By Charlie Kimber
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Britain, US and Australia intensify war drive with hypersonic weapons deal

It’s an extension of the Aukus pact over nuclear-powered submarines signed last September
Issue 2800
An artist's impression of a hypersonic missile

Hypersonic weapons use their immense speed to obliterate a target. An artist’s impression of a hypersonic missile (Picture: Raytheon)

The leaders of Britain, the US and Australia chose the day after news of Russian massacres in Ukraine to step up cooperation over devastating new weaponry. It is designed not just to boost Nato’s war machine, but to prepare for confrontations with China.

A statement from the White House on Tuesday said Boris Johnson, Joe Biden and Scott Morrison reaffirmed their cooperation in a “conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability”. But it added the governments would “commence new trilateral cooperation on hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, and electronic warfare capabilities”. 

The Financial Times newspaper said the deal “marks the latest effort to increase co-operation between the three countries to counter the rise of China in the Indo-Pacific”. Hypersonic missiles fly at more than five times the speed of sound—and the US says China has a lead in their development. So Britain, the US and Australia are determined to close the gap. 

And as the world’s media were concentrating on the Russian massacre in Ukraine, the US also quietly revealed it successfully tested a hypersonic missile in mid-March. It had kept it secret for two weeks to avoid evidence of its warmongering as Biden was about to travel to Europe to ramp up Nato military mobilisation.

The Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (Hawc) was launched from a B-52 bomber off the west coast of the US. The missile flew above 65,000 feet and for more than 300 miles. But even at the lower end of hypersonic range—about 3,800 miles per hours—a flight of 300 miles takes less than five minutes.

The test came days after Russia said it used its own hypersonic missile during its invasion of Ukraine. The Russian Kinzhal missile is a variation of an established technology. The Hawc missile is a new generation weapon. It travels with such power that it does not have a warhead but uses its immense speed to obliterate its target.

Biden’s administration has requested £5.5 billion for long range missiles, including hypersonic weapons, in the 2023 military budget. The extra spending will delight arms manufacturers, particularly Raytheon and Northrop Grumman who are directly involved in the project. 

Merchants of death are already counting the profits from Ukraine. The main weapons the US is sending to Ukraine are Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. The Javelins are a joint venture made by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, while the Stingers are produced solely by Raytheon.

 

Before taking his present post as US secretary of defence, Lloyd Austin was on the board of Raytheon. According to AFP news agency, Raytheon’s Stinger missiles were no longer being produced until the Pentagon ordered £300 million of them last summer. Now the US and its allies who are sending the Stingers into Ukraine are looking for more. 

A recent spending bill signed by Biden included £2.7 billion for new US arms to Ukraine. Colin Scarola of the investment research firm CFRA said it’s “not unlikely” that “1,000 Stingers and 1,000 Javelins get shipped to eastern Europe each month for the next year”. “We think it would equate to $1 billion to $2 billion (£770 million to £1.55 billion) in revenue for both manufacturers,” he said. 

More is coming. US congress members—Republican and Democrats—want to shower even more cash on the military than Biden proposed. Democrat Elaine Luria, the vice-chair of the House Armed Services Committee, complained about Biden’s proposed military budget, writing on Twitter that “it sucks”.

Many of the angry lawmakers cite their hunger to confront China in their demands for more guns and less money for education, Covid protection measures and social programmes. If Congress increases the budget, it will be the second year in a row that they give Biden more than he asked for. For the 2022 military budget, Biden requested £575 billion, which was ultimately increased by over £22 billion.

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