China undertaking ‘expansion of nuclear arsenal’ says expert

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The unit is the first of its kind since the end of the Cold War and is armed with long-range hypersonic missile technology. The 56th Artillery Command, based in Mainz-Kastel, will control the Dark Eagle weapon, which when fully developed and deployed will be capable of accelerating to more than five times the speed of sound, or nearly 4,000mph.

The reactivation reflects growing concerns in the Pentagon that Russia has succeeded in outgunning the US and NATO in Europe with longer-range artillery rockets and its own development of hypersonic weapons.

Further tension is mounting in the region as Russian forces have been deployed to the Ukraine border, and tensions between Russian-backed Belarus and Poland escalate over waves of migrants seeking to enter Europe.

With the current global world order being dominated by the hegemonic power of the US, rising powers are seeking to change the status quo.

Nuclear arsenals have been kept relatively secure since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the collapse of the Iron Curtain.

The command now seen in Germany was stood down in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union and after its main weapon, the Pershing II ballistic missile was banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

However, the INF was dumped by the Trump administration in 2019 after it accused Russia of violating the terms.

Apart from Dark Eagle, the 56th Artillery Command is also expected to receive a ground-launched version of the US Navy’s Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile.

General Stephen Maranian, commanding general of the artillery unit, said that the reactivation “will provide the US Army Europe and Africa with significant capabilities in multi-domain operations”.

Germany hosts America’s Europe and Africa commands.

General Maranian spoke of plans to deploy “future long-range surface-to-surface” missiles, a reference to the anticipated arrival of hypersonic weapons in Europe.

Although no hypersonic weapons are yet ready for deployment, the first launcher systems mounted on trailers were delivered in September to an army base in Washington State for troops to begin training programmes.

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The Pentagon has confirmed that three tests of “hypersonic technologies, capabilities and prototype systems” linked to Dark Eagle have been carried out successfully.

However, last month a hypersonic missile test in Alaska failed.

China, Russia and North Korea have all successfully tested such weapons over the last few months as tension in the Indo-Pacific region mounted following the signing of the AUKUS deal and China’s promise to reclaim Taiwan.

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