Global arms race won't stop now: U.S. eyes potential foes working on new weaponry

by DR. PETER BROOKES February 8, 2017

It's just basic human nature, but no one likes to look over their shoulder to see an eager competitor gaining on them no matter what the situation is, right?

Well, while we have the world's finest, most powerful military, we have some potential enemies, "frenemies," etc. who are trying to catch up to us with their development and deployment of cutting-edge military weapons.

There's reason to be unsettled.

That's why it's good to hear that Team Trump will be working to keep and extend our lead with the "rebuilding" of our military as outlined in a recent presidential executive order.

Pentagon reviews and recommendations on military readiness, missile defense, our nuclear arsenal and a defense strategy make sense in light of some foreign military developments including the following:

KN-08 missile: North Korea has active - and ambitious - nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs. The KN-08 is a road mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, that will prove harder to find - and, therefore, more survivable and dangerous.

DF-21 missile: The Chinese are fielding lots of new weapons, but a land-based ballistic missile known ominously as "the carrier killer" is a big worry. It's the world's first ballistic missile able to hit a moving target - like a high-value U.S. "flattop" 1,000 miles away.

T-14 tank: The Russians have always been pretty darn good at building tanks. Reportedly that tradition continues with the T-14 "Armata." It's meant to compete with the American M1 "Abrams" tank-and with its armor and gun, some analysts worry it's truly capable of doing so.

J-20 fighter: We're not the only ones with a stealth fighter program. Likely aided by espionage, this Chinese stealth fighter is not yet as good as the American F-22 or F-35, but if you build enough of them, they can ruin your day in the skies of the Pacific theater.

Hypersonic vehicles: How about a missile armed with multiple nuclear or conventional warheads that can fly as fast as 15,000 mph? Pretty scary. Well, both the Russians and Chinese are working on these superfast weapons capable of overcoming U.S. missile defenses.

Space: Both Moscow and Beijing see outer space as one of Washington's Achilles' heels due to our slavish dependence on satellites. For example, China is developing and testing both direct-ascent (that is, earth-based rockets) and co-orbital weapons (such as laser or explosive devices) to knock out our satellites.

Cyber: Computer network operations have gotten a lot of buzz lately, but it goes far beyond espionage. In cyber warfare, an enemy could do anything from shutting off the lights across the country to inserting misinformation into defense communications channels to disabling military weapons systems.

This is not to say that our top-notch scientists and engineers are sitting around letting us go the way of the Model T. But we've been fighting, and focusing on, Islamist terrorism for 15-plus years - and some of our potential adversaries have taken advantage of that.

In any competition, once you start thinking you're "good enough," you no longer are. This is no time for us to be comfortable with the state of our military, considering the growing threats we face from major military powers.

But it is a good time for our nation to rebuild.

Dr. Peter Brookes is a Senior Fellow for National Security Affairs at the Heritage Foundation and is a member of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. He writes a weekly column for the New York Post and frequently appears on FOX, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, NPR and BBC. He is the author of: "A Devil’s Triangle: Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction and Rogue States." Mr. Brookes served in the U.S. Navy and is now a Commander in the naval reserves. He has over 1300 flight hours aboard Navy EP-3 aircraft. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy; the Defense Language Institute; the Naval War College; the Johns Hopkins University; and Georgetown University.

Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.

Twitter: @Brookes_Peter

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