The Air & Space Brief: China’s space debris satellite has a wingman; Strategic deterrence model, kaput?; and more...
Welcome to the Defense One Air and Space newsletter. Here are our top stories this week:
A host of disruptive technologies are helping China undermine the U.S. model of strategic deterrence, two Atlantic Council scholars warn in Defense One. It’s not just about warhead counts and delivery systems anymore, it’s also about AI, space-based sensors and cyberwarfare, the authors write. Their prescription: DOD should turn its upcoming nuclear posture review into a wide deterrence review. Read more, here.
More China nukes. The Pentagon’s latest assessment of Beijing’s nuclear-weapons plans is that last year’s estimate was way off. China is now anticipated to have “at least” 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030, the Pentagon reported Wednesday, the latest sign of what Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley is calling “one of the largest shifts in global geostrategic power that the world has witnessed.”
And in space, China is keeping things interesting. It appears that a satellite that China says is experimenting with cleaning up space debris has a wingman. “On Nov. 1, U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (SPCS) cataloged a new object alongside Shijian-21 with the international designator 2021-094C,” Space News reported. “The object could be used to test rendezvous and proximity operations, refueling experiments or manipulation using a robotic arm or other means,” the publication said.
Lastly, defense contractors are getting one extra month to complete their COVID-19 vaccinations, avoiding a politically risky visual of thousands of national security workers being laid off before the holidays. The new deadline is Jan. 4.
Sign up to get The Air & Space Brief every Tuesday from Tara Copp, Defense One’s Senior Pentagon Reporter. On Nov. 9, 1967, a Saturn V rocket flew for the first time, bearing the uncrewed Apollo 4 spacecraft.
From Defense One
New Tech Will Erode Nuclear Deterrence. The US Must Adapt // Barry Pavel and Christian Trotti: A nuclear-only review can’t properly assess sensors and weapons from hypersonics to directed energy.
China Likely to Have ‘At Least’ 1,000 Nukes by 2030, Pentagon Estimates // Tara Copp: Beijing’s new capabilities could embolden a Taiwan attack—but that’s not likely within the next two years, Milley says.
Biden Administration Delays Contractor Vaccine Mandate Until Jan. 4 // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense firms had warned of layoffs and weapons-manufacturing delays.