Welcome to this week’s edition of The Intelligence Brief… a few of the items we’ll be examining in this installment include 1) recent news out of Russia about aspirations it has for the country’s new state armament program, 2) the current temperature in Washington regarding hypersonic developments at home, and abroad, and 3) why the issue of advanced developments like this bolsters the case for studying unrecognized aerospace technologies and potential threats to U.S. national security that could stem from them.
As always, links to all of our recent stories can be found at the end of this newsletter… and with that, it’s time once again to turn our spy scopes toward the skies, and examine the current lay of the land as far as aerial threats of the foreign kind, as well as those potentially from really far out places.
Hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, and other “breakthrough technologies” are among the advancements Russia aims to employ as it lays out plans for its new state armament program, according to statements made by Russian President Vladimir Putin this week.
In a meeting with his military-industrial commission, Putin called for the use of such innovative technologies, saying that the country must “take into account all the basic world trends in developing military hardware and armaments,” according to the Russian news agency TASS on Wednesday.
The Russian leader said such development “relates to introducing advanced information and bio-cognitive technologies,” along with “promoting hypersonic systems and weapons based on new physical principles, the latest reconnaissance, navigation, communications and control systems.”
Emphasizing the trends toward the use of robotics and artificial intelligence in the future of warfare, Putin also said such efforts will “raise functionality and combat sustainability of military products,” and that further, “these are the areas that will basically shape the Russian Armed Forces and their combat potential in the future.”
China, Russia, and Aerospace Threats
The news comes just weeks after a suspected test by China involving an advanced hypersonic glide weapon with nuclear capabilities, raising concerns among leaders in Washington over such advanced aerospace technologies and the threats they might represent.
Initial reports appearing in the Financial Times quoted several individuals who attested to the likely launch of a hypersonic weapon in August, believed then to have circled the globe before returning and missing a planned target. However, following the initial reports of the test flight, representatives with the Chinese foreign ministry said the reports were incorrect, and that while a launch did occur, it “was not a missile, it was a space vehicle.”
However, the United States maintains that a missile test did in fact occur. In a recent statement to Newsweek, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the test “must be a wake-up call for the U.S.”
The incident also prompted a response from U.S. disarmament ambassador Robert Wood who, when asked about the prospect of Chinese or Russian hypersonic weapons advancements, said that the Pentagon took such potentials seriously whether or not the launch had involved a hypersonic weapon.
“Hypersonic technology is something that we have been concerned about,” Wood said during a press appearance in Geneva, adding that the United States “had held back from pursuing military applications for this technology,” for reasons that include the fact that hypersonic weapons are both costly, but are also more difficult to detect and defend against due to their speed.
Wood added that U.S. officials “have seen China and Russia pursuing very actively the use, the militarization of this technology so we are just having to respond in kind.”
“We just don’t know how we can defend against that technology, neither does China, neither does Russia,” he said.
Unidentified Aerial Threats
The issue of hypersonic weapons development may seem like a strange springboard for an argument rationalizing the need for studying unidentified aerial phenomena. However, it is the obvious uncertainty—and the concern—surrounding the former issue that makes the latter so ripe for consideration.
Simply put, the United States would be foolish to ignore any apparent aerospace technology which members of its military claim they have encountered; a sentiment that should be extended to the leadership in other countries around the world as well. Presently, as the United States military continues to collect data on apparent aerial (and sometimes transmedium) technologies of unknown provenance, a variety of possibilities as to their origin remain on the table. Yet whatever their ultimate source may prove to be, ignoring them is unacceptable with respect to the speed at which the current battlefield environment is advancing.
The possibility that some of these unidentified technologies might stem from adversarial nations is only one of the national security risks they might pose. While some U.S. officials emphasize the concerning possibility that UAP could have origins in countries like China or Russia, one must stop and consider what the military leadership in those countries may be thinking; might they be equally concerned that the objects in question hail from within black programs developing advanced technologies here stateside?
Imagine an instance where unidentified aerial phenomena might instead become a misidentified aerial object—that is, to be mistaken for U.S. surveillance technologies by one of our adversaries—what might the response to such a situation be?
Furthermore, what if UAP represents nothing in the inventories of the United States, Russian, or Chinese militaries, but one of these nations was nonetheless able to capture and replicate its capabilities? Such a development could result in a technological explosion capable of placing other world powers at a tremendous disadvantage, militarily and otherwise.
Are these really chances the United States can afford to take?
No, they are not… and it is this realization that should lend weight to the case for the recently proposed amendment to the forthcoming Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, H.R. 4350). The Gillibrand Amendment, as it has come to be known, not only calls for the establishment of a new Anomaly Surveillance and Resolution Office (ASRO) within the DOD or some similar suitable military body, but also outlines a detailed plan for how the United States can intelligently collect data on unidentified aerospace technologies, and make assessments about their actions and capabilities.
In short, the United States can, and should, address unidentified aerial phenomena. Doing so should be more than just a priority, since it may also be one of the greatest assurances that we have in terms of facing potential threats in the future. This remains true, regardless of whether any such threats stem from the phenomena itself, since allowing for the capture and exploitation of such advanced technologies by our adversaries has potentially grave consequences.
In light of all this, the Gillibrand Amendment could represent one of the most significant pieces of legislation in recent years, if not in all of American history. Lawmakers should treat it as such, and take the potential for future aerial threats that it seeks to address seriously.
A new instrument named NEID, the NN-explore Exoplanet Investigations with Doppler spectroscopy, has come online, providing a powerful new tool to exoplanet hunting researchers looking for alien worlds.