U.S. No Longer Safe From Advanced Russian and Chinese Weapons, General Warns

A top U.S. general has warned that mainland America, considered a sanctuary from foreign military action since the end of the Cold War, is now under threat from increasingly advanced Russian and Chinese weapons.

Air Force General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, who heads up both the U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, warned the audience at the 140th National Guard Association conference that the U.S. mainland requires better defense than ever.

According to Military Times, O'Shaughnessy said: "We're in a changing security environment. We used to think about the sanctuary we had with oceans and friendly countries to our north and south, but that's changing with adversaries that are actually able to reach out and touch us now."

Air Force General Terrence O'Shaughnessy speaks with foreign journalists in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on August 25, 2017. O'Shaughnessy has warned that the American mainland is at threat from Russian and Chinese weapons. MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. has spent the past 17 years embroiled in low-intensity combat across the Middle East and Africa, but the threat of peer-level powers has now returned. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis reflected this new reality in the Pentagon's most recent National Defense Strategy, which called for America's armed forces to be rebuilt with revamped conventional capabilities. For both Mattis and O'Shaughnessy, the adversaries in question are Russia and China, Military Times said.

"We have to think about our defense in different ways than we have in the past," O'Shaughnessy suggested. "That means we need to fundamentally rethink when we say 'homeland defense' how we're going to do that against a peer competitor."

O'Shaughnessy pointed to a new American radar system as an example of what is required to keep the U.S. safe. The Northrop Grumman APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar is designed to detect and track a large number of cruise missiles, using an active electronically scanned array (AESA).

ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban never had equipment requiring this level of defense, but Russia and China do. The Air Force is currently testing the system in F-16 jets.

Earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled a host of futuristic weapons that he claimed could comfortably defeat America's defensive networks. Included was a new generation nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)—known as Satan 2—and a hypersonic glide missile, which can reportedly be launched into the atmosphere and descend at such an angle and speed to make interception extremely difficult.

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This file photo shows a Russian Yars RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missile during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May 9, 2016. Russia's weapons research will require the U.S. to modernize its missile tracking and interception capabilities. KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images

Meanwhile, China is finishing up development of its DF-41 ICBM, which will have the range to hit targets anywhere in the U.S or Europe. It is believed to be able to carry 10 warheads and reach the American mainland within just 30 minutes of launch.

The modern battlefield is broader and more complex than it once was. The U.S. must now contend with cyber and electronic warfare as well as conventional weapons. America's less wealthy rivals see these as useful methods to balance the playing field, considering the overwhelming conventional superiority of the U.S. armory. Whether through battlefield communications jamming, anti-satellite weapons or influencing elections, America's rivals are multiplying the ways in which they can attack.

Earlier this month, U.S. diplomats registered their concern at Russian space weapon research, arguing that the government's "actions do not match their words" on arms control in space. A Russian "inspector satellite" is of particular worry, and U.S. officials believe it could be used to track, target and destroy American satellites in the atmosphere.

Air Force Chief of Staff General Dave Goldfein told Military Times it is "important to reassess how adversaries are probing America's traditional advantages for new weaknesses." He explained, "Our competitors have studied the way we fight and the way we operate and are investing in and training in ways to take those advantages away from us."