Army Chief Defends Long-Range Missile Effort After Air Force General's Public Attack

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The Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville gives a speech
The Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville gives a speech at the promotion ceremony for Col. Adisa King March 5, 2021 at Fort Campbell, Ky. (Jacob Wachob/U.S. Army)

The Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville on Monday defended the service's efforts to develop long-range precision missiles after an Air Force general in charge of global strike missions recently criticized the effort as a "stupid idea."

In early April, Gen. Timothy Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, took a very public jab at the Army's top modernization priority, which involves investing billions in an effort that should lead to operational hypersonic missile batteries by fiscal 2023.

"I just think it's a stupid idea to go and invest that kind of money that recreates something that the [Air Force] has mastered and that we're doing already right now," Ray said in an early April discussion with David Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and dean of the Mitchell Institute, referring to the U.S. bomber arsenal.

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Speaking at a Washington Post live event, McConville did not attack Ray's comments but said that he had a different perspective on the future fight.

"We all bring different perspectives; I have an interesting perspective not only as an aviator, but I also had the privilege of commanding an infantry division, so I try to see other people's perspectives," said McConville, who commanded the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

"So, there will be different perspectives; there will be different opinions. ... Sometimes people say certain things, but in the Army, and at the chief level, we are not going down that road. We are really trying to work together."

McConville defended the Army's efforts to develop long-range precision fires capabilities, which the service has argued will be needed in the Pacific region if the U.S. goes to war with China.

"We are trying to provide options to the combatant commander, so things that they can use -- there is sea-based, there is air-based, there is also ground-based capabilities that give that combatant commander multiple options, but also present multiple dilemmas to someone that we are trying to compete against so they can't focus on just one option that we have," he said.

As part of a joint effort with the Navy, the Army has been designing the Common-Hypersonic Glide Body, which will be used by all U.S. services. The Army is scheduled to field the first operational hypersonic missile battery by fiscal 2023.

The Army is requesting $801 million for the program in fiscal 2021 -- $573 million over the fiscal 2020 request and $397 million over the fiscal 2020 appropriation -- and $3.3 billion across the service's five-year spending plan, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The Pentagon's hypersonics effort has been under pressure to create a new class of ultrafast, maneuverable, long-range missiles capable of flying at five times the speed of sound.

The Defense Department's fiscal 2021 budget request for all hypersonic-related research is $3.2 billion -- up from $2.6 billion in the fiscal 2020 request -- including $206.8 million for hypersonic defense programs, according to the research service.

"At the end of the day, we are a joint team," McConville said. "All the chiefs have talked about this; we are working together. I think we all want to win.

"The American people expect us to present or to give them the best military we can get for the resources that are available, and that is what we are trying to do," he added.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

Related: Service Chiefs Confer After Air Force General Calls Army Hypersonic Missile Plan 'Stupid'

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