Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense & National Security — China missile demo leaps ahead of US tech

It's Monday, welcome to Overnight Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup. 

China's hypersonic weapon test this past summer revealed a technological advance that no country has previously demonstrated, it was reported Monday.

We'll share what experts are saying about the test and why it's so significant, plus worry grows over Russia's intentions and details of a deadly Air Force accident in Texas.

For The Hill, I'm Ellen Mitchell. Write to me with tips: emitchell@thehill.com.

Let's get to it.

Chinese hypersonic missile test reveals unprecedented capability 

China demonstrated unprecedented military capability on July 27 when it fired a projectile from a hypersonic glide vehicle mid-flight in the atmosphere over the South China Sea as it traveled at least five times the speed of sound, the Financial Times reported.

This is big: Experts at the Pentagon are now trying to figure out how China was able to fire the projectile from a vehicle traveling at hypersonic speeds, people familiar with the intelligence told the outlet.

Experts also don't know the purpose of the projectile, which had no obvious target when it was released. Some believe it was an air-to-air missile, while others hypothesize it would be meant to destroy missile-defense systems.

Competing goals: China, Russia and the United States have all pursued hypersonic weapons for years, with Russia saying it test-fired a missile in the arctic on Nov. 18 and the U.S. military in October holding several failed hypersonic missile tests.

But with Beijing's July demonstration, it appears its efforts are far beyond those of Moscow and Washington, officials say.

Pentagon leaders troubled: Gen. David Thompson, the Space Force's vice chief of space operations, on Saturday suggested the U.S. military lags behind the Chinese in weapons development.

"We have catching up to do very quickly, the Chinese have an incredible hypersonic program," Thompson said at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada. "It's a very concerning development ... it greatly complicates the strategic warning problem."

And outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. John Hyten earlier this month said that China is developing military capabilities at a "stunning" pace on track to surpass the United States "if we don't do something to change it."

China: I have no idea what you're talking about: Chinese officials, meanwhile, have denied the missile test and said it was instead a test of a reusable space vehicle. They have also accused the United States of fabricating such actions to justify an arms expansion.

Read the full story here.

Prep seen for rapid Russian push into Ukraine 

Also ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, Bloomberg reported that U.S. intelligence shows that Russia is prepared to push into Ukraine from multiple locations with a buildup of troops and artillery along the border.

Sharing is caring: The intelligence has been shared with NATO members over the past week amid efforts to deter Moscow from a possible invasion, people familiar with conversations told the outlet.

Growing concerns: The report comes as concerns grow that Moscow could be planning to invade Ukraine similar to when it annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014. 

Ukrainian Brig. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine's defense intelligence agency, told The Military Times on Saturday that Moscow had more than 92,000 troops around Ukraine's borders and was preparing to attack by the end of January or early February. 

Russia deflects: Russia has denied intentions to invade Ukraine. On Sunday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state television that the "hysteria" about Ukraine is "being built up artificially," Bloomberg noted. 

"The ones who are accusing us of some kind of unusual military activity on our own territory are themselves sending their armed forces from across the ocean. I mean the United States of America. It's not very logical and not very decent," Peskov said.

Asking for backup: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov last week. Reznikov told reporters on Friday that he asked the Pentagon for military assistance during the meeting. 

The U.S. intelligence lays out a scenario where troops cross into Ukraine from Crimea and Belarus with about 100 battalion tactical groups that would be deployed for an operation in rough terrain and freezing conditions, Bloomberg reported. 

The Pentagon's response: Asked about the report, a senior administration official told The Hill that the administration has "made clear we continue to have serious concerns about Russian military activities and harsh rhetoric towards Ukraine and call on Moscow to de-escalate tensions."

"We have had extensive interactions with our European allies and partners in recent weeks, including with Ukraine," the official said.

Read more here.


Russia on Monday dismissed the United States' concerns about its military buildup near Ukraine and instead alleged that Ukraine had aggressive intentions.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that concerns about a possible invasion may "camouflage aggressive intentions in Kyiv to try to solve the problem of the southeast by force," The Associated Press reported

Peskov said that Russia was concerned about the U.S. and other NATO countries providing Ukraine with weapons.

"The number of provocations has been growing, and those provocations have been conducted using the weapons that NATO countries sent to Ukraine," Peskov told reporters, according to the AP. "We are watching it with a grave concern."

Russia has repeatedly denied that it wants to invade Ukraine as the U.S. and other countries raise alarm about Moscow amassing troops near the border.

Read the rest of the story here.


Air Force pilot killed, others hurt at Texas base

An Air Force pilot was killed and two others were injured on Friday in an accident on a runway at the Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas.

The 47th Flying Training Wing said Friday that the incident, which occurred at 10 a.m., involved two T-38C Talon trainers.

The pilot was identified on Saturday as 2nd. Lt. Anthony D. Wentz, 23, of Falcon, Colo. Wentz was a student pilot in the 47th Student Squadron. Neither of the injured pilots were identified.

What we know so far: One of the pilots who was injured was transported to Val Verde Regional Medical Center in Del Rio, where they were treated and released, the 47th Flying Training Wing said Friday.

The other injured pilot is in critical condition and was evacuated by air to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. 

The cause of the incident is still under investigation.

Read the full story here.



The Hudson Institute will host a discussion on "AUKUS: A Model for Other U.S. Allies and Partners?" at 12 p.m.



That's it for today. Check out The Hill's defense and national security pages for the latest coverage. See you Tuesday.