WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force announced within the span of two days earlier this week that it had awarded over $3.3 billion in contracts to U.S. weapons giant Lockheed Martin. The first of these contracts, totaling $480 million, was announced on Monday and tasked Lockheed with designing a new “hypersonic” missile. The new missile, known as the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), is the second “hypersonic” missile under development at Lockheed, as the U.S. Air Force awarded a $928 million contract to the company this past April to develop the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) program.
The second contract, totaling a sizable $2.9 billion, was awarded to Lockheed on Tuesday and tasks the company with creating three missile-warning satellites, with each satellite set to cost just under $1 billion each.
What grave threat has prompted the U.S. military to spend over $3 billion on new missiles in just four months? According to military officials, the answer is Russia and China, as statements made earlier this year by Air Force officials clearly show that new missiles developed by Russia and China are significantly superior to those currently used by the U.S.
In January, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, told reporters, “We have lost our technical advantage in hypersonics; we haven’t lost the hypersonics fight,” adding that “China has made it a national program, so China’s willing to spend tens up to hundreds of billions to solve the problem of hypersonic flight, hypersonic target designation, and then ultimately engagement.”
A few months later in March, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “we [U.S.] don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon [hypersonic missiles] against us.” Hyten also stated that “both Russia and China are aggressively pursuing hypersonic capabilities. We have watched them test those capabilities.”
Indeed, Hyten’s warning came just weeks after Russia tested a new hypersonic missile in March that can “rip U.S. air defense apart” and render NATO’s missile-defense system “useless.”
That concern, however, has increased dramatically just over the past week following China’s claim that it successfully tested a new hypersonic missile just last Tuesday. China has claimed that its new missile is capable of penetrating any missile-defense system in the world. It is likely no coincidence that just a few days after the Chinese launch, the U.S. military gave Lockheed Martin over $3 billion in contracts to rapidly develop new missiles and missile warning systems.
Such concern about the new Russian and Chinese missile systems is not merely related to fears that the U.S. rivals will “outshine” in terms of technological superiority. Since January, the U.S. military — through the Pentagon’s 2018 National Defense Strategy — shifted gears, replacing the “War on Terror” with a war against “great power competition.” In other words, the U.S. military’s focus on fighting terrorism has ended, replaced with a focus on fighting what is essentially a new Cold War against Russia and China.
Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist pointed this out specifically when the new strategy was released in January, stating:
It is increasingly apparent that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian values and, in the process, replace the free and open order that has enabled global security and prosperity since World War II.”
The growing influence of Russia and China is cited as “the central challenge to U.S. security and prosperity.” Yet, as many analysts have pointed out, the real goal is to maintain American military hegemony at all costs, even if it means provoking a major war with either — or both — of the new emerging military superpowers.
The financial bonanza of falling behind in the arms race
While the loss of its “competitive edge” and the decline of American exceptionalism has generated great concern throughout the government, U.S. weapon manufacturers are making a handsome profit thanks to fears that U.S. weapon systems could be obsolete. Indeed, Lockheed Martin’s orders from the U.S. government and its allies have “exploded” since the year began, as the Trump administration seeks to remake the U.S. military and bully its allies into buying more American-made weapons in a bid to keep the American Empire afloat.
Yet, ironically, the lack of a “competitive edge” within the U.S. weapons industry — long dominated by a handful of massive corporations — is arguably one of the main factors that have led to the U.S.’ loss of its technological advantage over military rivals like Russia and China.
For instance, Lockheed Martin — the company recently awarded these massive contracts by the U.S. Air Force — is responsible for one of the most egregious cases of government waste when it comes to defense spending: the F-35 fighter jet program.
The jets, whose development began in 1992, are still not ready despite having been on the workbench for decades. Worse still, the Pentagon has admitted that the jets won’t have a chance in a real combat situation and a recent test run saw the jets outperformed by a 40-year-old F-16. Despite the clear failure of the program, the U.S. government has continued to pour money into the jet’s development, making it the most expensive weapons system in U.S. history. In total, the program is on track to cost U.S. taxpayers over $1 trillion.
With this track record, the government’s decision to give Lockheed Martin new, massive contracts on the development of a missile system deemed critical to “national security” seems misguided at best.
Thus, it seems that the U.S. corporate welfare that is so characteristic of the country’s military-industrial complex is one of the key drivers of the U.S. military’s decline in competitiveness. More importantly, if this episode is any indication, no matter how much the U.S. government spends on defense — even if defense spending continues to break records year after year — the U.S. military may well be fighting a losing battle in its bid to regain its global military supremacy.
Top Photo | Ground crew members make the final checks to the X-51A Waverider scramjet -51 hypersonic before the Waverider’s June 13 flight test. U.S. Air Force | Boeing
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.