“They’ve been on a building spree,” Lamborn said of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). “They’ve doubled their nuclear arsenal in the last two years and they’re showing no sign of relenting.”
“We are behind the Russians and way behind the Chinese [on hypersonics],” he added.
Lamborn delivered the comments during a June 8 conversation about how to maintain the United States’ nuclear deterrence, hosted by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington.
Lamborn, who is the ranking member of the House Strategic Forces Subcommittee, said that the CCP was working to field a wide array of weapons and other capabilities in space as well. All of which, he said, was part of an overarching effort to build military capacity capable of overwhelming the United States.
“China is not bound by any [nuclear] treaty, so they can do whatever they want and we see them doing that,” Lamborn said.
“Apart from nuclear weapons, China is fielding all sorts of capabilities in space.”
The remarks echoed those made earlier in the year by Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, who said that the CCP was developing a suite of weapons with the specific intention of overwhelming the U.s. military and ejecting American forces from the Indo-Pacific.
To that end, he said that China’s hypersonic weapons systems had surpassed those of Russia, and were well beyond any currently under work in the United States.
To curb such a threat, Lamborn said that the United States would need to expand and modernize its own nuclear capabilities, which have not been updated since the end of the Cold War.
“The consensus up until now… has been to just stick to our tried and true nuclear weapons, don’t introduce any new capabilities,” Lamborn said.
“I think the modernization is kind of where we’re stuck at right now.”
Lamborn explained that, while there was growing bipartisan support to modernize the United States’ nuclear triad (its air, sea, and land capabilities), there were those in Congress who were pushing back against any nuclear modernization.
“There are those elements who are pacifist or unilateral disarmament oriented,” Lamborn said.
Relatedly, Lamborn noted that the Biden administration had cut from the National Defense Authorization Request for the next year any funding for the United States’ B83 gravity bomb or its nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile.
The former is a critical capability for striking hardened and deeply buried targets, while the latter would grant the United States a low-yield tactical deterrent that could be used within a theater of operations.
On the issue of nuclear deterrence more broadly, Lamborn said that “You can’t take it for granted,” and that there was a reason China was investing in weapons systems for which the United States had no defense.
“They’re a capability that China has exploited because they see that we don’t have them and it fits their geographic situation,” Lamborn said of China’s hypersonic program.
“These are things we have to be bringing online.”