Microliberations newsletter #3 July/August 2022: Hypervelocity
This is my third newsletter rounding up some of the impacts of military technology on strategy that've caught my eye over the last two months (I wasn't able to complete the July newsletter in time as I've been on holiday, so I thought I'd combine July and August together in a bumper summer issue), with a particular focus on ballistic missile defence in a UK context. It also includes some of my more left-field interests in philosophy as well as some book recommendations.
In this summer's digest
- Midcourse Defense, Guam, Hypersonics Lead Issues at Missile Defense Agency
- FY 2023 Missile Defense and Defeat Budget Tracker
- Missile Defense Exercise Pacific Dragon 2022, Concludes Near Hawaii
- Boost-Phase Missile Defense Interrogating the Assumptions
- US-UK special relationship deepens in space
- US Missile Defense Agency awards Northrop $3.3B for next generation interceptor work
- ‘Doomsday’ Submarine Armed With Nuclear Torpedoes Delivers to Russian Navy
- Report to Congress on Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense
- Missile defense chief ‘confident’ Poland’s Aegis Ashore ready in 2023
- Hypervelocity podcast
- The Everyone War
- Between Good and Evil blog post and Halkyon presentation
- Refuse Journal article: Why the Dignity of Labour can't Save Us from Total Work
- Wuthered: Read and Relax reflection on Wuthering Heights
- Interesting looking books round up
Midcourse Defense, Guam, Hypersonics Lead Issues at Missile Defense Agency
Vice Adm. Jon A. Hill, part defence against hypersonics 'when it's in that glide phase, that's where it does broad maneuvers, that's where it's bleeding off heat, [and] that is where it's the most vulnerable. And you can track it'.
FY 2023 Missile Defense and Defeat Budget Tracker
In April, the Biden administration released its Fiscal Year 2023 defense budget request. The administration’s second budget requests $24.7 billion for a category it calls “missile defeat and defense,” an increase from the $21.9 billion enacted in 2022.
Missile Defense Exercise Pacific Dragon 2022, Concludes Near Hawaii
Boost-Phase Missile Defense Interrogating the Assumptions
'Analysts have scrutinized prior boost-phase defense concepts and programs for being costly, strategically destabilizing, technologically unfeasible, or operationally impractical. While the United States has attempted to realize several boost-phase defense systems, none have made it past the developmental stage. Nevertheless, the post-2017 demonstrations of North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability have reinvigorated questions about how the United States can improve its homeland missile defense'.
US-UK special relationship deepens in space
'Britain does not separate civil and military efforts like the US “I think one of the really key points for us is that defense and civil space are not separable. They very much work hand in glove”'
US Missile Defense Agency awards Northrop $3.3B for next generation interceptor work
'As the ground-based midcourse missile defense system, NGI is an advanced interceptor designed to protect the nation against intercontinental ballistic missile attack.'
‘Doomsday’ Submarine Armed With Nuclear Torpedoes Delivers to Russian Navy
'Russians have long complained about the strategic imbalance of American ballistic missile defense systems in Europe. Poseidon and Belgorod were created to mute the U.S. BMD advantage by creating a nuclear weapon that could duck under a U.S. BMD screen.'
Report to Congress on Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense
'According to MDA officials, the Aegis Ashore site in Poland continues to experience delays owing to poor performance by the main construction contractor. Based on MDA’s latest estimate of completion no earlier than fiscal year 2022, the site will be between three and four years late. According to MDA, in February 2020, the Army Corps of Engineers (which manages construction at the site) notified the main contractor that earnings from all future invoices would be retained, and released only upon the completion of certain key activities. MDA stated that the contractor did not meet these benchmarks and as a result had not been paid since February 2020. MDA currently attributes $79 million in cost increases to these delays.'
Missile defense chief 'confident' Poland's Aegis Ashore ready in 2023
There's certainly been some delay with the opening of this facility. There were delays in testing the site in April, then there were plans for a June 5th 'light-off' of the site, but I didn't see any further update on whether the 'light-off' actually took place. Now, on August 12 this article appears quoting Vice Adm Jon Hill, director of the MDA, stating that while the site was undergoing systems testing to make sure it all worked, the interior of the building was the part that still needed completing.
I've been sitting on this for some time, but I'm finally pleased to announce the launch of my podcast: Hypervelocity. Hypervelocity seeks to explore the intersection between military technology and strategy.
For my first episode it was great to host Professor Andrew Hoskins and Dr Matthew Ford about their recently published book, Radical War: Data, Attention and Control in the Twenty-First Century. In Radical War, Matthew and Andrew recount how the smartphone, social media and big data are revolutionising the conduct and experience of war to the point that the battlefield is now everywhere. We began our discussion by defining the concept of 'radical war', finding it to differ from earlier definitions of war due to the interpenetrated nature of conflict in the modern era where everyone with a smartphone can view and participate in real time combat. Next, we explored whether Baudrillard's claim that 'the Gulf War did not take place' is only amplified in an era of Radical War, finding that whereas Baudrillard pointed to hyperreal warfare as a highly polished and sanitised spectacle by legacy media, instead 'radical war' represents a splintering of realities with as many different interpretations of a conflict as there are subscribers to social media platforms. We then clarified how the concepts of data, attention and control in Radical War stand in contention with Clausewitz's trinity of warfare consisting of state, people and armed forces, particularly through the way in which the smartphone disintermediates combatants and citizens.
The public edit of the podcast will come out on Anchor on 13th September, but early access to the public edit can be subscribed to here. The full version of the podcast, including a discussion of whether the European wars of religion caused by the invention of the printing press prefigure potential future conflicts brought about by the retreat of opposing groups into social media echo-chambers, can be subscribed to here.
The Everyone War
To accompany the podcast I also wrote a short digest of Radical War. The core message is that just like social media has collapsed the distance between celebrities and fans, so too has the smartphone disintermediated warfare. Smartphone users can now instant message enemy positions to freindly forces, while simultaneously opening themselves up to geolocated drone strikes. Everyone can produce their own propaganda and also subscribe to their own curated world view on any particular conflict.
You can early get early access to The Everyone War blog post with extra content and notes that won't appear in the public version by subscribing here.
Between Good and Evil blog post and Halkyon presentation
Surveying the breadth of German Idealism is a monumental task, one could spend several lifetimes exploring it. Last year I wrote about German Idealism in general, I was feeling my way through the foothills. This year I was caught by Schelling's Enquiry into Human Freedom in which Schelling argues that it is only in choosing the good that we exercise true freedom since it requires effort.
I then had the opportunity to present my short essay at the end of the course. A great group of presentations, mine starts at 1:10:55.
Why The Dignity of Labour Can’t Save Us From Total Work
Delighted to have an article of mine appearing in Davood Gozli and Natalia Smirnov's Refuse online journal. Refuse is a journal of refusal, charting attempts to resist those things we disagree with.
My article was a constructive critique of Labour MP Jon Cruddas's book, The Dignity of Labour. I argued that despite Cruddas's positive reengagement with workplace democracy as a necessity for improving peoples' working lives, his analysis still seemed to place to0 much faith in the ability of work itself to solve social problems. Cruddas's analysis seemed to be unaware of Josef Pieper's concept of Total Work, where in a secular world work has become or god today. Instead, and drawing on the writings of Andrew Taggart on this subject, I drew on the Buddhist notion of 'right livelihood', where work is put back in its place as a means to securing the basics for life rather than being the end of life itself.
Davood and Natalia were fantastic editors. They gave me really detailed advice on how to improve my earlier drafts. I could tell that they really pay attention to detail and have great grammar. They really put a lot of effort into advising me, and I really appreciate it.
My reflection on Wuthering Heights, having read it as part of my Read and Relax sessions. It's a very violent, dark but beautifully written book. The next book I am going to read for my Read and Relax series is The Bible.