The United States is unquestionably the world’s most powerful country with highly advanced weapons. Its military might and budget dwarf that of any other country in the world. But China is catching up fast. Last month, Beijing successfully tested its hypersonic missile Wu-14 that travels at ten times the speed of sound. P.W. Singer and August Cole, The Great Debate columnists at Reuters, said that the world is at the risk of “great-power conflict.”

U.S. Barely Has Weapons It Needs To Win The Next Great War

Washington badly needs next-gen weapons to maintain its superiority

The U.S. National Military Strategy acknowledged last month that China and Russia posed biggest threats to America’s national security. NATO is on high-alert amid Russia’s growing aggression. China has started flexing its military muscle in the South China Sea, posing a direct threat to the U.S. allies Japan, Taiwan and others. So, is the U.S. fully prepared to engage in a great power conflict, and defeat Russia and China? Does it have weapons it needs to win such a war?

The Great Debate columnists don’t think so. They argue that the Pentagon has one foot in the past and “only a tentative one in the future.” American weapons are unlikely to deliver well in modern day conflicts. Last week, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Europe, officially admitted that Ukrainian troops were teaching U.S. soldiers what it takes to fight Russia. Ironically, American soldiers were in Ukraine to train the Ukrainian National Guard.

Many U.S. officers told Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, “These guys (Ukrainian forces), they’ve done stuff we’ve never seen, [never] been exposed to that level of violence. So we’ve actually learned a lot from them.” Russia is far more advanced in electronic and guerrilla warfare. The risks of Pentagon’s old ways of thinking came to light when a test pilot revealed on War Is Boring website that the F-16 with its 40-year old technology bested the all new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35 failed to hold on its own in close-in dogfighting.

U.S. expects future wars to play out only as it wants them to

P.W. Singer and August Cole said the biggest problem with the United States is that it still expects “warfare to play out only as America wants it to.” In real war conditions, the U.S. pilots may have only a fraction of their usual electronic systems working due to hacking and jamming by rival forces. American soldiers haven’t faced high-intensity tactics like jamming in years.

Fighting against great powers will be entirely different from fighting against the Islamic States and Taliban that had obsolete weapons. The Pentagon’s national military strategy realized that if the U.S. ever had to fight against another great power, “the consequences would be immense.”