Worker Shortages Snarl Shipping Even as Shanghai Lockdowns Ease

By Ann Koh and Kyunghee Park (Bloomberg) — China appears to be gradually easing its lockdown of Shanghai, but that won’t bring immediate relief to global supply-chain congestion, according to a major shipping…

By Ann Koh and Kyunghee Park (Bloomberg) — China appears to be gradually easing its lockdown of Shanghai, but that won’t bring immediate relief to global supply-chain congestion, according to a major shipping...

Report to Congress on U.S. Ground Forces in the Indo-Pacific

The following is the May 6, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, U.S. Ground Forces in the Indo-Pacific: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report Since the end of the Second World War in 1945, the U.S. military has maintained a significant and enduring presence in the Indo-Pacific region. In the past, the United States’ […]

The following is the May 6, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, U.S. Ground Forces in the Indo-Pacific: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

Since the end of the Second World War in 1945, the U.S. military has maintained a significant and enduring presence in the Indo-Pacific region. In the past, the United States’ strategic approach to the region has varied greatly. From September 11, 2001, until almost the next decade, strategic emphasis was placed largely on global counterterrorism, primarily focused on U.S. Central Command’s (USCENTCOM’s) and later U.S. Africa Command’s (USAFRICOM’s) areas of operation. Starting around 2004, the George W. Bush Administration began to consider strengthening relations with allies in Asia and potentially revising U.S. doctrine and force posture in the region to improve U.S. capabilities.

In 2011, the Obama Administration announced the United States would expand and strengthen its existing role in the Asia-Pacific region. Referred to as the “Rebalance to Asia,” this strategic shift away from counterterrorism was intended to devote more effort to influencing the development of the Asia-Pacific’s norms and rules, particularly as China was emerging as an ever-more influential regional power.

While many view the Indo-Pacific as primarily a Navy- and Air Force-centric region, the Army and Marine Corps have a long and consequential presence in the region and are modifying their operational concepts, force structure, and weapon systems to address regional threats posed primarily by North Korea and China. The Army and Marines each play a critical role in the region, not only in the event of conflict but also in deterrence, security force assistance, and humanitarian assistance operations.

Congress continues to play an active and essential role in Indo-Pacific security matters. The Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI), created by the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA; P.L. 116-283, §1251) is just one example of congressional involvement in regional security efforts. The February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and its present and future implications for European and Indo-Pacific security will likely increase both congressional interest and action in the near term and for the foreseeable future.

Potential issues for Congress include:

  • the role of U.S. ground forces in the Indo-Pacific region,
  • the posture of U.S. ground forces in the Indo-Pacific region,
  • U.S. ground forces execution of regional wartime missions, and
  • the potential impact of the Ukrainian conflict on U.S. ground forces in the Indo-Pacific region.

Download the document here.

Chinese Navy Ship Operating Off of Australia, Canberra Says

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – A People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) intelligence ship is currently operating off the north-west shelf of Australia, the Australian Department of Defence said Friday. Australia’s DoD identified the vessel as China’s Dongdiao-class auxiliary intelligence ship Haiwangxing (792) and released imagery and video of the ship. A graphic of Haiwangxing’s voyage showed […]

People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Intelligence Collection Vessel Haiwangxing operating off the north-west shelf of Australia. Australian Department of Defence Photo

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – A People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) intelligence ship is currently operating off the north-west shelf of Australia, the Australian Department of Defence said Friday.

Australia’s DoD identified the vessel as China’s Dongdiao-class auxiliary intelligence ship Haiwangxing (792) and released imagery and video of the ship.

A graphic of Haiwangxing’s voyage showed the ship crossed Australia’s exclusive economic zone on the morning of May 6. On Sunday, it was approximately 70 nautical miles off the Harold E. Holt Communications Station, in Exmouth, Western Australia, while a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft monitored the ship.

Harold E. Holt Communications Station provides Very Low Frequency (VLF) communication transmission services for Australian, the United States and Australian-allied submarines.

The Chinese ship continued sailing southwards, and on Monday, it was 150 nautical miles off Exmouth while an RAAF P-8 tracked the intelligence ship. At the same time, HMAS Perth (FFH157) sailed out from port to monitor Haiwangxing but subsequently turned back because the Chinese ship changed its sailing direction on Tuesday morning. Haiwangxing turned north, sailing at a speed of six knots, 125 nautical miles from Exmouth. An RAAF P-8 and an Australian Border Force (ABF) Dash-8 maritime surveillance aircraft monitored the ship.

On Wednesday, Haiwangxing sailed northeast at 12 knots, with the ship approaching as close as 50 nautical miles of the of Harold E. Holt Communication Station, while an RAAF P-8, ABF Dash-8 and ABF patrol vessel ABFC Cape Sorell monitored. Haiwangxing was last spotted on Friday at 6 a.m. local time, approximately 250 nautical miles northwest of Broome Western Australia. An RAAF P-8 and a Maritime Border Command Dash-8 maritime surveillance aircraft monitored the ship on Thursday.

“Australia respects the right of all states to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace, just as we expect others to respect our right to do the same. Defence will continue to monitor the ship’s operation in our maritime approaches,” the Australian DoD said in the news release.

Movements of PLAN Dongdiao AGI-792 near Australia May 8-13 2022. Australian Department of Defence Photo

Meanwhile, over in the Philippine Sea, the PLAN’s CNS Liaoning (16) carrier strike group continues flight operations, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s daily news releases this week. Liaoning; Type 055 destroyer CNS Nanchang (101); Type 052D destroyers CNS Xining (117), CNS Urumqi (118) and CNS Chengdu (120); Type 052C destroyer CNS Zhengzhou (151); Type 054A frigate CNS Xiangtan (531); and Type 901 fast combat support ship CNS Hulunhu (901) sailed into the Pacific Ocean via the Miyako Strait earlier this month.

The carrier and ships in its CSG performed a series of flight operations four days in a row this week. On 9 a.m. Sunday local time, Liaoning, the two Type 052D destroyers and Hulunhu were sighted 160 kilometers south of Ishigaki Island conducting flight operations with its embarked J-15 fighter aircraft and Z-18 helicopters from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., according to news releases from Japan’s Joint Staff Office.

On Monday, the same ships were seen at 10 a.m. sailing 200 kilometers south of Ishigaki Island, performing flight operations from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Tuesday at 9 a.m., the group was sailing 310 kilometers south of Ishigaki Island, performing flight operations from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Wednesday at 9 a.m., Liaoning and two Type 052D destroyers were seen 160 kilometers south of Ishigaki Island, again performing flight operations from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) has tracked the Liaoning carrier strike group since May 2. Japanese destroyer JS Suzutsuki (DD-117) took over the task of tracking the Liaoning carrier group on Tuesday.

A People’s Liberation Army Navy J-15 carrier fighter takes off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) on May 7, 2022. Japanese MoD Photo

Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) fighter aircraft scrambled each day in response to the J-15 launches, according to the news release. In a Tuesday press conference, Japan Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said the Chinese carried out a total of 100 sorties with its J-15s and Z-18s from Liaoning between May 3 and May 8.

While the activities of the PLAN carrier group were likely aimed at improving its aircraft carriers’ operational capabilities and its ability to carry out operations away from home, Kishi said Japan is concerned about the operations given that they were happening close to the Ryuku Islands and Taiwan. The Japanese Ministry of Defense will continue to monitor such activities, he said.

The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is also operating in the Philippine Sea. Earlier this week, the CSG conducted deterrence missions in the Philippine Sea by performing long-range maritime strike with refueling help from Pacific Air Forces KC-135 Stratotankers, according to a U.S. 7th Fleet news release issued Friday.

An F/A-18E Super Hornet, assigned to the “Tophatters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14, prepares to make an arrested landing on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) in the Philippine Sea on May 12, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), destroyers USS Spruance (DDG-111) and USS Dewey (DDG-105), and cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG-53) also performed multi-domain training to defend the carrier, according to the news release.

“Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is a powerful presence in the Philippine Sea that serves as a deterrent to aggressive or malign actors and supports a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Rear Adm. J.T. Anderson, the commander of carrier strike group Three, said in the release. “There is no better way to strengthen our combat-credible capabilities than to work alongside other joint forces to demonstrate our commitment to sovereignty, the region, and a rules-based international order.”

Australia ‘Concerned’ By Chinese Spy Ship Off Its Coast

SYDNEY, May 13 (Reuters) – A Chinese intelligence ship was tracked off Australia’s west coast within 50 nautical miles of a sensitive defense facility, Australia said on Friday, raising concern amid an…

SYDNEY, May 13 (Reuters) – A Chinese intelligence ship was tracked off Australia’s west coast within 50 nautical miles of a sensitive defense facility, Australia said on Friday, raising concern amid an...

Has the peak of container shipping’s epic boom already passed?

container shipping Hapag-LloydOcean carrier Hapag-Lloyd sees consumer demand and spot rates slipping, with market highs in the rearview mirror.

container shipping Hapag-Lloyd

Another quarter, another earnings record for Germany’s Hapag-Lloyd, the world’s fifth-largest container line operator. But the focus now is less about what happened a few months ago and more about what’s happening now with China lockdowns and consumer demand, and what’s around the corner for supply chains and ocean freight rates.  

The implied message of Hapag-Lloyd quarterly release and conference call was: The container boom peaked in the first quarter; it’s downhill from here. Spot rates are falling. Goods demand is falling. “There have been signs that the market has passed its peak [in Q2 2022],” acknowledged CEO Rolf Habben Jansen in the earnings release.

The second quarter is shaping up better than expected but “should be somewhere slightly south of Q1,” said CFO Mark Frese during the call. In Q3 and Q4, Hapag-Lloyd sees things going a lot more than “slightly south.” Its guidance implies a 50% drop in second-half earnings versus the first half.

“For spot rates, there are regional differences,” Frese said, noting that North America’s import demand is holding up better than Europe’s.

“But overall, the trend is the same: We are seeing a softening of spot rates nearly globally.” He added that he was not referring to indexes, but rather, to “what we are seeing from what’s incoming [to Hapag-Lloyd’s booking system] right now.”

container shipping spot rates
Spot rates in $ per FEU. Blue line = Shanghai to LA, green = to Rotterdam, orange = to NY, yellow = to Genoa. Chart: FreightWaves SONAR (To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.)

“Consumer sentiment is changing over time. Consumer behavior is changing. Inflation is going up. Disposable income is pressured,” he said.

“We see volume growth lower than previously expected due to … consumer sentiment. We all feel it.”

China lockdowns vs. demand decline

A seeming paradox is that port congestion remains very high globally even as spot rates are under pressure. Frese said that the Ukraine-Russia war and the China COVID lockdowns have made supply chain disruptions even worse.

Congestion historically drives spot rates higher by reducing effective transport supply. However, there can be a transitional period when spot rates go down even as congestion remains high, as consumer demand falls prior to the clearing of congestion. (After congestion clears, more vessel supply is released into the market, accelerating spot-rate declines.)  

Frese noted that rates are particularly weak out of China, where Hapag-Lloyd sees lockdowns currently reducing outbound volumes by 20%-25%. But he said that COVID-driven export snags in China are coinciding with declines in import demand in places such as Europe.

Frese said he expected spot rates to come down “even if congestion stays at the [current] level or even if there are new reasons [for congestion], due to the overall sentiment we are seeing right now that demand is softening.”

When China reopens and delayed exports makes their way into the supply chain, some market watchers expect a surge in queues of ships waiting off U.S. ports. In this scenario, extreme congestion conditions return in the second half as the wave of delayed China cargo coincides with traditional peak-season flows.

Asked about this possibility, the Hapag-Lloyd CFO answered: “Could we see a rebound out of China after China opens and everything is normal? Yes and no. Yes, when China reopens again there will be some rebound. But overall, we have to accept that demand is going down over time.” In other words, falling demand could offset some of the gains from China’s reopening and peak season.

Spot rates could fall below contract rates

Hapag-Lloyd has half of its 2022 volumes on long-term contracts and half on spot (of the long-term contracts, 90% are one-year deals, 10% two- to three-year deals). “While spot rates are expected to decline further, our long-term contracts should safeguard our earnings, at least to some extent,” Frese said.

He predicted that “in the second half we will begin to see a strong reduction [of spot rates]. Maybe, over time, we will even see the change between long-term and short-term rates, with spot rates going below [long-term rates].”

Then, in 2023, a big wave of container-ship newbuilds begins to hit the water. “Newbuild ordering activity continued in Q1, pushing the orderbook to fleet ratio to around 25%. We will see what the consequences in the future will be of that. Demand growth is expected to slow down to more sustainable levels while the capacity influx will increase in 2023.”

Hapag-Lloyd Q1 2022 results

Hapag-Lloyd pre-announced earnings and full-year guidance on April 28 and provided more details on Thursday.

It reported net income of $4.7 billion for Q1 2022 versus $1.5 billion in Q1 2021. It posted Q1 2022 earnings before interest taxes, depreciation and amortization of $5.3 billion, topping the previous quarterly EBITDA record of $4.7 billion set in Q4 2021.

Volumes were flat — limited by congestion — but freight rates soared, driving the best-ever results. Hapag-Lloyd’s rates averaged $2,774 per twenty-foot equivalent unit in Q1 2022, up 84% year on year and up 16% from Q4 2021.

“In the very short term, we expect the exceptional profitability level to continue,” said Frese.

Hapag-Lloyd projects full-year 2022 EBITDA of $14.5 billion-$16.5 billion. Last year’s EBITDA was $12.8 billion. Thus, despite tempered demand and spot rates, Hapag-Lloyd’s first half has been so strong that it should end the year with yet another record.

Hapag-Lloyd earnings

Click for more articles by Greg Miller 

Great Wall of Naval Targets Discovered in Chinese Desert

China has been honing its ship-killing skills for potential future conflicts on new targets in a remote desert, according to new satellite photos reviewed by USNI News. New analysis shows the People’s Liberation Army is testing the ability to hit ships in port with long-range ballistic missiles. Since USNI News reported China has been building […]

H I Sutton Illustration for USNI News Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies Used with Permission

China has been honing its ship-killing skills for potential future conflicts on new targets in a remote desert, according to new satellite photos reviewed by USNI News. New analysis shows the People’s Liberation Army is testing the ability to hit ships in port with long-range ballistic missiles.

Since USNI News reported China has been building aircraft carrier targets in the Takmalakan Desert, other target sites have emerged forming a string of large-scale target ranges running along the eastern edge of the desert, according to new satellite photos. Several of these are naval and two have layouts that appear to be modeled on ships in port.

Eight miles southwest of an elaborate aircraft carrier layout, a site with full-scale piers and a destroyer-sized ship-like target was constructed in December. A test missile hit a dead center on the ship replica in February and thent the target was then quickly disassembled and is now gone, according to more recent images.

This new target was discovered as part of the research into aircraft carrier targets, which had been found by All Source Analysis (ASA) with more details revealed by high-resolution satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies.

Another similar naval base target was found about 190 miles southwest by Damien Symons, an independent defense analyst. This location was built in December 2018, but had escaped notice until now. The pier layout is similar to the destroyer-like site, and it also includes ship targets, with one in the same place as the latest target.

The nature, location and strikes on these sites all suggest the targets are meant for testing ballistic missiles.These hypersonic anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs) are an increasingly significant threat to warships.

H I Sutton Illustration for USNI News

China is known to have been developing several ASBMs. Two types, the DF-21D and DF-26 are land based. Another type, designation unknown, is carried by the H-6 bomber. And there is now confirmation that the Type-055 Renhai Class cruiser can launch a smaller one, provisionally identified as the YJ-21.

Damien Symon said that there are signs of sophisticated targeting.

“The layout of the targets is very calculated,” he said.“The orientations, shapes and sizes are consistent across multiple targets. There is nothing haphazard about these sites.”

The targets appear to be shaped by laying metal sheets on the ground. “This is a different material to the piers and buildings” Symon adds. “It may reflect heat or radar differently, this also might give us an indication of the complex systems and effort behind these experiments.”

The naval base target destroyed in February was similar to the one Symon found. It is almost a duplicate of the older target, he said

Modern ‘dumb’ ballistic missiles have small circles of error probability, a measure of the distance from the aiming point where there is still a 50 percent chance of it hitting. But if the aiming point is on the pier of a crowded port, most of the CEP is still water, and near-misses into a harbor are unlikely to have the desired effect.

The Chinese missiles may use infrared, optics or radar to form a picture of the target. They could then adjust their trajectory by tiny amounts to land exactly on the target. From open-source information one cannot conclude whether the missiles are using infrared or radar, but there are indications of both. Modern targeting sensors are typically connected to artificial intelligence, allowing the missile to discern targets and choose the intended or highest-value option.

ASBMs, if they are able to discern a ship from a pier, could inflict a killer opening blow against an enemy navy. The fear is fleets could be decapitated before they can escape to open water or disperse.

With at least four ASBM weapons in its inventor has caused concern in the Pentagon and were cited in the Department of Defense’s most recent Chinese military power report.

U.S. Cruiser Transits Taiwan Strait Days After Chinese Naval, Air Exercises

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG-73) transitioned the Taiwan Strait Tuesday, the Navy announced in a release. Port Royal, homeported in Hawaii, conducted a routine transit through the Taiwan Strait, according to a 7th Fleet release. The cruiser, one of the Ticonderoga-class slated to exit the fleet in five years, went through a corridor in the […]

USS Port Royal (CG-73) conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit on May 10, 2022. US Navy Photo

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG-73) transitioned the Taiwan Strait Tuesday, the Navy announced in a release.

Port Royal, homeported in Hawaii, conducted a routine transit through the Taiwan Strait, according to a 7th Fleet release. The cruiser, one of the Ticonderoga-class slated to exit the fleet in five years, went through a corridor in the strait that is not part of territorial sea of a coastal state, according to the release.

The strait transit was done in accordance with international law.

“Port Royal‘s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” according to the release. “The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”

This is the second Taiwan Strait transit completed by a U.S. naval ship in the past two weeks. USS Sampson (DDG-102) went through the strait on April 26, USNI News previously reported.

The strait transit in April was also a routine operation, according to the 7th Fleet release for Sampson.

China, which has previously raised concerns about U.S. naval ships transitioning the straits did not immediately comment on Port Royal‘s passage through the strait. It did raise issue with Sampson‘s transit, Stars and Stripes reported.

China recently conducted exercises near Taiwan, from May 6 to8, according to China Military, the English-language paper of the Chinese military.

Chinese Carrier Strike Group Continues Drills Near Japan

China’s aircraft carrier CNS Liaoning (16) has been launching fighters near Japan since last week all the while being shadowed by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183), according to Japanese forces.Liaoning, together with the Type 055 destroyer CNS Nanchang (101), Type 052D destroyers CNS Xining (117), CNS Urumqi (118) and […]

A People’s Liberation Army Navy J-15 carrier fighter takes off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) on May 7, 2022. Japanese MoD Photo

China’s aircraft carrier CNS Liaoning (16) has been launching fighters near Japan since last week all the while being shadowed by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183), according to Japanese forces.Liaoning, together with the Type 055 destroyer CNS Nanchang (101), Type 052D destroyers CNS Xining (117), CNS Urumqi (118) and CNS Chengdu (120), Type 052C destroyer CNS Zhengzhou (151), Type 054A frigate CNS Xiangtan (531) and Type 901 fast combat support ship CNS Hulunhu (901), sailed into the Pacific Ocean via the Miyako Strait on May 2.

Chinese officials said the Liaoning Carrier Strike Group was training in the western Pacific Ocean and that it was a routine training event organized by the Chinese navy, according to its annual plan and in line with relevant international law and international practice, and not targeting any party.

The JSO has issued daily releases on the PLAN carrier group activities since May 4. The Japanese say Liaoning, along with destroyers Xining, Urumqi, Chengdu, Zhengzhou, frigate Xiangtan and combat support ship Hulunhu were sighted at noon on May 3 sailing around 160 km southwest of Oki Daito island, and flight operations of embarked J-15 fighters and Z-18 helicopters had been carried out from noon until 6 p.m. Liaoning together with destroyers Nanchang, Xining, Urumqi and Chengdu were then seen at noon on May 4 sailing around 230km Southwest of Okinawa. Flight operations were carried out from noon until 6 p.m. that day.

On May 5, Liaoning sailed with destroyers Nanchang, Xining, Urumqi and Chengdu and combat support ship Hulunhu 320 km southeast of Miyako Island, and flight operations were conducted from 2-8 p.m.

Chinese Carrier Strike Group Operations on May 7, 2022. Japanese MoD Image

The six ships sailed 170 km south of Ishigaki Island at 9 a.m May 6 with flight operations from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. On Saturday, Liaoning was sighted with two of the Type 052D destroyers and Hulunhu 150km south of Ishigaki Island at 9 a.m. with flight operations carried out from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) fighter aircraft scrambled in response to the launches of the J-15s.

In December last year, the Liaoning, along with other PLAN ships, conducted flight operations in the vicinities of Kita Daito and Oki Daito islands in the Pacific Ocean.

While these activities are permissible under international norms, the Japanese government have raised concerns about the proximity of the activities in Pacific to Japan, as well as North Korea’s launch of ballistic missiles and the Russian and Chinese separate and joint naval and air activities near the country.

The Japanese government plans to increase its military capabilities as part of its response to increased concerns.

The Russian Pacific Fleet announced //when?// that the corvette RFS Gremyashchy (337) carried out a successful firing of the Otvet anti-submarine missile system at an underwater training target in the Sea of Japan. The Russians deployed 15 other ships to support the firing.

A People’s Liberation Army Navy J-15 carrier fighter takes off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) during a December 2021 deployment. PLAN Photo

Moscow has been holding a number of live firing from the Sea of Japan in recent months, the last being on April 14 where submarines RFS Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (B-274) and RFS Volkhov 3M14K Calibre (SS-N-30A) cruise missiles (B-603)

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and U.S Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held a meeting at the Pentagon on May 4 where both defense chiefs reaffirmed their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and pledged to promote the norms, values, and institutions that underpin the rules-based international order, according to a statement released by the Japan Defense Ministry.

Austin and Kishi discussed China’s behavior in the Indo-Pacific region and its coercive actions in the East and South China Seas. They both affirmed that that any change to the status quo by force in the Indo-Pacific region cannot be condoned, and that both countries would continue to strengthen cooperation to deter and, if necessary, respond to such actions.

Austin affirmed that the Senkaku Islands are under the administration of Japan, and that Article V of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands. Austin also expressed his opposition to any unilateral attempts to undermine the administration of Japan. Both defense chiefs also reiterated the importance of peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait.

Along with condemning Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, both leaders stated that the U.S and Japan will work together to support Ukraine as much as possible. Austin and Kishi agreed that North Korea’s repeated missile launches and nuclear development are a serious threat against peace and stability of the region and the international community, and that such actions cannot be tolerated. Both pledged to advance close bilateral and trilateral cooperation among Japan, the United States, and the Republic of Korea in response to North Korean provocations.

Report to Congress on Hypersonic Weapons

The following is the May 5, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The United States has actively pursued the development of hypersonic weapons—maneuvering weapons that fly at speeds of at least Mach 5—as a part of its conventional prompt global strike program since the early 2000s. […]

The following is the May 5, 2022 Congressional Research Service report, Hypersonic Weapons: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The United States has actively pursued the development of hypersonic weapons—maneuvering weapons that fly at speeds of at least Mach 5—as a part of its conventional prompt global strike program since the early 2000s. In recent years, the United States has focused such efforts on developing hypersonic glide vehicles, which are launched from a rocket before gliding to a target, and hypersonic cruise missiles, which are powered by high-speed, air-breathing engines during flight. As former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Commander of U.S. Strategic Command General John Hyten has stated, these weapons could enable “responsive, long-range, strike options against distant, defended, and/or time-critical threats [such as road-mobile missiles] when other forces are unavailable, denied access, or not preferred.” Critics, on the other hand, contend that hypersonic weapons lack defined mission requirements, contribute little to U.S. military capability, and are unnecessary for deterrence.

Funding for hypersonic weapons has been relatively restrained in the past; however, both the Pentagon and Congress have shown a growing interest in pursuing the development and near-term deployment of hypersonic systems. This is due, in part, to the advances in these technologies in Russia and China, both of which have a number of hypersonic weapons programs and have likely fielded operational hypersonic glide vehicles—potentially armed with nuclear warheads. Most U.S. hypersonic weapons, in contrast to those in Russia and China, are not being designed for use with a nuclear warhead. As a result, U.S. hypersonic weapons will likely require greater accuracy and will be more technically challenging to develop than nuclear-armed Chinese and Russian systems.

The Pentagon’s FY2023 budget request for hypersonic research is $4.7 billion—up from $3.8 billion in the FY2022 request. The Missile Defense Agency additionally requested $225.5 million for hypersonic defense. At present, the Department of Defense (DOD) has not established any programs of record for hypersonic weapons, suggesting that it may not have approved either mission requirements for the systems or long-term funding plans. Indeed, as Principal Director for Hypersonics (Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering) Mike White has stated, DOD has not yet made a decision to acquire hypersonic weapons and is instead developing prototypes to assist in the evaluation of potential weapon system concepts and mission sets.

As Congress reviews the Pentagon’s plans for U.S. hypersonic weapons programs, it might consider questions about the rationale for hypersonic weapons, their expected costs, and their implications for strategic stability and arms control. Potential questions include the following:

  • What mission(s) will hypersonic weapons be used for? Are hypersonic weapons the most cost-effective means of executing these potential missions? How will they be incorporated into joint operational doctrine and concepts?
  • Given the lack of defined mission requirements for hypersonic weapons, how should Congress evaluate funding requests for hypersonic weapons programs or the balance of funding requests for hypersonic weapons programs, enabling technologies, and supporting test infrastructure? Is an acceleration of research on hypersonic weapons, enabling technologies, or hypersonic missile defense options both necessary and technologically feasible?
  • How, if at all, will the fielding of hypersonic weapons affect strategic stability?
  • Is there a need for risk-mitigation measures, such as expanding New START, negotiating new multilateral arms control agreements, or undertaking transparency and confidence-building activities?

Download the document here.

Joint Chiefs Vice Chair, STRATCOM CO Still In Favor of Navy Nuclear Cruise Missile

The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Strategic Command’s top officer told a Senate panel Wednesday they favored continued development of the Navy’s low-yield Sea-Launched Cruise Missile-Nuclear capability, despite last year’s guidance the program be abandoned and being zeroed out in next year’s budget. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, STRATCOM’s […]

Navy Adm. Charles Richard, commander, U.S. Strategic Command provides testimony at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in review of the fiscal 2023 budget on March 8, 2022. DoD Photo

The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Strategic Command’s top officer told a Senate panel Wednesday they favored continued development of the Navy’s low-yield Sea-Launched Cruise Missile-Nuclear capability, despite last year’s guidance the program be abandoned and being zeroed out in next year’s budget.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, STRATCOM’s Adm. Charles Richard said, “without [SLCM-N], adversaries may perceive an advantage.”

Adm. James Grady also testified that he was in favor of the missile development continuing.

His answer echoed that of the chairman, Army Gen. Mark Milley, who told the House Armed Services Committee last month that research into SLCM-N would give the president more options in a crisis.

The missile with a range of about 1,500 miles could fill a “deterrence and assurance gap” against China and Russia and with allies and partners, Richard testified.

“To address this gap, a low-yield, non-ballistic capability to deter and respond without visible generation is necessary to provide a persistent, survivable, regional capability to deter adversaries, assure allies, provide flexible options, as well as complement existing capabilities. I believe a capability with these attributes should be re-examined in the near future,” Richard wrote in an April 5 letter to Congress, first reported by Defense News.

He repeated that observation Wednesday.

“We don’t know where China is going in capacity and capability,” Richard told the panel.

He reminded the senators of Russia’s threat to use low-yield tactical nuclear weapons to get its way in Ukraine after the poor performance of its conventional ground forces and the possibility of China using nuclear coercion to bring Taiwan under its control.

In last year’s budget request, the Navy sought about $15 million for the missile’s research and development, as well as its warhead.

Cutaway image of a nuclear tipped Tomahawk cruise missile

“The Navy indicated that the program was ‘cost prohibitive and the acquisition schedule would have delivered capability late to need.’ According to the Navy, this cancellation would save $199.2 million in FY2023 and $2.1 billion over the next five years,” according to the Congressional Research Service’s most recent report on the program.

Although the missile and warhead were called for in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, a Pentagon official said last month the program’s cancellation was called for in the Biden administration’s review, which was released earlier this year.

At Wednesday’s hearing, William LaPlante, under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said the Pentagon will be sending its latest report on the sea-launched cruise missile-nuclear program to Congress soon.

When asked, LaPlante said he expects “larger numbers to come” in future budget requests for the nuclear enterprise. The request for Fiscal Year 2023 is $34.4 billion, $7 billion above last year’s. He added this amounts to about 4.5 percent of the overall Pentagon request. In addition to modernizing all three legs of the triad, the budget is providing for the development of five new warheads plus the rebuilding facilities at Los Alamos and other laboratories that date to World War II.

“Moving at the speed of relevance is a must,” Grady said about all three efforts.

Citing his two predecessors’ warnings to Congress, Richard said, “I very little ability to mitigate risk” if the modernization program stalls. “What we have is the absolute minimum” now.

Citing China’s “breakout” as a nuclear power, Richard said it “rivals the biggest expansion of any nation” including the United States and Soviet Union in the 1960s.

Beijing doubled its stockpile in two years — much faster than intelligence agencies expected, Richard said. He added China went from zero to 360 intercontinental ballistic missile silos in a few years, doubled the number of its mobile missile launchers, plussed up its ballistic missile submarine fleet and can count its air-launched nuclear missiles as an effective part of its own nuclear triad.

As Beijing was developing its strategic intercontinental nuclear force, Richard said it continued expanding its intermediate-range nuclear capabilities. Although the United States withdrew from the intermediate-range nuclear treaty [IMF] with Russia during the Trump administration, China was never a party to the agreement.