Interview with Jamie Withorne, AOMD Podcast Episode 018 – Natasha Bajema

Interview with Jamie Withorne, AOMD Podcast Episode 018

Welcome to the episode number 18 of the Authors of Mass Destruction podcast. My name is Natasha Bajema, aka WMDgirl on Twitter. I’m a fiction author, national security expert and your host for this podcast.

  • If you’re interested in science & technology, in reading good fiction, or want to write fiction based on technology, you’re in the right place.
  • Before we get started, a few notes:
    • The views expressed on this podcast are my own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.
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    • As a patron, you’ll be able to submit questions to the show and get access to tip sheets on nuclear weapons.
  • My headline for this week is “Hypersonic Missiles Are Unstoppable. And They’re Starting a New Global Arms Race,” published in the New York Times on June 19, 2019.
    • Hypersonics have an “unprecedented ability to maneuver” and can strike almost any target in the world within a matter of minutes.
    • They are capable of traveling at more than 15 times the speed of sound and arrive at their targets without warning. There are no viable defenses against hypersonics.
    • These missiles are being developed not only by the United States but also by China, Russia and other countries.
    • In 2018, Congress mandated the development of an American hypersonic weapon by October 2022. This year, the Trump administration’s proposed defense budget included $2.6 billion for hypersonics.
    • The immediate goal is to create two deployable systems within three years.
    • Fears about the threat of hypersonic weapons are driving plans to create a new space development agency, which will be tasked with launching “a network of sensors into low-earth orbit that would track incoming hypersonic missiles and direct American hypersonic attacks.”
    • Hypersonic missiles can carry nuclear weapons, but the ones developed by the United States are designed to carry small conventional explosives. According to the article, “the missiles function like nearly invisible power drills that smash holes in their targets, to catastrophic effect.”
    • What does this mean?
      • These weapons “compress the time during which military officials and their political leaders — in any country — can figure out the nature of an attack and make reasoned decisions about the wisdom and scope of defensive steps or retaliation.”
      • They could be used to target mobile Russian or Chinese nuclear-armed ballistic missiles being carried on trucks or rails.
      • They could also “attack vital land- or sea-based radars anywhere, or military headquarters in Asian ports or near European cities.”
      • According to the article, such weapons could render aircraft carriers inoperable.
      • And they can do all of this “without the radioactive fallout and special condemnation that might accompany the detonation of nuclear warheads.”
  • Let’s get to the interview. This week, I talk to Jamie Withorne. She’s a Research Assistant for the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation, an Advisory Board Member of Girl Security, and the founder of

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