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Admiral Charles “Chas” A. Richard, Commander of STRATCOM speaking at the Space & Missile Defense Symposium on August 11, 2022. Photo credits: U.S. Strategic Command's Twitter

In the apex of our nation’s Space and Missile Defense Development & Acquisition Military Industrial powerhouse in Huntsville, Alabama, the 2022 Space & Missile Defense Symposium was held over the past three days. On the last day, August 11, 2022, the ultimate fighter, the ultimate strategic Warfighter, Admiral Chas Richard, who commands the strategic nuclear forces of the United States, spoke with truth and urgency: 

“Russian use of nuclear coercion. The People’s Republic of China’s accelerated strategic breakout and the development and employment of new weapon systems. The aggregation of those threats and those actions is altering the strategic landscape. The global security environment is now today, a three party nuclear peer reality, where the PRC and Russia are stressing and undermining the rules based international order.

China. People’s Republic of China. While Russia remains the acute threat, the near term threat, the PRC remains our greatest long term strategic competitor. They’re continuing, they’re working this pretty hard. Pursuit of a world class military by 2030 and the military capabilities to seize Taiwan by force if they choose to by 2027, five years from now…..commercial satellite imagery discovered a third Intercontinental ballistic missile field, probably 120 silos. Now that’s enough now total for 360 new missiles. And remember, they’re not treaty constrained. So each of those could have up to 10 more heads on top of it. And that’s just one piece. Every other thing they’re doing is expanding at a similar pace. But don’t just look at the numbers. Investing heavily in hypersonic weapons of their own, their next generation of land and road mobile, Intercontinental ballistic missiles, new ballistic missile submarine with missiles to go on it, directed energy weapons, anti-satellite, anti-missile and anti-unmanned aircraft, system capabilities. Now add that to their investments in nuclear command and control. They’re getting a purpose built one that previously only us and Russia had. Much improved readiness. Nascent launch under warning launch under attack capabilities.

They have the world’s largest Navy right now. World leaders by far in construction of new warships by tonnage. Air force of over 2,800 aircraft. An army of approximately one million. And they’re massive innovation apparatus coupled to private sector companies, academia, and the People’s Liberation Army have enabled them to leap forward in space and cyber. With those growing capabilities they’re acting with growing assertiveness. Since we last spoke, they have made a record number of intrusions into Taiwan’s air defense zone. Same period of time, their media mouth pieces have made nuclear threats to our Japanese and our Australian allies. And as we speak, I think we’ve all been tracking their destabilizing and irresponsible use of wildfire drills and ballistic missiles near Taiwan and Japan. That gives you a hint, I think, of how they intend to employ their military might. So step back, look at this as a whole.

So light nuclear missile defense is part of a larger whole. We need new missile defenses, starting with missile warning. That’s the number one thing I need is missile warning so I know what to do on how to posture and dispose my forces. And it’s due to these rapidly expanding and evolving threats. Hypersonic weapons, cruise missiles potentially are with Intercontinental range, unmanned aerial system, proliferation of shorter range, ballistic missiles, and several novel weapon systems. So, as I mentioned in my congressional testimony, the PRC successful test of a fractional orbit bombardment, hypersonic capability, never before seen in the world. I am not convinced at all we fully thought through the implications of what that weapon system means, our prime examples of this emerging capability. You’re going to get decreased warning timelines, difficulties in attribution, and an increased threat to our traditional space and missile defenses and forces.

So to deal with this challenge, I think we got to do three things for missile defense as part of our overall integrated deterrent strategy. First, we have to reevaluate and readjust our missile defense posture. So we got to look harder at dispersal, hardening, redundancy, mobility, complicate opponent attack plans, reduce the confidence of attack success, raise the threshold for potential conflict and give our senior leaders more decision space by limiting damage from attacks.

Second, and this is not new, but we really need to get after it. Its new capabilities left of launch. We must be able to detect and track cruise missiles and hypersonic attacks on the Homeland, launch onward attribute, defend, respond appropriately, early warning is essential or conclude we’re not going to get early warning and reposture to account for that. We absolutely have to have responsive, persistent, resilient, and cost effective joint integrated missile defense sensor capabilities, integrated command and control, new sensor architecture, launched impact tracking on these threats. And we got to come up with active and passive defenses against regional hypersonics.

Third, finally, we have to integrate, should be threat focused on missile defeat, not just active missile defense and based on a top down architecture that synchronizes US, allied and partner contributions and capabilities. Get beyond platform centric defenses to a more comprehensive approach where we can bring to bear all our capabilities, passive, defense, offense, kinetic, non-kinetic and mold it together into a joint and combined force. So we got to stop stove piping things, and service specific capabilities, data networks, things like that. And the acquisition community got to ask all, we’ve got to exploit some adaptive approaches to ensure timely and cost effective development. We got to keep the pace up here. Integrate doctrinal, technical, programmatic, all across the department. We should make it clear that Homeland defense, regional defense and strategic deterrents are all part of an integrated strategy and we’re thinking about them together.

And we have to have a military capability, capacity, command, and control able to do that. We also need to go faster. Our acquisition programs, candidly, they just moved too slowly. More than half of DODs major defense programs are delayed. 

I need your help. We’re in a decisive decade, 10 year window that is our opportunity and necessity to tackle this era’s defining challenges. Look, we have government here, civilian and military. We have think tanks, we have academia, we have business, we have industry. So here’s what I respectfully ask you to help us go do. First, revise the theory of strategic deterrents. This is a long term effort that is going to take the best minds across government, academia and private industry. We have to grow the next generation of strategic deterrents thinkers to think about these problems. As Herman Kahn wrote 60 years ago, we have a moral imperative to think about the unthinkable. You just can’t dismiss nuclear as, yeah, that will never happen.”

Admiral Charles “Chas” A. Richard, Commander of STRATCOM

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