Hyperventilating Over Hypersonics

Last summer, China tested a hypersonic missile that traveled through orbit. The test shocked many observers and led to widespread concern about the potential for nuclear-armed missiles that can evade detection and defense systems. The technology is not as new as it might seem, but this latest test highlights an underlying threat that the world has been living with for decades.

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  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Director, Podcasting

Asher Ross - Supervising Producer

Markus Zakaria - Audio Producer and Sound Designer

Rafaela Siewert - Associate Podcast Producer

Episode Guests
  • Adam Mount
    Senior Fellow and Director, Federation of American Scientists
  • Laura Grego
    Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Show Notes

Last summer, U.S. intelligence services reported that China tested a new hypersonic missile. These missiles are maneuverable, nuclear-capable, and use what is known as a fractional orbital bombardment system (FOBS). U.S. officials are increasingly wary of an emerging arms race as Russia and China expand their missile and nuclear capabilities. These advancements complicate deterrence logic and could sway military policy. With a hefty price to compete in this arena, experts debate the merits of the United States emulating its adversaries.


From CFR 


Michael C. Horowitz and Lauren A. Kahn, “DoD’s 2021 China Military Power Report: How Advances in AI and Emerging Technologies Will Shape China’s Military


From Laura Grego 


Rush Hour In Orbit: The Science (and Politics) of Keeping Satellites Safe,” Got Science?, Union of Concerned Scientists


Some pretty good work by Congress on missile defense this year,” All Things Nuclear, Union of Concerned Scientists


A nuclear arms race is unavoidable without serious intervention,” Financial Times


From Adam Mount


What Is the Sole Purpose of U.S. Nuclear Weapons?, Federation of American Scientists 


Adam Mount and Pranay Vaddi, An Integrated Approach to Deterrence Posture [PDF],  Federation of American Scientists


Read More


De-hyping China’s Missile Test,” All Things Nuclear, Union of Concerned Scientists


China tests new space capability with hypersonic missile,” Financial Times


China’s Orbital Bombardment System Is Big, Bad News—but Not a Breakthrough,” Foreign Policy


Russia Goes Hypersonic,” Situation Report, Foreign Policy


Hypersonic Missiles Are Unstoppable. And They’re Starting a New Global Arms Race.,” New York Times 


Behind murky claim of a new hypersonic missile test, there lies a very real arms race,” NPR


Visual explainer: How China’s hypersonic missile compares to conventional ballistic weapons,” USA Today


Watch and Listen


Hypersonic Missiles Arms Race: What You Need to Know,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


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