Last week, President Vladimir Putin of Russia announced the deployment of the Avangard, among the first in a new class of missiles capable of reaching hypersonic velocity — something no missile can currently achieve, aside from an ICBM during reentry.
Such weapons have long been an object of desire by Russian, Chinese and American military leaders, for obvious reasons: Launched from any of these countries, they could reach any other within minutes. No existing defenses, in the United States or elsewhere, can intercept a missile that can move so fast while maneuvering unpredictably.
Whether or not the Avangard can do what Mr. Putin says, the United States is rushing to match it. We could soon find ourselves in a new arms race as deadly as the Cold War — and at a time when the world’s arms control efforts look like relics of an inscrutable past and the effort to renew the most important of them, a new START agreement, is foundering.
Hypersonics represent an apotheosis of sorts for many warfare theorists and practitioners, who have long contended that air power alone can have a decisive effect in a conflict. They have always been wrong. The allies lost about 100,000 aircrew members in an attempt to destroy German industry and the popular will to fight during World War II, but the war in Europe was won with boots on the ground.
Continue reading the rest of the op-ed in The New York Times