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Sept. 6, 2018
Notes from the Pentagon

Russian ASAT test?
Russia conducted a flight test of new missile recently, and U.S. defense officials say Moscow is set to conduct another test of an anti-satellite missile called the Nudol.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced Aug. 30 that it conducted a successful test launch of “a new interceptor missile” and released obscured close-up video images of the mobile interceptor before the test launch.

“An air and missile defense unit of the Russian Aerospace Forces has carried out another successful test of a new interceptor missile at the Sary Shagan [in central Kazakhstan] anti-ballistic missile testing range,” the military said in a statement Aug. 30.

“After a series of trials, the interceptor missile confirmed its specifications and successfully performed its task, hitting the simulated target with the specified precision,” Andrey Prikhodko, deputy commander of air and missile defense of the Aerospace Forces, told state-run Russian news outlets. No other details of the missile or the exact date of the launch were released.

The video, released on the military website Red Star, showed a large interceptor missile blasting off and accelerating rapidly.

U.S. intelligence agencies are closely watching Russia in anticipation of the latest launch of the Nudol, a direct-ascent missile capable of attacking orbiting satellites. The sixth known test of the Nudol took place in March after flight tests in May 2016 and December 2016.

A Pentagon spokesman said he had no information on whether the reported interceptor test announced in August involved the satellite-killing Nudol.

However, the spokesman, Eric Pahon, told Inside the Ring that the vast majority of Russian claims about the development of supposed “superweapons” are “unfounded and simply propaganda.”

“As the National Defense Strategy says, Russia and China remain a great concern in terms of great-power competition,” Mr. Pahon said. “Russia has the opportunity, should they so choose, to join the international community and abide by international norms. However, they continue to choose a path counter to that goal.”

The military blog Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces reported that the test involved “a new interceptor” for the Moscow missile defense system, the nuclear-tipped air and missile defense system surrounding the Russian capital. The blog said that the test took place around July 15, that the missile’s speed was 4 kilometers per second and that it is known by its Russian designator as the 53T6M. The Nudol is known as the PL-19.

Russia, like China, is believed to be using development of advanced missile defenses as cover for secret programs to build satellite-killing missiles.

The Defense Ministry stated in April that the upgraded anti-ballistic missile system is designed to “protect Moscow against air and space attacks” — an indication that the system will have anti-satellite capabilities.

Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, has offered new information on the growing threat posed by China’s hypersonic missile program.

Mr. Griffin, appearing at a conference Tuesday on Capitol Hill, said China over the past decade has conducted dozens of tests of the nuclear strike vehicle that travels at speeds of more than 7,000 miles per hour and can maneuver to avoid detection and missile defense tracking.

The senior Pentagon official was asked if he was concerned that China and Russia would oppose Pentagon plans to deploy missile defense interceptors in space to counter hypersonic missiles.

“When you have [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin getting on TV and bragging about how his multithousand-kilometer hypersonic nuclear strike weapon, and when you have a track record that in the last decade the Chinese have now done, I will just say, several dozen successful hypersonic strike tests that’s the great-power competition,” Mr. Griffin said.

“When you have North Korea bragging about its successes, and Iran working vigorously to produce its own capabilities, somewhere well down on my priority list is caring about what other people think,” he added. “And we just cannot afford to do that, and by creating a geopolitical policy environment where those kinds of considerations are surfaced, by even allowing ourselves to be drawn into that discussion, we do ourselves and our allies and partners a disfavor.”

Until the disclosure, the number of flight tests of the Chinese high-speed glider, known as the DF-ZF, was publicly stated as around seven.

The dozens of tests mentioned by Mr. Griffin is an indication the Chinese are rapidly fielding the weapon that U.S. intelligence has said could be armed with either a nuclear or conventional warhead.

Gen. John Hyten, commander of the Strategic Command, testified to Congress this spring that the Chinese hypersonic glider will be deployed in the next few years.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Wednesday that Sen. Jim Inhofe will succeed the late Sen. John McCain as chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee.

“I am deeply honored that my colleagues have selected me to lead the Armed Services Committee,” the Oklahoma Republican said.

“America is facing new and unprecedented threats that are different from anything we’ve seen before,” he said in a statement. “As chairman, it will be my priority to address these threats while maintaining a staunch commitment to service members and their families, as well as continue the bipartisan tradition of rigorous accountability and oversight of the Defense Department.”

The committee voted to approve the chairmanship, and a full Senate vote is expected by the end of the week. The senator has been on the Armed Services Committee since 1995.

McCain headed the committee since 2015 and used the chairmanship to shape foreign, defense and military policies in annual defense authorization acts.

Mr. Inhofe, who has been the acting Armed Services Committee chairman since last year, is more conservative than McCain and is closer to President Trump.

The senator is expected to work closely with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who is seeking to reform the U.S. military with the goal of using advanced technology and restructuring to produce a more lethal and agile force.

“I’m happy that our colleagues on the Armed Services Committee have officially chosen Sen. Inhofe to serve as their next chairman,” Mr. McConnell said in a floor speech. “Jim Inhofe filled in for Sen. McCain during a difficult year. He rose to the occasion and helped lead the committee in passing crucial legislation that honored the example of his predecessor and the volunteers who defend our nation.”

China’s intelligence services are using fraudulent accounts on the social networking site LinkedIn to try to recruit Americans with access to classified information.

That’s the conclusion of William Evanina, director of the DNI Counterintelligence and Security Center, who told Reuters recently that LinkedIn was alerted to what he termed China’s highly aggressive agent recruitment efforts.

The senior counterintelligence official, a former CIA counterspy, said LinkedIn should follow the example of Twitter, Google and Facebook and purge fake accounts connected to Iran’s and Russia’s spy agencies.

“I recently saw that Twitter is canceling, I don’t know, millions of fake accounts, and our request would be maybe LinkedIn could go ahead and be part of that,” Mr. Evanina said.

China recruited Kevin Mallory, a retired CIA officer who was convicted in June of conspiracy to commit espionage related to China, after he was contacted through LinkedIn by a Chinese national.

LinkedIn is a very good website, according to Mr. Evanina. “But it makes for a great venue for foreign adversaries to target not only individuals in the government, formers, former CIA folks, but academics, scientists, engineers, anything they want. It’s the ultimate playground for collection.”

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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