The development of ballistic and cruise missile technology around the world has raised the potential threat level faced by Washington, even if the projectiles don’t carry nuclear warheads, according to a new US Defense Department report.
Missiles have seen “dramatic improvements” in location targeting, which “allows them to be used effectively with conventional warheads,” according to a National Air and Space Intelligence Center assessment shared with Bloomberg News prior to its public release.
The aerial weapons are widely viewed internationally as “cost-effective weapons and symbols of national power,” the report said.
The US and its allies have repeatedly called on North Korea to halt its ballistic missile research and development, but Pyongyang has rejected any suggestions of this sort.
A recent op-ed circulated through the North Korean media indicating that, regardless of convening diplomats of North and South Korea, Pyongyang would push forward on its quest to achieve intercontinental ballistic missile capability, Sputnik reported on Sunday.
In Iran and North Korea, “the last decade has seen a dramatic increase in ballistic missile capabilities to include accuracy, post-boost maneuverability, and combat effectiveness,” the Pentagon memo continued.
Perhaps most concerning to US military and intelligence officials are new Russian and Chinese hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs), which the report describes as “maneuverable vehicles that travel at hypersonic (greater than Mach 5) speed and spend most of their flight at much lower altitudes than a typical ballistic missile.”
The report adds that Moscow “is expected to retain the largest force of strategic ballistic missiles outside the United States.”
China, meanwhile, “continues to have the most active and diverse ballistic missile development program in the world,” according to the report, prepared in conjunction with the Defense Intelligence Ballistic Missile Analysis Committee.