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The Rocket’s Red Glare is Imported from Russia and China

By Joel D. Joseph, Chairman, Made in the USA Foundation

On July 4th we should reflect on our independence and the words of the Star Spangled Banner.  Francis Scott Key wrote the words 200 years ago, in September, 1814, “And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
 Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”

The Defense Department is now importing Russian rockets and Chinese missile fuel.   The Pentagon imported thousands of American flags until Congress forced it to use domestic suppliers of the good old Red, White and Blue banner.  The United States is now dependent on Russian rocket engines to launch military satellites, and relies on Chinese rocket fuel for Hellfire missiles.  This not only weakens the U.S. economy, it directly threatens our national defense.

The United States military has been significantly weakened, not by the Iraq or Afghani wars, but by its own reliance on foreign suppliers of rocket engines, fuel and other critical military parts.

The Defense Department signed a contract with United Launch Alliance LLC, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.  United Launch Alliances uses the Russian-made RD-180 engine on Atlas V rockets.

When a U.S. National Reconnaissance Office satellite lifted off into the sky above Cape Canaveral on April 10, 2014, the rocket’s ultimate destination in space and the satellite’s purpose were all kept top secret. But there is a strong possibility that the intelligence satellite launched that day will be used to monitor movements of the Russian military which remains massed on Ukraine’s eastern border.

That was not the mission’s only connection to Russia, however. The RD180 engines that powered the Atlas V rocket off the launch pad were built not by one of the U.S.’s domestic aerospace companies, but by Russia’s NPO Energomash.

In retaliation for our sanctions against Russia, Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s deputy prime minister, announced that Russia would no longer allow export of RD180s to United Launch Alliance.

Space Exploration Company, known as SpaceX, a relatively new American rocket manufacturer that supplies NASA with rockets, produces rocket engines in the United States.  A recent study by NASA and the Air Force finds that it cost about $440 million for SpaceX to get from a blank sheet of paper to the first Falcon 9 launch, a small fraction of the cost of NASA launches.   SpaceX was the first private company to launch a rocket, the Falcon 9, that docked with the International Space Station.

The Defense Department should require all rockets to be made in the United States and should consider using smaller, more efficient companies like SpaceX to keep costs in line.


The AGM-114 Hellfire is an air-to-surface missile developed primarily for anti-armor use.  It was originally developed under the name Helicopter Launched, Fire and Forget Missile, which led to the acronym “Hellfire” that became the missile’s formal name. Hellfire missiles are a widely used, reliable, and effective weapons launched from attack helicopters and unmanned drones.  This missile is the primary 100-pound class air-to-ground precision weapon used by the armed forces of the United States.

The United States is completely dependent on a single Chinese company (1,2,4 Butanetriol) for the chemical needed to produce the solid rocket fuel used to propel Hellfire missiles.  As current U.S. supplies diminish, our military will be dependent on China to maintain this missile system. Hellfire missiles are a critical component in America’s arsenal.

Common Sense Dictates,

“Thou Shall Not Rely on Russia and China”

Retired Brigadier General John Adams wrote a report recently titled, Remaking American Security: Supply Chain Vulnerabilities & National Security Risks Across the U.S. Defense Industrial Base.  General Adams said, “America’s vulnerability today is frightening.  This report is a wake-up call for America to pay attention to the growing threat posed by the steady deterioration of our defense industrial base.  Excessive and unwise outsourcing of American manufacturing to other nations weakens America’s military capability.  As a soldier, I’ve witnessed firsthand the importance of our nation’s ability to rapidly produce and field a sophisticated array of capabilities. There is a real risk that supply chain vulnerabilities will hamper our response to future threats.”

The Buy American Act prohibits imported purchases by the government for products such as Russian rockets and Chinese fuel.   Importing these crucial products also violates principles of common sense that we should not be reliant on supplies from countries that may be in a shooting war against the United States or our allies.  Let’s put common sense and independence back into the Pentagon’s thinking.

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