US President Donald Trump has invoked a wartime executive power giving him the authority to mobilize US industry for defence purposes, saying that without presidential direction US industry cannot be expected to provide the materials necessary for hypersonic weapons development “adequately and in a timely manner.”
On Wednesday, Trump invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 in order to issue a directive with respect to the production of hypersonic weapons components. The directive states:
“I hereby determine, pursuant to section 303(a)(5) of the Act, that the industrial base production capability for ultra-high and high temperature composites for hypersonic, strategic missile, and space launch systems is essential to the national defense.
Without Presidential action under section 303 of the Act, United States industry cannot reasonably be expected to provide the production capability for ultra-high and high temperature composites for hypersonic, strategic missile, and space launch systems adequately and in a timely manner.
Further, purchases, purchase commitments, or other action pursuant to section 303 of the Act are the most cost-effective, expedient, and practical alternative method for meeting the need for this critical capability.”
It is believed that the US has not yet been able to match the development of hypersonic weapons by Russia and China, which are capable of reaching speeds of up to Mach 5 and able to penetrate all known US’ missile defence systems. The latest directive promulgated by Trump appears to confirm that the US still lags far behind Russia in the development of such systems.
Last month Trump boasted of a “super duper missile” under development, a statement that forced the Pentagon to grudgingly admit later that the US was “working on developing a range of hypersonic missiles to counter our adversaries.” Sputnik reports that:
While the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) was cancelled in February in a budget battle, its developer, Lockheed Martin, is pushing ahead with another hypersonic weapon, the AGM-183A Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW). LINK
Throughout the national crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act on numerous occasions to direct civilian industries in the production of necessary medical equipment, such as swabs, ventilators, masks and other protective gear.
Trump also revealed Wednesday during a news conference that the US is currently engaged with negotiations with Russia for the renewal of an arms control agreement with Russia which is due to expire early next year.
“We also are working with Russia right now on an arms treaty, which is a big thing, nuclear arms specifically,” Trump said. “I think I can say… we’re doing very well on that.”
US and Russian officials held talks on nuclear arms control earlier this week on the renewal of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).
The New START was signed in 2010 by the two countries to reduce US and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals and is a successor to the START I bilateral treaty between the US and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which entered into force in 1994.
The Trump administration had previously been reluctant to enter substantive negotiations on the renewal of the treaty, arguing that any new arms control agreement should also include China. However, China has repeatedly refused to join any arms control talks with the US and Russia on strategic nuclear weapons, given the enormous disparity between their respective arsenals.
The New START is the last arms control treaty between Russia and the US that remains in force following the formal withdrawal by the US from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) Treaty on the 2nd of August. The treaty was signed by the US and Soviet Union in 1987, banning all short-medium-range (310-620 miles) and intermediate-range (620-3,420 miles) ground-launched missiles.
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