary of state for emerging security challenges and defense policy during Obama’s second term.

Stewart’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has yet to be scheduled.

Also among the Obama administration alumni tapped to join the Biden team is Laura Holgate, who was nominated July 27 to be the U.S. representative to the Vienna office of the United Nations and to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Holgate previously served as U.S. ambassador to the IAEA from July 2016 until January 2017.

At the Pentagon, Biden nominated Sasha Baker as deputy undersecretary of defense for policy and Deborah Rosenblum as assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense. Baker is now the White House’s senior director for strategic planning at the National Security Council and served as deputy chief of staff to Defense Secretary Ash Carter during the Obama administration. She was nominated Aug. 10, and her confirmation hearing has yet to be scheduled.

Rosenblum, an executive vice president at the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a nongovernmental organization, previously held multiple senior positions in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Following her nomination April 27, she was confirmed by a voice vote of the Senate on July 29, and Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on Aug. 10 that the department recently welcomed her to its ranks.

With a bipartisan vote of 79–16, the Senate confirmed Jill Hruby on July 22 as undersecretary of energy for nuclear security and administrator at the NNSA, a semiautonomous agency at the Energy Department. Biden nominated Hruby, a former director of Sandia National Laboratories, in April.

Hruby will “lead our efforts to maintain a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent and protect our national security,” said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm following Hruby’s confirmation. “She is a brilliant leader, a model public servant, and an inspiration to engineers and rising stars everywhere.”

Frank Rose was sworn in Aug. 2 as NNSA principal deputy administrator. Rose, nominated in April, previously served in Obama’s State Department as assistant secretary for arms control, verification, and compliance and deputy assistant secretary for space and defense policy.

Biden also announced on Aug. 4 his nomination of Corey Hinderstein as deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation at the Energy Department. She previously served as senior coordinator for nuclear security and nonproliferation policy affairs in that office and currently is the NTI vice president of international fuel-cycle strategies.

“If confirmed, she would lead our nonproliferation work and help keep our nation and our world safe from nuclear threats,” Granholm said about Hinderstein’s nomination.


Bonnie Jenkins, the new undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, is among the officials recently confirmed by the Senate.

Chlorine Cylinders Destroyed by Air Strike in Syria

September 2021
By Julia Masterson and Leanne Quinn

Two chlorine cylinders relevant to an investigation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) into Syria’s chemical weapons activities were destroyed June 8 in an alleged missile strike. In a July 9 letter to the OPCW, the Syrian government informed the chemical weapons watchdog of the incident and blamed Israel for the attack.

The UN chemical weapons watchdog is still investigating the 2018 chemical weapons attack on the city of Douma, Syria, which has been blamed on the Syrian government. (Photo by  Louai Beshara/AFP via Getty Images)Israel denied involvement in the strike that damaged Syria’s Al-Nasiriyah site, which had been sealed under the watch of the OPCW Technical Secretariat. Two chlorine cylinders related to an April 2018 chemical weapons attack in the city of Douma were destroyed. The OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team, which is charged with investigating and attributing responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria, is currently leading a mission to determine who was behind that attack, which killed more than 40 people.

In his July 23 progress report on the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons program, OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias said he responded to Syria’s letter about the attack with a request for more information and documentation. The Technical Secretariat last inspected the two chlorine cylinders in November 2020, and according to Arias, “the inspection team was mandated to transport the cylinders to OPCW headquarters,” located in The Hague. During this deployment, Syria “notified the inspection team that the cylinders could not be shipped outside its territory,” Arias reported.

Notably, he highlighted that OPCW records suggest the cylinders were stored and inspected at another declared site, located approximately 37 miles from Al-Nasiriyah. Damascus had been instructed by the OPCW to not open, move, or otherwise alter the cylinders without authorization, but Syria did not notify the Technical Secretariat that the cylinders had been moved to a new location until Syria “reported their destruction,” he said.

The Syrian government countered that it had fulfilled its obligations to the Technical Secretariat because the November 2020 OPCW inspection of the cylinders included the collection of data on the contents, dimensions, metal density, radioactivity, and other aspects of the cylinders.

The Al-Nasiriyah site is a former chemical weapons production facility that Syria declared to the OPCW but claimed had never been used. Damascus was required to declare the entirety of its chemical weapons stockpile, including production facilities, when it acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013.

Although the majority of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile was destroyed during an international initiative in 2013–2014, the OPCW Declaration Assessment Team (DAT) has found that 19 issues related to Syria’s chemical weapons declaration are still unresolved. The Technical Secretariat is keen to understand the extent of the damage to the site, given that Al-Nasiriyah is “related to one outstanding issue recently opened by the DAT,” according to a statement by Thomas Makram, the deputy UN high representative for disarmament affairs.

Makram presented Arias’s report to an Aug. 4 meeting of the UN Security Council, where the news was met by vehement calls from the international community for more information and documentation on the incident. Barbara Woodward, the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the United Nations, said that “this incident represents not only the highly concerning failure by Syria to comply with the important OPCW requests, but also unauthorized interference with evidence central to an ongoing high-profile investigation.”

Bassam Sabbagh, Syria’s ambassador to the UN, condemned the July 23 progress report for focusing “only on the technical aspects” of the incident rather than the implications of an air strike on sovereign territory. Sabbagh, along with the Russian ambassador, accused the OPCW of “politicization,” but reaffirmed the willingness of Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad to meet with Arias and “agree on a way forward.”

The U.N. chemical weapons watchdog is investigating an air strike that destroyed two chlorine cylinders related to an April 2018 chemical weapons attack in Syria.

Members Discuss Open Skies Treaty After Russia Withdraws

September 2021
By Kingston Reif and Shannon Bugos

The remaining members of the 1992 Open Skies Treaty are moving forward with determining how the treaty will function after Russia withdraws in December 2021, a year after the United States also pulled out.

Royal Canadian Air Force members prepare their CC-130J aircraft for an Open Skies Treaty training flight in 2018. Now that the United States and Russia have withdrawn from the treaty, Canada and Hungary, the treaty depositaries, convened a video conference in July to chart the way forward. (Photo by John Hillier/U.S. Air National Guard/DVIDS)Canada and Hungary, the treaty depositaries, convened the states-parties for a videoconference on July 20 to discuss Russia’s announcement in June that it will withdraw from the accord Dec. 18. (See ACT, July/August 2021.) The conference brought together 183 representatives from the 33 states-parties, according to a statement by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

The representatives discussed “the overall impact on operational functionality of the Treaty, the impact on the allocation of observation quotas and on financial arrangements within the Treaty, and other potential effects on the Treaty,” the OSCE statement said. “The discussion was extensive with 28 States Parties to the Treaty offering a broad range of views on several key topics pertaining to the effect of the decision by the Russian Federation to withdraw from the Treaty,” the statement added.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in his address to the conference that the U.S. withdrawal in 2020 destroyed “the balance of interests, rights, and obligations of the participants” in the treaty. He reiterated that the states-parties’ refusal to provide written guarantees that they will neither share data collected under the treaty with the United States nor prohibit overflights of U.S. bases in Europe informed Moscow’s decision to leave the accord. (See ACT, December 2020.)

Ryabkov also rejected the call made by NATO in its June communiqué for Russia to return to full compliance with the treaty and emphasized that Moscow will not change course. “The train has left,” he said during his closing remarks. “If you were really interested in Russia remaining in the [Open Skies Treaty], you would have acted differently.”

The deputy foreign minister concluded with a warning that if the treaty “is further terminated, the entire blame for such an outcome will also fall on the United States and its allies.”

Other states-parties at the conference, such as France and the United Kingdom, expressed their disappointment with Russia’s withdrawal decision and their intention to remain fully committed to the treaty. Susanne Baumann, German commissioner for disarmament and arms control, said that Russia’s withdrawal places “significant strain” on the treaty and that “a new approach to conventional arms control is much needed.”

Katarina Kertysova, a policy fellow at the European Leadership Network, in a July article encouraged the remaining states-parties to keep the treaty alive because there is “ongoing value in overflying Ukraine, Georgia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina,” as well as in conducting extraordinary observation flights, as occurred in Ukraine in 2014. Kertysova also suggested possible ways in which the treaty could be reimagined and expanded, such as by verifying international arms control agreements and extending the geographical scope of the treaty outside of the Euro-Atlantic region.

Meanwhile, Alexander Graef, a researcher at the Institute for Peace, Research, and Security Policy in Hamburg, emphasized on July 20 that “[n]o amount of national technical means can replace the value of [military-to-military] contacts” provided through the treaty’s implementation.

Entering into force in 2002, the Open Skies Treaty permits each state-party to conduct short-notice, unarmed observation flights over the others’ entire territories to collect data on military forces and activities. The Biden administration informed Moscow in May that it would not seek to rejoin the accord after the Trump administration withdrew Washington from the treaty in November 2020. (See ACT, June 2021.)

The remaining members of the 1992 Open Skies Treaty are trying to figure out how the treaty will function once Russia withdraws in December.

Inter-Korean Hotlines Go Cold

September 2021
By Sang-Min Kim

North Korea is again ignoring hotline calls from South Korea after Seoul and Washington decided to resume their annual joint military exercises, which started Aug. 16.

Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, described the recent military training exercises between the United States and South Korea as “the most vivid expression of the U.S. hostile policy” toward North Korea. (Photo by Jorge Silva/AFP via Getty Images)The nine days of combined exercises were planned to consist mostly of defensive, computer-simulated command post training with minimum personnel and no live field training involving U.S. troops, according to an Aug. 15 statement from the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff. Preliminary drills, called crisis management staff training and designed to examine the allies’ readiness to respond to a potential contingency, were also conducted earlier in the month.

The military exercises have long been a source of friction between North Korea and the United States.

In a statement on official media on Aug. 10, Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, described the exercises as “the most vivid expression of the U.S. hostile policy” toward North Korea and pledged that Pyongyang would work to strengthen its national defense capabilities and preemptive strike capabilities.

Meanwhile, Kim Young Chol, department director of the Workers’ Party of Korea's Central Committee, told KCNA, the official media on Aug. 11 that “South Korea and the United States have invariably chosen confrontation with our state [and] it is clear that we cannot make another choice, either.”

Pyongyang reacted to the exercises by halting the 48 inter-Korean hotlines that are designed to allow the two sides to have a channel of communication that could help avert a crisis. They only came back online July 27 after a 13-month hiatus.

Nine of the hotlines directly linked the two militaries, and their reinstatement was hailed and supported by China, North Korea’s closest ally; the United States; and other countries. The key communication channels were reestablished after several months of letters between the Korean leaders. The U.S.-South Korean alliance made the decision to resume the joint military exercises “after comprehensively considering the COVID-19 situation, joint defense posture and ways to support diplomatic efforts to denuclearize and foster lasting peace on the Korean peninsula," the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby similarly stressed the “need for readiness on the Korean peninsula and our desire to work in lockstep with our [South Korean] allies on a training regimen that improves that readiness and keeps that readiness strong.”

Frank Aum, a senior expert at the United States Institute of Peace, told Arms Control Today in an Aug. 13 email that “[m]any voices in both the U.S. and South Korea were arguing for the continuation of the exercises given their importance to readiness and training, their relevance to the certification of operational capabilities related to [operational control] transition, and the lack of diplomacy with North Korea.” The transition of operational control refers to South Korea’s goal to assume and exercise control of its armed forces in wartime that U.S. forces in Korea would currently control.

Aum added that “the important aspects of this period are that North and South Korea have been exchanging letters for the last several months, which is a positive, but North Korea continues to reject U.S. efforts at engagement, which is negative.”

North Korea is again ignoring hotline calls from South Korea.

South Korea Boosts Military

September 2021
By Sang-Min Kim

The South Korean navy in August commissioned its first locally developed submarine capable of launching ballistic missiles. The weapon is part of a military buildup that is mainly driven by a desire to establish a more robust defense against North Korea, but other factors are also at work.

Equipped with six vertical launching tubes that can accommodate ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and various other armaments, such as mines, the Dosan An Chang-ho is the first of three 3,000-ton attack submarines intended to enhance South Korea’s underwater defense capabilities and is scheduled to be deployed next year. Several local defense companies, such as LIG Nex1 and STX Engine, contributed to the project.

Although North Korea maintains one of the largest submarine fleets in the world, it is believed to be comprised of about 70 outdated attack and midget submarines and submarines that are usable only for coastal water operations. North Korea has been developing several types of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and at least one ballistic missile submarine that would increase the survivability of its midrange ballistic missiles, but its missile and nuclear programs are the real long-term threat and the key drivers of South Korea’s military buildup.

South Korea is the first military without nuclear weapons to commission submarines capable of launching ballistic missiles. Notably, only seven other countries have developed a workable SLBM. South Korea’s existing submarine force consists of 1,200-ton and 1,800-ton diesel-electric attack submarines that are too small to be equipped with ballistic missiles.

Jeon Yong-gyu, head supervisor for the South Korean project, said at the Aug. 13 commissioning ceremony that the submarine’s commission “can be considered as a significant milestone that can once again prove to the world the advanced technology of the Korean defense industry [and] it should serve as a signal for a leap forward in defense industry technology.”

The submarine is one of many projects on the South Korean defense industry’s agenda, underscoring a larger official effort to strengthen the country’s indigenous defense technology companies. Over the next five years, South Korea will increase the amount of its defense budget going to purchase indigenously-produced weapons, Defense Minister Suh Wook said last year at a defense expo, DX Korea 2020. This has since crystallized into a formal "Buy Korea Defense" policy.

“What should not be overlooked in most of these instances is the role of arms exports,” Joshua Pollack, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told Arms Control Today in an Aug. 5 email. “The [South Korean] arms industry often seems more attuned to demand from abroad than [South Korea’s] own requirement. There is also pressure on the military to buy locally produced arms,” he added.

South Korea’s defense industry plays a major role in many critical initiatives, including a $2.6 billion project to develop an indigenous version of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. The project, approved by the Defense Ministry in June, would defend key infrastructure by destroying incoming threats from North Korea, such as artillery shells, short-range missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

In March, South Korea also unveiled the KF-21 Boramae, the country’s first locally developed supersonic fighter jet. The plan is to deploy a fleet of 120 of the aircraft by 2032 and arm them with new supersonic air-to-surface missiles.

“[Such] pressure may make it harder for the military to acquire foreign systems that meet its short-term needs when the manufacturers are promising an indigenous alternative in just a few years. The L-SAM program comes to mind,” Pollack suggested. The L-SAM is an indigenous, long-range surface-to-air missile system that would operate as part of South Korea’s ballistic missile defense system, called the Korean Air and Missile Defense, by intercepting targets at an altitude of 40 kilometers or higher.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has increased the country’s annual military spending by an average of 7 percent, some 3 percent higher than his predecessor, and robust investment in weapons procurement seems likely to continue. With $253 billion projected for defense spending in fiscal years 2021 to 2025, one-third of that amount would be allocated to procuring such weapons as a light aircraft carrier, a nuclear-powered submarine, Boramae fighters, new missile systems, and satellites, according to South Korea’s intermediate national defense plan.

“The bottom line is that defense acquisition is neither entirely rational, nor entirely about national defense requirements,” Pollack stated.

With the commissioning of a ballistic missile submarine in August, South Korea has taken another step towards developing its defense industry.

Lawsuit Targets Arms Flows to Mexico

September 2021
By Jeff Abramson

The Mexican government took a novel approach to curtailing illegal gun trafficking into its country by filing suit against U.S. gun manufacturers and distributors in a Massachusetts federal district court.

In the unusual lawsuit filed in August, Mexico alleged that a number of major firearms manufacturers and wholesalers “design, market, distribute, and sell guns in ways they know routinely arm the drug cartels in Mexico.” It said the named companies sell about 340,000 of an estimated half million guns that illegally flow each year from “Massachusetts and other U.S. states to criminals south of the border.”

The suit draws particular attention to semiautomatic firearms, also known as assault weapons, that can easily be converted to fully automatic versions and are “weapons of choice” for drug cartels. Mexico calls for a range of measures to force the companies to curtail illegal arms flows and is reportedly seeking at least $10 billion in damages, although that amount is not explicitly enumerated in the lawsuit.

The case relies to a large degree on U.S. law, with Mexico arguing that it “does not challenge or question the law, policy, or actions of the United States” but instead “seeks to hold accountable and stop the reckless actions of private companies that foreseeably send their guns into Mexico.” Efforts to hold U.S. firearms manufacturers liable for the misuse of their products are made difficult by the U.S. Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which provides U.S. manufacturers with special immunity from certain liability. Mexico contends that the PLCAA only extends to harm within the United States and does not shield the U.S. manufacturers in this case.

How the Biden administration reacts to this case could be significant. Although the U.S. government is not named in the suit, the administration has called for Congress to repeal the PLCAA and championed a domestic assault weapons ban.

The case also may draw fresh attention to a Trump-era rule change that removed export oversight of semiautomatic assault weapons from the State Department, which administers the U.S. Munitions List, and transferred it to the Commerce Department, which oversees the Commerce Control List. The switch means the process is less transparent because Congress does not receive notifications of potential sales. (See ACT, March 2020.) President Joe Biden promised during his campaign to reverse this change, but his administration has not yet acted.

Notably, the lawsuit does not address the legal trade in firearms between the United States and Mexico, which is conducted through the Mexican military. Firearms ownership in Mexico is tightly regulated by the government, with just one centralized gun store issuing fewer than 50 licenses per year, according to the suit.

But the Mexican military has been implicated in numerous civilian deaths in Mexico, either directly or through the weapons it transfers to police forces. Despite this, the Biden administration notified Congress in July of a potential sale of nearly $5.5 millionworth of Sig Sauer fully automatic rifles to the Mexican navy and marines.

Sig Sauer is not named in the lawsuit, but is one of a number of German companies that arms trade watchers suggest has established production facilities in the United States in order to legally export weapons to Latin American countries under U.S. contracts that would not be approved if the sales had originated in Germany.


Other Lawsuits on U.S. Arms Transfers

Across the globe, there is a growing trend of legal challenges to the arms trade, including a number of cases in U.S. courts. The lawsuit filed by Mexico is unique in that the plaintiff is a foreign country and it seeks to address illicit arms trade rather than that approved by the U.S. government, but two other cases, recently filed in U.S. district court in Washington, are aimed at stopping weapons from being transferred from the United States.

Nigeria. In late July, the Indigenous People of Biafra filed a case against the U.S. Defense and State departments seeking a halt to future transfers of Super Tucano aircraft to Nigeria and the return of those already transferred, citing violations of the so-called Leahy Law, which prohibits transfers to military units that have been credibly accused of gross human rights violations. The sale of 12 aircraft was put on hold at the end of the Obama administration, but moved forward by the Trump administration in 2017 (See ACT, September 2017), with the first six aircraft delivered this summer. The case is in the early stages, and it is unclear whether it will be heard. Media reports say that members of Congress, citing human rights concerns, have quietly put holds on the sales of additional attack helicopters after being informally notified of possible sales by the State Department.

United Arab Emirates. At the end of 2020, the New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs, now joined by others, including individuals harmed by the conflict in Libya, filed a case against the State Department challenging $23 billion in arms sales to the United Arab Emirates, citing violations of the Arms Export Control Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. Following a motion to dismiss by the State Department, the court has yet to rule whether the case will proceed. The Biden administration has indicated it is working to go ahead with the sales in the coming years. (See ACT, May 2021.)

The Mexican government has sued U.S. gun manufacturers and retailers in a Massachusetts federal district court.

U.S. Hypersonic Glide Vehicle Test Fails Again

September 2021

The U.S. Air Force’s air-launched hypersonic boost-glide vehicle, known as the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), failed another flight booster test in July after a failure three months earlier.

Air Force crew prepare for a test of the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon at Edwards Air Force Base, California, in 2020. The hypersonic weapon travels at five times the speed of sound. (Photo by U.S. Air Force)The rocket motor for the ARRW test missile did not ignite after the missile “cleanly separated” from a B-52 bomber and “successfully demonstrated the full release sequence” during the July 28 test over Point Mugu Sea Range near southern California, the Air Force said in a July 29 statement. During a booster test in April, the test missile failed to complete the launch sequence. (See ACT, May 2021.)

“Developing first-of-its-kind missiles is difficult business, and this is why we test,” said Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, the Air Force’s program executive officer for weapons, after the test.

The Air Force has said that the ARRW system is designed to provide the ability to destroy high-value, time-sensitive targets and will expand the capabilities of precision-strike weapons systems by enabling rapid response strikes against heavily defended land targets. The service’s fiscal year 2022 budget request included $238 million for continued research and development and $161 million for initial procurement of the hypersonic system. (See ACT, July/August 2021.)

The Air Force plans to begin deploying the ARRW system in 2022, but that date may be pushed back. Collins told reporters on Aug. 4 that figuring out what went wrong with the test “may impact our ability to meet our next test window as we go forward.” The hypersonic system must successfully complete booster and all-up-round test flights before a contract is awarded to manufacturer Lockheed Martin so production can begin.

The July booster test followed the first detonation of an ARRW warhead earlier in the month, which the Air Force dubbed as successful in a July 7 statement. The missile will be armed with what is known as a fragmentation warhead, according to a July 16 Aviation Week report, which would limit the ARRW system to destroying soft targets.—SHANNON BUGOS

U.S. Hypersonic Glide Vehicle Test Fails Again

Pentagon Issues First Memo on Space Norms

September 2021

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has issued a memo mandating that the Pentagon follow a set of guidelines regarding responsible space operations and adherence to international space norms. This is the first time that the department has taken this kind of official step, rather than less formal verbal commitments, to set norms of behavior in space, although experts say the guidelines represent only a first step.

The July 7 memo specifies five “tenets of responsible behavior,” which include calls for ensuring safety, limiting the release of long-lasting space debris, avoiding harmful interference, maintaining safe separation from other humans or objects, and maintaining communication.

The guidelines apply only to Defense Department space operations, but are intended to contribute to a broader dialogue involving civilian, commercial, and other organizations that conduct space-related business, according to John Hill, acting assistant defense secretary for space policy. “We will make more progress through efforts to share views on what we think are the best practices and encourage each other to adopt those best practices,” Hill told Space News on July 16.

A majority of experts welcomed Austin’s memo, reported Breaking Defense, which first broke the news on July 19. “I think it’s actually a pretty good start to identifying and formalizing what [the Pentagon] sees as norms of behavior,” remarked Victoria Samson, head of Secure World Foundation’s Washington office.

The guidelines may be part of a larger Pentagon effort to set the agenda on space norms. In February, a U.S. space commander announced that officials from the State and Defense departments were in the process of drafting proposed language for a binding resolution regarding responsible behavior in space. (See ACT, April 2021.)—HOLLIS RAMMER

Pentagon Issues First Memo on Space Norms

India Tests New Agni Missile

September 2021

India’s newly tested Agni-Prime (Agni-P) missile “will give the armed forces the requisite operational flexibility to swiftly transport and fire [the weapon] from anywhere they want,” an official from the government’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) announced shortly after the June 28 launch.

The 1,000–2,000-kilometer range of India's new Agni-P missile suggests that the weapon was designed as a counter to Pakistan’s forces, not China's. (Photo by Press Information Bureau on behalf of Ministry of Defence, Government of India)The Agni-P will be inaugurated as “a new-generation advanced variant” of Agni missile, the official confirmed. The solid-fueled missile has a reported range of 1,000 to 2,000 kilometers and can be canisterised, according to Indian defense officials, meaning that the warhead will be mated and stored with the missile, reducing the time required for preparation and launch.

India’s Press Information Bureau confirmed the launch, the first for this missile, from Abdul Kalam Island. The Ministry of Defence said that “various telemetry and radar stations positioned along the eastern coast tracked and monitored the missile. The missile followed textbook trajectory, meeting all mission objectives with a high level of accuracy.”

The DRDO said that, like other Agni missiles, the new one is nuclear capable.

New Delhi’s development of the Agni-P could be attributed to a push for increased flexibility and expanded targeting options. “Compared with both the Agni-I and -II, imagery suggests that the new missile appears to be wider in diameter, potentially allowing for a larger payload to be accommodated,” Timothy Wright and Joseph Dempsey of the International Institute for Strategic Studies wrote in a July 29 analysis.

They suggested that, “unless India intends to solely use the Agni-P for nuclear weapons delivery,” the missile’s designation as nuclear capable “potentially leaves open the option that the new missile could be equipped, like some earlier variants of the Agni family, with either conventional or nuclear warheads.”

The Agni-P’s range suggests that the missile was designed to counter Pakistan’s forces, given that the distance is not far enough to reach China, India’s other primary regional adversary. Wright, Dempsey, and other analysts have noted that, once deployed, the Agni-P will serve as a deterrent against Pakistani aggression. Pakistan and China remained silent on the June 28 launch.—JULIA MASTERSON

India Tests New Agni Missile


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